Graduate School

Infancy Institute Inspires Participants in its 25th Year

Posted by Nick Gray on July 02, 2012

Infancy Institute workshop with babyTalking With Babies

In a “Baby Watch” workshop, the workshop leader sits on a blue mat holding a wide-eyed 3-month old. She looks at the baby, speaking softly. He gazes at her and breaks into a wide smile. She speaks again. He makes several sounds. It is a conversation...

Small moments like these are where Nancy Balaban locates the true value in Bank Street’s Infancy Institute, the annual three-day professional development program she co-founded with Virginia Casper a quarter century ago. To her, these interactions demonstrate the importance of recognizing that child development happens from the very beginning of life.

Margie Brickley leading the workshop "Making Music for Infants and Toddlers"This year’s Institute, held June 19-21, drew over 250 participants from 18 states and Washington, D.C. Presented by the Graduate School’s Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention master’s programs, the Institute provides a way for Bank Street to share its breadth and depth of child development knowledge in a way that benefits a far broader range of educators, care providers, children, and families.

“Attendees were directors, teachers, early intervention specialists, pediatricians, nannies, nurses, home visitors, graduate students, and social workers,” says Institute Coordinator Nancy McKeever. “And they were all unified by their concern for and work with infants and toddlers.” 

Guidance, Resources, Experiences

Nancy McKeever and Kim West at the Infancy Institute

Workshops and presentations at the Infancy Institute are designed to holistically address every major angle of the educational and caregiving experience.For example, participants learned the theories and science behind early cognitive development and the importance of sleep (led by family sleep expert Kim West), but also benefited from the tactical experience of building toys, making music (led by faculty member Margie Brickley), and experiencing face-to-face guided interactions with babies, toddlers, and families.

And the Institute put these learnings into the broader contexts of career-building and professional development; the emotional and physical health of caregivers; and the policy and funding debates that surround early care at state and national levels.

Many attendees noted how affirming it felt to be part of a such a broad community of thoughtful practitioners, and to be able to return to their settings with fresh perspectives to inform their work with children and families.

View: Videos from the Infancy Institute Panel, “The Babies of 2037: Who Will They Be?”

Sharing the Research

Participants responded in particular to presentations by keynote speaker Catherine Tamis-Lamonda, PhD. Dr. Tamis-LaMonda’s workshop, “Recognizing and Supporting Parents’ Cultural Values, drew praise—as one attendee put it—“to how similar parents’ goals are across cultures, but that the means of achieving those goals will differ.”

In introducing Dr. Tamis-LaMonda, who leads NYU Steinhardt’s Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education, Nancy Balaban noted that she had achieved something in her career that “most of us here would love to be able to do. That is, follow infants from birth through preschool, visiting infants and families in their homes, schools, and communities using naturalistic observations, interviews and direct assessments of child development.”

One attendee, Pamela Wheeler-Civita (a Bank Street graduate who works in the Family Center), praised Dr. Tamis-Lamonda’s research, and urged participants to talk about the need to support quality early childcare to those outside the profession:

We professionals in early education know that the education of very young children cannot and does not look like the education of school aged children... How can we communicate this terribly important information to those outside of our field; specifically to policy makers and people who control our program funding? What are we not doing? What more can we do?

Early intervention is a preventative model, cost effective, supportive of families, and we have well-researched documentation to prove it. Let us show you.

Save the Date for Infancy Institute #26

An Infancy Institute workshopWhether you missed this year’s Institute or attended and want to come back for more, know that planning is already underway for the next installment, to be held June 18-20, 2013. Email Dara Eisenstein at to receive updates.

View the schedule from the 25th Infancy Institute.