Monthly Archives: February 2020

Teaching Kindergarten: Where Did the Garden Go?: Sowing the Seeds of Social Justice

I’d like to share information about an exciting conference for Kindergarten educators that will be happening at the Bank Street College of Education in NYC on April 3rd and 4th, 2020.

Kindergarten plays a unique role in a child’s life when language, literacy, science and math take on real meaning through play and active learning. It is a year filled with discovery, wonder, creativity and friendship. This year’s focus, Sowing the Seeds of Social Justice, emphasizes the role of teachers as they inspire children to be empathetic members of their community and learn what it means to advocate for fairness.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Teaching, Learning & Curriculum in Politically Uncertain Times: Moving Towards Civic Participation

Children engaged in protests, walking picket lines, delivering rousing speeches are often praised by adults for their visible engagement. Yet beyond these hypervisible, familiar political acts, how are children already engaged just by their very being as children in the world? Children’s identities, differentiated along the intersections of race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, and ability are already political in nature. As political beings, what are they creating, embodying, and doing in the course of their everyday life at school through moments of play, curricular conversations, and inquiry? During a particularly tumultuous political moment, I feature young children whose conversations lead teachers to reimagine curriculum and pedagogy; I show children engaged in thoughtful dialogue around issues of race, gender, and religion; I bring together playful exchanges that make prominent the social, cultural, and political issues children are still grappling with. In doing this, I highlight the importance of capturing and following children’s inquiries and questions as we strive to engage alongside young children towards civic action.

Dr. Haeny Yoon is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University where she teaches courses on curriculum, language/literacy, children’s play, and qualitative methodologies. Her interest in how children play with materials, spaces, their peers, and in popular culture stems from working as a staff developer and primary school teacher. Partnering with in-service and pre-service teachers, she is committed to listening to children’s descriptions of their lives and the world around them. Her book, Rethinking Early Literacies: Reading and Rewriting Worlds (2018), co-authored with Dr. Mariana Souto-Manning, honors the diverse languages and practices of families, homes, and communities across the United States. Dr. Yoon received her MA in Elementary Education, and her Ph.D in Curriculum and Teaching from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.

Stories that Nourish the Hearts of Children

Laura Simms reconnects us to the dynamic, inspiring, and profound experience of Storytelling. By telling stories and listening to stories, we will explore how and why storytelling touches the hearts and minds of kindergarten children. Laura will also share her experiences of storytelling with young children from around the world. She will be accompanied by musician and storyteller Therese Folkes Plair. Teachers will leave with a renewed appreciation as well as the joy of bringing storytelling into the life of the classroom.

Storyteller, writer, arts-educator, and humanitarian, Laura Simms has been telling stories and training teachers for over forty years. She is the author of over 20 books, recordings, and articles including Our Secret Territory (2011) and Stories to Nourish the Hearts of Our Children (2013). Simms is the artistic director of the Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center in New York City and the Founder and Story Mentor for Girls Write Haiti, Port au Prince, Haiti. In addition, she is a senior teacher of Dharma Art in the Tibetan tradition of mindfulness. Previously, she was a Senior Research Fellow at Rutgers University and worked with UN Women, Mercy Corps, Common Ground, and The Arthur Mauro Peace and Justice Center. Simms has taught master classes in storytelling and fairy tales at Antioch University, NH and New York University, NYC. She is known as an advocate for engagement, compassion and imagination as a powerful antidote to the challenges we face in today’s world. She earned a BA from Harpur College, Binghamton University in Comparative Literature and History.

Therese Folkes Plair is a musician, storyteller, educator, and activist with 30 years experience developing arts education programs. She has worked in schools with grades prek-12 in the New York State and the New York City tri-state area. Plair is currently an NGO Representative to the United Nations for IDEAL Society (Institute for the Development of Education, Arts & Leisure) British Columbia, Canada and Co-Chair of the United Nations NGO Committee on Children’s Rights. Her international work includes the US State Department’s Speakers’ Program sponsorship of Storytelling: A Culturally Familiar Means of Educating and Disseminating Information About Social Issues (2001). She has a BA in theater and anthropology from Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York.

