2023 Early Childhood Symposium

The Early Childhood Symposium is an annual gathering that provides an opportunity for anyone who works with young children – educators, caregivers, and parents – to gain knowledge, perspective, practical skills and tools for supporting all young children.

Save the Date for the 2023 Symposium: February 25, 2023 at Percy Julian Middle School!

The theme this year is Creativity, Curiosity, Caring.

For twenty years now, the Collaboration for Early Childhood has hosted our Symposium. We are thrilled to return to an in-person format this year so that our early childhood community can connect around the three C’s: Creativity, Curiosity, Caring.

This 2023 Symposium will celebrate and explore ways to foster Creativity, Curiosity, and Caring not only within young children, but within your practice and perspective. Creativity-driven, and curiosity-led environments create a strong foundation for the development of lifelong learners with the ability to problem solve and think outside the box. These skills will help children navigate the increasingly complex challenges that the future holds.

This year, you will attend workshops that will spark the synapses of Creativity, Curiosity, and Caring and leave you ready to immediately incorporate your learnings to impact the children in your care.

The day will include a continental breakfast, keynote address, lunch, and a variety of early bird, morning, and afternoon breakout sessions led by noteworthy presenters. Participants will also have the opportunity to network, collect resources, explore books, and update their Gateways Registry membership. Learn more about the day’s schedule and workshops below.

If you are a student, please email a photo of your student I.D. to Lisa, our Operations Coordinator at ljarvis@collab4kids.org. She will respond to you with a discount code that you can use at registration.

The Joan White Scholarship is accepting applications from January 13 to February 15. You can find it here, or by scrolling down and clicking on the bar titled “Joan White Scholarship.” If you would like to register before you hear back from us about your Joan White Scholarship application, you may do so. At the payment option section of check out, please select “pay by check.” We will then follow up with you on your status and share next steps regarding your registration and attending the Symposium.

Symposium Schedule Overview

Event Schedule Overview

6:45 – 7:30

Early Check-in

7:30 – 8:30

Early Bird Workshops

8:00 – 9:00

General Check-in, Continental Breakfast

9:00 – 10:30

Morning Workshops

10:40 – 12:15

Welcome/Keynote/Announcements

Welcome: Laura Crawford, Interim Executive Director, Collaboration for Early Childhood

Introduction of Keynote Speaker: Amy Cardin, Co-Chair of the Collaboration for Early Childhood Professional Development Committee

Keynote: Cultivating Creative Learners and Curious Minds Richard Cohen, M.A. Early Childhood Professional, Consultant, Coach and Motivational Speaker/Instructor

For the last twenty five years, Richard has traveled the world as a consultant, coach and motivational speaker/instructor, facilitating fun, innovative, thought-provoking, interactive, inspiring adult learning experiences for communities of early childhood teachers, administrators, caregivers and parents. He has delivered the keynote address and sessions at over 400 international, national, regional, state and local early childhood conferences around the globe, laughing, learning, crying, singing and dancing along with his audiences.

Announcements

 

12:15 – 1:25

Lunch and Play Stations

1:30 – 3:00

Afternoon Workshops

Registration Information

All registrations will be online this year, but you are welcome to pay by credit card or check.

Registration – January 13-February 15, 2023 $45
Full-Time Student Registration Fee (proof of valid/current ID required) $30
Late Registration – for non-student registrants after February 15, 2023 $55
Joan White Scholarships are available starting January 13, 2023 on a rolling basis through February 15. If you are considering applying, we encourage you to apply early.

 

Joan White Scholarship

Workshop Details

Early intervention credit areas and Gateways credits are listed in the title of each workshop. We have also listed audience focus areas when it applies. Everyone is welcome to attend any workshop that they would like, but some workshops are designed for particular focus areas. Those are noted with the following:

  • FAM – Families
  • IT – Infant/Toddler
  • DIR – Directors
  • ECE – Early Childhood Educators

If there is no audience listed, that means that the workshop is designed for everyone.

Early Bird Workshops – 7:30 – 8:30 (1 hour)

 

EB (A) – Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN): A Tool for Building Family/Teacher Relationships (Two-Part Workshop) (1 WWF) (1 Gateways) ECE, DIR

The Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) Approach focuses on caregivers and colleagues’ urgent concerns and helps educators and center-based staff tailor responses to match what caregivers and colleagues seem to need most in the moment. The FAN builds intentionality in problem-solving by helping educators determine when to use empathy, exploratory question­ing, information-giving, and/or reflection as a means to support caregivers and colleagues. The FAN also helps educators and center-based staff recognize how their own internal sense of regulatory/dysregulation impacts their ability to be fully present in interactions.

Presented by Tori Graham of Erikson Institute, MSW, IMH Certificate

Tori Graham is a FAN Lead Trainer and Director of Training with the Fussy Baby Network at Erikson Institute. Tori has served as an Adjunct Professor at Aurora University in Aurora, IL in addition to serving as a Program Manager at Teen Parent Connection in Glen Ellyn, IL. Tori has a background in social work and earned a BSW from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA and an MSW from Aurora University in Aurora, IL. Tori is an Infant Mental Health practitioner and earned an Infant Mental Health Certificate through Erikson Institute in Chicago. Tori leads FAN curriculum development and dissemination under Linda Gilkerson’s direct supervision. Tori has been training with Erikson Institute since January 2016 and participated in 18 months of intensive FAN training prior to joining the Erikson Institute team.

