On April 2, Conestoga hosted the 28th Annual Early Learning and Child Care Conference at the Doon campus. The event brought together nearly 400 early childhood education workers for a series of workshops related to the conference theme: the importance of relationships in the early years.
The conference is organized by a committee that includes representation from Conestoga’s Early Childhood Professional Resource Centre (PRC) and the college’s Child Development Lab. Other partners include a diverse range of stakeholders representing local school boards, child care centres and regional organizations that deal with children’s interests.
According to PRC manager Samantha Burns, the conference is as an important resource for ECE professionals in both the region and throughout the province: “Some delegates attend every year. That shows commitment from the industry; the conference has become a legacy that our community has defined.”
The conference offered a selection of 24 workshops and welcomed 30 vendors who provided various resources and retail products.
Burns said the conference has also become an important resource and learning opportunity for Conestoga’s students. This year 30 students from the Early Childhood Education, Bachelor of Early Learning Program Development, IT Support Services, IT Network Security and Recreation and Leisure Services programs volunteered in various roles.
“This was the first time we had students from IT Support Services and they were a fabulous addition,” said Burns. “The conference targets ECE educators and while they have great stories to tell, there can be an IT gap in the sector which prevents those stories from being told.” The IT students showcased their skills as they supported guests and presenters with a range of issues that included helping with the delivery of presentations to assisting with connection and Wi-Fi issues.
Burns said other student volunteers also had access to presenters and guests, which provided an ideal networking opportunity.
Conestoga’s PRC, which aims to create a bridge between research and practice in early learning and care, opened in 2010 and now serves 600 members in the community, as well as Conestoga's ECE students. In addition to its role on the conference committee, the PRC provides early childhood educators with a lending library that features a wide selection of research material, various services and continuous professional learning through a number of events and workshops.
Conestoga is one of the only colleges in the province to offer this type of facility and Burns said it strengthens the link between the college and the community. It also provides students in other programs with interprofessional learning opportunities: Nursing students have played a valuable role in the development of various PRC materials and Recreation and Leisure students have supported programming that targets leadership and team building.
For more information, visit the Professional Resource Centre website