Excellent resources for promoting inclusive practices

The following resources are helpful for early-childhood education teacher training. They can be used to stimulate discussion and critical thinking and some contain practical examples for classroom use:

Anti-bias education sparksAnti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves

by Louise Derman Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards

This is a fundamental “textbook” in diversity awareness for early childhood education.  It can be purchased from the NAEYC website, and you can also download the first chapter for free at this link.





kids like us whitney

Kids like Us

by Trisha Whitney

This book introduces the “persona doll method” – an excellent tool for stimulating discussion in the classroom about issues such as stereotyping, exclusion, diversity etc.  The teacher creates a realistic biography for a special handmade doll that is not used as a typical toy – but rather is introduced into the classroom as a friend and brought into special circle discussions by the teacher on a regular basis. Care is taken to include different aspects of diversity relevant to the children in the group when formulating the biography. The book gives hundreds of practical examples, directly from the classroom, of facilitating children to identify emotions, solve problems and increase empathy.  The book can be bought online at Amazon.  You can also learn more about this method, and order dolls from the Persona Dolls Training website.  They also have a rich resource section, with many useful books and DVDs. In particular, the DVD “Storytelling to make a Difference”  shows many examples of utilizing the persona doll method in the classroom, with feedback from the teachers as well.

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Index for Inclusion

by Tony Booth and Mel Ainscow

The Index for Inclusion by Tony Booth and Mel Ainsow is concerned with promoting values-led development for schools, kindergarten and other educational settings. It sees inclusion broadly as concerned with putting inclusive values into action and through its 70 indicators and 2,000 questions relates its values framework to the fine detail of settings and the activities within them. The most recent edition has been written by Tony Booth and can be obtained by writing to him at More information is available from the Index for Inclusion Network at 

This comprehensive resource offers an important tool for critical reflection to school communities that are seeking to improve their inclusiveness.  It offers guidance in developing an inclusive school development plan,  and offers a list of indicators that help to paint a clear picture of what an optimally inclusive environment would look like. It is designed to stimulate discussion between stakeholders rather than as a checklist.

Recent movements, such as “Gross National Happiness”, or the “Happy Planet Index” have shown the importance of “measuring what matters.”  The process of doing so, helps us to define more clearly the future we are seeking to create.  Clear goals and clear vision lead to better outcomes.

Ted Talk: The Happy Planet Index

Nik Marks

This Ted Talk, by Nic Marks further elaborates on the importance of having positive visions of change – with very interesting implications for the ecological movement as well. He begins his talk by saying that Martin Luther King, when inspiring the civil rights movement, did not start out his famous speech with “I have a nightmare” but rather with “I have a dream.”


Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 01.10.16More and more people are becoming aware of the need to emphasize well-being in early childhood education, rather than only looking at standard cognitive developmental benchmarks. This organization “Learning for Well-Being” shares  many Neohumanist values.

“A Class Divided”

Jane Elliot

The following video, “A Class Divided” is a documentary about a controversial experiment that a 2nd grade teacher, Jane Elliot,  did in 1968, immediately after the shooting of Martin Luther King, in order to sensitize her students to racism by creating an experience of discrimination. The students were interviewed many years later as adults, and all of them felt it was an important life-changing experience that they wish more children could have so that they could learn to empathize with people that experience discrimination.

Videos by Proinfirmis

The Swiss organization, Proinfirmis, has produced several touching videos designed to help shift the way people view those with disabilities:



Embracing diversity – key for a compassionate future

The following article is based on a talk given by Didi Devapriya Deshaies (president of AEN) during the panel discussion: “How can we transform our educational system to help construct a compassionate and more livable future?”  July 11th, AB Tech Campus, Asheville, NC:
Since last year, I have been part of a project in Bucharest to train 100 kindergarten teachers in the “We all Have a Story Project”, which was designed to awaken positive attitudes towards diversity in both teachers and kindergarten children. The project is financed by the EEA Grants in the “NGO Fund” program and is  is a partnership between the Centre for Partnership and Equality (CPE), AMURTEL Romania and Romano Butiq.

exclusionDuring one of the training sessions, we led a simple exercise. The teachers gathered in a circle, and while their eyes were closed, we placed colored post-it notes on their heads. Most received yellow post-it notes while just a few of them received green ones. When they opened their eyes, they could see the post-it notes on the heads of the others, but they could not see their own. At first they just walked through the room, greeting each other and giggling at the oddness of having something stuck to their head. However, we then told them to avoid those wearing green postit notes as they were not their friends. The change in the atmosphere of the room was palpable and a certain tension began rising. As everyone began to ignore and exclude those with green, the giggling took on a nervous quality, as nobody was really sure what color they themselves had. Eye contact became insecure, and the question “are the others excluding me?” was hanging in the air. Read More

Friendship – the key to overcoming prejudices

by Didi A.Devapriya

Virginia Blackburn was a powerful and beautiful black African American woman working as a social worker at a women’s centre in a poor inner-city neighbourhood in the Midwest.  She was a close  friend and  wise mentor for me in my early twenties. She invited me to different workshops on themes such as overcoming racism, classism, sexism and other types of isms.  I was shocked to discover how these barriers had limited my ability to feel close and connected to others. I considered myself a liberal, open minded person. I had grown up in a multi-ethnic highschool and most of my best friends were non-whites – Korean, Chinese, Indian. I had even gone to a formal dance with a black friend as my date, and had to cringingly endure the loud and embarrassing comments of my somewhat deaf French-Canadian grandfather like  “ Oh he is good looking for a black guy!”  I was a good person and I was dedicated to principles of equality for all.  I certainly didn’t see myself as a racist and would never consciously participate in hurting anyone because of their identity. And yet, in the workshops I discovered the extent to which I had still internalised racism and other isms.

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Strategies for teaching ethics in action

Denise Deshaies and Iulia Halangescu presented strategies of conflict resolution as applied within Neohumanist education in order to build children’s abilities in problem solving and self-regulation from an early age at the a National Conference on School Mediation. The conference was  held at the Faculty of International Economic Relations through its Master program of Integration and European Business together with the Faculty of Juridical Science and Administration through its Master program in Mediation. The event was held at the Cristian University “Dimitrie Cantemir” on April 4, and an article published both in the magazine “Dezbateri Social Economice” as well as online:

National Debate on Stress in Childhood, held in Bucharest

On September 27th, the president of AEN, Didi Denise Deshaies participated in a national debate on stress in childhood, held in Bucharest at the National Pedagogical Library. The conference was organized by F.I.C.E. (International Foundation of Educational Communities), and offered an excellent opportunity for psychologists, social workers and educators to exchange their ideas on the causes and effects of increased stress in childhood in Romania. Didi presented the practical approach of Neohumanist education to teaching skills in self-regulation of stress from an early age to preschool children, as applied in the Gradinita Rasarit kindergartens in Bucharest.
Romanian article on the conference