EB (B) – Helping Adults and Youth Use Restorative Language in Trauma-Informed Schools (Two-Part Workshop) (1 WWF) (1 Gateways) ECE, DIR

Being sensitive to students’ emotional needs is challenging when educators are experiencing their own emotional challenges. Restorative Language, aka Nonviolent Communication, is a pillar of trauma-informed schools that helps support adults in developing new communication skills that enrich the caring culture of your school. This session will provide you with examples and practical strategies that you can bring back to our school to help you share restorative language with your colleagues.

Presented by Priscilla Lindsey, an Early Childhood Educator

Priscilla has been teaching in Chicago, Illinois, for over 15 years. She’s done a significant amount of writing curriculum, providing professional development and mentoring staff members. She has participated in early childhood math education research. She has been an early childhood educator for 20+ years. Her recent role is the Restorative Practices Coordinator at her school, which she is loving. Her responsibilities include moving the school community to a more trauma-informed approach in response to conflicts. Priscilla is also leading the staff in incorporating restorative communication into everyday interactions, creating an even healthier school community. For the past 5 years, she has also worked closely with educational consultant, Dr. Jenn Moore, providing an effective, evidence-based process that cultivates well-being throughout entire school communities around the world. You can learn more about that work here.

EB (C) Make a Move: A Yoga and Art Experience for Educators and Staff (1 WWF) (1 Gateways) 

Educators and school personnel pour everything into advocating for students and families, often at the expense of their own well-being. Movement, mindfulness, and art are effective tools to help humans move from the amygdala (flight/fright/freeze) to the prefrontal cortex where we can access executive functioning skills. This session promotes best practices for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through using a trauma informed lens and language that is inviting, not demanding, creating a safe enough container for participants to come as they are, and providing an opportunity for all participants to experience yoga and mindfulness and how they can take this back to their work setting.

Presented by Erin Bracco, Co-founder of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga, LLC and Caroline Tye, owner of Dandelion Art Studio

Erin Bracco is an Illinois Professional Educator and a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga. Previously, Erin was a kindergarten classroom teacher in the Berwyn South School District 100. Additionally, she developed and taught the Kindergarten Program at Bubbles Academy during the Pandemic. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Erin has completed her 200hr teacher training at Zen Yoga Garage in Chicago, 95 hour kids teacher training and partner yoga certificate through Rainbow Yoga, and  is a graduate of the 2020-2021 Mindful Teacher Certification Program. Erin is a consultant for schools implementing yoga and mindfulness programming and speaks at a variety of conferences each year. Her passion for child development is evident in her teaching style and curriculum. She thrives on helping little humans gain social-emotional learning strategies to explore and make sense of their world.

Caroline Tye is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a registered board-certified art therapist. She is also an artist, educator, mom of 2 and the owner of Dandelion Art Studio. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education from Illinois College; however, her passionate beliefs in the power of creativity lead her to discover the certificate art therapy program at Northwestern University. She completed the program, but wanted to continue to further her knowledge. She obtained a Master’s in Art Therapy with an emphasis in Counseling at Mount Mary University. Her philosophy and belief is that art and creativity can promote growth, healing and transformation. Previously, Caroline worked for more than 5 years at a therapeutic day school where she developed the art therapy program. Caroline uses the creative process and her therapeutic skills to work with children and adolescents who are diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses and behavioral issues. She brings an enthusiastic, passionate, and nurturing approach to all of her clients.

EB (D) –Shared Meaning with Infants: Communication and Connections (1 WWF) (1 Gateways) IT

Infants grow and develop in healthy ways through relationships. Within relationships, caregivers and infants share meaning with each other non-verbally through sharing attention, intentions, and emotions. Shared meaning becomes a foundation for the infant’s identity development and is a means of communication between infants and caregivers. In this session the concept of shared meaning will be presented as well as how this connects to development and early learning standards.

Presented by Mary Quest of The Collaboration for Early Childhood

Mary Quest was an early childhood classroom teacher for 12 years and has taught at the college level for over 17 years. Most recently Mary was a full-time faculty member at Erikson Institute, where she continues to co-direct Town Square, an online learning community created for and with family child care providers. She completed her PhD in child development in April 2022 and began working at the Collaboration as the Early Learning Partnership Coordinator in November 2022.

EB (E) Nature Sparks! Supporting Infant and Toddler Development Outdoors (1 WWF) (1 Gateways) 

Young children learn through their senses. What’s a better way to support sensory learning than by taking it outdoors? Learn to design outdoor learning environments that create curiosity, challenge, and movement while calming the body and brain in nature. Discover how to give our youngest learners time, space, and opportunities to explore a wide variety of natural and creative materials. Celebrate the power of outdoor learning for young children and their families.

Presented by Diann Gano, an Early Childhood Educator

Diann Gano has been an early childhood educator for over thirty years.  She is currently working for UIC creating blogs and content for Early Math Counts, Early Science Matters and Ready Child a Kindergarten Readiness website.

EB (F) – The Power of Play (1 INT) (1 Gateways) (Workshop repeated AM-M)

This workshop will emphasize the importance and power of play. It will also demonstrate how Wonder Works Children’s Museum can be an education and play-based resource for parents, teachers, and early childhood education providers. Play is vital in learning how to problem solve, think creatively, and focus. Play-based learning strengthens all aspects of a child’s growth and development. Wonder Works Children’s Museum play-based learning philosophy is built on the Loose Parts theorist and architect, Dimon Nicholson. Nicholson believed that materials that can be moved about give children more creative opportunities to spark curiosity, imagination, and innovation.

