Four years ago, the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education hosted its first early childhood symposium at Dominican University.

About 100 people showed up for that symposium in 2004, built around a philosophy that has remained since: what does a successful learner look like and what can be done to nurture those learners.

The fourth annual Early Childhood Symposium takes place Feb. 24 at Percy Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Last year, about 300 people showed up to the admission-free event. Organizers expect about 400 participants this year. This year’s keynote speaker, Angela Andrews, also known as Aunty Math, is a teacher and author in early math education.

“It really not only has grown in size but has become a regional childcare event,” said Eric Gershenson, chair of the collaboration.

The symposium includes workshops related to each year’s theme. Last year’s theme was children at play.

As for the overall philosophy, the collaboration has continued to focus on what characteristics make for good learners and identifying the tools to develop those characteristics, said Joan White, co-chair of the symposium and director of First United Church Nursery School, 848 Lake St.

The symposium began from conversations between kindergarten teachers and early childcare professionals about five years ago, White said.

They agreed that a child’s learning wasn’t based on just memorizing his or her ABC’s and learning to count to 100.

“Paying attention, being a successful group leader, having confidence, and having a rich literacy background and broad vocabulary-all of that is more important than being able to recite what you remembered,” White said.

In the first two years, childcare providers and educators only were invited. Last year was the first time parents were invited. White and Gershenson said the symposium is now open to anyone involved with children.

-Terry Dean

If you go …

The symposium is open to parents, caregivers and educators of young children. Register via e-mail,, or phone, 708/802-5446, by Feb. 20. Early registration is encouraged.

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