Eastern Connecticut State University
Center for
Early Childhood Education
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May 9, 2014

Eastern Connecticut State University


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The Child and Family Development Resource Center and the Center for Early Childhood Education are pleased to host the second biennial Early Childhood Investigations Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University. The day-long conference is designed for preschool and toddler teachers, administrators, and teacher educators who are interested in supporting children's learning and development through play. The focus of this year’s conference is on how to plan for, support, facilitate, and assess young children’s play. The conference will feature a keynote address by Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers, author of Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground and Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom. Workshop sessions will address topics such as superhero play, physical play, music play, dramatic play, block play, and supporting the play of children with special needs.


Why a conference on play? “Every activity we provide for our children must address at least one standard of the Common Core. How can we possibly take time for play?” (Spoken by a preschool teacher from North Carolina). “My four-year-old knows more about technology than I do.” (Shared by a parent in Connecticut). These statements demonstrate that the world has changed. Some believe that the focus on standards and technology has threatened play, while others see opportunities to harness the power of play within this new reality. Teachers and other professionals need support in learning to plan for, extend, and enhance play in modern classrooms, and document how children are learning and developing.


Keynote Presentation by Marina Umaschi Bers

Out Of the Playpen and Into the Playground: Developmentally Appropriate Technologies for Young Children


Photo of Dr. Bers

Playgrounds are popular spaces for young children to play and learn. They are designed to promote exploration of the physical environment and the development of motor and social skills. Young children can be autonomous while developing different sets of competencies. Playpens, in contrast to playgrounds, corral children into a safe, confined space. Although they are mostly risk-free, there is little exploration and imaginative play. From a developmental perspective, the playground promotes, while the playpen hinders, a sense of mastery, creativity, self-confidence, social awareness and open exploration. This presentation will use the playpen/playground metaphor to explore new technologies for young children. We will explore how to best integrate technology in the early childhood classroom using a “playground, not playpen” philosophy by looking at case studies using Scratch Jr and the KIWI robotic kit, that integrate arts, movement, computational thinking and engineering with a developmentally appropriate approach, called the Positive Technological Development framework.


Conference Schedule


8:30 - 9:00
Registration, coffee
9:00 - 10:30
Session I
10:45 - 12:15
Session II
12:15 - 1:15
Lunch and Poster Showcase
1:15 - 2:15
Keynote Presentation
2:30 - 4:00
Session III
4:00 - 5:00
Tours of the Child and Family Development Resource Center and the Center for Early Childhood Education



Workshop Titles


  • Administering Developmentally Appropriate Programs for Young Children in the Modern Era of Early Childhood Education
  • Blocks as Super Toys: Facilitating and Assessing Block Play in Preschool Classrooms
  • The Effect of Sensory Motor Development on Play Skills and Learning
  • Fostering Play Through Child-Created Dramatic Play Centers
  • An Introduction to the World of Early Childhood Music and Movement: Exploring Musical Play
  • Let Superheroes Play!
  • More Than Snacks and Dramatic Play: Integrating Healthy Attitudes Towards Food Across Domains in a Play-Based Curriculum
  • Moving to the Top
  • Play is for Everyone: Supporting Children with Special Needs During Unstructured Play
  • Playful Presence
  • Supporting Executive Function Skills Through Mature Play
  • Teaching the Power of Play: Right to Play and the RCA Methodology
  • Young Children as Programmers and Engineers: A Hands-On Approach



Stay Connected!


Get the latest information about the conference by connecting with us through Facebook. Or to receive updates via email, send a request to join the Conference Email List to cece@easternct.edu.



Our Sponsor


The Investigations Conference is made possible through the generous support of the ECSU Foundation.


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