18th Annual Summer Institute on Early Childhood Development

A child smirking in a playground playset.
May 30 to June 2, 2022
18th Annual Summer Institute

The Early Years: In, About, and For the Environment

This year the theme of our Summer Institute is, The Early Years: In, About, and For the Environment. The event will focus on the effects of climate change on the early years, and how we can incorporate environmental responsibility into the early years to support young children towards climate responsibility and action.

Speakers will range from advocates to researchers. We will share lessons learned from Indigenous communities and others who are trailblazers in this area, and end the institute with building partnerships and capacities.

Day One - Advocating: Climate Change and the Early Years

Monday, May 30, 2022 | 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Day one will set the context for the institute. Why is climate change within the early years important? How has climate change impacted young children and how can we work across silos to address the effects on our youngest learners?

William Gagnon

William lives on Chief Drygeese Territory (Yellowknife, NT) where he witnesses the climate emergency on a daily basis: thawing permafrost, higher precipitations leading to buildings collapse, thinner ice shelf, erratic fish population, and more. A building engineer (Concordia University ’17), advocate and campaigner for climate (Cornell, ’19), he specializes in green buildings and decarbonization of the building sector (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, ’18). He likes working at the intersection of design, engineering, climate advocacy, sustainability and research.

He’s working for a net-zero carbon future, and sees 2030 as a goalpost for carbon-neutrality in the building sector. In 2019, William demonstrated that the complete decarbonization of the building sector in the Northwest Territories by 2030 would have a 9% return on investment from eliminated spending on heating oil; saving northerners $20M annually, and creating 87 direct jobs.

William’s research interests currently lie in climate mitigation, biochar, pyrogenic carbon capture and storage, hydrogen energy storage, green buildings, renewable energy production, decarbonization, decolonization and energy storage solutions for northern locations.

Action feels better than anxiety; William spends most of his time working or volunteering around climate.

Chúk Odenigbo

Proudly Franco-Albertan, Chúk is passionate about the ways in which the environment impacts human health and the role of justice in our understanding of how our societies function. As a result of this passion, Chúk is very active in changemaking spaces in both Canada and at an international scale. His educational background centres the domains of environment science, chemistry, public health and medical geography. In his work as one of the founding directors of Future Ancestors Services, he focuses on environmental and climate justice, and outside of this work, he is involved in several boards, committees, conferences and movements to reimagine and recreate societal structures and systems for the well-being of all of our kin. Human and non-human.

Chloe Dragon Smith

Chloe Dragon Smith is a young woman born and raised in Somba K’é (Yellowknife), Denendeh (NWT). Of German, Dënesųłiné, Métis, and French heritage, she grew up close to her Indigenous cultural values and learned traditional skills for living on the land. Her mother is Brenda Dragon, and her father is Leonard Smith, and her grandmother is Jane Dragon. The women and men of her maternal lineage lived, harvested, ate, shared, struggled, loved, and died on the Land in the boreal forests of northern Canada.

Chloe cares about revitalizing Indigenous systems – self-determined systems of living, learning, management, economies, and governance. As a mixed blood person, she feels a constant responsibility to bridge barriers and help create balance however she can. She is the co-founder of an outdoor learning initiative called Bushkids, located in Yellowknife. She now lives on the Land full-time with her partner in Wood Buffalo National Park, where they are full-time harvesters and co-owners of a small business: Beb(a)ski - for the Land consulting and services.

Day Two - Research: In, About, and For the Environment

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 | 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Join us on day two as we explore the research. Experts in the field will highlight the research on the impact of climate change on young children and their learning as well as demonstrate the value of nature-based learning.

Amira Aker

Dr. Aker is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Laval and the Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec. She is an environmental epidemiologist and her research centers around protecting systematically and structurally excluded populations from contaminants of emerging concern, with a particular interest in Arctic communities.  She is currently studying the exposure sources of perfluoroalkyl substances and their health effects on cardiometabolic outcomes and immunological function in Inuit communities in Nunavik. Dr. Aker received her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto Scarborough focused on chronic disease.

Louise Zimanyi and Lynn Short

Louise Zimanyi (She/her), Professor of Early Childhood Education, Inclusive & Responsive Education - Child & Adult, Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness. 

Asa settler in Tkaronto and through her work and research on land-based play, Louise is walking together with Indigenous communities as part of a co-learning journey that engages the early childhood field in more political, ethical and decolonized learning and transformative pedagogy and practice.

