The Art of Play and Wonderment in Early Childhood Conference at Brooklyn College


Colleen Goddard, PhD is the Educational Director at Early Childhood Center at Brooklyn College. She also works as a Child Development Specialist/Consultant at early childhood schools and centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. She has over 23 years of experience in early childhood education. We asked Colleen to share information about the upcoming Art of Play and Wonderment in Early Childhood Conference at Brooklyn College. 

What is the goal for the Art of Play and Wonderment in Early Childhood Conference?

The goal of this conference is to provide a space for early childhood teachers, directors/leaders, coaches and faculty as well as artists and art educators within Brooklyn College, CUNY and throughout New York City to inspire, create, appreciate and think deeply about what we bring and wish to bring to our early childhood classrooms and profession.

This conference builds on the exhibition that enchanted early childhood professionals at The Wonder of Learning Exhibit, in 2015.  I feel it will be fantastic to look at play and wonderment and celebrate what that means to each of us through our own experiential lenses. It may look different from teacher to teacher, but collectively it is important to celebrate the art of interest, inquiry, and wonderment specific to young children’s play and our own engagement in imagination, reflection, documentation and creativity.

To reach our goal we used the work we have been doing for almost a year at the Brooklyn College Early Childhood/SOE Lab School in partnership with the faculty in the Early Childhood and Art Education Department (ECAE) as our springboard.  Starting with a careful rethinking and remaking of the physical space in the Early Childhood Center (ECC), we transformed the experiences for children and teachers in the classroom, which also influenced parents and their relationships with their children and the teachers, which we also want to share. We are inspired by the intentional curiosity and wonderment that the children present to us on a moment to moment basis here at The Early Childhood Center/Lab School of Brooklyn College. Their boundless energy, expert inquisitiveness and tender engagements move us as authentic educators, as we are called to attend, reflect, and respond to their every developmental need and milestones.

Are there any keynotes or featured speakers at the conference?

The conference will include a variety of speakers and presenters. Our keynote on Friday will be Dr. Ken Barish, the author of Pride and Joy and Emotions in Child Psychotherapy. Other invited guest speakers include ECAE Department faculty such as former dancer Herman Jiesmofoak, puppeteers Tova Ackerman and creative arts director Jahidah Diaab, a national researcher and co-author of the SRCD policy report on early language acquisition with dual language learners,   and Lulu Song who is co-presenting with Charles Thompson, the creator of dual language children’s books—both are parents of bilingual-speaking young children. In addition, an early intervention/mental health expert, Haroula Ntalla, is presenting on play and floor time. Other guest speakers include our center psychologist and learning specialist, Dr. Andrew Lerner, Beverly Falk from City College of New York and Patsy Cooper from Queens College as well as Artists/Art Educator John Toth from Hunter College, Sandy Fajgier and Maciel Martinez from PS 10/K-280: Bishop Ford site, Lorella Conte-Lamonaca from Scarsdale Public Schools and leaders and artists from Beginnings Nursery School, Chelsea Day, The New York Early Childhood  Professional Development Institute and Teaching Beyond the Square.

Breakout sessions will include topics on interest/inquiry driven curriculum, puppetry in practice as an art form for engagement and intentional experiential teaching, documentation through a Reggio-inspired lens, block building, using and working with open-ended materials, play as a source of joy, empathy, compassion and connection as well as understanding.  

In addition, Dr. April Bedford, Dean of the School of Education at Brooklyn College, will bring us together for closing remarks and we will close the conference with a tour of the Early Childhood Center/Lab School in James Hall.

Is this the first of its kind, if so what prompted the creation of this event?

Yes, this is the first The Art of Play and Wonderment in Early Childhood Conference offered and organized in partnership between Brooklyn College’s Early Childhood and Art Education Department and the Early Childhood Center/Lab School. After a lot of self-reflection, we felt the need to formulate and celebrate a unifying collective voice among the ECAE Department faculty and the ECC to align the programs around shared visions and goals, creating and sustaining a more cohesive community with a substantial and significant partnership. This is also a wonderful opportunity to form rich and valuable relationships around best practices for children across the CUNY campuses and throughout the City.

Who should attend the conference?

The conference should speak to all early childhood educators in the various roles we play as early childhood teachers/EC special educators, directors/leaders, professors, and artists across the boroughs. There is something for everyone and anyone who wants to reflect more deeply on their work with and for children, as well as expand their own sense of wonder and imagination, whether they are teaching at a public/private daycare, CBO, Early Head Start/ Early Intervention program, UPK, or elementary school.  CUNY students, faculty members and anyone affiliated with CUNY colleges are also welcome to attend. Although the presentations and sessions are geared toward children from birth to five, everything discussed at the conference can be applied to older children as well.

What are the benefits of attending the conference?

There are a variety of benefits to attending the conference. One benefit is to understand more deeply and authentically the multitude of ways that children can learn through play. This is a highly researched and substantial component of honoring early childhood development and a necessary lens and knowledge base when celebrated through an experiential lens of documentation, which requires observation, reflection, interpretation, and appreciation for children’s wonderment, curiosity, ingenuity, and competency as committed, engaged researches in action. This is how children thrive – learning about their world from rich and powerful, multi-sensory and play-based and wonder-filled experiences. In this way, they reach their full potential as competent, capable, co-constructors of the art of play and wonderment.  There will also be opportunities for networking and collaborating.

What are the next steps/future implications of the conference?

We would love to have the conference annually and eventually expand beyond New York City, possibly at other CUNY or SUNY campuses and even among the National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers. We are also interested in having speaker series and educational forums that continue the discussion. Again, it would be great to collaborate with other CUNY Colleges and Early Childhood Centers, The New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, NYCDOE, NYCDOH, ACS and other organizations to move toward a collective vision of educating, elevating and empowering  all children while simultaneously supporting their parents and families to celebrate the play-worlds of the children whose lives they share.

The conference admission fees are $80.00 for two days and $45.00 for one day.

Lunch will be served.

To learn more and register for the conference, click here.