Wheelock’s Community Policy Dialogue Marks Beginning for Wonder of Learning Boston

Prior to tomorrow’s public opening, the Wonder of Learning Boston exhibition provided setting and content for the 12th edition of the Wheelock Community Policy Dialogues, titled “Making High-Quality Early Childhood Education a Public Priority,” which took place on Wednesday, June 20, at Wheelock Family Theatre.

Early Childhood Education Lecturer, Dr. Megina Baker (left), speaking to the audience.

This year’s Policy Dialogues began with a panel discussion featuring local educators speaking about the importance of the Wonder of Learning Boston exhibits to families and to New England’s early childhood professionals. Panel members also discussed important paths to advocacy and community engagement that share in the goal of influencing educational policy.

BU Wheelock faculty participating in this session included Director of Wheelock’s Early Childhood Learning Laboratory, Dr. Jane Lannak, Clinical Associate Professor, Dr. Stephanie Cox Suárez, Lecturer Dr. Megina Baker, and adjunct faculty member Sara Yessenow.

After touring the exhibition, attendees sat in on mid-morning Ignite Talks inviting early childhood educators to share how they’ve used the Reggio Emilia approach, the educational philosophy behind the Wonder of Learning exhibits, in their practice. Speakers included:

  • Kelly Pellagrini – Director of Wonder of Learning Boston and Charlestown Nursery School
  • Jeri Robinson – Boston Children’s Museum
  • Marina Boni – Boston Public Schools
  • Carla Sherbourne – Worcester Public Schools’ Head Start program
  • Tania Quezada – Ready to Learn Providence Network
  • Natacha Shillingford – Epiphany School’s new Early Learning Center
  • Amy O’Leary – Director of Early Education for All (EEA) for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Following an hour of community policy discussions in smaller groups, attendees convened for the day’s final engagement: Conversations with the Commissioners. Clinical Professor Dr. Eleonora Villegas-Reimers introduced Thomas Weber, Massachusetts’ Commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, and Carlos Santiago, Commissioner of the state’s Department of Higher Education. Attendees posed questions based in their own areas of education and professional experiences, including specific queries about educator underpay and lack of workforce diversity to the cost of early childhood programs and overall decline of the teacher population.

Dr. Eleonora Villegas-Reimers (onstage left) with Commissioners Thomas Weber and Carlos Santiago.

Boston University’s Fenway Campus will host the Wonder of Learning Boston exhibition through November. As Dean David Chard noted in opening remarks to event supporters earlier this week, Wheelock aims to bring “as many of the 70,000-plus early childhood educators in New England as possible” to BU to experience the exhibition and take part in campus conversation regarding early childhood educational research and practice.