The education paradigm has shifted, have you? The Industrial Age of conformity and uniformity is long past. What do
professionals need to know about early childhood education in 2018?

5 Big Shifts Ahead in Early Childhood Education

1. Research and evidence based instructional strategies continue as your guide for teaching and learning in all areas of children’s growth, development and learning. Find out what’s new, different or changed for 2018.

2. Make it personal. Learning happens everywhere. Extend your lesson plan to include people inside and outside your classroom as teaching partners. Research says only 5% of learning happens inside the classroom. We have yet to really include parents, families and community resources as teachers and environments where children learn. The Opening Minds Early Education Conference is a unique opportunity to build your personal professional support network of teachers, professors, principals, librarians, occupational and physical therapists, curriculum directors, doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists, architects, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and many more who you can count on once the conference ends. Adopt and adapt what works, whether it is an instructional strategy common in early childhood OR in a related field. One of the best ways to engage (and learn from) all the people in young children’s lives at home, in school and in the community is person-to- person. The Opening Minds Early Education Conference is the only event in the nation where people of all professions educating or caring for young children gather to learn, side-by- side, together.

3. What’s so big about STEM for Little Learners? Innovation comes from bold new ideas. STEM approaches to learning build on young children’s natural curiosity and wonder as it sharpens young minds to question, critique, and try out new ideas. You can give children new ways of seeing, expressing, inventing and even solving the problems of the world when you incorporate STEM fundamentals. You don’t have to be a scientist, coding whiz, engineer, painter, musician or mathematician to build on children’s natural curiosity to give children the processes, language and room to try out new ideas!

A word about standards and requirements

Standards and requirements are well meaning in gauging overall growth and knowledge, however with changes in public policy and funding, standards are getting in the way of the learning process. Standards are a deterrent to pursuing interests. We inadvertently give children the message to stick with topics or skills they are scoring well, instead of following their interests.

We can do it all, appropriately, if we focus on the overall purpose of education as it was intended, to teach children how the world works. We need to stop wasting time and resources researching teaching strategies to outwit young children’s capacity to retain bits and pieces of information, in the short term, to make good on standardized tests and evaluations of the day.

The value of STEM education is more about instilling the processes and strategies to dissect and visually represent problems and find solutions, than regurgitating content by rote.

Ask, are we putting findings to good use?

4. Literacy for the Digital Age needs to be redefined to include Visual Literacy. In today’s multimedia filled world, sometimes words are not enough and only an image will do. Visual Literacy is the ability to express and interpret thoughts through images and other visual representations. If only we could see the world through a child’s eyes to understand how they make connections between what is there and not there. Children may see connections others do not- this is where new ideas and ways of knowing are formulated. These are the seeds from which a new generation of innovation will happen. How do you help children recognize and make connections, and to visually represent thought?

The purpose of literacy is to communicate effectively. We have spent decades developing young children’s abilities to read, write, talk and listen effectively, the four cornerstones of literacy. It’s not enough. 21st century classrooms need a fifth cornerstone, Visual Literacy.

5. Boost your practice to integrate STEM learning in to your program with just four guiding principles. Come to Opening Minds 2018 to get the evidence based instructional strategies to put these in to practice.

a. Science: QUESTION. Learn how to integrate the art of the question, and scientific process in to day-to day interactions, instruction and activities.

b. Technology: USE TECH TOOLS AND SOFTWARE THAT ELEVATE CHILDREN’S CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS. Learn how to integrate tech tools which develop children’s tech skill to code, build, design, draw and paint.

c. Engineering: THINK WITH PICTURES.

d. Math: MAKE MATH A PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE. Everything is math. Get familiar in identifying and naming the mathematical concepts embedded in everyday life activities.

Preview of Sessions Planned

**Canceled by Presenter** 

How Do Brains of Young Children Process Math?

Dr. Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, and the CEO for YouCubed

Dr. Boaler’s research and studies focus on mathematics teaching and learning, and include:

  • Different teaching approaches which impact learning,
  • How to teach mathematics for a “growth mindset”,
  • How equity is promoted in mathematics classrooms,
  • Why women and girls choose out of science and mathematics,
  • The role of groupwork and mathematical discussions in the development of understanding,
  • Ways teachers may be supported in moving toward equitable and effective teaching environments, and the effectiveness of mathematics taught through technology.

Dr. Boaler is the author of eight books and numerous research articles. Her latest books, Mathematical Mindsets and What’s Math Got to Do With It?, aim to increase public understanding of the importance of mathematics and the nature of effective teaching approaches.

Promoting Language and Early Literacy Outcomes for All Children Response to Intervention in Early Childhood

Presented by Dr. Scott McConnell, Senior Vice President for Innovation and Implementation, Early Learning Labs. Professor, Educational & Child Psychology, Fesler-Lampert Chair of Urban and Regional Affairs for the University of Minnesota. This session will introduce participants to Response to Intervention, an emerging standard in early education for screening development of all children through differentiated intervention. We have been developing tools and training teachers throughout the country, helping them screen all children in language and early literacy development, as well as identify children who may benefit from supplemental intervention, and monitoring the effects of this intervention to make sure it’s working. We welcome the chance to tell more early educators about this approach to early education.

10 Practical Strategies to Develop Preschooler’s Higher-Level Conversational Skills

Presented by Nancy Silverman MA, CCC/SLP. Nancy is a speech/language pathologist and early intervention specialist who has worked with children birth-5 years and their families for many years.  She also worked as an SLP in Wheeling Early Childhood Center, until her recent retirement.  Nancy has presented at the local, state and national level on numerous topics related to language/literacy, and the impact on children and families of cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Nancy is adjunct faculty at National Louis University and on the advisory board for the Speech/Language Department at Midwestern University.