Presented by Kylee Borden and Erin Dowdall of Wonder Works Children’s Museum

Kylee is the Visitor Experience Manager at Wonder Works Children’s Museum. She oversees the day-to-day guest-facing operations of the museum, including play! She received her Masters in Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2022. Kylee has a passion for ensuring that all children have fun, educational, and safe play-based experiences at Wonder Works.

 

Erin is the Education and Programming Manager at Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Play is Erin’s passion; she gets to come to her dream job every day and make play happen!  Play opens worlds of imagination, creativity, and exploration.  She was born and raised in Oak Parker and is a mom of 2 young kids.  Erin is completing her Masters in Education at DePaul University.

EB (G) – Toddlers as Investigators! Making a Shift from Thematic Curriculum to Inquiry: Developing an Emergent Curriculum in Toddler Settings (1 INT) (1 Gateways) 

Emergent curriculum in early childhood is a vital practice for enthusiastic and motivated learners. Toddlers are at a crucial stage of developing their sense of self and learning to navigate their emotional world. When teachers are responsive to children’s inquiries and ideas, children develop healthy dispositions and become passionate learners. This workshop will focus on implementing emergent practices with toddlers, including the art of listening and observing, developing curriculums focusing on toddlers’ inquiries, demonstrating the sources of emergent practices, and sharing methods of documentation and assessment.

Presented by Melissa Pinkham, an Early Childhood Educator

Melissa Pinkham, M.A  is an educator, adjunct professor and author. She currently teaches toddlers and their families at Northeast L.A.  Forest School in Los Angeles. She is also a curriculum specialist with a focus on inquiry-based learning and emergent curriculum practices with toddlers. You can learn more about her work here.

EB (H) – Quality Observations: Working Smart Not Hard (1 TYP) (1 Gateways)

Research shows that some of the strongest indicators of school readiness are achievement of developmental milestones and participation in quality early childhood education programs. But what makes a “quality” program? How does staff document and know if a milestone has been achieved and how can they relay that information to families and program leadership? This session will review and support the documentation of quality observations to support development across domains, and across program funders and curricula. This session is appropriate for those new to the field, as well as those who struggle with documentation of developmental milestones, or those who would like a refresher.

Presented by Tracy Patton, an Early Childhood Educator

Tracy (she/her) earned her M.S. in Child Development/infancy from the Erikson Institute in 2011. She lives in Carol Stream, IL with her husband, puppy and any combination of their four kids (26, 25, 21 & 15).She has spent 25 years playing with infants, toddlers and their families and now wears many hats, including; Early Childhood Talent Developer, Child Development Specialist, Parent Educator, Childhood Grief Facilitator, Safe Sleep Advocate, Grant Writer, Home Visiting Program Supervisor, Circle Time Entertainer and Mess Maker. Realizing that being silly, reading stories, and making a mess through sensory activities had the power to transform behavior in the classroom; Tracy began sharing her experiences with parents to address concerns at home. By focusing on how sensory play also enhanced vocabulary, math skills and self-regulation, parents gain the opportunity to better interact with their child(ren). Her love for working with young children and their families (and playing with slime and glitter) lead her to sharing her experiences and humor through workshops. Once Upon Some Messy Fun began in 2012, to share her passion for making a mess, and the knowledge that literacy and sensory activities open doors to all areas of development and educational domains. She is a national presenter at early childhood conferences and leads parent/community education and professional development workshops in addition to her role as a prenatal to five home visiting supervisor. She offers a variety of workshops to both staff and parents.

EB (I) – Playmakers: Theater in the Classroom (1 INT) (1 Gateways)

This interactive presentation will demonstrate fun and practical methods and ideas to enrich and focus children’s natural gift for creative, dramatic play through story dictation, improvisations, theater games, and songs that will develop and encourage literacy and social/emotional skills.

Presented by Rhona Taylor, an Early Childhood Educator

Rhona Taylor, Second City trained improviser and Early Childhood Teacher Educator for thirty years, loves melding her theater skills with play based values. She teaches active listening, and always incorporates the improvisational philosophy of “Yes, and…”

EB (W) – Sparking Curiosity in Children-Moving Beyond Experiment (1 WWF) (1 Gateways)

Work with other educators, caregivers, and parents to think of new ways to spark learning in young children. We know science experiments are a great way to utilize curiosity but what other ways can we motivate young learners? Hands-on fun, brainstorming and more cooperative learning in this session.

Presented by Jill Pacyna, an Early Childhood Educator

Jill Pacyna is a prekindergarten teacher/coordinator at Longfellow School with a M.A. in Reading, English Language Learner endorsement, and B.S. in Early Childhood. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, mother of 2 and a life-long learner. Early childhood is her passion. See her in action by following her on Twitter.

Morning Workshops – 9:00 –10:30 (1.5 Hours)

 

AM (A)(Second part of EB-A) Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN): A Tool for Building Family/Teacher Relationships (Two-Part Workshop) (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR

The Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) Approach focuses on caregivers and colleagues’ urgent concerns and helps educators and center-based staff tailor responses to match what caregivers and colleagues seem to need most in the moment. The FAN builds intentionality in problem-solving by helping educators determine when to use empathy, exploratory question­ing, information-giving, and/or reflection as a means to support caregivers and colleagues. The FAN also helps educators and center-based staff recognize how their own internal sense of regulatory/dysregulation impacts their ability to be fully present in interactions.

Presented by Tori Graham of Erikson Institute, MSW, IMH Certificate

Tori Graham is a FAN Lead Trainer and Director of Training with the Fussy Baby Network at Erikson Institute. Tori has served as an Adjunct Professor at Aurora University in Aurora, IL in addition to serving as a Program Manager at Teen Parent Connection in Glen Ellyn, IL. Tori has a background in social work and earned a BSW from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA and an MSW from Aurora University in Aurora, IL. Tori is an Infant Mental Health practitioner and earned an Infant Mental Health Certificate through Erikson Institute in Chicago. Tori leads FAN curriculum development and dissemination under Linda Gilkerson’s direct supervision. Tori has been training with Erikson Institute since January 2016 and participated in 18 months of intensive FAN training prior to joining the Erikson Institute team.

AM (B) (Second part of EB-B) Helping Adults and Youth Use Restorative Language in Trauma-Informed Schools (Two-Part Workshop) (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR

Being sensitive to students’ emotional needs is challenging when educators are experiencing their own emotional challenges. Restorative Language, aka Nonviolent Communication, is a pillar of trauma-informed schools that helps support adults in developing new communication skills that enrich the caring culture of your school. This session will provide you with examples and practical strategies that you can bring back to our school to help you share restorative language with your colleagues.

Presented by Priscilla Lindsey, an Early Childhood Educator

Priscilla has been teaching in Chicago, Illinois, for over 15 years. She’s done a significant amount of writing curriculum, providing professional development and mentoring staff members. She has participated in early childhood math education research. She has been an early childhood educator for 20+ years. Her recent role is the Restorative Practices Coordinator at her school, which she is loving. Her responsibilities include moving the school community to a more trauma-informed approach in response to conflicts. Priscilla is also leading the staff in incorporating restorative communication into everyday interactions, creating an even healthier school community. For the past 5 years, she has also worked closely with educational consultant, Dr. Jenn Moore, providing an effective, evidence-based process that cultivates well-being throughout entire school communities around the world. You can learn more about that work here.

AM (J) Connection before Correction (Two-Part Workshop) (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

This two-part workshop focuses on how caregivers can foster a healthy, safe, and secure relationship with children by identifying what makes one feel safe and exploring how building trust with consistency helps maintain a safe space. The second session will focus on learning what drives behavior, learn about the P.E.A.C.E model: P = Patience/practice, E = Expectation, A = Action, C = Connection/correction/consequence, E = Example/expectation as it relates to correcting behavior in children and how to implement it in their lives.

Presented by Danyale Washington, Parenting and Early Childhood Expert

Danyale Washington, B.A. is a parenting and early childhood expert, new parent educator, certified sleep consultant, trained ABA therapist, safe sleep ambassador, and mom of two. She is the owner and founder of Sweet Piece Solutions, LLC, whose focus is to “bring back the village it takes to raise a child.” Sweet Piece Solutions is a company designed to aid caregivers with the support, resources, and guidance to promote healthy development in children.

AM (K) – Movement and Mindfulness: All the Feels and How to Implement a Mindfulness Space (Two-Part Workshop) (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR, FAM

Energy is the ability to do work. Emotion is energy in motion. When we experience a feeling or trauma, it becomes stored in the body. Without expressing the feeling through movement and sound, it is redirected in the body causing physical pain, tension, or tightness. We know that children cannot learn in fight or flight. In this workshop, you will learn yoga and mindfulness strategies to help children identify and cope with their big feelings. This session promotes best practices for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through: using a trauma informed lens and language that is inviting, not demanding, creating a safe enough container for participants to come as they are, and providing an opportunity for all participants to experience yoga and mindfulness.

Presented by Erin Bracco, Co-founder of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga, LLC and Caroline Tye, owner of Dandelion Art Studio

Erin Bracco is an Illinois Professional Educator and a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga. Previously, Erin was a kindergarten classroom teacher in the Berwyn South School District 100. Additionally, she developed and taught the Kindergarten Program at Bubbles Academy during the Pandemic. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Erin has completed her 200hr teacher training at Zen Yoga Garage in Chicago, 95 hour kids teacher training and partner yoga certificate through Rainbow Yoga, and  is a graduate of the 2020-2021 Mindful Teacher Certification Program. Erin is a consultant for schools implementing yoga and mindfulness programming and speaks at a variety of conferences each year. Her passion for child development is evident in her teaching style and curriculum. She thrives on helping little humans gain social-emotional learning strategies to explore and make sense of their world.

Caroline Tye is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a registered board-certified art therapist. She is also an artist, educator, mom of 2 and the owner of Dandelion Art Studio. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education from Illinois College; however, her passionate beliefs in the power of creativity lead her to discover the certificate art therapy program at Northwestern University. She completed the program, but wanted to continue to further her knowledge. She obtained a Master’s in Art Therapy with an emphasis in Counseling at Mount Mary University. Her philosophy and belief is that art and creativity can promote growth, healing and transformation. Previously, Caroline worked for more than 5 years at a therapeutic day school where she developed the art therapy program. Caroline uses the creative process and her therapeutic skills to work with children and adolescents who are diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses and behavioral issues. She brings an enthusiastic, passionate, and nurturing approach to all of her clients.

