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UT’s Early Learning Center will host the second annual Early Learning Institute on Friday and Saturday, June 3–4. This year’s theme is “Natural Learning Communities: Encountering the Richness.”

The two-day event will feature keynote speaker Lilian Katz, professor emerita of elementary and early childhood education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years.

Lilian Katz
Early childhood education expert Lilian Katz will be the keynote speaker at the 2016 Early Learning Institute.

Katz is responsible for more than a hundred publications including articles, chapters, and books about early childhood education, teacher education, child development and parenting. For 13 years she wrote a monthly column for parents of three- and four-year-olds for Parents magazine. She was founding editor of the Early Childhood Research Quarterly and served as editor in chief during its first six years.

Katz now serves as the co-director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a past president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the first president of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children.

Additional speakers for the event include teachers from UT’s Early Learning Center. Workshop topics include language, art, outdoor exploration, and a new approach to observing children.

“We are thrilled to be hosting the second Early Learning Institute to share our continuing journey with providing more nature-rich experiences for children,” said Robyn Brookshire, director of the center. “We are looking forward to collaborating with colleagues who also share a commitment to innovative nature-based curriculum.”

The Early Learning Institute aims to be a unique intimate professional development opportunity for those invested in early education. The goal of the program is for educators to leave feeling inspired, motivated, and challenged by the presentations and natural learning initiatives.

Most events will take place at the L&N STEM Academy in downtown Knoxville. Other activities and tours will take place on the center’s main campus.

Registration fees are $150 for both days or $80 for a single day and include programming, lunch, and a yoga session. Tickets for the keynote session are $20.



Dani Rose Thibus (865-974-0843,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,