Why Early Literacy Development is a part of

Healthy Development

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP

This session will discuss the critical importance of the first thousand days of life and role human relationship and interaction play in that time period.  The importance of key concepts of literacy development will be reviewed, as well as the relationship of early literacy with the contemporary state of electronic screen usage in early childhood, including e-books.

Beyond the Fun and Recall of Story

Learning Story Portfolios

Presented by Cindy Collado and Ann McNally, Principal, Chicago Public Schools, Frederick Stock School

Cindy Collado, PhD., Assistant Professor, California State University-Sacramento, College of Education, Teaching Credentials-Special Education

Make the shift in portfolio development from the inclusion of standardized, skill-based assessments to sociocultural narrative assessments using Learning Stories. Together, teachers and their principal can learn to capture students’ approaches to learning and turn them into Learning Stories, a formative narrative portfolio. In this three hour session, learn how our quest to better align assessment practices with teaching, learning, and the inclusion of families at this inclusive early childhood center led to a shift in portfolio development from the inclusion of standardized, skill-based assessments to sociocultural narrative assessments using Learning Stories. Learning Stories use storytelling to describe a key learning moment for an individual student, emphasizing how a child approaches the learning process through problem solving, curiosity, creativity, communication, relationships, and independence. The principal, general and special education preschool teachers, and researcher will share their experiences and guide participants in writing their own stories.

Using Mindful Communication to Deepen Understanding, Strengthen Relationships, and Support Development

Presented by Molly Gerrish, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Sometimes words are not enough

Early Visual Literacy: Connecting Picture Books to an Art Museum’s Collection presented by Melissa Tanner, Family Programs Educator, Art Institute of Chicago

Visual Literacy through Music!


Miss Carole Stephens, Macaroni Soup, Early Childhood Music Specialist

Using an image increases understanding and memory, assists processing, and invites participation by children right away.

Chicago Architecture Foundation on ENGINEERING

Read + Build Books introduced, The Three Little Pigs, an Architectural Tale; Rosie Revere, Engineer: Read + Build is an exciting program designed for learners ages 3-6. Spend time together reading and listening to a story and creating an applicable design project. Help little ones explore the building blocks of architecture, design, and your city.

Design Your Skyline. Read a Building.

Design Your Skyline. Read a Building: Everyone knows you can read a book, but did you know that you can read a building?! By using key visual literacy prompts and ‘learning how to look,’ children can begin to understand their built environment and world in a new and exciting way!

“You can learn a great deal about your surroundings just by looking carefully and asking some critical questions. Learning about your environment requires more than knowing a buildings name, date, height, or architect. Visual literacy skills and ‘learning to look’ helps children understand the built environment, their neighborhoods and themselves. Asking the right questions, in the right way helps guide the learner to experience their city in a richer way.” Chicago Architecture Foundation

Angela Esposito – Manager of Studio Programs

Rebecca Millham – Education Facilitator

Gabrielle Lyon, PhD – Vice President of Education and Experience

Experiences, Not Experiments

Presented by Susan Drewelow, Center Director of Little Explorers Learning Center This session is designed to empower teachers to add science to their early education curriculum by helping them to understand the basic concepts and helping them to focus on the EXPERIENCE.


Invaluable firsthand experience you’ll want to know to connect with families

Opening Minds welcomes, Najala Albaiz, an instructor at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, and Fatimah Hafiz, PhD Candidates at University of Alabama at Birmingham

As mothers to ESL students in the United States and early childhood educators, the presenter and the co-speaker become interested in the importance of emergent literacy and the role of the environment in children’s development. We realized that teachers still implement traditional teaching methods and teach all children in a same way regardless to the children’s abilities or backgrounds. Therefore, ESL students, including our children, are left behind; even though, they work harder than native speakers. We believe that it is the time to speak up and share our experience to promote teachers’ awareness and help multi-ethnic diverse children and their families. We found that the more the teachers involve families the higher teaching and learning quality. Don’t miss, What to do when your classroom is a melting pot: The role of multicultural contexts in ESL students’ literacy development.



Financial Literacy with COUNTRY Financial

Math Made Simple
Join COUNTRY Financial and learn the basics of math. We’ll cover percentages, quick multiplication tricks and compound interest. Using real life scenarios, we’ll get you up to speed on Math 101 and you’ll be ready to tackle your everyday finance needs.

Achieve Financial Security After a Hardship
Are you in the midst of trying to recover from a financial hardship? An unexpected health, home or auto expense can throw a wrench in your best laid plans. Let’s talk about some immediate repairs, how to manage your debt, understand your credit, and get you and your family on a path to financial security!

I Will Retire!
Calling all young professionals new to the field and seasoned professionals wishing to retire, this is a session you will not want to miss. Do you wonder how you’ll retire because the numbers just don’t seem to add up? We will talk about ABC’s of how to plan for retirement even if you have never saved a dime! We will review many topics including succession planning for business owners.

Ladies, Take Control of Your Finances
Do you have trouble making ends meet, wonder if you will ever have enough money to stop working someday and retire, or are you stressing about sending kids to college? We will show you how to take control of your finances right now and prepare for a brighter future. Women face greater financial risk than men, but aren’t as prepared. Let’s change that together!

This is just a preview of what’s planned. More sessions, descriptions, and presenters will be added, regularly. Follow us on Facebook, to get updates in real time. The full schedule of listings will be available in January.