With the assistance of Ministry of Education funding via Ontario Teachers’ Federation Grant Proposals, the OSSTF/FEESO Educational Services Department was able to hold five Kindergarten Symposia this spring.
All Bargaining Units representing members working in the Kindergarten Program were invited to send members to one (or more) of the following locations: Waterloo, Windsor, Collingwood, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie.
Each one day symposia allowed Educational Assistants and, mostly, Early Childhood Educators to attend three sessions as a group: a Provincial Update on Childcare Regulations and the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE); the Early Learning Team Workshop; and the keynote address by Evergreen Canada entitled “Small Wonders: Creating Outdoor Spaces and Programs that Nurture Child Development.” Participants were also able to attend a fourth session of their choice between two workshops: “Managing Conflict” or “More or Less—The Links between Language and Math”
The inspirational keynote address, delivered by staff of Evergreen Canada, focused on the responsibility all educators have to engage early learners with nature. Case studies from Asia, the United States, Europe, and Canada were used to emphasize opportunities the outdoors can provide for self-directed play. Evergreen worked with OSSTF/FEESO to invite, as an integral part of the keynote address at each location, a local OSSTF/FEESO member using outdoor space in their kindergarten program.
While OSSTF/FEESO members number close to 5,000 of the over 60,000 professionals who are part of the CECE, there are just under 2,500 OSSTF/FEESO members working as Early Childhood Educators. A total of 261 OSSTF/FEESO members attended the Kindergarten Symposia throughout the province and, while there were Educational Assistants and Support Personnel in attendance, more than 90 per cent of participants were ECEs.
The feedback forms completed by participants were overwhelmingly appreciative of the opportunity to attend professional development geared specifically to Early Childhood Educators and to the needs of those working in Kindergarten. While the future topic suggestions varied from “more conflict management techniques” to “more support of outdoor initiatives”, the need to have time with their teaching partner, on a daily basis and for continued professional development, was by far the most pressing concern articulated by participants.