Saturday April 4, 2020

2020 Honoree:

Tom Roderick, educator, activist and writer retired recently after 35 years as founding director of the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. He has worked closely with educators to help young people develop the values, personal qualities, and skills necessary to thrive and contribute to their communities.

Back to the Garden: Inspiring Kindergarteners to Grow into Curious and Concerned Citizens of the World

Kindergarten children, in the presence of gifts of nature – seeds, tall trees, rain storms, birds with many types of beaks, and leaves that change color- wonder, explore, and talk about how things grow and change as they seek to become experts. We, their teachers and their multicultural families, with the magic of the outdoors, help children understand the complex concerns for conservation, health, food, shelter, and climate. Our contribution will be to prevent raising the last children in the woods.

Dr. Maritza Macdonald has been on the faculty of Bank Street College, Columbia University, Teachers College, and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Her expertise and research focus on the importance of learning outside school, the importance, beauty, and humans’ need for nature, while encouraging cultural and linguistic knowledge for all. Her major contributions at the AMNH include the development of URBAN ADVANTAGE, a partnership between museums, botanical gardens, zoos, and The Hall of Science. Most recently she created the Master Level Science Teacher Preparation Program. Dr. Macdonald is an Alumna of Bank Street College and Teachers College and the recipient of two Honorary Doctorates in Humane Letters from Bank Street (2011) and Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History (2019).

Big Questions for Young Minds: Extending Children’s Thinking

This talk will give participants a chance to think about and practice using the range of questions to support high level thinking. We will explore the types of questions that can stimulate culturally responsive conversations in kindergarten classrooms and share many ways to engage kindergartners in discussions about their family and their community.

Dr. Janis Strasser has been in the field of early childhood education for more than 45 years as a preschool, kindergarten and music teacher, and Head Start Education Coordinator. She is also a professor of early childhood education at William Paterson University. Dr. Strasser has been consulting editor for Young Children, a member of the Advisory Board of Teaching Young Children, and has published more than 60 journal articles and several book chapters. She is the co-author of two books including Big Questions for Young Minds: Extending Children’s Thinking (2017), with Lisa Mufson Bresson. A graduate of Bank Street, she received the 2001 Bank Street Alumni Association award for Outstanding Accomplishments in the Field of Education.

Morning workshops:
1. Animals Alive! Using a Science Way of Thinking and Doing
2. An Unexpected Baby Study
3. Play with Me and I’ll be Smarter
4. Reframing Stories of Black Resistance in Early Childhood
5. Validation Through Collaboration: Empowering Students to be Problem Solvers
6. Building with Boxes: Imagining New Ways to Play
7. Powerful Play, Powerful Curriculum
8. Learning to Listen to Children’s Stories
9. Rhythm and Rhyme: Making Musical Connections in the Classroom
10. Clay!!
11. The Magic of Being, the Delight of Becoming
Afternoon Workshops:
1. The Garden Endures! How and Why Kindergarten Invites the Emergence of Social Change
2. Incorporating Play in Traditional Classrooms
3. Opening the Door to Inclusivity with Music
4. Cultivating Your Secret Garden: Bringing Positive Changes to our Kindergarten Class
5. Immersive Language Learning in the Reggio Model
6. Sunlight in the Forest & Shadows in the Garden: Developing and Documenting Outdoor Classrooms
7. Engaging With Children’s Pretend World to Create an Environment Where Imaginations Drives Learning.
8. Asking K Children to Think about Their Thinking
9. Blocks: Building: A Democratic Community for Birds
10. Little Innovators: Out of School Engagement for Young Students and Their Families
11. Young Woodworkers: Sanding, Cutting, Hammering and Thinking Three Dimensionally

Fanny Roman and I will be presenting An Unexpected Baby Study. I’m sure that it will be both interesting and provacative!

There is still time to register. Here’s a link to the site –

Kindergarten teachers, isn’t it exciting to have an entire conference devoted to this grade that is often overlooked?