PLATTEVILLE, Wis. -- Early childhood education is more than a focus on intellectual skills.
The need to teach children kindness and empathy will be discussed at the 27th annual Early Childhood Conference, titled "Peaceful Child, Peaceful Adult, Peaceful World," on Saturday, March 8, at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The conference is hosted by UW-P's Office of Continuing Education.
"It is becoming a popular topic in early childhood education," said Chenoa Ruecking, education and training coordinator for the office.
She said with the rise in cyber-bullying and other anti- social behaviors in children, teaching kindness and empathy is a needed skill for today's children.
"It's really supporting children's social and emotional development," Ruecking said. "I feel like it's the basis of education."
With that emotional and social foundation, Ruecking said, children will be able to have the confidence needed to interact with peers and learn intellectually.
Conference discussion topics will include kindness and empathy and will also touch on the topic of mindful teaching for preschoolers, kindergartners and elementary students.
Carol Noddings Eichinger, program director for Early Childhood and Education Professional Development at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison, is one of the featured speakers. She plans to share how teachers can use mindfulness to create a serene environment as a support to their work with children.
"We see a lot of little kiddos that sometimes demonstrate pretty challenging behavior," Eichinger said.
She explained if teachers are mindful of the reasons behind that behavior and understand the need for a serene environment, they can create a safe and nurturing place.
"We want an environment to be serene and safe and nurturing," Eichinger said.
Another speaker will be Chan Chau Nghiem, editor of "Mindfulness with Children" by Thich Nhat Hanh. Nghiem will speak to conference participants via the Internet from the Plum Village in France about how to teach peace and empathy with young children.
More than 30 workshops will feature experts from the Midwest. There are typically 300 participants.
"The intention of the entire conference is really to look at peaceful children and peaceful classrooms," Eichinger said.