The National Science Teachers Association hosted a special day for PreK-2 teachers who want to make science more fun, more hands-on and more integrated into their teaching experiences. The Science for Young Learners Day was the brainchild of Bill Ritz, Professor Emeritus at California State University and the Conference Chairperson for the 54th Annual NSTA Conference in Anaheim, California (April 6-9, 2006). Bill Ritz and his conference planning committee invited me to help them kick-off the day as their morning keynote speaker.
There was a “buzz” in the packed room of early childhood specialists even before the program started. Some teachers arrived more than an hour early (just because they were excited to attend a mini-conference dedicated to early childhood hands-on science) and most of the participants didn’t wait for the session to officially begin before starting to share some of their best teaching ideas with others at their table. NSTA President Michael Padilla impressed me so much with his opening comments: “Science education is in a crisis today… and the early childhood educators in the room will play an important role in helping us prepare young learners to be life-long learners in science.” Michael hit the nail on the head, and these educators know the important role they play in preparing students with the skills needed to wonder, discover, explore and to really do science.
The keynote message was simple and direct: Turn ordinary activities into unforgettable learning experiences by building real-world connections. My hat’s off to Bill Ritz and everyone at NSTA who shined the spotlight on the amazing teachers who bring hands-on science alive for young learners.