Lynn Short (She/her) Of mixed Ojibwe, Irish and English heritage, Lynn completed her Indigenous Knowledge Certificate under Onaubinosay (Elder Jim Dumont) and continued to work with him, co-teaching for 4 years. In her current role as the Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for the Humber Arboretum and the Indigenous Curriculum Specialist for Land and Culture Based Programs at Humber College, Lynn maintains strong connections to the Land.

Louise Zimanyi and Lynn Short are co-leads on a Two-Eyed Seeing Approach to Land-Based Play and Co-Learning in Early Learning and Child Care Systems at Humber College. Supported by the Lawson Foundation's Outdoor Play Strategy the works is looking to enact systemic change by using the guiding principles of Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing in the Mi'maq language) to support land-based play and co-learning through Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of being, knowing, relating and doing.

The research team includes includes ECE faculty members, Bora Kim and Lyndsay Macdonald supported by Maamaawisiiwin Education Research Centre. We are currently exploring how the new Two-Eyed Land-Based Play and Co-Learning Course: 1) engages the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical realities of learners and faculty in post-secondary education and; 2) helps learners action their personal and collective responsibilities to all beings and related to seven generations of sustainability.

Julia L. Ginsburg

Julia L. Ginsburg is doctoral candidate in the Individualized Program at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, supervised by Dr. Natasha Blanchet-Cohen in Applied Human Sciences. Julia received her Master of Arts in Teaching from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts during her co-teaching fellowship in early childhood and elementary education. Her research examines early childhood pedagogy and whether teachers include sustainability within their nature-based curricula, including issues of race and class in nature-based preschool programs. Julia is currently working on her doctoral dissertation study on how youth involved the climate movement perceive of their experiences within the collectives in which they advocate for intersectional justice. She is also interested in how children conceptualize their relationship with the more-than- human world as well as how to help children develop eco-resilient ecocultural identities within settings that reinforce anthropocentrism. In her free time, Julia loves hiking, baking, and walking her dogs.

Day Three - Lessons to Learn: From the Environment into the Early Years

Wednesday, June 1, 2022 | 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Day three will highlight lessons from the environment. Join us as we explore nature-based learning, and teachings from Indigenous scholars.

Dr. Monica McGlynn-Stewart

Monica McGlynn-Stewart (PhD, OCT, RECE) is a professor in the School of Early Childhood at George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario. She teaches courses in curriculum, education policy, and research methods. She is a former elementary teacher, principal, and consultant. She was the Principal Investigator on the SSHRC funded research project, Toys or Tools? Using Tablet Applications for Open-Ended Literacy Learning (2015-2019), and the Helderliegh Foundation funded research project, A Sensory Approach to Food Literacy (2019-2020), and is currently the Principal Investigator on the SSHRC funded research project, Designing and implementing environmental inquiry strategies in urban early years programs in Canada (2020-2023).

Jennifer Gallo-Fox

Dr. Gallo-Fox specializes in early childhood curriculum and instruction, science education, and teacher learning, and the role of lab schools in educator development. She works closely with the Lab School at the University of Delaware on research collaborations, to support the early educator learning and science education, and actively supported the program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorit Radnai-Griffin

Dr. Radmai-Griffin is responsible for leadership in program development and maintaining high-quality programming for children, families, and UD students in clinical experiences. She ensures that the day-to-day operations at the Lab School demonstrate current best practices in curriculum and teaching. She provides leadership and oversight of research activities and supervision and evaluation of the staff. Dorit also oversees enrollment and financial operations.

Katie Pollock

Katie has been at the Lab School for the past 17 years. Katie completed the Delaware Nature Society Naturalist Training and is a certified naturalist. Creek explorations, woods, walks, and trail adventures became a bigger part of her curriculum. Katie loves watching the children soak up the peace, energy, and wonder that comes from being outside. She earned an MS in Literacy from Wilmington University and a BS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Delaware. Katie is also an undergraduate instructor and clinical educator at the University of Delaware.

Claire Stevenson-Blythe

Claire is a Registered Professional Planner at Fotenn Planning + Design in Toronto who brings curiosity and empathy to complex urban issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environment and Urban Sustainability from Ryerson University and a Masters of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto. She has worked on a range of public, private and non-profit projects in the GTA, including age-friendly neighbourhood built-form audits, policy development, and affordable and zero net energy housing developments. Claire is increasingly interested in the intersection of climate change and urban planning, specifically how public policy can inform and implement environmental change. She conducts research in partnership with the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia in the governance and legal frameworks of public spaces in Toronto and Vancouver.