AM (L) Art Smart with Loose Parts: Building Brains and Creativity Through Play (1.5 INT) (1.5 Gateways) 

Learn how you can provide a stimulating art environment that will spark children’s creative energy and joy for art with loose parts. Children have a keen eye for aesthetics. When given the time, space, and opportunity to explore with loose parts, their creations naturally become intentional and more meaningful. Explore loose parts play that will develop children’s sensory awareness and expand their imaginations. An environment rich in these open-ended play opportunities will nurture children’s sense of curiosity and creativity as they grow. A variety of innovative loose parts ideas are paired with beautiful photos to inspire ideas you can take back to your classroom on Monday morning.

Presented by Diann Gano, an Early Childhood Educator

Diann Gano has been an early childhood educator for over thirty years.  She is currently working for UIC creating blogs and content for Early Math CountsEarly Science Matters and Ready Child a Kindergarten Readiness website.

AM (M)(Workshop repeated EB-F) The Power of Play (1.5 INT) (1.5 Gateways) 

This workshop will emphasize the importance and power of play. It will also demonstrate how Wonder Works Children’s Museum can be an education and play-based resource for parents, teachers, and early childhood education providers. Play is vital in learning how to problem solve, think creatively, and focus. Play-based learning strengthens all aspects of a child’s growth and development. Wonder Works Children’s Museum play-based learning philosophy is built on the Loose Parts theorist and architect, Dimon Nicholson. Nicholson believed that materials that can be moved about give children more creative opportunities to spark curiosity, imagination, and innovation.

Presented by Kylee Borden and Erin Dowdall of Wonder Works Children’s Museum

Kylee is the Visitor Experience Manager at Wonder Works Children’s Museum. She oversees the day-to-day guest-facing operations of the museum, including play! She received her Masters in Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2022. Kylee has a passion for ensuring that all children have fun, educational, and safe play-based experiences at Wonder Works.

 

Erin is the Education and Programming Manager at Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Play is Erin’s passion; she gets to come to her dream job every day and make play happen!  Play opens worlds of imagination, creativity, and exploration.  She was born and raised in Oak Parker and is a mom of 2 young kids.  Erin is completing her Masters in Education at DePaul University.

AM (N) – Room to Grow: Early Environments that Inspire and Engage (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) 

We spend a lot of time and energy on the content of our days, often neglecting the ever-important context; the spaces in which our “curricular content” occurs. Reggio Emilia reminds us that “the room is the child’s third teacher,” and deserves our attention. Join Richard in exploring the impact of the environment on young children’s development and learning. This session includes an unforgettable guided imagery exercise.

Presented by Richard Cohen, Early Childhood Professional, Consultant, Coach and Speaker/Instructor

For the last twenty five years, Richard has traveled the world as a consultant, coach and motivational speaker/instructor, facilitating fun, innovative, thought-provoking, interactive, inspiring adult learning experiences for communities of early childhood teachers, administrators, caregivers and parents. He has delivered the keynote address and sessions at over 400 international, national, regional, state and local early childhood conferences around the globe, laughing, learning, crying, singing and dancing along with his audiences. To read about his contributions to the field of early childhood education in more detail, visit his website.

AM (O) – Surviving Loss: Supporting the Grieving Child (repeated PM U) (1 ATYP) (1.5 Gateways)

CONTENT WARNING: Death and Dying: including topics of prenatal/infant loss, suicide and violence will be discussed.

We know that different cultures and faiths have a wide variety of rituals and customs connected to the end of life and beyond. How the death of a loved one is presented to young children, the amount of information shared, and understanding how their grief is expressed and how the adults in their lives support their grief journey can have lifelong implications to future relationships, social emotional development, attachment and mental health. In this session we will explore: our own attitudes and experiences with death and dying, the rituals and customs of other cultures, how the manner of death can trigger different issues, the developmental stages of grief and developmentally appropriate ways to support a grieving child and the adults that care for them (who may or may not also be grieving).

Presented by Tracy Patton, an Early Childhood Educator

Tracy (she/her) earned her M.S. in Child Development/infancy from the Erikson Institute in 2011. She lives in Carol Stream, IL with her husband, puppy and any combination of their four kids (26, 25, 21 & 15).She has spent 25 years playing with infants, toddlers and their families and now wears many hats, including; Early Childhood Talent Developer, Child Development Specialist, Parent Educator, Childhood Grief Facilitator, Safe Sleep Advocate, Grant Writer, Home Visiting Program Supervisor, Circle Time Entertainer and Mess Maker. Realizing that being silly, reading stories, and making a mess through sensory activities had the power to transform behavior in the classroom; Tracy began sharing her experiences with parents to address concerns at home. By focusing on how sensory play also enhanced vocabulary, math skills and self-regulation, parents gain the opportunity to better interact with their child(ren). Her love for working with young children and their families (and playing with slime and glitter) lead her to sharing her experiences and humor through workshops. Once Upon Some Messy Fun began in 2012, to share her passion for making a mess, and the knowledge that literacy and sensory activities open doors to all areas of development and educational domains. She is a national presenter at early childhood conferences and leads parent/community education and professional development workshops in addition to her role as a prenatal to five home visiting supervisor. She offers a variety of workshops to both staff and parents.

