May 26, 2005 – When adults use best practices to raise a child, they instill a sense of confidence and competence. According to Dr. Carl Dunst, there is no magic formula — best practices are simple and powerful things parents and teachers do that make a difference in a child's life. "When children are having difficulties, helping them will strengthen their sense of confidence, because they know the adults in their lives are dependable," he said.
Dunst delivered the keynote address at the seventh annual Best Beginnings early childhood conference, held at the University of the Virgin Island's Sports and Fitness Center.
About 300 parents, child care workers and day care providers discussed issues including grant writing, money matters in operating a facility, the role of parents (and specifically fathers) during a child's formative years and instructing children with attention deficit disorder.
"We know the early years are the most critical to development. If we do our best to enhance these years, we will better prepare them for the future," said Michal Rhymer-Charles, assistant commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.
As the licensing agent for child care centers, the Department of Human Resources wants to "provide a safe and stimulating environment for young children," Rhymer-Charles added. "Children are learners. We need to be quite careful and diligent to provide the best setting for them in the community."
Maureen Moorehead, a conference committee member said, "We hope the participants take the information back to their environment to make a difference in the lives of children. If they do that, we would be very content."
Shereeka Edmeade, a Head Start teacher attending the conference for the third year, said she enjoys using the new skills in the classroom.
"I like the literacy focus, the Mother Goose teaching and reading session," she said. "I did the conference [last year] on best practices in reading, and now I use those strategies in the classroom." Edmeade found the techniques particularly helpful with her 3- to 5-year-old students. "The last time it was information on storytelling. I learned how to make a story come alive with tone of voice and gestures," she said.
Edmeade said she and her colleagues were given the day off from Head Start to attend the conference. In total, there were about 300 people participating.
The departments of Human Services, Education, Health and UVI worked with non-profit organizations including Lutheran Social Services and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands to sponsor the conference.
"In an effort to improve outcomes for children, one of our goals is to continually update the skills and knowledge of individuals who interact with young children and to do so in a forum that encourages and supports active participation" Moorehead said before the conference.
The free conference will continue Friday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
The conference was held earlier in the week at the St. Croix campus of UVI.
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