General Bank Street News

Bank Streeters Come Out 'In Defense of Childhood'

Posted by Nick Gray on April 01, 2012

Judith Valdez and Linda Lake

Bank Street faculty and graduate students were out in force at the In Defense of Childhood conference on March 10, 2012, at City College. With a theme of “Keeping the Joy of Learning Alive,” the conference inspired participants to support children in their cultural contexts and to use inquiry-based learning to promote not only cognitive skills, but also a love of learning, empathy, resilience, and social awareness. The conference showcased 40 workshops that were attended by over 700 people.

Trips, Blocks, Play, and Song

Peggy McNamara, Chair of General Teacher Education in the Graduate School, facilitated Bank Street’s participation as one of the conference’s supporting organizations. Bank Street's Bookstore set up shop at the conference and featured books like Out of the Classroom and into the World, by Sal Vascellaro, who was on hand to sign books and speak with participants about the critical role that trips play in children's learning.

Bank Street faculty member Betsy Grob facilitated two workshops with Fretta Reitzes GS ’69 (Director of the 92nd Street Y’s Wonderplay program) and Julie Diamond GS ’73 (author of Kindergarten: A Teacher, Her Students, and a Year of Learning).

In the first workshop, they presented a framework for a rich learner-centered curriculum for Pre-K through 1st grade, and showed how to integrate it with the Common Core State Standards. In the second, a hands-on block–building activity was linked to the Common Core Standards while participants “deconstructed” the learning that occurred through their block building, and then assessed the teacher’s role.

Said Grob, “We were excited to see people working to facilitate rich curriculum despite the tight restrictions in their school.”

Betsy Blachly leads a "Singing with Children" workshopBetsy Blachly, of Bank Street’s School for Children, led a “Singing with Children” workshop, in which participants explored the joys, risks, and challenges of incorporating music into early childhood classes, and participants created songs from scratch. Blachly noted, “Improvisation was our theme. While it was gratifying to hear from participants how some songs continue to be used in schools, so was knowing that other songs were created on the spot!” 

Linda Lake, Director of the Bank Street After School Program and Judith Valdez, Director of the Children’s Day Camp at the Berkeley Carroll School, co-facilitated “After School in School Settings: Fighting for Play.” They explored with participants how “playgroup” components can be developed for after school programs alongside remediation or in place of it.

Lisa Von Drasek, School for Children Librarian, and Mollie Welsh Kruger, of Bank Street's Reading and Literacy programs, co-facilitated the “Matching the Right Book with the Right Child” workshop. The interactive session explored issues raised by “leveling,” a practice used to determine appropriate reading materials for kids. Kruger found her work with participants to be “practical and professional,” and urged educators to think critically about how they design reading curriculum. She notes, 

Leveling is a tool teachers use to match readers and texts, but teachers must be flexible because overzealous use can be counterproductive.

Professors Beverly Falk, of City College’s School of Education, and William Crain, of its Division of Social Sciences, convened the conference. Presenters shared best practices and advice on negotiating more effective and equitable learning environments for young children.

Early childhood educators can participate in the ongoing discussion at the conference’s Facebook page.