In conversation with:
Davia Brown Franklyn, GSE ’97
Senior Director of Partnerships, Bank Street Education Center
Tarima Levine, GSE ’01
Senior Director of Content and Strategic Design, Bank Street Education Center; Student, Early Childhood Leadership Advanced Certificate Program, Bank Street Graduate School of Education
What is the Bank Street Education Center and what are your roles?
The Bank Street Education Center is a division at Bank Street College of Education that partners with schools, school systems, higher education organizations, and communities to disrupt inequity through system-level change that helps design and provide better educational experiences for both children and adults.
We help lead the School Systems Partnerships & Programs team, whose work is grounded in Bank Street’s commitment to strengths-based, learner-centered, and equitable educational practices. Working together with school district partners, we create customized professional development strategies that support system-wide change at every layer of the system—from the district office to the school leader and the classroom teacher.
We love that the Education Center is part of a long Bank Street history of toggling between learning opportunities inside the institution and outside the institution (for example, The Long Trip, Continuing Professional Studies, Family Center Playgroups). Bank Street has always done work in partnership with communities, and the Education Center continues that tradition.
What makes collaborating together special?
It’s both our process and our experiences. We each bring different strengths to our project work. We always want to be as thoughtful and intentional as possible when we design arcs of learning for participants. We are both committed to really customizing the learning to each district. But, we often have different ideas or perspectives. One of us loves to think about the content, resources, and design—and to imagine how the learning will be threaded together. The other starts by thinking about how the participants will feel about the learning experience and how they will implement what we are sharing with them. To build a meaningful district partnership, they need us to provide both content and execution in equal parts. So, we are able to push each other to get to the best possible thinking. Oh, and we also have very different temperaments! In the end, there is always lots of laughing.
What’s a recent project you worked on together?
We’ve had the opportunity to design and co-facilitate professional learning in lots of different spaces around the country and even outside of the country. Recently, we were invited to do a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) featured session in Los Angeles to talk about Bank Street’s approach. We’ve also partnered with school districts across the country, worked in the Middle East, and were invited to the LEGO Idea Conference in Denmark in 2019.
Oh, the LEGO Conference! We loved sharing Bank Street’s developmental-interaction approach with people from around the world. It was very powerful. We spent several days in the community learning with and from people who understand the value and importance of play for children. It really affirmed the early childhood work we’re doing at the Education Center, and it also helped us to think about what play looks like in another cultural context.
At that conference, we led an activity where every participant designed a quilt square that represented their identity. Then, we put them together into a beautiful tapestry that was hung up for the rest of the conference. It was the most amazing professional learning experience we’ve ever had. We look forward to continuing our work together to design better educational experiences for both children and adults—wherever that may take us in 2022 and beyond.