What’s Happening in the Classroom? Early Childhood Educators and Implicit Bias

Early Risers

Dec 1 2021 • 36 mins

About a quarter of all children in the United States younger than five years old attend some kind of formalized childcare. Early childhood programs can be a great way for children to start learning about the world, including how to build relationships with other children and adults. But part of this learning also involves absorbing the implicit biases in their environment, including unconscious assumptions about race.

However, Sheila Williams Ridge, co-director of the University of Minnesota’s Child Development Laboratory School and expert on nature–based learning, says these assumptions can be challenged when teachers are trained to recognize their own implicit biases. On this episode of Early Risers, host Dianne Haulcy speaks with Williams Ridge about how she’s training a new generation of early childhood educators to recognize their own implicit biases—and how teachers and parents can respond when racialized incidents happen in the classroom.

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Episode Resources:

Sheila Williams Ridge is co-author of “Nature-Based Learning for Young Children: Anytime, Anywhere, on Any Budget.” Her book includes play–based lesson plans and experiential activities that early childhood educators can use in a variety of settings.

In this episode, Williams Ridge shares several book titles and videos she uses to introduce early childhood teachers to concepts around implicit bias, anti-racism and equity. They include:

“Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom,” by Lisa Delpit

“What if All the Kids are White: Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families,” by Louise Derman Sparks and Patricia Ramsey

“White Teacher,” by Vivian Paley

“We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom,” by Bettina Love

Introduction to implicit bias from UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Our Hidden Biases,” from Project ABC, an Early Childhood System of Care Community

Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism,” from The New York Times and POV

Williams Ridge also recommends taking the Harvard Implicit Association Test, which includes a variety of free online assessments to get insight about your own implicit biases.

Recommended resources about racism in the early childhood classroom from the Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Resource Library at Think Small