Afternoon Lectures

Fri, Nov 13


A Unique Specialty Program for Anxious Children: Putting Compassion and Empathy in Action

Christy Tadros & Gina Robinson

Learn how you can adapt the Brave Buddies™ approach to work in your classroom with children with selective mutism and severe social anxiety disorder. Created at the NYU Child Study Center by Dr. Steven Kurtz, Brave Buddies™ uses a “pretend” classroom environment where children learn to do the very things they avoid in school: morning meeting, show ‘n’ tell, etc. Participants will learn about balancing empathy and compassion while guiding the children toward “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” and participating in all activities verbally and non-verbally.

Assessing Compassion and Empathy In the Early Childhood Classroom

Sergio Alati

How do we assess students' growing understanding about empathy and compassion? We'll discuss what teaching and learning of these important characteristics looks like in the classroom. This will serve as a springboard for conversation about how we can assess students' growing understandings of these characteristics on a continuum, as well as how we can use these assessments to drive further classroom planning. Tools, examples and handouts will be provided as well as a small group time to contextualize assessment measures that work specifically for you!

Block Building: Strengthening Community in Your Classroom Through Collaborative Play

Betsy Grob

In this workshop, participants will create urban worlds with blocks. Working together in mall groups, participants will experience the challenges and joys of problem solving, communicating and creating structures together. Teachers will get a deeper understanding of the science, math and literacy components of block building as well. Through work and play, teachers will deepen their appreciation of the essential role of block building in their early childhood classrooms.

Children Don't See Race, Do They? Colorblindness and the Early Childhood and Lower School Educator

Derrick Gay

Building upon the theme of identity presented during the morning keynote, this workshop will explore the latest research around young children and race. What do children understand about race at various developmental stages between birth and seven years old? What do we mean by colorblindness? How does colorblindness influence our goals of creating an inclusive classroom? In this workshop, we will deepen understandings around young children and race, while providing educators with concrete strategies to integrate into their teaching toolbox.

Compassion & Empathy Lead to an Unexpected Wheelchair Study

Dana Roth & Renee Dinnerstein

The innate curiosity, compassion and sense of social justice of a kindergarten class inspired their teachers to turn a traditional Kindergarten transportation unit into an incredible study about wheelchairs. Learn about the process of inquiry-based exploration and how it can be applied to many other units of study.

Creating Purposeful Partnerships with Parents of Special Needs Children

Jean Schreiber

Early childhood teachers can offer parents valuable lessons when they understand and respect parents, connect with them as partners and are mindful about crossing boundaries. Adults are the most effective role models for children as they are learning to respect the rights of others and accept responsibility for their own behavior. As young children push the boundaries, adults can help them develop compassion and empathy by setting appropriate limits.

DEL Early Childhood Dance / WonderDance

Deborah Damast & Jen Katz-Burk

Dance is an engaging modality that encourages young children to express their ideas and emotions using their bodies. The 92Y Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) Early Childhood Dance / WonderDance approach to teaching young children incorporates best practices of early childhood dance education and gives teachers an accessible model that can be integrated easily into the classroom curriculum.

Facilitating Empathic Thinking in Your Early Childhood Classroom

Jen Katz-Burk, Cat Corbett & Meg Allen

Creating a nurturing classroom community requires time and energy as we create opportunities for our youngest citizens to understand the perspective of the "other." This workshop will provide concrete methods to encourage young children’s empathic thinking, which can be easily woven into the fabric of your classroom culture. These methods inspire children to intrinsically take care of each other and their environment, laying the foundation for a lifetime of social and emotional success.

Girls and Boys and Their Experiences of Empathy

Elaine Winter

Workshop participants will look at gender and its relationship to qualities such as empathy, nurturance and compassion. We will examine actual classroom situations, view film footage and discuss current research findings. In the course of this workshop, we will ask ourselves: Are there gender-specific patterns in the ways that empathy is expressed and perceived? If so, what can boys learn from girls and vice versa? How is caring expressed in children’s daily interactions in classroom discussions and dramatic play? What assumptions do parents bring to the table, and what assumptions might we have as teachers? How can we bridge new understanding and empathic pathways across genders? How can today’s critical important gender conversations open the door to a further exploration of caring and compassion?