Keith McCrady

Keith McCrady is an Ojibway and Cree from the Bear Clan who has worked with Indigenous families for over thirty years. Born in Thunder Bay and raised traditionally by both parents in Blinjitwaabik Zaaging Aaishinaabek (formerly Rocky Bay First Nation), Keith says that becoming a leader in his community was an integral part of his journey. As the Executive Director of the 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, Keith's goal is to walk alongside the 2-Spirited, Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ community and provide them with the education and support to reclaim our place in the Circle.

Day Four - Building Partnerships and Capacities for Change

Thursday, June 2, 2022 | 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The final day of the institute will help pave the way forward. How do we build partnership capacities in the fight against climate change, and how do we embed this into the early years?

Lisa Wolff

Lisa Wolff is Director, Policy and Research at UNICEF Canada, with a mission to advance the rights of Canada’s children to develop to their fullest potential, consistent with international human rights standards. Collaborating with government, institutions, civil society, researchers and private sector partners, Lisa works across issues and sectors to advocate for and with children and youth. Lisa received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor-General of Canada in 2012.

Naysán Sahba

Naysán serves as Manager, Engagement and Partnerships, at the World Bank Group. Before joining the Bank in Washington, DC, in January 2020, he was the UN Environment Programme's global Communication Director for six years, based in Kenya. Prior to that, he held various roles with UNICEF and WHO, beginning as a consultant and communication officer with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in the Horn of Africa and India, then working on communication for development programmes at the state and national levels for UNICEF India, and finally as Chief of Communication, Advocacy, Participation, and Partnerships at UNICEF Mozambique. He began his career in Toronto setting up and running Bishárát Media Development Associates, a development communication non-profit that worked with indigenous community radio stations in Latin America and produced content about innovative approaches to sustainable development. Naysán holds a BA in English Literature from UBC and an MA in International Development and English Studies from the University of Guelph.

Debby Danard

Dr. Debby Wilson Danard is Anishinaabekwe traditional knowledge practitioner, visual and performance artist, lecturer, writer, water protector, life promotion ambassador and sturgeon clan member from Rainy River First Nation.  Growing up, she was raised with her grandmother’s love and commitment to sharing traditional Anishinaabek teachings and way of life.

She has actively advanced traditional knowledge, Indigenous research and land as pedagogy, sovereignty and autonomy working with many urban (Friendship Centres, MNO, COO, BANAC) and on-reserve (Zhingwaako Za-iganing, Mnjinkaning, Mkwa Mnissing) communities and organizations, and several post-secondary institutions. The focus of her community work is often youth specific for strengthening knowledge and understanding water, land and life teachings.

Debby is currently a Postdoctral Fellow at Dalla Lana School of Public Health with Dr.  Angela-Mashford Pringle supporting the New Respect Cultural Safety Training.

In 2019-2021 she was awarded a University of Toronto Provost Postdoctoral Fellows for Black and Indigenous Scholars to expand the work of her original doctoral research, “Medicine Wheel Surviving Suicide-Strengthening Life Bundle” (2016) that focuses on traditional knowledge as a way tried and true (evidence informed practice) to mobilize life promotion community bundles.

While working as a Suicide Prevention Coach at the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, she co-founded the Simcoe Muskoka District Feather Carriers: Leadership for Life Promotion (2015) an aspiring national wise (suicide prevention) practice.

Debby has authored several reports on good governance, life promotion and water teachings for Temagami First Nation, Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, Chiefs of Ontario, and the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle.

As a leader for change, Debby strengthens life from the heart of Indigenous identity, sovereignty and autonomy as an evolving, creative, and living continuum of knowing and being.

Ian Mostert

Ian Mostert is project leader of Child and Nature at IVN Nature, Education. Connections are made between children and nature where they learn about nature, their own physical possibilities, cooperation, and imagination. His involvement in the support child development has made Ian active in many initiatives allowing children to play, learn, exercise, meet, and relax outdoors.

He was involved in the development of many natural school playgrounds in Rotterdam. In 2014 Ian developed the current concept of green-blue schoolyards in Rotterdam, which evolves every year and is strengthened and expanded with an entire program team and experts within the network. As a youth health worker, Ian discovered the importance of space as an essential part for both children and parents to grow up in more urbanized cities. Both physical and mental space is needed to develop more freely and to enable a sustainable future.

In the green-blue schoolyards, children and the neighborhood find themselves in an environment that is beneficial for climate and biodiversity. In this way the participants can explore their environment more consciously and develop positive attitudes and behaviors towards climate and biodiversity.

The Annual Summer Institute on Early Childhood Development is presented by: