Category Archives: Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration, and Play

early childhood education, children, play

It’s Not About The Destination, It’s About the Journey: A Conversation with Lindsay Persohn on Classroom Caffeine

On August 4th, I had the pleasure of discussing Choice, Play and Inquiry with Lindsay Persohn for her wonderful podcast Classroom Caffeine. We talked about my journey as a teacher and the people who informed my thinking. Our discussion moved to the importance of engagement and a description of an engaged class. This led us to the incredible trip to the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy that Matt Glover, Kathy Collins and I organized for 68 educators, where we focused on what it looks like when there is an expanded view of literacy.

It was a totally enjoyable conversation.  It will be broadcast on the Lindsay’s podcast,  Classroom Caffeine,  on November 9th. I’m pleased to share it with you on my blog now. I hope you enjoy it!

Story Workshop: A Conversation with Susan Harris MacKay and Matt Karlsen


On September 28, 2021 I had the pleasure of chatting, via Zoom, with Susan Harris MacKay and Matt Karlsen. Susan’s recently published book, Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers, is an exciting approach to writing that makes important connections highlighting the important connections between children’s play and the stories that they all bring with them to the classroom. 

Susan, Matt and I are both doing work with the dynamic Larry Leaven, newly appointed superintendent of schools in Florida, New York and the teachers at the Golden Hill School. All working together we will help teachers bring exciting innovations to school during this challenging time. 

I hope you can listen in to our conversation!




On August 5, 2021 an article appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News describing the removal and destruction of a student mural that was recently hung in the P. S. 295 school cafeteria. Doug Hecklinger was the teacher of four of the six fifth-graders who created the artwork and he was, needless to say, quite upset to hear of the action taken by the school administration.

In our conversation, Doug talks about all of the work that the school faculty, along with the students and their families, put into embracing a culture of diversity and social equity. He gives us a very clear picture of the school community and the mission goal of acceptance that was very unexpectedly squashed when the students’ work was destroyed. He also talks about his hope for the important, healing that needs to now take place.

How Long Do Spiders Sleep? – A conversation with Richard Lewis and Kristin Eno

In previous blog post, Julie Cavanagh, principal of P.S. 15 in Brooklyn, said that children have made their hopes for returning to school very clear. She said that they are craving “play, play, play.” They need to play so that they can socially and emotionally heal from the isolation and fears of the past 15 pandemic months.

In this conversation, Richard Lewis and Kristin Eno make a second visit with me to talk about how observing our students at play allows us to pose questions that will build on their natural curiosity and take children on a journey of exploration, conversation, questioning and magical thinking. Richard and Kristin’s ideas will be so helpful for teachers and parents in creating a return to school this fall that will be filled with gentle joy and healing for children and for teachers.


Working Against the Odds: Four New York City principals discuss the challenges of this past year and their dreams for the future

On Thursday, June 3, I met, on zoom, with  four New York City elementary school principals so that they could reflect on their challenges these past 15 months and on their hopes for the year ahead.

Bob Groff is principal of  P.S. 244 in Flushing,Queens. Dana Rappaport is principal at  P.S. 234 in Tribeca, Manhattan. Gabriel Feldberg is principal of the progressive public school that was started by Deborah Meier in the 1970’s, Central Park East One, in Harlem, Manhattan and Julie Cavanagh became principal, during the pandemic, of  P.S  15 in  Red Hook, Brooklyn.

I initially presented to the four of them a list of challenges school leaders might have faced. It turns out that I only touched the tip of the iceberg!

Thank goodness we have these dedicated men and women to navigate the schools and care for the children, teachers and families who have, in all different manners, been traumatized living through this pandemic.


“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts” (Shakespeare)

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. (Mr. Rogers)

On Sunday, May 16th, I had the pleasure of chatting with my grandson, Adrian Greensmith, and three of his classmates. They are all studying acting and devised theater at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. We talked about play, what it means in their acting classes and what it was like growing up in four different countries – Russia, (Ksenia Elinson) Peru (Sebastian Alonso), Turkey (Omer Cem Coltu) and the U.S. ( Adrian Greensmith)

Their thoughts were fascinating – play as preparation for life, training the muscles of the imagination, thinking out of the box, never losing the child inside, being in the moment all the time….the thoughts poured out of them and I had the feeling that we could have continued this conversation much longer. One thought that Ksenia shared was that at the core of playing is doing things together. It made me think about all that children lost this year when they did not have the opportunity to take  part in play with their friends and classmates.

