DEY’s Summer Institute 2021: Learning, Advocacy, and Equity in ECE

This summer, we are pleased to bring you our third annual institute.  Like our 2020 institute, this three-day event will also be virtual.  However, instead of focusing on the impact of the pandemic, we are pushing the conversations to address how we build a better early childhood education for all children.

We are not advocating for a return to normal because we know normal was not good enough for too many children and families. Instead, our focus is on building something better. How do we take all that we experienced and learned during a global pandemic that caused so much tragedy to push for policies and systems that protect childhood? What should our advocacy look like as schools plan to reopen and we insist on making changes to the curriculum and resisting standardized testing? How can we continue to push for equitable practices in early childhood that support all children?

To discuss these and other related questions, we’ve invited parents, teachers, educators, researchers, and advocates with a passion for early childhood to help explore the possibilities of building a better future.  Check out what we have planned this year!


Day 1: Learning Leveraged: Planning for Better Than Returning to Normal Monday, June 28th 4-6 pm EST

We refuse to accept the deficit-oriented “learning loss” narrative that seeks to punish children and teachers for surviving a global pandemic. How can we leverage what we learned about children, families, and education outside the school building? How do we center hands-on inquiry-based exploration in classrooms and remote spaces? How can we support families and childcare providers so that they can thrive in the future? These are just a few of the questions we will discuss on Monday, June 28th.

We begin with a welcome and DEY overview by our co-founder Nancy Carlsson-Paige.  We’re very excited to have Susan Linn and Audrey Duck join us to kick off the institute.

This year two of our panels will begin with keynote speakers. First up, we have Dr. Kathy Hirsh Pasek of Temple University sharing her latest research on supporting children’s learning post-pandemic.

We then transition to an exciting panel with CUNY Medical School faculty Dr. Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, Director of Maple Street School in Brooklyn, Wendy Cole, and Co-Teacher/Leader of Mission Hills Schools and DEY Treasurer Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin. This panel will discuss what is needed to ensure we build a better early childhood future.


Day 2: Advocacy Talk and Play Chat Tuesday, June 29th 4-6 pm EST.

For day two, we focus on two of my favorite things: play and advocacy.  We at Defending the Early Years believe in play as the authentic way kids learn, develop, and thrive.

We are delighted to begin Day 2 in conversation with the authors of Let the Children Play: Why More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive, William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg.  Nancy and I will discuss key themes for their book and how we push for more play in early childhood and beyond.

We then transition to a talk with advocate Cassie Creswell to learn about her fantastic work on behalf of Illinois Families for Public Education to get the Right to Play Bill passed in the Illinois legislature. We can’t wait to share Cassie’s success story as we continue to expand our policy platform.


Day 3: Building an Equitable Early Childhood Education

We conclude on day 3, focusing on making early childhood an equitable space that centers on the needs of diverse children and their families.  We believe that early childhood education is responsible for preparing young children to recognize and resist all forms of oppression, including racism and heterosexism.

We are delighted to welcome back the President and Founder of Anahsa Consulting and the Executive Director of the Center on Culture, Race, and Equity at Bank Street College, Takiema Bunch Smith, to deliver our opening keynote. Takiema’s passion for early childhood builds a culture of anti-oppression and racial equity for children and adults.

Following her keynote is a discussion with Megan Madison, author of the recently published children’s book Our Skin and trainer for the Center for Racial Justice in Education;  Ashley Brailsford, founder of Our Joyful Learning, an organization that helps nature-based programs become more inclusive through culturally relevant teaching; and Laleña Garcia NYC kindergarten teacher, Gender and Sexuality trainer, and author of What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book.

These amazing educators will discuss the possibilities of centering liberation, healing, and thriving in the field of early childhood education.

We hope you will join us for what promises to be an informative and inspiring opportunity to guide our work on behalf of young children, their families, and early childhood teachers.  Register today.