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Annual Early Childhood Conference

Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Learning & Development




Featured Presenters:




Cate Heroman

is a 2017 NAEYC Featured Speaker and Author of Making and Tinkering with STEM and The Creative Curriculum for Preschool.

heroman book cover


Cate Heroman portrait
Cate Heroman Sessions

“Making and Tinkering With STEM: Solving Design Challenges with Young Children”

Description: What are tinkering, making, and design engineering? How are they the same or different? What does this look like in an early childhood classroom? This full day session addresses all three aspects of maker education— tinkering, making, and engineering. All three are valuable experiences in early STEM education. The skills and dispositions children learn and acquire during making and tinkering become an important part of the engineering design process.

This session is designed to investigate together how tinkering and making experiences in early childhood support fundamental STEM thinking and learning. We will explore tinkering and making activities that have the potential to blend art and science explorations, exemplify best practices in critical thinking and problem solving, and incorporate creative ways to integrate making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom using children’s literature as a springboard for experiences.

“Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in Early Childhood: It’s Serious Play!”

Description: Think back to your earliest memory of making something, tinkering, or inventing something to solve a problem. What did you do? Did you build a fort? Take apart an old toy and try to put it back together again? Tape boxes together to create a cool car? Invent a gizmo to lift things into a tree house? This is what tinkering, making, and engineering look like in early childhood! When children are actively involved in these STEM-rich experiences, they are deeply engaged in learning about the world around them, how things work, and how to make our world a better place for everyone. It is not only inspirational…and playful, but important! We don’t know what problems children will confront in the future, but the knowledge, skills and dispositions they acquire through making, tinkering, and engineering experiences in the early years will help them become competent and confident problem solvers for tomorrow.

“Tinker! Make! Innovate! STEM-Rich Learning in Early Childhood”

Description: Participate in STEM-rich tinkering, making, and engineering experiences and explore new tools and technologies. Explore strategies for planning and organizing a learning environment conducive to problem solving and creative thinking. Examine a new resource from NAEYC that uses problems in children's picture books as a springboard for tinkering, making, and designing engineering activities.



Carrie Lynn Draper portrait





Carrie Lynne Draper

is the Executive Director of Readiness Learning, a national STEM readiness organization. She is a mentor early childhood educator across US and taught at NASA's first Explorer K-5 school and was recognized as Virginia's Educator of the Year.


Carry Lynn Draper Sessions

“The Future is in My Classroom Today: How to Use STEM”

Description: Tomorrow’s innovators are sitting in your classroom today. Learn what STEM is and why it's important for teachers to use cross-curricular STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning. How does STEM create important connections in young children’s brains preparing them for school, academic success and future careers? How can your classroom, centers/stations/ materials and outdoor environments be used to better promote problem-solving needed for STEM learning? Walk away with oodles of ideas ready to use! This is a ‘hands-on’ interactive workshop.

“Engineering & Robotics (1.0) Designed for Preschool Through Grade 3”

Description: Tomorrow’s computer scientists, engineers, and inventors are sitting in your classroom today. Research says, exposing young children to the foundations of engineering fosters a love of math and science, and students are more likely to pursue these STEM majors and careers. The E in STEM stands for Engineering and there is no need to purchase kits to get students to ASK, IMAGINE, BUILD, TEST, IMPROVE & REFLECT. Come learn how to use classroom materials to teach the foundations of robotics; coding & programming; and other types of engineering. Learn why teachers need to provide EDP (Engineering Design Process) time for students. This is a ‘hands-on’ interactive workshop.








Jim Gill

is a musician and author who spent 20 years directing programs in music play for families and children with special needs in the Chicago area. He has 7 award winning CDs of music play for young children. 

 Jim Gill portrait


Jim Gill Sessions

“A Joyous Way to Learn: Music Play to Promote Readiness, Literacy, Math Development and Inclusion”

Description: In this energizing session Jim will share examples of his work – both books and songs – that teachers and care providers can bring back to their classrooms, playrooms and family rooms. Most importantly, Jim will discuss how his unique creations in music play inspire young children not only to move, but to regulate their movements….not only to sing, but to make connections between the words they sing and the printed word and the world of numbers.. Jim will discuss how a play-based program provides an inclusive environment for children with special needs and share thoughts based on his work with children of all ability levels.

Early childhood professionals will leave the session inspired to share a new repertoire of songs and playful literacy activities with the children that they care for. Even more, they will leave the session understanding that what is most challenging about the nature of early childhood education is also what makes the profession so exciting. When we define our teaching as helping children learn, we not only provide joyous challenges for the children. We also keep ourselves engaged and rejuvenated by watching their excitement as they learn.