Our conversation spoke to some interesting quotes that I shared during our zoom talk:

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” Carl Jung

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.” Jean Piaget





An Unexpected Baby Study: Children are NOT Colorblind


When Fanny Roman, a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 244 Queens, became visibly pregnant, the children were curious and began asking questions and making observations. Their curiosity provoked a class inquiry project, The Baby Study. The project was going smoothly until multiracial baby dolls were introduced.  Each child chose a baby doll , concealed in a gift bag, to be their own, and an unexpected reaction to the dolls changed the focus of the study.

It all began at the start of the school year. On the fourth day of school, when the class met on the rug for their morning meeting, Isaiah asked, ” Ms. Roman, do you have a baby in your belly?”

Because we value children’s curiosity, Isaiah’s question became the topic for the closing circle that afternoon

Fanny began by asking,“What do you know about babies?” Some responses were:

  • Babies cry (Sharon)
  • They’re cute (Abigail)
  • They can’t walk (Hayden)
  • I have a baby (Laura)
  • They drink milk (Kaitlin)
  • Babies poop (Kayla)
  • Babies drink from a bottle (Sebastian)


The classroom environment became more focused on babies. A word wall began to grow.

  • infant
  • Umbilical cord
  • bottle
  • crib
  • cradle
  • diapers
  • baby food
  • pacifier
  • sonogram

The room was filled with books about babies. Some books were for read aloud. Some were for “research” and browsing in the various centers.












The children loved reading and re-reading  this big, shared reading book when they were gathered on the rug. During Choice Time, some children chose to make diapers, cradles and carriages.


We always accept children’s approximations. When we do this, it encourages children to not worry about being “perfect” and to take risks.

Fanny projected her sonogram on the SmartBoard.

Viewing the sonogram provoked many questions. Some of their wonderings were…

  • Why was the baby crying?
  • What else was inside besides the baby?
  • How was the baby coming out?

Elias decided to show up two weeks early!

 Linda, the student teacher, took over.








Linda noticed the children’s interest in what babies could eat so she brought in different jars of baby food for children to taste.





The children recorded their questions about baby food.

The children prepared their own baby food.

They used an IPad to research the steps for making their own baby food.





Fanny was going to bring Elias into school the next day and Linda helped the children prepare to meet Elias for the first time.

Fanny came to school with Elias, showed the children how she changed the baby’s diaper, fed him and answered many of their questions.

Then I thought of Lesley Koplow’s book, “Bears, Bears, Everywhere.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could purchase a baby doll for each child to nurture and keep forever? If we had the money, we could buy a class set of multiracial dolls. Robert Groff, the principal, loved the idea and he somehow found the funds to order the dolls. Fanny prepared the children by continuing to read about diverse families and also about adoption. We waited for the dolls to arrive!


When I visitited the Early Childhood schools in Reggio Emilia, the philosophy of teaching with a road map rather than a train schedule was emphasized. We had our road map for our study, but suddenly we were taken on an unexpected, but very important detour. Fanny had to listen carefully to her children and provide an outlet for them to express themselves, but she also had to gently show them the possibility of another path.

Watch and listen closely to what children are doing and saying when they are presented with their baby dolls.

Why won’t she touch her brown-skinned doll?

She wouldn’t touch her doll when the children were taking them out of their bags. Here is her journal reflection after a class discussion.

Fanny consulted with Steve Quester, the school’s consultant from the Center for Racial Justice in Education. He advised  Fanny to  continue her open forum for risk-free class discussions He suggested that she model how the children could nurture their babies such as by rocking them in their arms and singing to them. Steve, Fanny and I believed that the children needed  many opportunities to play with their baby dolls during choice time. They also took their dolls home for weekends and holidays. Fanny spoke openly with parents about the study and the way that the baby dolls created a turn in the direction of the project. She encouraged parents to keep up a communication with her and to let her know how children were talking about their “babies” at home.

Here’s a short transcript from a class discussion:

Fanny: How are you feeling about the babies?

Milo: I’m excited.

Fanny: Tell us why.

Milo: Because I have a baby.

Jenny: I am feeling happy and excited.

Fanny: Say more?  Why? 

Jenny:  Because I have a baby.  Because I like it.  Because it matches my skin color.

Donna : mine too.

Fanny: Say more.

Donna: The baby is so cute.  I like it.  I’ll keep it.  I don’t know how to make a dress, but I can make a paper dress.

Fanny: That sounds like a great idea.  Ok!  Lou?

Lou:  I’m too excited and too happy.  The baby.  I like the baby is because the skin is just like my skin. Mine is white and this is white.  And also, it looks cute.

Fanny: Can I add, I hear that some of you are talking and noticing  the skin color.

Lou: And also because I was really close to see the baby outside of the blue cover and I saw some are only blue and some are not.  I decided that the blue ones are white skin and some babies on the top have some black.  I decided the black one is black skin.  

Fanny: Ok so we will come back to that in one second.  We are going to give everyone who wants to share a chance.

Ming:  I am so happy because I don’t have a baby brother.

Fanny: That’s so sweet!  Thank you for sharing. Leb?

Leb:  And the paper, I saw over it and I saw blue.  And I got this one because it’s the same skin as me.

Fanny:  That was a surprise…you all chose your babies and you didn’t know what it looked like.

Leb:  But I just saw over the paper.

Lou: But I saw the color.  I looked over the color. 

Fanny: Oh so you could notice?

Lou:  It just had a little black and I didn’t choose it.

Fanny:  I’m hearing some feelings about how the babies look and the babies looking like you.  Before, we talked about families and how families look. (Goes back to previous discussion before getting the babies)

Fanny and I also read and discussed this article with each other as we continued planning for the study.

During Choice Time, children made clothes for their babies.

They decided on the gender of their baby.

Each day two children get to share their baby with the class.

Be kind to babies!

The class had a discussion about baby sitting and daycare after Fanny noticed that some children were randomly leaving baby dolls around the room. The children took this quite seriously!In June, Elias came to school to visit the babies. Where will this study lead the school? Mr. Groff realizes the important issues that were revealed when the multiracial dolls were introduced and he doesn’t want to back off from them. The school continues to work with Steve Quester. Also, this year the baby study will be reintroduced to a new class of kindergarten children and each child will get a baby to “adopt.” It will be interesting to see where this leads. As an aside, the year following the study, Charlene Rivera Cruse, a first grade teacher, told the children from Fanny’s kindergarten class that they could bring their baby dolls to school with them. One boy did not bring his doll. He said that his grandmother threw it away because boys do not play with dolls.

There are so many issues to acknowledge and I feel proud of the teachers at P.S. 244 and the principal, Bob Groff, for embracing this important challenge. 


The Bank Street Kindergarten Conference is only SEVEN weeks away. I know how stressed teachers are. -This conference will definitely be uplifting and teachers them move forward!! The Bank Street Kindergarten Conference is only 7 weeks away. I know how stressed teachers Please help us spread the word!! There are still some scholarships available.
Hope to see you and your colleagues virtually at the conference!
Stay healthy and stay strong!

Teaching Kindergarten Conference:

Where did the Garden Go?: Making Good Trouble

This online conference honors and celebrates the hard work of all kindergarten teachers during this extraordinary time. Conference presenters will inspire participants to re-imagine curriculum and incorporate the values of social justice, equity and fairness.To quote John Lewis:  “You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.”

Online April 16 and 17, 2021


Friday, April 16, 2021

Teaching and Learning in the Midst of Global Pandemic(s): Race, Politics and Young Children

Whose childhood matters at the intersecting politics of race, gender, age, class, ability, citizenship, and sexuality? With the COVID-19 pandemic against the enduring pandemic of racial violence, children are experiencing and participating in a world fraught with turmoil and tension. They are taking part in conversations, observing (in)action, encountering limitations to their agency and voice, and understanding the threats to their own livelihoods. As political beings, what are children 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 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. 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

Storytelling is a powerful tool for teachers and children, especially in these times of remote learning in a world filled with uncertainty.  While telling selected stories, Laura Simms will provide practical steps about the art of telling a story that participants can use to support their work with Kindergarten.  Simms explores how story- telling builds children’s inner capacities for sharing, develops self-confidence, increases children’s ability to communicate and encourages them to be self-reflective.  In addition, participants will learn how to encourage children to tell their own stories by exploring the richness of “participatory stories”.  Short, meaningful and enjoyable tales from throughout the world will be shared.

Storyteller, writer, arts-educator, and humanitarian, Laura Simms has been telling stories and training teachers for over forty years. She is the author of several 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 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. In 2010 Simms received the Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

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

In the presence of gifts of nature- seeds, tall trees, rainstorms, birds, and leaves that change color- Kindergarten children wonder, explore, and talk about how things grow and change as they seek to become experts. The educators in their life have a responsibility  to nurture children’s innate curiosity and encourage them to  explore the concepts  of health, food, shelter, conservation and climate as they  shape and share a better tomorrow.

Dr. Maritza Macdonald has been on the faculty of Bank Street College, Columbia University, Teachers College, and the American Museum of Natural History. 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: Bank Street (2011) and Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History (2019).

Songs that Nourish the Hearts of Children
Singing is Connection!  It brings people and communities together across languages, cultures, borders and oceans. The  experience of singing together is powerful for young children and allows them to be seen and feel joy. We’ll raise our voices together, celebrate the power of song, and leave with kindergarten-tested songs and a lighter heart.

Jaquetta Bustion‘s love of music began in her earliest school experiences in Philadelphia. At Brown University, she earned degrees in music and comparative literature, followed by a master’s in music and music education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Bustion began teaching in NYC public schools soon after, and has been a music educator ever since. Over decades in the classroom, she has taught in both public and private school settings. Bustion currently develops curriculum and teaches elementary music at Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn.

  • Morning Workshop sessions:

    • Conference participants will register for workshops session after registering for the conference here.
    • All workshops will address both virtual and socially distanced classrooms.
    • All keynote and workshop sessions will be recorded and available to participants through June 1, 2021.

    An Unexpected Baby Study
    When the teacher became visibly pregnant, the children became curious and began asking questions and making observations. This led towards a class inquiry project, The Baby Study. However, when multicultural baby dolls were introduced and each child chose a baby doll to be their own, an unexpected can of worms opened up changing the focus of the study.
    Renée Dinnerstein has been a classroom teacher, university teacher, curriculum developer and early childhood consultant for over 50 years. She is a strong believer that the primary way that young children learn is through investigative exploration and play and she supports this idea in her blog, Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration and Play. Dinnerstein earned her BA in sociology and MA in Early Childhood from Brooklyn College.
    Fanny Roman currently teaches Kindergarten and works with English language learners at PS244Q, The Active Learning Elementary School, in NYC. Roman received her BA in Early Childhood Education and Sociology and her MS in Children’s Literature with a Bilingual Extension from Queens College, CUNY.

    Artists and Kindergartners Have a Lot in Common!
    As teachers rethink the strategic place of visual arts in virtual and socially distanced kindergartens, this workshop offers  an investigative, exploratory approach. Experimenting with the potential of tools, materials and studio art processes takes the mystery out of being an artist and opens the possibility of joyful discovery and artistic expression to everyone. Through sharing ideas, and listening and offering feedback as others share, children come to respect the work of their classmates, as well as that of other artists and cultures. In this way, everyone in the class is thinking and working as an artist.
    Cathy Weisman Topal, is a professor of visual arts education in the Department of Education at Smith College where she is also a studio art teacher at the pre-school and laboratory school and a research associate. Topal is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator in the U.S. and abroad. Recent presentations include The History of Beautiful Stuff from Nature at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA (2019) and What Makes Stuff Beautiful? Manitoba Child Care Association Conference, Winnipeg, Manitoba, CA (2016). Topal has a BA from Cornell University and an MAT in Visual Studies from Harvard University.

    Creative Re-use of Everyday Materials with Kindergarteners
    Children are hands-on learners, exploring, transforming –both physically and symbolically– and making meaning from the materials in their everyday environments. As educators, how can we capitalize on this interest, whether teaching children online or in-person? Presenters will discuss their own experiences teaching with materials found at home, and invite participants to share their own relevant  experiences, ideas and questions. The workshop will include “hands-on making” with materials collected from participants’ own environments, with the goal of brainstorming ideas that can be implemented in their teaching settings. Participants should have ready a collection of materials from their homes to experiment with for this workshop: for example, cardboard tubes and/or boxes, bottle caps, corks, rubber bands, twist ties, wooden chopsticks. Tape and/or glue are also helpful.
    Kerry Elson teaches kindergarten and first grade in a loop at Central Park East 2, a public elementary and middle school in East Harlem. She has contributed articles to Bank Street’s Occasional Paper Series, Rethinking Schools, and Edutopia and has presented at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention. Elson holds a BA degree from Bowdoin College and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood & Childhood General Education from Bank Street College of Education.
    Diana Jensen is the Lower School Art Teacher at the Bank Street School for Children. She holds a  BA in Art from Smith College, and an MA in Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

    From Control to Co-Construction: Leaning into Good Trouble
    Problems that inevitably arise each day, in the classroom or virtually,  may become powerful opportunities for collective action. Inviting kindergarteners to engage in a predictable problem-solving process fosters compassion, social responsibility, and advocacy.  Teachers will leave this workshop with resources for recognizing and responding to a wide range of challenging moments as well as planning tools which center on consistency and co-construction.
    Kelsey Sorum teaches in a classroom that uses the Integrated Co-Teaching model in a progressive public school in Brooklyn, NY. Sorum has a BA in Elementary Education from Edgewood College, Madison WI. 

    Making Good Trouble Together:  A Story About a Teacher Collaborative Journey
    This workshop will tell the story of how public school preschool and kindergarten teachers in Omaha, NE created a teacher collaborative  to support each other in ensuring their student’s right to play. Over time the group’s goals evolved to include anti-bias and anti-racist practices in their classrooms. The story, told by three teachers of the collaborative, will highlight the organic process of the group’s organization and evolution as well as the impact on the children and the school culture.
    Deb Wisneski – bio to follow

    Math Goes Home: Sorting Laundry & Cooking Beans
    In this workshop, we will explore the potential in everyday life situations where families, their children, and teachers can optimize and promote mathematical thinking and reasoning at home and in school. In doing so, we’ll look beyond commercial materials as the only tools for developing mathematical skills. As kindergarten teachers our role is to make home and school connections that will support all learners of all backgrounds and cultures by engaging children and their families in everyday experiences through a mathematical lens.
    Marilyn Martinez currently teaches kindergarten/first grade at an alternative public school in NYC. She is co-author of All Kinds of Families (published in the Social Studies Docket, 2008) and a chapter in Teaching Kindergarten: Learner–Centered Classrooms for the 21st Century (Teachers College Press, 2015). Martinez holds a MA in Early Childhood Education from Long Island University.
    Patricia Godoy teaches kindergarten/first grade at Central Park East 1 (CPE1) in East Harlem, New York. CPE1 is a small, public, K-5 school with a proud history of progressive pedagogy, practices and traditions. A graduate of Brown University, Patricia received her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from City College of New York (CCNY). 

    Music & Dance, Rhythms & Rhymes
    We’ll sing, dance, create rhythms and rhymes, and revisit traditional circle games and poetry as we learn how these experiences build community and empower children to find their voices and develop self-confidence whether learning remotely or in socially distanced classrooms. We’ll also explore how these experiences support the development of math and language skills.
    Jaquetta Bustion develops curriculum and teaches elementary music at the Community Roots Charter School in NYC. She is Kodaly Certified and completed coursework in the Dalcroze Method, which influences her work with children in music. Bustion holds a BA from Brown University and an MA in Music and Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

    Teaching the Guiding Principles of Black Lives Matter to Young Children
    This workshop is designed to familiarize teachers with the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter, explore how these principles may already be present in kindergarten classrooms, and offer tools and strategies to bring these principles into the work of kindergarten, whether it is virtual, hybrid or classroom-based. Following the guiding principles of BLM, this workshop will focus on how engaging children in anti-bias work allows them to be civically engaged and feel empowered to be agents of change. Participants will leave with tools teachers can use to ensure children are provided with a true diversity of human experience, as well as some strategies to explicitly name and talk about race and equity in ways that allow children to take advantage of their age-appropriate curiosity, sense of fairness, and imaginatio
    LaLeña Garcia currently teaches kindergarten at Manhattan Country School, a public K – 8 school in Manhattan. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the New York City chapter of Black Lives Matter at School and works as a Gender and Sexuality Trainer at the NYS Professional Development Institute. Her children’s book, What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book, was published by Lee and Low in 2020. Garcia has a BA from Yale and an MS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education.

    The Power of the Words You Choose to Use
    Teaching is so much more than talking. Using language in different ways, at different levels, for different purposes is a powerful tool that can make all the difference in the way children respond and learn. This presentation will speak to the influence of word choice, pace of presentation, volume, vocal characteristics, and the nuances of language use that can make both teaching and learning richer. This workshop will address both virtual and classroom based teaching.
    Lydia H. Soifer, PhD, is a teacher trainer, staff developer and parent educator who specializes in the role of language in children’s learning, literacy, behavior, and social-emotional development. Soifer is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. She holds a PhD from Columbia University in Psycho-linguistics.

