ACCESS day keynote at PDI

Ben Mardell

We had a full day on Monday starting with a lovely breakfast and then our keynote address by Ben Mardell,: Creating and assessing powerful experiences in early childhood classrooms

Ben Mardell is an associate professor in early childhood education at Lesley University and a researcher on the Making Learning Visible Project at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. For the past 25 years, Ben has taught and conducted research with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners.  He is the author of From Basketball to the Beatles: In Search of Compelling Early Childhood Curriculum and Growing Up in Child Care: A Case For Quality Early Education and a co-author of Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners and Making Teaching Visible: Documentation of Individual and Group Learning as Professional Development. Recently, Ben has begun competing in sprint triathlons.

Ben had met with Debra Murphy, ACCESS VP of Professional Development, earlier this year to plan the presentation. There is so much we can learn from him that it was difficult to choose what to focus on! I really appreciate the thought that went into the presentation. Debra took extensive notes during the session, especially as folks were reflecting on what he was saying, so we will share those detailed reflections at a later date. The big ideas pulled directly from his handout include:

Four Elements of Powerful Learning Experiences

  1. Children and adults learning from and with each other in order to deepen learning
  2. Ongoing documentation in order to shape and extend learning
  3. A focus on generative ideas that are central to one or more domains of knowledge
  4. A rich environment that promotes inquiry and high-quality work

I just want to say that I truly enjoyed his talk, his encouragement in terms of helping us to find ways of making our students’ learning more visible, and his generosity in sharing the work that he has done within early childhood settings in Providence – please see the “Places to Play in Providence” document, you will be glad you did!

Places to Play in Providence

For the project, children from early childhood settings in town worked to think about and document places to play in Providence. With the help of their early childhood teachers, the children created a book to give to the “thousands” of teachers who were coming here to Providence to spend time in their town for the conference. It has been wonderful to read through their book, and think about the kind of learning process a project  like this reflects. Participants of Ben’s ACCESS talk were then delighted to look at additional drawings that children had done and send each child a personal post card thanking him or her for sending their drawings to the teachers at the conference.

Writing post cards to thank young children for their drawings











We had a very special treat in the afternoon when a couple of groups of children actually visited the conference center and came to our session to see some of the “thousands” of teachers who came to their town. It was a wonderful start to a very rich day of sessions!

a boy and his teacher talk about his drawing with Nancy Gabriel, VP of State Affiliates



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