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Picture a classroom: A place of learning where many ideas are shared by people with various backgrounds and circumstances.

The upcoming “Planting the Seeds of Inclusion: Supporting the Growth of All Children” conference, which will be held at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh March 3, will be no different. On a larger scale, the conference serves as a classroom. The annual topic and focus: Inclusive education.

“We’re the only conference in the state that pulls together teachers, administrators, related service professionals and families to look at inclusive education from this broad of a perspective,” said Stacey Skoning, chairperson of the conference, which is hosted annually by the College of Education and Human Services’ departments of curriculum and instruction, reading, special education and educational leadership.

The goal of the conference is to bring together professionals and families who support the growth and learning of all children, from birth through age 22, in inclusive settings.

Skoning said the topic of inclusive education is so important because “our children with and without disabilities live together in the same neighborhoods and will work together in their future careers.”

With more than 20 breakout sessions, the conference will provide practical information and training on a variety of topics, which include educating children with medical needs, behavioral interventions, accessibility, models of co-teaching, reading and math instruction, assistive technology and more.

This year’s keynote speaker Lynn Manfredi/Petitt, a nationally recognized early childhood expert, care-provider and co-author of Circles of Love and Relationships, The Heart of Quality Care, will share her experiences and thoughts around relationships. She’s been caring for children of all ages for almost 30 years and stresses nurturing adult relationships.

Annually, Skoning said, the conference attracts more than 300 people, including many students learning to be teachers at UW Oshkosh.

“For our students, it’s an introduction for them in engaging in professional development, which is something they have to do to maintain their teaching licenses,” she said. “A lot of our student teachers are still placed in segregated classrooms so it’s good for them to see how inclusion works.”

New this year, the conference will also include a resource fair, which is open to the public regardless of participation in the conference. The resource fair is open to all, but is intended as a one-stop resource for those who have or work with children who require special education services.

Cost of the conference is $60 for professional educators and $30 for students and family members of children with disabilities. Students, educators, therapists, caregivers, teachers and parents are welcome; preregistration is suggested.

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