    Worldly Wonders: Kindergarteners Navigate the Globe Through Project Work
    Through examples of  project work, including an in-depth study of  different train systems around the world and local restaurants of culturally diverse cuisines, we will explore how children become caring and compassionate while also developing critical thinking skills that are essential for participating in social change movements and be successful in school.  This workshop will address both virtual and classroom based teaching.
    Allie Frosina is an early childhood educator in Maryland, where she has taught kindergarten for over five years. Frosina is passionate about project-based curriculum and teaching kindergarten in a Reggio-inspired classroom. Frosina has a M.S.Ed in Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education.
    Jenna Murdock is currently a kindergarten teacher at Concord Hill School in Chevy Chase, MD. While in the Peace Corps in Zambia, Murdock helped to expand access to education in rural parts of the country, trained new educators, and laid a solid foundation of cultural literacy and competency that she has carried with her throughout her career. Murdock continues to research and learn how artistic development and expression go hand-in-hand across the globe. She holds a BFA in Art Education from the University of Florida. 

    • Afternoon Workshop sessions:

      • Conference participants will register for workshops session after registering for the conference here.
      • All workshops will address both virtual and socially distanced classrooms.
      • All keynote and workshop sessions will be recorded and available to participants through June 1, 2021.

      Do Children See Color?
      In this workshop, we will learn about the different stages in children’s awareness of racial and cultural identities, when they begin to notice and respond to skin color cues,  and the impact this can have on children’s sense of identity and self-esteem.  We  will explore practical strategies to support anti-racist and social justice learning opportunities using culturally responsive teaching in virtual and socially distanced classrooms.
      Maimuna Mohammed is an Equity Specialist at the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College. Mohammed worked as an early childhood educator in community based programs in New York City and is an alumni of Teach For America and VISTA AmeriCorps. Mohammed is in the process of finishing her MA in Early Childhood Leadership at Bank Street College of Education’s Principal Institute.
      Zipporiah Mills is an Equity Specialist at the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College. Mills was a teacher in the NYC public schools and recently retired from the New York City Department of Education as the principal of PS 261, one of District 15’s most diverse elementary schools.

      Making Puppets for Story Telling and Dramatic Play
      This hands-on workshop invites participants to learn about the important role of dramatic play in children’s lives whether learning remotely or in their classrooms.   We’ll be creating different styles of puppets, and brainstorm different ways to develop and enhance your curriculum using these puppets.  Please bring: cardboard, paper bags, colored paper, socks, glue, and scissors.
      Maria Richa currently teaches Art in many at the Bank Street School for Children programs. In addition, she serves as a facilitator for the New Teacher Cohort, Racial Justice and Advocacy (RJA) curriculum in the Middle School, and Team Leader in the Art department. She is an adjunct instructor in the Bank Street Graduate School, where she teaches a course that introduces teachers to art-making experiences and children’s artistic development. Richa works in her own studio, focusing on original collages, quilt making, sculptures and prints. She holds a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design and a MA/EdM in Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

      Modelling Democracy in Kindergarten
      This timely workshop, inspired by the work of John Dewey, bell Hooks and Sonia Nieto will encourage teachers to see their classrooms as communities for integrating democratic values: where children can find their voice; form their own opinions; learn to listen to each other; participate in dialogue and debate; make decisions as a group and take responsibility for themselves and for their community.
      Anna Sobel is the 5-6’s teacher at the Manhattan Country School, a progressive independent school in NYC. She has played a role in organizing the Progressive Education Network (PEN) national conference that promotes diversity, equity, and justice in our schools and society. Sobel holds a Masters degree from the Bank Street College of Education.
      Laura Swindler is the 6-7s teacher at the Manhattan Country School, a progressive independent school in NYC. In addition, she teaches graduate students in the Early Childhood Education programs at CCNY and Brooklyn College. Democracy in the classroom is a key component of both her graduate and classroom curriculum. Swindler holds a Masters degree from the Bank Street College of Education. 

      Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls
      We are living in a moment when the physical classroom that we’ve known for so long requires a dramatic re-definition,  as Covid-based regulations have rendered our classrooms unrecognizable. Never before has there been such a need to realize  that not all classrooms have 4  walls. In this workshop we’ll explore  how place-based learning provides opportunities to take your class outside the traditional 4 walls to spaces such as parks, woodlands, neighborhood gardens, etc.  This presentation is a “how to” get started, with recent examples of  how a public school in NYC uses the park as an extension of their classroom.
      Tatiana Rosa is currently in her 8th year of teaching at Castle Bridge Elementary School (PS 513). She teaches a mixed-age K/1st grade dual language ICT classroom and enjoys using the local NYC parks as an extension of her classroom. Rosa is a graduate from the Bank Street College of Education, with a degree in Early Childhood General & Special Education and a bilingual extension.

