Director’s Column: The Bing Institute Launched
By Jennifer Winters, Director
In July, Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School launched its Bing Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood Education. The mission of the institute is to share Bing’s philosophy, knowledge and experience with early childhood educators and professionals from across the country and around the world, and to address important issues in the education of young children.
In its 44 years, Bing has become a recognized leader in early childhood education, enabling significant research in the field and improving the lives of thousands of children and families. Every year, educators, researchers, government officials and dignitaries from around the world travel to Bing for tours and presentations. Leland and Jane Stanford founded the university to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” In this founding spirit of social responsibility, the Bing Institute strengthens our commitment to sharing the work we do at Bing and extends our influence in the field of early childhood education.
From the beginning, Bing has had a three-fold mission: first, as a model for best practice in the field of early childhood with its play-based, child-centered programs for young children; second, as a laboratory for cutting-edge research in Stanford’s psychology department as well as linguistics and education; and finally, as a teaching ground for Stanford undergraduates, where courses are offered each quarter in psychology and human biology. Now, Bing adds a fourth mission. The creation of the Bing Institute allows us to take the next steps in extending our own knowledge and in sharing that knowledge in a much richer and more in-depth experience with early childhood professionals from around the world. By better examining and deepening our own understanding of how children learn, we can enrich our practice as well as share what we know with others.
This summer’s inaugural program included two week-long sessions, titled Developing Reflective Practice—Exploring Essential Elements of Quality Early Childhood Education. The 45 participants were immersed in an intensive experience that included observations, presentations and discussions designed to examine the philosophy, programs and practices that shape the educational model at Bing. Both sessions were filled with early childhood professionals from around the world.
The institute is housed in the beautifully restored Tower House, adjacent to Bing. The Tower House is the oldest building on the university campus and had remained unused since being severely damaged in the 1989 earthquake. Through the generosity and involvement of Helen and Peter Bing and John and Gioia Arrillaga and their family, the Tower House was meticulously restored to enable the expanding educational programs at Bing. The Tower House was originally part of the Peter Coutts farm, which Coutts sold to Leland Stanford for the university in 1882. Before the farm was sold, the building was used as a schoolhouse for the children of Peter Coutts’ farm workers. In a June 2009 ceremony, Dean Richard Saller, PhD, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, honored the Bing and Arrillaga families with the dedication of the newly restored Tower House. It is only fitting that less than one year after its dedication, the Tower House is, once again, being used in the service of education.
The Tower House is also the site of undergraduate classes taught by the Bing staff, including Psychology 60A, a guided observation section for Introduction to Developmental Psychology; Psychology 146, Observation of Children; Psychology 147, Development of Early Childhood; and Human Biology 3Y, Practicum in Child Development.
Participants in this summer’s inaugural programs included the director and assistant director of a nursery school in Hong Kong, a founder and director of over 150 nursery schools in India, educators from Madrid and Milan, and a teacher from the ministry of education in Israel. Attendees also included educators and directors from New York, Oregon, and California (with San Francisco, Shasta, San Juan Capistrano, as well as Stanford, Palo Alto and the surrounding communities represented), making for a diverse group and an enriching experience.
I look to build upon this successful launch of the Bing Institute. There is a tremendous amount of early childhood knowledge, wisdom and experience that resides within our staff, and I look forward to finding new ways to share this with professionals in the field as well as with the parents and families in the Bing community. I’m exploring the option of offering shorter programs throughout the year, for example, a single day or a weekend for educators as well as seminars and/or presentations for the parents and families of Bing children.
I’m very proud of the members of Bing’s staff for their teamwork and dedication in coming together and creating such a comprehensive inaugural program for the Bing Institute. What our Bing teachers and staff have accomplished in such a short period of time is a real testament to their professionalism and their dedication to the field of early childhood. It is also extremely rewarding to see how we’ve been able to reflect upon and enrich our own practice, as well as seeing the positive reactions to what we’ve shared with others in these first sessions at the institute. We have an excellent foundation upon which to expand and we look forward to the many opportunities ahead.
Excerpts of comments from Bing Institute participants:
This week with the Institute has been the finest pause—to learn, to think, to make new friends, to be challenged, to be inspired, and to be treated as an honored guest.
This has been the highlight of my professional life. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your talents.
Thank you and good luck in helping to bring quality education to the next generations!!
It was all so inspiring to take in. The group learning experience and the rich discussions were so beneficial for my self-reflection.
I have found the Bing Institute very nurturing and inspiring. All the presenters have shown their professionalism and knowledge.
This has been a powerful experience for me, coming at the perfect time in my life and career. I feel grateful for the care and time that was put into making this the best possible experience for us… You have created for us the kind of valuable experience that you create every day for the children. Thank you for treating me as an honored guest!
Thank you! The Institute was well and efficiently presented. Staff were warm, thoughtful, and astonishingly responsive to individual needs, requests, and feedback. The experience of observing in the classrooms and seeing the set-ups was great. It’s rare to still feel as enthusiastic at the end as at the start—great work.
Huge learning. The challenge is to implement all of this back home. But we will still try to bring some changes.
The whole experience was fantastic! I appreciated the thought you put into planning and carrying out each day. There was great variety of material covered. I learned a lot that I will bring to my practice.
I think the biggest surprise was the quality of the presentation and presenters. Each one used their gift. It was done in a comfortable environment where there were good discussions, laughter, hands-on experiences, time for creativity. You made us feel welcome—in a special way.