AM (P) – Our Journey from Thinking we were a Play Based, Child Centered ELC to Actually being a Play Based, Child Centered ELC – this can be your journey too! (.75 WWF .75 INT) (1.5 Gateways)

The pandemic threw all early learning programs into an upheaval. Our center had always said we were play based, but we routinely fell into theme-based planning. After going through an expansion during COVID and adding many new staff members, it was even harder to train and to explain what our view of play based, child centered curriculum was. We needed a reset. A small group of long-time teachers came together to explore what was possible and launch our journey into truly becoming a play based, child centered early learning center. This workshop will share our journey and explore how to make this change in your classroom or in your center.

Presented by Talley Hann, an Early Childhood Educator

Talley Hann, founder and co-owner of Oak Park Friends School, has been an educator all her life.  She began taking care of kids in her teenage years, then went on to graduate from Northwestern and teach in an alternative high school setting.  This led her back to graduate school at National Louis for special education which led her to teach upper elementary in a therapeutic day school and become an adjunct professor at National Louis University.  She has presented locally and nationally on her research of the use of constructivist pedagogy in schools. After having kids, she founded her own in-home daycare in 2007 which has grown into Oak Park Friends School with the help of her two co-owners Chloe Cunningham and Jessica Flannery, and many many others. Her greatest joys are helping teachers and parents realize the power and joy of childhood itself and helping them realize that this does not have to be a race to the end, but a journey to enjoy.

AM (Q) – Who are Parent Educators/Home Visitors and how do they Enhance and Support the Lives of Children and Families? (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

The purpose of this interactive workshop is to give caregivers – biological parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, child care professionals, school professionals, health care professionals, therapists, and anyone who cares for a child – the inside out of how parent educators/home visitors support each family enrolled in their program.

Presented by Lenita Edgeworth of Easterseals

Lenita Edgeworth is currently the Intake Coordinator for Easterseals and the Collaboration for Early Childhood. With over 10 years of parent educator and home visiting experience, she is thrilled to be the intake coordinator, where she can help more families in various communities find resources to thrive. Lenita is a certified P.A.T. Parent Educator, certified Chicago Parent Program (CPP) Facilitator and compassionate social service professional. Families’ needs vary over time, however, having the talent to serve them is one of Lenita’s many strengths.

AM (R) – Nature as a Teacher: The Benefits of Having an Outdoor Learning Environment (.75 INT .75 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

This workshop will introduce early educators, providers and parents to the environment as a teacher. We will identify differences between structured and unstructured play, time needed to get to “deep play” or true play, equity and factors that keep educators and providers indoors, and ideas about how to circumvent those barriers. Examples will include documentation of my childcare community during our 1000 hours outside. We will explore the benefits of utilizing nature to promote literacy, empathy, confidence, vision, critical thinking as well as fine and gross motor development. Participants will also have the opportunity to explore what mental barriers that have prevented them from getting outside in a safe, non-judgmental way while being provided with a new framework that serves the child.

Presented by Kisa Marx, an Early Childhood Educator

Kisa is the Founder/Lead Mess Maker at Kidcrewadventures Childcare Community. She has over 20 years of early childhood experience, 13 of which have been cultivating her own business. She proudly serves the little people: the wild, the worried, the intuitive, the unknowing and the brave in her play/nature based indoor/outdoor learning environment. Follow her on Instagram at @kidcrewadventures!

Afternoon Workshops – 1:30 – 3:00 (1.5 Hours)

PM (J)Connection before Correction (Second part of AM J) (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

This two-part workshop focuses on how caregivers can foster a healthy, safe, and secure relationship with children by identifying what makes one feel safe and exploring how building trust with consistency helps maintain a safe space. The second session will focus on learning what drives behavior, learn about the P.E.A.C.E model: P = Patience/practice, E = Expectation, A = Action, C = Connection/correction/consequence, E = Example/expectation as it relates to correcting behavior in children and how to implement it in their lives.

Presented by Danyale Washington, Parenting and Early Childhood Expert

Danyale Washington, B.A. is a parenting and early childhood expert, new parent educator, certified sleep consultant, trained ABA therapist, safe sleep ambassador, and mom of two. She is the owner and founder of Sweet Piece Solutions, LLC, whose focus is to “bring back the village it takes to raise a child.” Sweet Piece Solutions is a company designed to aid caregivers with the support, resources, and guidance to promote healthy development in children.

PM (K) – (Second part of AM K) Movement and Mindfulness: All the Feels and How to Implement a Mindfulness Space (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR, FAM

Energy is the ability to do work. Emotion is energy in motion. When we experience a feeling or trauma, it becomes stored in the body. Without expressing the feeling through movement and sound, it is redirected in the body causing physical pain, tension, or tightness. We know that children cannot learn in fight or flight. In this workshop, you will learn yoga and mindfulness strategies to help children identify and cope with their big feelings. This session promotes best practices for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through: using a trauma informed lens and language that is inviting, not demanding, creating a safe enough container for participants to come as they are, and providing an opportunity for all participants to experience yoga and mindfulness.

Presented by Erin Bracco, Co-founder of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga, LLC 

Erin Bracco is an Illinois Professional Educator and a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga. Previously, Erin was a kindergarten classroom teacher in the Berwyn South School District 100. Additionally, she developed and taught the Kindergarten Program at Bubbles Academy during the Pandemic. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Erin has completed her 200hr teacher training at Zen Yoga Garage in Chicago, 95 hour kids teacher training and partner yoga certificate through Rainbow Yoga, and  is a graduate of the 2020-2021 Mindful Teacher Certification Program. Erin is a consultant for schools implementing yoga and mindfulness programming and speaks at a variety of conferences each year. Her passion for child development is evident in her teaching style and curriculum. She thrives on helping little humans gain social-emotional learning strategies to explore and make sense of their world.

