Investing in School Readiness
Fairfax Futures’ 16th Annual School Readiness Symposium Goes Virtual

Fairfax Futures’ 16th Annual School Readiness Symposium Goes Virtual

December 16, 2020

On Saturday, October 17, Fairfax Futures hosted its 16th Annual School Readiness Symposium with one major change — this year the symposium was held virtually on GoToWebinar to ensure the safety of all participants.

The annual event celebrates early childhood educators’ work in our community and provides them an opportunity to focus on an early childhood topic in depth. Participants include educators working in center-based programs, family child care homes and elementary school PreK programs.

Sallyann Bergh, Executive Director of Fairfax Futures, kicked off the event by welcoming the early childhood educators in attendance. She then introduced special guests Mr. D. Jermaine Johnson, Regional President of PNC Bank’s Greater Washington region, and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

Mr. Johnson spoke about the importance of school readiness in preparing children for later success and how PNC supports that effort through their Grow Up Great program, their signature philanthropic initiative that supports school readiness through grants, mobile educational tours and professional development opportunities. Supervisor Palchik spoke about Fairfax County’s commitment to making early childhood education a priority. She also thanked the educators in attendance for their hard work and for partnering with families to help young children develop the skills they need to build a solid foundation for success in school and beyond.

The symposium’s keynote speaker was Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and  Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children speaking on the topic of “Unstructured Play: Creating Natural Sensory Experiences for Young Children.” Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook, an award-winning developmental and nature-based program, shared her belief that the decline of outdoor play is tied to the rise of sensory and motor issues in children. She stressed that “the occupation of a child is play” and adults can best support children’s learning by allowing their play time to be child-directed. Some highlights of her presentation included:

  • Children play, connect and heal through play outdoors.
  • On average, children today play outdoors for over 3 hours less per day than today’s adults did when they were children.
  • The rapid head movement that occurs when children play outdoors helps develop a child’s vestibular sense, the sensory system that contributes to balance and the sense of spatial orientation. Children need to be able to move their bodies in all different directions (swinging, jumping, rolling down a hill) to strengthen their vestibular sense.
  • Being outdoors better allows sensory integration to happen. Sensory integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities.

Symposium participants explored this  topic during a 4-week book chat course focusing on Ms. Hanscom’s book, with each educator receiving a copy of the book and other materials to support their learning. The course, hosted in partnership with Fairfax County’s Office for Children, was offered in both English and Spanish.

This professional learning opportunity was made possible through a generous grant from the PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great Initiative and in partnership with Fairfax County Office for Children. To learn about past Symposia events visit our website.

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