September 13-18, 2021

A virtual symposium on the creation of quality spaces for our youngest children in the era of COVID-19, an economic recession, a national election, and #BlackLivesMatter Up to 9 AIA and STARS learning units available. Add your member number when you register!

Over four segments, this year’s Day of Dialogue will provide a forum for leading-edge thinking around the design of spaces for early learning, with a focus on the impact these spaces have on the child, educator, family and community. Where do our youngest children spend their days, and how can these spaces designed to foster children’s learning, health, social interaction and happiness? How can kids’ and families’ early learning experiences be made more equitable and inclusive? How can we include delight, wonder, play, and access to the natural world in every space designed for young children?


The symposium seeks to:

· Cultivate relationships between design professionals and early childhood education professionals, with an eye toward closing the distance between design thinking and pedagogy.

· Use design to foster increased inclusion and resilience in our facilities


Presentations and discussions will allow attendees to examine new ideas and perhaps even challenge long-held beliefs. Short videos will provide a brief break mid-session, and highlight some of the region’s exemplary programs and spaces. A post-symposium program will create and fund partnerships between design professionals and early learning practitioners to foster continued cross-field dialogue.


Participation will benefit those working in the following areas: early learning program design and administration, child development, public policy, social services, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture.


Outcomes/Learning Goals include:

· Recognition of the importance of healthy spaces for children, educators and families

· Engagement with appropriate materials and effective uses of space for early learning

· Review of child development as it relates to facility design

· Increased design responsiveness to identity, equity and cultural context

· Development of interdisciplinary connections and partnerships between educators and design professionals


Schedule and Themes:

Monday, September 13, 2021 8-10 AM Design Thinking: Common Language

We will ground the symposium in thoughts about how intention, planning and design thinking can benefit all users of a space, and how kids, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and the community will do better if the spaces they all use are well-designed. We introduce the link we want to foster between professionals in early learning and architecture; invite Diane and Alissa to discuss the origins of this idea; and talk with the panel about fostering empathy, flexibility, and impact through design. Finally we preview the last session, which will focus on including kids in the design process and creating a common language for collaboration.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 8-10 AM Design Lens: Welcoming ALL Kids and Families

Inclusion has many facets in early learning, both explicit and implicit. As with many aspects of our daily lives, early learning spaces need to sharpen their focus on welcoming all children and their families, and on the process by which all voices are heard. And at a larger scale, we must ensure that ALL families – and all members of those families – have access to excellent resources during early childhood. We will consider the role of practitioners, administrators, parents and designers in the development of environments that allow for equitable participation by members of diverse communities.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 4-6 PM Design Lens: Resilient People, Places and Programs

Resilience is important at all scales. Facilities and programs must be designed to ensure that their facilities, operations and financial models are resilient and sustainable. Resilience must also be cultivated in individuals, in families and in classrooms. This past year has highlighted our ability (or lack thereof) to pivot, to be nimble, to cultivate agility. What does it mean to design for resilience? What do spaces for young children look like when they are created with agility and flexibility in mind? What factors test our resilience, and how can we support each other as we prepare for the next challenges?


Saturday, September 18, 2021, 10 AM-noon Design Partnerships

As we prepare to connect designers and early learning professionals, we will turn our attention to partnerships. We will consider partnerships that include the adults who lead and manage learning environments, as well as designers, builders, agencies, foundations, cities, counties, state governments, and of course the children themselves. We will touch on the process of building partnerships, engaging design teams, and infusing everything you do with your mission, vision, values and core purpose in mind.

Event Sponsors:

  • DLR Group
  • Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
  • Multicultural Child and Family Hope Center
  • Bamford Foundation
  • AIA Seattle – Committee on Architecture for Education
  • Natural Pod – Learning Furniture


  • Alissa Rupp, FAIA, FRAME | Integrative Design Strategies
  • Diane Kroll, Imag(e)ine