      Reimagining Traditional Kindergarten Classrooms through Play: A Case Study
      Learn how a collaborative approach among Bank Street Early Childhood faculty and the leadership at a traditional NYC Charter School led to a shared understanding of child development, teacher ownership and leadership support, resulting in deeper learning opportunities for young children. Presenters will discuss the challenging and successful implementation of  a work/play/exploration time that was built into the daily schedule of academic kindergarten classrooms.
      Natalie Flores, a classroom Special Education teacher, an Instructional Coach, is an Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction  She earned a Masters in Urban Education with Special Education certification at Mercy College, as a part of the NYC Teaching Fellows Program.
      Wendy Pollock has been an advisor and faculty member in Early Childhood Leadership and teacher education programs at Bank Street College. Previously, she was a principal and director of Early Childhood Centers and elementary schools in Yonkers, NY and the Director of the Riverdale Y Early Childhood Programs in Riverdale, NY.  Pollock earned an EdD in Curriculum and Teaching and an MA in Psychology of Education both from Teachers College, Columbia University.
      Allison Tom-Yunger, a faculty member and advisor at Bank Street College, teaches in the Early Childhood Special and General Education Program. She was a Clinical Supervisor and Child and Family Therapist at the Association to Benefit Children, Bronx, NY and a Developmental Therapist and Social Worker at the New York Center for Child Development. Tom-Yunger earned an MSEd in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College and an MS in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work.

      Simple Objects: Validating Children’s Imagination
      In this workshop participants will explore the simplest of objects to awaken our own imagination as we come to appreciate the sense of wonder and magic of young children who are learning to shape their own world. Now, more than ever, we have an urgent need to bring this innate experience and imaginative ability into the fabric of education whether virtual or in person.  As part of the workshop please bring a simple object – a paper clip, a flower, a pebble – anything that can become a universe at play.
      Richard Lewis is a teacher, author and the Founder and Director of The Touchstone Center for Children in New York City. Begun in 1969, the Center has worked with children and teachers in a variety of school settings that bring together the arts, the natural world, and the life of the imagination. A graduate of Bard College, he has taught at Bank Street College of Education, Lesley College, Sarah Lawrence, CCNY, and Rutgers University, among others.

      Teachers on Teaching During Pandemic Times: A Story Sharing Workshop
      The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamics of teaching for anyone working with children, regardless of their age, racial and ethnic background, immigration status or geographic location. Whether you’ve been teaching remotely or in person, the changes for kindergarteners have been dramatic. In this workshop, you will have the opportunity to share your stories about teaching during this pandemic. How have you moved through this time with the children in your classes, made space to hear their thoughts, concerns and feelings, and created time to connect with their families? How has this impacted your teaching and how you think about your role as a teacher?
      Catlin Preston teaches a kindergarten / first grade at a progressive public school in New York City. Using the Descriptive Process developed by the Prospect Center for Education and Research, Preston  has worked closely with teachers to provide a safe space for supportive dialogue.  He has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA from Bank Street College in the Leadership for Educational Change Program. 

      The Critical Importance of Kindergarten Friendships in Usual and Unusual Times: The Teacher’s Role
      This discussion-based workshop focuses on making and maintaining friendships in kindergarten as an essential foundation for overall school success. Two questions guide the discussion: What can classroom teachers do to support this primary developmental accomplishment? Also, in what ways do teachers unintentionally thwart children’s growth in this area? Topics to be discussed include how friendship skills at five differ from preschool, “popular” and “unpopular” children, helpful and not helpful children’s books, and the possibility, or not, of Zoom-based friendships.
      Patsy (Patricia M.) Cooper is Associate Professor and Program Director of Early Childhood Education at Queens College, CUNY where research and career focus is on teacher education. Cooper was awarded the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Teaching and Teacher Education Research Award in 2010. She holds an MA in Child Development from the Erikson Institute, an MA in English from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Emory University. 