Growing Compassion Through Movement and Dance

Diane Duggan

This workshop will present movement activities designed to develop children’s innate capacity for empathy on a body level; help young children self-regulate so they will be able to access their capacity for empathy. It will also present strategies for teachers to respond compassionately and effectively to children who are in distress and provide a model for supportive interaction. Participants will also discuss how they plan to utilize the strategies learned.

Hearts and Minds: Classroom Techniques to Help Foster Friendship and Kindness

Ellen Birnbaum & Shereen Rutman

Social, emotional and cognitive functioning are all intermingled. This talk offers teachers an understanding of how to create a classroom climate that helps children develop positive social emotional skills during their early years so they can handle the academic and social challenges that arise and impact learning. 

"It’s not me! It’s her!" Using Puppets to Help Young Children Talk about Feelings

Susan Linn

Puppetry is a powerful and underused tool for helping young children recognize, verbalize and respect all kinds of emotions—their own and those of their classmates. As seemingly separate personalities, puppets provide a safe space for honest self-expression and exploration. Participants will acquire basic puppetry techniques and explore ways of using puppets in the classroom to help children recognize, understand and respect their own emotions, and other people’s feelings as well.

Kindness Conversations

Fretta Reitzes

Kindness is often referred to as “… the forgotten heart of education.” Participants will explore what kindness means to them as educators and as individuals. What do we mean when we say that someone has done something kind? How do we encourage and acknowledge kindness in our classrooms and school communities? What do we expect from our children and what is our responsibility as role models? These and other related questions generated by participants will be discussed.

Learning to Care About the Natural World

Leslie Day & Carol Weishart Milne

What can we do as teachers to guide our students toward caring about each other, and as an extension, about the natural world? Our classrooms can be safe places for children to learn about the needs of other life forms. Developing compassion and knowledge about non-human animals helps enrich our own humanity.

Looking Beyond Labels: Feelings & Perceptions about Working with Children with Developmental Delays and/or Disabilities

Marilyn Rubinstein & Barbara Schwartz

This interactive workshop will address our thoughts, feelings and perceptions about working with children with developmental delays and/or disabilities. Participants will have an opportunity to explore how they interact and engage with young children with typical and atypical development in their programs. Community resources and supports will also be shared.

Mindfulness in the Early Childhood Classroom

Jill Emanuele

Learn about mindfulness and its core components. Participants will explore different types of mindfulness exercises for young children, how to use them effectively in the classroom environment and with individual children. They will receive the foundational tools to engage in their own ongoing mindfulness practice, and will perform mindfulness exercises during the workshop. Participants will also discuss how to creatively generate their own ideas to apply mindfulness techniques in the classroom.

Paley’s Storytelling and Story Acting Curriculum in the Early Childhood Classroom: How To and Why

Patricia Cooper

This interactive session presents an overview of Vivian Paley’s storytelling and story acting curriculum in the early childhood classroom, beginning with classroom implementation. Its impact on development, including making friends, will also be considered, as well as language and literacy learning and alignment with academic standards.

Play as a Vehicle for the Development of Empathy and Compassion in Young Learners

Lisa Nagel

Learn how authentic play-based experiences provide children with ongoing opportunities to develop and deepen their collaborative skills that are at the heart of compassion and empathy. This practical workshop will examine both broad based approaches and specific techniques that integrate play as the core that fosters a caring classroom community.

Reciprocity in Teaching: The Use of Puppets as a Metaphor for Social Emotional Learning

Shelly Gargus, Pam Scherr & Jane Racoosin

Reggio-inspired teachers present a year long study based on a curious discovery by their children which inspired the teachers to use puppets to co-construct a rich academic and social emotional curriculum. This workshop will illustrate the expansion of thought in children as they begin to take their first steps toward understanding their own point of view and how it is the same and/or different from others. It will also demonstrate a unique way that puppets can be used to enhance curriculum development.

