By Sherron Lumley
“Reflecting on Anti-Bias Education in Action: The Early Years,” is one of four films nominated for a Northwest Regional Emmy® in the new category of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – long form content. This groundbreaking film is co-produced by early childhood education consultant Debbie LeeKeenan and Dr. John Nimmo, an associate professor at Portland State University’s College of Education. It is directed by award-winning Turkish-American filmmaker Filiz Efe McKinney, founder of Brave Sprout Productions.
Incredibly heartwarming, the 48-minute film features three-and four-year old children learning about intersections of identity with their teachers in the pre-kindergarten classroom. Then, the educators reflect on important questions in vignettes, such as “What kind of human do you want to be?”
The questions posed in the trailer for the film provide framework for anti-bias strategies for early childhood educators, but it may well be the children they teach who steal the show with their unintentional inner wisdom. Filming was completed prior to and during the pandemic in Seattle and San Francisco classrooms. In addition to the trailer, the full film is available on the website to view (https://www.antibiasleadersece.com/) with a free viewer guidebook, soon to be available in Spanish as well.
“Making the world a joyous place for all children goes hand-in-hand with anti-bias work,” says one educator. The film presents anti-bias education goals and strategies to support children in a highly diverse yet still inequitable world. Educators featured in the film include Joyce Jackson, Veronica Reynoso, Karla Y. Gomez, Nadia Jaboneta, Claudia Garcia, Brian Silveira, Maddie Piper, and Tsz Ting Chow.
“We stand committed to nurture a more diverse and inclusive generation of young children who thrive through their experience of equitable learning opportunities in early learning programs,” explain LeeKeenan, Nimmo and Louise Derman-Sparks, who is the film’s senior advisor. The emphasis on initiating and sustaining anti-bias education in programs for young children and their families is based on theory and research from the 2015 book by Derman-Sparks, Nimmo, and LeeKeenan, Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change (Teachers College Press).
“It is an unexpected honor for us to be nominated for this new and important category,” says Dr. Nimmo, co-coordinator of the Early Childhood Education programs at Portland State University. “For us, this is all about bringing this film to a wider audience, especially at times when educators are under attack for even daring to talk about bias and identity.”
The team hopes this nomination leads to support of its next dream project, exploring how families encounter and engage with anti-bias education during the early childhood years. Momentum is growing. “We continue to be amazed by how the film has had such a wide reach,” Nimmo adds.
“Some 200 script writers for the Sesame Street show at PBS recently viewed the film to provide grounding in anti-bias education as they work on scripts for the popular children’s show,” notes co-producer Debbie LeeKeenan. An early childhood education consultant, Sesame Street engaged her as part of their script review process and their writers watched the film as part of their DEI process. On another occasion, a senior news producer for HBO who had seen the film reached out for an expert opinion. Indeed, Nimmo, McKinney and LeeKeenan are competing for the DEI award with television stations and networks.
“I’m definitely planning to attend the award ceremony,” says McKinney, and Nimmo concurs he will attend, too. It will be held in Seattle on June 4, 2022. Here’s the link to the full list of Northwest Regional Emmy® Award Nominees.
The film was made possible by a grant from the Tyler Rigg Foundation and the support of Portland State University.