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Erikson’s International Initiative visits China with Chicago host site partners

Since 2015, Erikson’s International Initiative has led 16 cohorts of international early childhood educators to visit Erikson and other early childhood sites in Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. Participants visit various high-quality programs while engaging in discussions and reflecting on theories and practices of early childhood education. Last month, the Chicago host sites received their own opportunity to gain experience of early childhood programs abroad, as International Initiative Director Yinna Zhang, PhD ’15, traveled with 13 early childhood professionals to China. This trip was organized to thank the Chicago hosting sites so that the host educators could, in turn, learn from educational experiences abroad.

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During the 12-day trip, the group engaged in cultural activities and visited seven preschools and four museums in Beijing, Shanghai, Anji, and Hangzhou. The group also attended the International Conference on Preschool Education Quality, hosted by the Department of Preschool Education and Faculty of Education at East China Normal University. The conference centered on tools and measures of quality evaluation, and the group shared their perspectives about assessing and improving program quality in early childhood programs. The conference was attended by 600 participants.

Among the 13 early childhood professionals traveling with Dr. Zhang were alumnae Margaret Desmond, MEd ’93, Jean Robbins, PhD ’11, and Alix Tonsgard, MS ’13. Dr. Robbins, who is the Early Childhood Division Head at The Catherine Cook School, described the trip as “once in a lifetime,” filled with “an incredibly rich array of experiences and conversations.” Dr. Robbins praised Erikson for cultivating relationships between American and Chinese early childhood professionals. She described, “Hosting visitors in our program over the past two years launched some really important conversations on our faculty about why we do what we do…Getting outside of my cozy cultural cocoon has allowed me to see some of my own unconscious assumptions about children’s compliance, our expectations about the level of skill possible, and manageable class sizes—and these are invaluable questions to explore with our teachers.”

Desmond expressed, “Traveling to China and having the opportunity to exchange ideas on our respective approaches and philosophies about early childhood education with Chinese educators was an amazing experience.” True to Erikson’s commitment to reflection and relationship building, she further remarked, “It was enriching to be able to reflect together with my American colleagues. I am so looking forward to continuing the dialogue with our Chinese counterparts!”

Dr. Zhang expresses gratitude to the hosting sites in China, as well as to the teachers, staff, children, and families from hosting sites in Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.

Along with our Erikson alumnae, early childhood professionals from the following programs attended this trip:

Barbara Vick Early Childhood & Family Center and Barbara Vick Village
Bernice E Lavin Early Childhood Education Center – Bright Horizons
Catherine Cook School
Chicago Children’s Museum
DuPage Children’s Museum
Educare West DuPage
Forest Play School
Kohl Children’ s Museum
University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
Velma Thomas Early Childhood Center

To learn more about the International Initiative, click here.

The Erikson Institute International Exchange Fellow Program

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