“ Inspiring Music Play With Purpose”

Description: This workshop is filled with the musical inspiration you’ll need to keep energized! In this energizing session, Jim Gill shares musical games and, most importantly, the purpose behind his play. His active music play provides a context for children to develop abilities, such as self-regulation, essential to school success. Jim’s clever word play and rhymes in the context of active movement games also provide broad opportunities for literacy development. You’ll bring some inspiration, useful in the morning and afternoon, back to your work with young children!


 Alissa Lange portrait




Alissa A. Lange

is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at ETSU. She has been an Institute of Educational Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, a US Fulbright Scholar to Colombia, and a teacher of children and adults. She has led or co-led multiple funded studies of early childhood STEM education, including the preschool STEM professional development project, SciMath-DLL, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.




Alissa A. Lange Sessions

“Unleashing the Mathematician in Preschoolers: Exploring Big Ideas With Little Kids”

Description: Young children are capable of highly complex and rich mathematics thinking and doing in preschool. In this session, we will explore how to unleash the mathematician in children (and in you!) through hands-on activities, video analysis, and group discussions. We will cover the big ideas in preschool mathematics, how they develop in children, and how to teach them. We will consider concepts that are less commonly found in preschool (e.g., number composition and decomposition) and ways to do more with typical preschool math activities (e.g., pattern abstraction; constructing two-dimensional shapes). Participants will leave with inspiration to try new activities and push themselves and their children to see, talk about, play with, and understand the math all around them, across the day and across the year.





Anne Sibley O'Brien

is the author of I'm New Here, a picture book about three immigrant children which was named a Kirkus Reviews' Best Book of the Year.

obrian book cover

Anne Sibley O'Brien


Ann Sibley O'Brian Sessions

“Books as Bridges: Children's Literature & Racial/Cultural Diversity in the Classroom”

Description: Children’s Author-illustrator and diversity educator Anne Sibley O’Brien will present an overview of the latest findings on how children experience race and learn social roles, the formation of racial and cultural identity, and the neuroscience of bias. She'll share recent research about why diverse books are so important, how multiracial picture books can be used to reduce inter-group anxiety in children and to counter bias, and how adults can support the development of relationships across race. The workshop will include a list of recommended books for building a developmentally-appropriate framework for positive, inclusive discussions of human differences in the classroom, and resources for further exploration.

"That's My Story!" Young Immigrants & Refugees in Picture Books”

Description: Author-illustrator Anne Sibley O'Brien will share the process of creating her award-winning book, I'm New Here, about three immigrant children. She'll then present a review of recent, recommended titles featuring refugee and immigrant children. We'll explore how these books can be used to support students - and their mainstream classmates - as they move through stages of adjustment.

“Exploring Differences with Picture Books”

Description: Neuroscience and psychology have demonstrated that children notice racial differences in infancy. This workshop will explore how educators and caregivers can use picture books about racial and cultural differences to support the social and emotional development of young children, their formation of identity, and fostering of empathy and connection. A recommended list of books and other resources will be provided.

“Of Longing and Belonging: A Bilingual, Bicultural Journey”

Description: Anne Sibley O'Brien will share her story, from her upbringing as an American missionary doctor's daughter raised in South Korea, to her career as an award-winning author and illustrator whose books feature diverse children and cultures. She'll reflect on the experience of becoming bilingual and bicultural; discuss the importance of books that represent all of our children and how these books and the conversations they spark can make a difference in the classroom; and share resources for further exploration.


Will Parnell portrait



 Will Parnell

is a professor in education, Department Chair of Curriculum and Instruction, and pedagogical liaison to the Helen Gordon Child Development Center at Portland State University. Will has many research publications in several well-known journals and has
published two books with Jeanne Marie Iorio. He is the President-Elect of the NAECTE, is a board member for A Renaissance school of Arts and Sciences, President of the Inventing Remida Portland project and Past Chair for the American Educational Research Association's Critical Perspectives on ECE SIG.


Will Parnell Sessions

“Identifying With Remida: Co-Constructing Social Identities Through Reuse Materials”

Description: Learn to co-construct social identities in a Reggio Emilia, Remida-inspired way. Identifying with repurposed/reuse materials as a community practice develops a sustainable attitude and disposition toward school transformation.In order to explore how social identity and Remida are connected, participants will look at documentation of studio project about faces of our community and the use of re-purposed and natural materials to co-construct social and ecological identities with children in an atelier and workshop.Then, participants will work in pairs to make an im/permanent representation of each other from a wide display of reuse materials. Our inquiry will be guided by the enduring question: How can we connect ourselves with reuse materials and see each other through reuse materials? Following the provocation, we will engage in a reflective dialogue process to intentionally emerge our learning together.