PM (S) – The Heart and the Mind 101: An Introduction to Relational Neuroscience (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) IT, ECE, FAM

Have you heard about Relational Neuroscience? It is a burgeoning, cutting-edge field of study in human development. It explores the connections between our (and young children’s) minds, nervous systems, feelings, and the behaviors we put out into the world. Join Richard for an introduction to some of the basics of mindfulness, Polyvagal theory, breathwork, and co-regulation.

Presented by Richard Cohen, Early Childhood Professional, Consultant, Coach and Speaker/Instructor

For the last twenty five years, Richard has traveled the world as a consultant, coach and motivational speaker/instructor, facilitating fun, innovative, thought-provoking, interactive, inspiring adult learning experiences for communities of early childhood teachers, administrators, caregivers and parents. He has delivered the keynote address and sessions at over 400 international, national, regional, state and local early childhood conferences around the globe, laughing, learning, crying, singing and dancing along with his audiences. To read about his contributions to the field of early childhood education in more detail, visit his website.

PM (T) – Ready, Set, Play: Using Music and Movement for Diverse Social Development (1.5 INT) (1.5 Gateways) 

Play is the basis of all early childhood learning and development! Join board-certified music therapist, Alyssa Stone in a hands-on exploration of musical play for child wellbeing and social development. Participants will explore social dynamics and diverse strategies to support development through music, movement, and play!

Presented by Alyssa Stone, Neurologic Music Therapist

Alyssa Stone, MT-BC, NMT, CYT 500, Owner & Founder of Dynamic Lynks, is a Board Certified, Neurologic Music Therapist, music educator and yoga instructor. Her holistic approach, engaging expertise and determined drive have led to the reality of her life-long goal, running a successful therapeutic center for children, Dynamic Lynks. Alyssa’s current areas of research include executive function skill development through neuro-science informed techniques supporting social and cognitive development. Find her on Instagram and Facebook!

PM (U)Surviving Loss: Supporting the Grieving Child (repeated AM O) (1 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR, FAM

CONTENT WARNING: Death and Dying: including topics of prenatal/infant loss, suicide and violence will be discussed.

We know that different cultures and faiths have a wide variety of rituals and customs connected to the end of life and beyond. How the death of a loved one is presented to young children, the amount of information shared, and understanding how their grief is expressed and how the adults in their lives support their grief journey can have lifelong implications to future relationships, social emotional development, attachment and mental health. In this session we will explore: our own attitudes and experiences with death and dying, the rituals and customs of other cultures, how the manner of death can trigger different issues, the developmental stages of grief and developmentally appropriate ways to support a grieving child and the adults that care for them (who may or may not also be grieving).

Presented by Tracy Patton, an Early Childhood Educator

Tracy (she/her) earned her M.S. in Child Development/infancy from the Erikson Institute in 2011. She lives in Carol Stream, IL with her husband, puppy and any combination of their four kids (26, 25, 21 & 15).She has spent 25 years playing with infants, toddlers and their families and now wears many hats, including; Early Childhood Talent Developer, Child Development Specialist, Parent Educator, Childhood Grief Facilitator, Safe Sleep Advocate, Grant Writer, Home Visiting Program Supervisor, Circle Time Entertainer and Mess Maker. Realizing that being silly, reading stories, and making a mess through sensory activities had the power to transform behavior in the classroom; Tracy began sharing her experiences with parents to address concerns at home. By focusing on how sensory play also enhanced vocabulary, math skills and self-regulation, parents gain the opportunity to better interact with their child(ren). Her love for working with young children and their families (and playing with slime and glitter) lead her to sharing her experiences and humor through workshops. Once Upon Some Messy Fun began in 2012, to share her passion for making a mess, and the knowledge that literacy and sensory activities open doors to all areas of development and educational domains. She is a national presenter at early childhood conferences and leads parent/community education and professional development workshops in addition to her role as a prenatal to five home visiting supervisor. She offers a variety of workshops to both staff and parents.

PM (V) – Proper Hair Care and its Impact on a Healthy Identity in Black Culture (1.5 INT) (1.5 Gateways) ECE, DIR

Kids identifying as children of color all over the US in school systems feel socially isolated because of the lack of support from parents and caregivers who don’t understand the basics of textured hair care. Not only is a child’s social development affected but the development of healthy self-esteem, self-image, and cultural acceptance in schools isn’t being normalized. As multiculturalism continues to grow nationwide and we begin to teach and learn, as educators and caregivers, about the importance of hair care and the connection to the culture there can be a shift within schools that enable and empower kids of color to begin to feel confident and proud of who they are. There needs to be a basic place of understanding to grow from and this workshop introduces this fact in a simple and informative way.

Presented by Tamekia Swint, Natural Hair Stylist, Author, and Educator

Tamekia, a Chicago native, received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MBA from National-Louis University. She is a licensed hair braider with over 25 years of professional experience in the natural hair industry. Tamekia is the Founder & Executive Director of Styles 4 Kidz, a nonprofit that helps kids in group homes get “hair care with heart” and provides interracial adoptive, foster parents and bi-racial families education and services to learn how to manage their child’s hair. In 2021 she self-published the children’s book, “Your Hair is Your Crown.” In addition to being the full-time Executive Director of S4K, Tamekia is a wife, mom and loves to cook, teach wellness classes, read, write, and travel in her spare time.

