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ODU Hosts Early Childhood Professional Development Conference

Early childhood educators and advocates will gather at Old Dominion University on Saturday, March 7 for a day-long professional development conference hosted by the Darden College of Education's Virginia Early Childhood Policy Center (VECPC), the only statewide research center of its kind in Virginia, and sponsored by the PNC Foundation.

The conference, whose theme for 2015 is "Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching, Documenting, and Learning from Children's Work," will be hosted in ODU's Batten Arts & Letters Building, from 8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. It will feature a keynote presentation by Tina Thompson from Penn State, an expert with 30 years of experience in issues pertaining to children's culture and art learning.

The day-long event also features a plenary session with educators from the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Hermitage, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and Young Audiences of Virginia. Presenters will share their expertise about the rich cultural resources and programming available to educators around the Hampton Roads Region.

The conference will also include professional development sessions in literacy, science, mathematics, arts, programming and classroom policy, and other current issues in early childhood.

For more information and to register, see the conference WEBSITE.

Launched in 2013, the VECPC seeks to develop materials and conduct original research leading to positive changes in early childhood policy in the Commonwealth. That fall, the Children's Learning and Research Center hosted its first ODU Early Childhood Symposium, featuring nationally recognized scholars and statewide elected officials along with VECPC Co-Directors.

This year's conference seeks to build on the momentum to do relevant, cutting-edge research into early childhood education, the inspiration for the formation of VECPC.

"The Commonwealth of Virginia lacks important, systematic information about early childhood, which can negatively affect children by denying them the services they need, exacerbating potential problems for individuals later in life," said Angela Eckhoff, co-director of VECPC and assistant professor of Teaching and Learning in the Darden College of Education.

Pete Baker, VECPC co-director and a lecturer in the Department of Teaching and Learning, said one of the goals of this year's conference is to introduce a new tracking system to record and organize attendees' professional development experiences at the event, according to the specific topics discussed in each of the sessions they attend.

"This will help us identify priority areas to offer further professional development opportunities," Baker said. "This information will be used in planning future events and may also provide unique opportunities for research exploring the impact of the professional development provided."

The Commonwealth of Virginia is unique in its socioeconomic and demographic diversity, and the VECPC has established itself as a leading source for information on the specific needs of the varied groups of children and their families.

As one of its first actions, the VECPC created a comprehensive report on the state of early childhood in Virginia, which was presented to the Virginia General Assembly in early 2014. The report was a multidisciplinary effort, including input from representatives from several colleges within ODU, as well as faculty members from other Virginia universities.

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