Robotics, Programming and the Connected Soul

Marina Bers

This hands-on workshop gives you the opportunity to experiment with the KIBO robot kit, a developmentally appropriate tool for young children to learn coding and engineering without screens or keyboard. This kit is a model of how technology, when used appropriately, can promote social-emotional growth in the context of collaborative experiences.

Selecting Children's Books to Foster Compassion and Empathy: A Critical Look at Content and Uses in the Curriculum

Julia Watkins & Patricia Cooper

This workshop will focus on what makes some children’s books appropriate in supporting a young child’s capacity for compassion and empathy in light of their overall psychosocial and cognitive development. The pros and cons of specific books will be reviewed for content and other features. Uses in the curriculum will also be discussed, and will include read-alouds, artistic response and drama.

Supporting Empathy and Compassion with a Global Connection

Lydia Spinelli & Katherine Gregory

Through an ongoing relationship with a school in Liberia, our three to six year old children develop what are the beginnings of empathy and compassion for children in Africa. Learn about the curriculum for this project and why it is effective.

Teaching Social Justice and Civil Rights through Singing and Movement

Susan Harris

In this interactive workshop, participants will explore how to engage young children in important issues around social justice and civil rights in age-appropriate ways using songs, books and movement activities. Together, we will focus on how to present these important issues in a positive and engaging framework, and how to include the larger school community in the conversation.

The Block Area: Where Collaboration, Imagination, and the Fundamentals of STEAM Take Root

Betsy Grob & Rebecca Burdett

This hands-on workshop examines the essential role of the teacher in enhancing block play in the classroom. Teachers will build together as they explore and discover for themselves the multi-layered learning that takes place in the block area, and the potential for social and emotional growth that is a result of sharing ideas, collaboration and problem solving together. We will also explore what the teachers can learn about the children through observation and assessment as the children build together.

The Empowered Playground: Using Video as a Tool to Build Community, Collaboration and Empathy around Rough and Tumble Play

Rose Coffield & Michael Weiner

As teachers, when we are on the playground with our children, we often find ourselves confronted with physical play and we are unsure about how to support: it: do we stop it or do we let the children work it out on their own? This workshop focuses on how to use play planning, video reflection and conversation to build self awareness and empathy in young child through the rough and tumble play that takes place on the playground. We will provide detailed and practical methods of how to use video to engage children in discussions about their choices, their feelings and their awareness of others. Through these discussions we have seen children build their own awareness of self, and their desire to take care of each other during their play, both inside and outside the classroom. The workshop also develops ideas that increase teachers’ competence and decrease their frustration with regard to rough and tumble play.

The Good Bird’s Club: Sesame Street’s Approach to Anti-Bullying

Autumn Zitani, MA

Preschool children sometimes engage in behaviors that are identified as bullying. We will discuss the operational definition for bullying and the strategies that can help children (both perpetrator and victim), teachers and parents deal with these behaviors. Self-regulation and executive function are the skills that are necessary for developing compassion, empathy and kindness. This session will focus on strategies to support the development of these skills during the preschool years as a preventative approach to bullying.

The Teacher as Curriculum

Mark Horowitz

Jewish philosopher and educator Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us that “…It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that pupils read; the text they will never forget.” You are the teacher in your classroom. Together, we will explore the notion that your values and behavior is where compassion and empathy begin to take on true meaning for your children and become the foundation of the curriculum.

Using Playful Games to Create Compassionate Communities

Jessie Klein

Creating a nurturing classroom community requires teachers to focus on helping our youngest citizens understand the perspective of the “other.” This workshop will provide concrete methods that can be woven into the fabric of your classroom. These methods inspire children to begin to take care of each other and the environment intrinsically, laying the foundation for a lifetime of social/emotional well-being that they can then take out into the world.