      The Magic of Story
      It is not only the content of a story that has far reaching benefits, but how we tell a story that matters.  Simms will offer activities that support engaging storytelling with kindergarteners and strengthen their capacity for focus, creativity, love of language and communication, while also inspiring them to play, imagine, and dream.  She will lead us in a practice of creating personal stories with children building on the images and emotions of their experiences. Storytelling is a valuable experience for both remote and in-person interactions.
      Laura Simms has been telling stories and training teachers for over forty years. She is the author of several 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 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. In 2010 Simms received the Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling.

      Who you Gonna Call? Germbusters! Maintaining the health of teachers, students and the classroom
      Teachers are especially vulnerable to contagious illnesses like the common cold, flu or strep throat. An often unventilated crowded room, the proximity to young children, and the exposure to germs with limited opportunities for hand washing create a cabal of circumstances leading to the unnecessary spread of illness. During this pandemic it is even more important for schools and teachers to incorporate and promote healthy practices and routines that decrease the spread of germs and illnesses. This presentation will offer teachers strategies for educating young children about being healthy in fun and engaging ways. By developing routines that provide age-appropriate activities and teaching children about germs and hand hygiene, teachers can create environments that are safe and clean, but not scary.
      Genevieve Lowry is a faculty member and advisor in the Child Life program in the Graduate School at Bank Street College. Previously, Lowry worked as a Certified Child Life Specialist. She has a BS from Wheelock College in Early Childhood Education and Child life and an MSEd from Fordham University in Curriculum and Teaching.



Note: Workshops and Keynote presentations will be recorded and available for participants to view through June 1, 2021.


Supporting and Nurturing Young Readers and Writers during the Pandemic and Beyond: Kathy Collins, Matt Glover, Aeriale Johnson and Vicki Vinton


Matt Glover

Vicki Vinton










In 2013, a University of Cambridge research team published a study that followed the reading history of two groups of children. One group began formal instruction in reading at the age of five. The second group had a more play-based curriculum and began their formal reading study at the age of seven. The results of the study were quite interesting. They concluded that by the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 tended to develop less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.The report  advised that “formal schooling” should be delayed until children are at least seven and that pushing it earlier is damaging children’s “academic achievement, especially when it comes to reading.” 

This report is particularly interesting to consider during this pandemic when children’s schooling has been so suddenly disrupted. No Child Left Behind, Race to The Top, Common Core Learning Standards, High Stakes Standardized Testing….all of these have traumatized educators, parents, and children, turning what should be the joy of learning into a competitive race. Now we add  to this pressurized school environment the terror of a destructive pandemic.

 There have been many magazine and newspaper articles where parents of young children expressed the fear that their children were falling behind. Parents and teachers worried that children would have difficulty when they were able to return to regular school. In a New York Times article, a mother of a kindergarten child voiced anxiety about her child and the other children in her child’s class. She worried about what would lie ahead for them when they entered first grade. ” If they are transitioning into first grade, will there be time to catch up and get them up to par?”

On Tuesday, January 5, 2020, I met with four extraordinary educators, Kathy Collins, Aeriale Johnson, Vicki Vinton and Matt Glover, to discuss their thoughts on how we can best support young learners during this time. What does reading and writing mean for a 4, 5, 6 and 7 year old? Should we have particular expectations? Can a child of that age be falling behind? 

Their conversation will, I believe, provide much comfort and food for thought for parents, teachers and school administrators. 




Books by the participating educators


Learn more aboutAlready ReadyLearn more aboutCraft and Process Studies


Learn more aboutProjecting Possibilities for Writers




WHAT PRICE DO CHILDREN PAY WHEN PLAY DISAPPEARS? In Conversation with Dr. Peter Metz, Nakoley Renville, Anne Haas Dyson and Peter Rawitsch

“The protected place in space and time that we once called childhood has grown shorter.”

 Mary Pipher






In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. The report included this statement: “Because every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their unique potential, child advocates must consider all factors that interfere with optimal development and press for circumstances that allow each child to fully reap the advantages associated with play.”

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, in their 1989 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, declared, in Article 31,  that every child has the right to play.

Considering these two important documents, one wonders why, in 2020,  we still have to advocate for the child’s right to play, both in school and outside of school?

On December 17, 2010 I had a fascinating and illuminating conversation with four outstanding advocates for the rights of children – Dr. Peter Metz, Nakoley Renville, Anne Haas Dyson and     Peter Rawitch. It is, I believe, a discussion to ponder carefully and, perhaps, to share and discuss with parents, teachers and anyone interested in the well-being of young children.