PM (X) – Risky Play that Builds Emotional Competence (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

Risky and challenging play provides children the opportunity to develop social skills, emotional regulation, and healthy self-esteem. In this workshop, participants will explore ways to incorporate risky play into their classrooms and care settings. Participants will also reflect on their own feelings about children’s risk taking and discuss ways to balance safety with opportunities for open-ended exploration.

Presented by Michelle Patt, an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant

Michelle is an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant providing services to childcare centers in the central and north side neighborhoods of Chicago as well as the greater Oak Park/River Forest/Maywood area. She provides expertise and training to support early childhood providers as they build capacity related to social-emotional development and learning, through a strength-based relationship approach. In her work, she draws on 20+ years of experience in administration and teaching in both private and Head Start/Preschool for All centers and mentoring and coaching teachers at all stages of professional growth.

PM (Y) – Supporting Parents and Families (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways) FAM

Understanding your emotions and being conscious of the way you cope with stress is extremely important. Especially, when supporting those closest to you. In this workshop, we will explore the meaning of knowledge of self and identifying how self-knowledge impacts our ability to be quality parents and relationship partners. The objective of this workshop is for participants to develop emotional intelligence and gain a better understanding of how the internal relationship we have with ourselves affects the external relationships we have with others. The workshop will be discussion based and facilitated by Welcome to Fatherhood founders Dr. Raheem Young and Sir Royce Briales.

Presented by Dr. Raheen Young and Sir Royce Briales

Dr. Raheem Young is a University Lecturer in the Community Health and Human Services Department at Governors State University. He co-founded the nonprofit Welcome to Fatherhood to help men cope with the pressures and stresses of fatherhood, relationships, and everyday life. Dr. Young is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life and has worked with many community-based organizations to improve the quality of life for men, women, and children.

Highly dedicated and fun-loving, Sir Royce Briales is a powerhouse entrepreneur whose underlying mission is to give fathers the quality advice, support, and empowerment they deserve. As the Co-Founder of Welcome to Fatherhood (WTF), a spearheading nonprofit organization where new and experienced fathers of all ages can showcase their superpowers to the masses. He enjoys building a strong community that gives both dads and their kids the best grounds to thrive on.

PM (Z) – Deconstructing Early Learning (1.5 WWF) (1.5 Gateways)

When COVID hit, I was unable to leave the safety of my backyard with the children in my care. I began the work of unlearning, and as I did, the children began to shift before my eyes. I realized the objectives I had been trying to reach by aligning my environment with an academic culture were being met organically through outdoor play. I was certain that deconstructing traditional child care would be necessary for turning ready-for-school children into children who were confident, connected, emotionally safe and ready to be nothing more than the children that they were at the moment. In this workshop I will share my experience and methods that can be incorporated for developmentally appropriate and child-centered results.

Presented by Kisa Marx, an Early Childhood Educator

Kisa is the Founder/Lead Mess Maker at Kidcrewadventures Childcare Community. She has over 20 years of early childhood experience, 13 of which have been cultivating her own business. She proudly serves the little people: the wild, the worried, the intuitive, the unknowing and the brave in her play/nature based indoor/outdoor learning environment. Follow her on Instagram at @kidcrewadventures!

Information About Credits
Educators who attend the Early Childhood Symposium are eligible to receive three types of credits listed below. Participants who are looking to receive professional learning hours, or CPDUs, can only receive hours/credits once and should not be awarded from multiple sources for only one event.

About Credits

  • Gateways Credits — Symposium participants can earn 1 hour of credit for early bird sessions, and 1.5 hours of credit for the morning, afternoon and keynote sessions. Gateways Credentials are symbols of professional achievement that validate knowledge, skills and experience. They are awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Bureau of Child Care and Development. They are required for some Circles of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois and can be used to help with employment decisions in early learning programs. Learn more about Gateways credentials.
  • Early Intervention Credits — The Symposium workshops also qualify for Early Intervention (EI) Credits. The Core Content Areas (types of Early Intervention Credits) and their abbreviations are:
    • WWF = Working with Families
    • INT = Intervention
    • ATYP = Atypical Child Development
  • PD Clock Hours/CPDUs — CPDU stands for Continuing Professional Development Unit. This professional development is a credit that educators, teachers, and school support services personnel must complete to maintain their certification. The Collaboration for Early Childhood’s Early Childhood Symposium is an approved professional development event. Participants will need to provide their IEIN (Illinois Educator Identification Number) to receive this credit.

Keynote Address:

Cultivating Creative Learners and Curious Minds

Richard Cohen, M.A.

Early Childhood Professional, Consultant, Coach and Motivational Speaker/Instructor

For the last twenty five years, Richard has traveled the world as a consultant, coach and motivational speaker/instructor, facilitating fun, innovative, thought-provoking, interactive, inspiring adult learning experiences for communities of early childhood teachers, administrators, caregivers and parents. He has delivered the keynote address and sessions at over 400 international, national, regional, state and local early childhood conferences around the globe, laughing, learning, crying, singing and dancing along with his audiences.

To read about his contributions to the field of early childhood education in more detail, visit his website.

Follow Richard Cohen on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Our Sponsors:

Take a walk down memory lane and explore themes and speakers from past Symposia below!

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