How DEI Activities Support Our Youngest Wolverines

Step into one of the U-M Children’s Centers and you’ll notice a lot of pictures.

Using pictures alongside signs and instructions helps children’s minds develop. But there’s something more at work: an intentional commitment to inclusion for our youngest community members and their families.

University Human Resources operates the three U-M Children’s Centers. Together, the North Campus Children’s Center, Towsley Children’s House and Health System Children’s Center serve more than 475 children under age five. Their families speak more than 40 languages at home. While parents are at work on campus or in the hospital, the centers provide a safe, secure, welcoming environment for children.

Enhancing Communication With Signs and Pictures

At the children’s centers, you’ll see pictures of the children’s daily routines and positive actions like cleaning up after lunch. In the infant classrooms, babies learn simple hand signs like “eat,” “more,” and “all done” to help them communicate with their caregivers. The centers choose toys, books and pictures that show all types of people and families.

Research has shown that using pictures and teaching sign language helps kids’ verbal, cognitive and emotional development. But these tools can also help teachers connect with children and families who aren’t native English speakers, or who have special needs like autism or hearing impairment.

Strengthening DEI in the Early Childhood Profession

Under the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, the Children’s Centers have also expanded their focus on DEI beyond their teaching practices. These efforts include:

  • Staff training on Unconscious Bias and Bystander Intervention
  • Expanded recruitment strategies to diversify staff hiring
  • Studying anti-bias curriculum for early childhood
  • Ensuring that all facilities and playgrounds are accessible

During a recent in-service, one of the few times a year that the centers close, the 120 teachers and staff participated in training and other exercises specifically focused on DEI topics.

“The families enrolled at our centers come from all around the world,” says Jennie McAlpine, senior director of Work-Life Programs in UHR. “Our teachers and staff need to be engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion learning so that we can provide the best care possible to our families, including the young children who will someday be the leaders and best in their own way.”

Creating a Welcoming Environment for U-M Families

Our colleagues at the Children’s Centers provide exemplary early childhood education that allows many faculty, students and staff to contribute to the U-M community. To learn more, read the Children’s Centers Impact Report.

Looking for child care resources for your own family? Learn more about the Children’s Centers, other local options, backup child care and more by visiting Child Care Resources.