“Setting Intentions as Reggio-inspired Practice”

Description: Learn to set intentions in a Reggio-inspired way. Uncover the values that lay underneath each intention you plan. Develop curricular ideas through intention setting. Walk away with at least one intention you plan to implement into your classroom/school. As leaders, how do we set intentions in our work with young children and their families? What values lay underneath the surface of our intentions and what does declaring intentions look like as we move into big ideas as inspiration for curriculum? Spend time learning about and coming up with classroom and/or school-wide intentions as we explore and examine the past experiences in the PSU Helen Gordon Center and of their educators' attempt at making intentions and big ideas visible and valued.





Gabriel Guyton

Is an Instructor/Advisor for the Family Development and Early Intervention Program at Bank Street College of Education in New York. Gabriel works with children (ages birth to 5), families, and teachers in childcare programs, schools, homes, and community settings. She also works with families under significant stress in underserved communities. Gabriel has presented at several well-known conferences such as Zero to Three National Training Institute, NAEYC, and Bank Street Infancy Institute.

 Gabriel Guyton portrait


Laura Martin portrait





Laura Martin

is a mental health and disabilities specialist at
Verner Center for Early Learning in Asheville, NC. She has spent her entire career working in early childhood mental health, challenging behaviors, and developmentally appropriate practices in early education. Her current research explores the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on early childhood educators and on learning environments.

Gabriel Guyton and Laura Martin Sessions

“Going Beyond Feeling Faces: Powerful Teaching Interactions Create Emotionally Responsive Infant Toddler Classrooms”

Description: Decades of research on child development has demonstrated the importance of the earliest years, and today, more and more children spend many hours of those years with teachers in childcare and home care settings. The quality of teacher interactions is a powerful influence on the lives of children, fostering children’s sense of self and overall development. Finding ways to support teachers, therefore, with new tools and practical strategies to create emotionally responsive environments is an essential goal. In this participatory workshop, we will provide proven methods for enhancing classroom settings, as well as opportunities for teachers to get to know themselves and develop practical strategies for managing stress.

Teachers are continuously seeking ways to support young children and families. With this dedication to others, however, it is easy to overlook that we all come to work with our own lives and our own childhood experiences, which all too often include stress, anxiety, and even trauma. In the day of a teacher working with young children and families, stress is inevitable. Why do some parts of our day knock us completely off balance, while others easily roll off our backs? As we work so hard to cultivate meaningful relationships, it is difficult to stay present with so many unknown but undeniable triggers constantly looming.

In working with children and their families, it is the quality of our interactions that have the most significant impact on our relationships. By taking the time to know ourselves better, we gain power over our responses and our ability to stay mindful and present. In this way, we can truly support the children and families we work with.

This workshop – using hands-on activities and interactive discussion – will offer opportunities to explore our own individual stressors and what triggers us, and also work on practical strategies to create emotionally supportive classroom environments. We will examine the forces that influence the social emotional development of infants, toddlers, and twos, and provide practical techniques for maximizing classroom routine, curriculum, and adult-child interactions within the framework of emotionally responsive practice







Laurie Clements

has 20 + years’ experience (formal/informal) working with young children. She received her M.Ed. in Early Childhood in 1998 from Milligan College. Since obtaining her Masters, she taught at-risk preschoolers for several years and for the past 10 years has been the Director at HospiTOTS in Johnson City, TN.


 Laurie Clements portrait


Laurie Clements Sessions

“Words Have Meaning”

Description: We’ve all heard the old adage: “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that isn’t necessarily true! Join us as we explore the power of our words and the impact they can have on those around us as well as on our own well-being!

“Bullies in the Workplace: Recognizing & Responding to Grown-up Mean Girls”

Description: Sugar and spice and everything nice… what is with these grown-up mean girls?? We are all aware of bullying behavior among children but sadly those bullying behaviors often continue into adulthood. Bullying behaviors in the workplace are estimated to affect one out of every four employees and are typically subtle, sneaky and cumulative behaviors rather than overt behaviors. Utilizing a variety of small group, whole group and individual activities we will explore in depth what workplace bullying is and what it looks like, what are the tangible and intangible costs, and most importantly what can we do about it? Participants will leave with concrete, practical ideas to help them be better prepared to identify and deal with bullying behaviors as they return to their own work settings.


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