Bank Street Infancy Institute Explores Liberation in Care for Infants and Toddlers

In late June, Bank Street Graduate School hosted the 37th annual Infancy Institute, a conference that offers training and intensive workshops for those who work with infants and toddlers. This year’s conference, which was held both online and on site over two consecutive weeks, welcomed over 195 teachers, caregivers, early intervention specialists, social workers, and others from across the country to reflect on their practice and learn new tools to enhance their work with young children.

With this year’s theme, “Boundless Beginnings: Liberation in Care for Infants and Toddlers,” attendees explored liberatory pedagogies and their importance in the care of infants through four-year-olds. Participants heard presentations by two guest speakers and attended interactive workshops on curriculum development, challenging behaviors, working with families, emotionally responsive practice, and more.

Dr. Denisha Jones, giving a presentation at the 2024 Infancy Institute, Bank Street Graduate School of EducationThe first week was held on site at Bank Street Graduate School of Education and featured keynote speaker Dr. Denisha Jones, executive director of Defending the Early Years. A former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 20 years focused on teacher education, Dr. Jones is an educational justice advocate and activist working with various grassroots organizations to support public education. Her presentation, “Liberatory Pedagogy in the Early Years: Free to Develop, Free to Learn, Free to Teach,” outlined the need for early childhood education to center liberation and freedom as a necessity for fostering whole child development. Dr. Jones explored the use of liberatory, emancipatory, and decolonized pedagogies, most often used in the context of working with older students, as a framework to ensure that all children, including infants and toddlers, are free to develop and learn and teachers are free to teach.

Yasmin Dorrian, co-director of the Infancy Institute and an advisor and course instructor at Bank Street Graduate School of Education, gave the keynote presentation the following week for the online portion of the conference. In her keynote, Challenges as Catalysts: A Liberating Journey from Behavior Challenges to Profound Connection,” Dorrian discussed shifting focus from changing or modifying children’s challenging behaviors to addressing how caregivers can see these moments as opportunities for profound understanding. The interactive presentation challenged participants to introspectively examine their own responses, biases, and perceptions to better empower children to navigate the world with confidence, agency, and a sense of love.

Conference attendees selected from an array of interactive workshops led by early childhood development experts from around the country, including Bank Street faculty and staff. Topics included: Building Emotions, Block by Block: A Playful Path to Social-Emotional Learning; Working with All Families: Building Relationships Through Trust and Connection; Welcoming Environments for Children with Neurodiversity; and Understanding and Supporting Dual Language Development in Infants and Toddlers; among many others.

Margie Brickley, GSE ’89, co-director of the Infancy Institute and a supervised fieldwork advisor and course instructor in the Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention Program at Bank Street Graduate School of Education, said, “At our yearly conference, infant/toddler practitioners connect with each other and gain new ideas and inspiration for their daily work. This year, they learned about liberatory practices, which may seem strange because we are talking about such young children and their families. However, all of our work can support and lift up families, children, and each other, and every year, we provide a forum where educators can reflect on their role as professionals and renew their commitment to the children and families they serve.”

Learn more about the Infancy Institute, or join our email list to be first to hear about the 2025 conference. Explore Bank Street’s graduate programs for working with Infants and families.