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A festival of the minds.

The photo essay at the right offers a glimpse of the many highlights of the 2006 Annual International Conference & Exhibition in San Antonio, April 12-15. This year's theme was "Embracing a Confluence of Cultures in the Education of Children." The Annual Conference is the one opportunity each year that most of us have to meet face to face with ACEI friends and colleagues and, in so many caring and fulfilling ways, renew our steadfast commitment to the child-centered goals and purposes of the Association that, since 1892, have served to guide the work of ACEI members worldwide and Headquarters staff.

The San Antonio Conference Committee, including Barbara Hatcher, General Chair; Dianne Pape and Priscilla Hoke, Program Co-Chairs; Mary Ruth Moore and Susan Miller, Local Arrangements; and Suzanne Winter, Publicity, working side by side with Lisa Wenger, Director of Conferences, planned a truly outstanding meeting and professional development opportunity for everyone. One has only to spend a few moments reviewing the Call for Presenters (published on the Web and in the Spring issue of Childhood Education well in advance of the May I deadline) to see the careful attention that goes into the development of the symposia topics to appreciate the huge effort that the local conference committee, Headquarters staff, and others put forth each year to develop the conference program. Conference planning is a three-year process. Judging from the feedback that we received following the conference, attendees thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from the experience. The work of the Conference Committee is, in my opinion, indispensable to the fulfillment of ACEI's overall mission for children and those who work and care for them.

The conference officially began with the Opening General Session, featuring Joe L. Frost, a Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. Among our most highly regarded and respected members, Dr. Frost, a past president (1979-1981) and recipient of the Patty Smith Hill Award (2005), is known internationally for his work in early childhood education and children's play and play environments.

His address, titled "The Changing Culture of Childhood: A Perfect Storm," explored what Dr. Frost so appropriately described as the "perfect storm" that he sees brewing in the education and development of children, the elements of which, like the serious disturbance of any element of nature, are having a profound impact on the culture of childhood. What are some of the conditions or elements that all of us need to be more aware of that are sweeping through our society? The No Child Left Behind Act; the high stakes of standardized testing; the loss of spontaneous play and recess, which is systematically being deleted from schools; the correlation between global poverty and education; litigation that is replacing common sense; and the serious shortage of highly qualified teachers were some of the elements highlighted. Whenever you get several of these particularly damaging elements together, Frost said, "You have a very damaging situation"--indeed, the perfect storm.

Conference week continued with 225 other truly outstanding and informative presentations, including the following, to mention just a few: Culturally Responsive Partnerships for Inclusive Classrooms, an innovative session that provided conferees with the tools and knowledge to build more effective partnerships between families, communities, and school to help preschoolers succeed in the classroom; Technology and the Young Child: Addressing Issues of Culture and Developmental Awareness, an in-depth review of classroom software in terms of developmental and cultural appropriateness; Kids Speaking Up for Kids: Advocacy for Children by Children, which featured perspectives from children on the great importance of advocacy; Sharing Cultural Knowledge Through Visual Arts, a special presentation sponsored by the Intermediate/Middle Childhood Committee on the use of the visual arts to promote cultural understanding; and The Power of Collaborative Teacher Research in Confronting the Challenges of Diversity in Complex Times, a dynamic study that focused on the challenges of addressing diversity in the classroom. More information about each of these presentations and many other wonderful concurrent sessions, virtual presentations, and research forms can be found on ACEI's Web site,

The Closing General Session on Saturday featured Steven B. Silvern, Professor, Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Auburn University. His keynote address, titled "Educating Mind and Spirit: Embracing a Confluence of Cultures in the Education of Children," quite literally stirred the minds of everyone in the audience, helping us to understand and embrace awareness of the culturally universal role of spirit and mind. Each of us, Dr. Silvern explained, has the power to accomplish great things and to teach others, and the way that we can be most effective and have lasting change is to raise up the "spirit" that is in every one of us. Spirit resides not in the mind but in the heart, and we learn by heart. Dr. Silvern called on the audience to "Put your heart to it, not your eyes, not your mind.... Spirit exists in everything, it is what connects all forms of life, all religions, all beliefs, all languages, and all races. It is the awareness of new meaning in life. It is transcending and it is eminent." Those of us who had the good fortune to hear Dr. Silvern's address came away with the understanding that we all need to be more aware of our surroundings and self before we can begin to raise consciousness, and thus spirit, in others. By raising consciousness, which has been shown to be an effective educational practice, we come to realize that everyone in the world is [or could be] connected--which is why Dr. Silvern said, "We need to educate both mind and spirit." Both Dr. Joe L. Frost and Dr. Steven L. Silvern have been invited to share their wonderful presentations in a future issue of Childhood Education.

I hope that you can come to the Annual Conference next year when we travel to Tampa, Florida. The theme of the 2007 Conference is "Education for Transformation: Impact on the Children of the World."

--Jerry Odland, Executive Director
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Title Annotation:2006 Annual International Conference and Exhibition, Embracing a Confluence of Cultures in the Education of Children
Author:Odland, Jerry
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Promoting the well-being of children.
Next Article:2006 Annual Conference and Exhibition.

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