For three years now, the planning team for the Oakland Early Learning Symposium has come together to create meaningful opportunities for early learning professionals to explore best practices and learn in community. This year, we wanted to continue to support best practices, while also recognizing the unique circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, preschool teachers and early childhood education (ECE) providers attending our “Let’s Talk Early Learning” informal Zoom event shared that they were seeing more behavioral challenges than usual as children returned to care and school or started in new ECE settings. Given the weight of these challenges, the planning team wanted to provide Oakland early learning professionals with resources and tools in a way that would be both fun and practical.
The planning team chose the topic of “Fostering Early Social-Emotional Learning through Books” for the first symposium event in November. Through a partnership with Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, we provided all symposium attendees with the opportunity to pick up a bag of children’s books, such as Jabari Jumps and Homemade Love, related to social-emotional learning.
Speakers at the event discussed how to choose books that are age-appropriate and how to incorporate the learnings from the books into classroom practice. Each small group facilitator then featured one of the books in breakout room discussions. One participant commented afterward, “This event was wonderful and so refreshing!” We met the planning team’s goal of creating an inclusive, immersive, multilingual literacy event.
Participants who attended the first event were clear about what they’d like to see again at the next symposium event - more books! The planning team also wanted to address one of the most pressing issues in ECE right now: lifting up multilingual learners and helping them preserve their native language while learning English.
Video: Fostering Social-Emotional Learning through Books
Video: Celebrating Multilingual Learners in ECE
With this feedback, the planning team chose the theme “Celebrating Multilingual Learners in ECE” for the May symposium event, and another book distribution was put together with help from Tandem again, along with Lotus Bloom and OUSD ECE. We included books that are wordless, in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. We were very fortunate to start the second Zoom symposium event with a blessing in one of the Pomo tribe languages, led by Patty Franklin and her husband from the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
The event featured updates on the multilingual learner programs for young children and ECE providers at the Oakland Unified School District and Alameda County Office of Education. We also heard from a family child care provider Carol Wong who provides a Mandarin immersion program at Happa Baby Day Care, as well as from Dolores Jeff who highlighted the Hintil Child Development Center’s history of educating and supporting native children.
One participant shared, “Thanks for organizing this event, books, and blessings! I also especially appreciate this symposium’s efforts to promote and support English Language Learner students and families based on research and early childhood education professional experiences.” This second symposium event succeeded at its goal of lifting up multilingual learners and their native languages, as well as spotlighting the educators who are forging a new path with multilingual education.
You can find detailed information about each of those events on our symposium webpage, including the event recordings. Keep an eye out in the early fall for information about our 2022-23 symposium events. We want to hear from you: what should our next symposium focus on? Who are the speakers you want to hear from? Email us your suggestions and ideas: EarlyLearning.Symposium@OUSD.org.