We Are All Storytellers: From Nature Tales to Fairy Tales

Joan Almon

Stories have been told in homes, classrooms and villages for aeons. Today, the screen has become the storyteller, but it is distant and impersonal compared to the warmth of tales told live. Every teacher can become a storyteller. We'll experience how to tell stories and add layers of richness to our work with young children.


Can Kindness be Taught? The Nature/Nurture Question

JoAnn Deak

Yes! Some children have a natural inclination that we don't want their early environment to corrupt. Other children need more comprehensive attention and guidance. This workshop will also address this generation's predisposition for a visual approach as part of the formula.

Caring About Children, Learning, and Self: Teachers at the Heart of Education

Lisa Fiore

Educators are often trained to believe that teaching is a selfless act—that our attempt (and mandate) to teach in a student-centered way means we must leave our own feelings and self-care at the door. This session focuses on teaching young children as a developmental process, and one in which the underlying curriculum is focused on teachers’ dignity and self-respect. We will discuss ways to get help with your efforts, including: activities to model and teach “soft” skills such as kindness, compassion and empathy; how to advocate for yourself in your teaching context; and resources for further learning and networking in the early childhood education community.

Creating a Place for the Child with Differences

Steven Kurtz

It is a challenge for teachers and schools to create emotionally safe, inclusive spaces for children with significant behavioral problems and other developmental issues. Young children with these sorts of issues can at times be scary, aggressive, anxiety-provoking, intrusive or otherwise off-putting to their peers. Frankly, helping them can be quite taxing to their teachers and therapists as well. Dr. Kurtz will guide participants through building an infrastructure that leads to a culture of kindness. Creating a culture of kindness explores the dialectic of simultaneous commitment to both change and acceptance.

Creating the Bridge between Mind and Body, Learning and Play, Kindness and Self-Assertion

Lawrence Cohen

Extreme emotions often interfere with a child’s ability to learn, play, explore, settle in and be kind to others. Moderate levels of emotion help children engage with their world through creativity and curiosity, and balance their strong sense of self with empathy and connection. How can teachers nurture that healthy range of emotion while helping children stay out of emotional overload or shutdown?

The Language of Kindness

Lydia Soifer

Being aware of the words we choose during the many moments of planning or conflict, negotiation and compromise, in a school day is an essential skill for teachers in preschool. As we model the language of kindness and compassion, we can help create a sense of empathy for others even in the youngest children. The language of our classrooms can help create safe, enriching, emotionally rich environments and more sensitive, attuned children.

To Learn and Relearn with Children: The Work of Teachers in Reggio Emilia

Lella Gandini

Teachers, like children, feel the need to grow in their competence. In infant-toddler centers, preschools and elementary school, they work to offer experiences that lead to reflection and can transform them into new thoughts and novel actions. They also feel the need to make predictions, to try things out, to document them and interpret them. The process of documentation and interpretation are most important to understand children’s learning rather than waiting and evaluating results.

We will review together, through power points and videos, the documentation of experiences that have taken place in preschools from Reggio Emilia. Together we will observe children’s learning processes, with the intent to reflect on how we could be supporting them if we were the teachers in two ways. One is to observe the ways children enter into an activity and develop their strategies of thought and action, and the other is to note the ways in which objects and actions are transformed.

The intention is to reflect together how learning can be encouraged and supported through cooperation inspired by Loris Malaguzzi’s thoughts, “Through careful interpretation, one can learn that children continually attempt to draw connections among things and therefore grow and learn.” Children in groups (and hopefully teachers in this group) are inside a great transformation laboratory.


Seeing Children for Who They Are in Kindergarten

A panel of early childhood educators moderated by Julie Diamond

What does it mean to see children for who they are? How does your commitment to do so affect your classroom environment and routines, and your planning? What values does your commitment represent and what resources can guide you as a professional? What assessment methods have proven useful? How does a multi-cultural and possibly multi-lingual environment and curriculum reflect that commitment? How can this commitment encompass the CCSS? This workshop will begin with presentations of teachers’ work and curriculum.