The legacy of Carolyn Edwards



The legacy of Carolyn Edwards

08 Jun 2018    By Katie Ballue

Carolyn Pope Edwards, Ed. D., passed away on May 31st. Edwards was passionate about learning, exploring innovation, and collaboration. She leaves behind a legacy of ardent creative learning with the colleagues and students whose lives she touched, on the field of early childhood education, and with the Department of Child, Youth, and Family Studies. 

Carolyn Edwards presenting in China

Carolyn Pope Edwards had a view of child development that was a unique blend of understanding of the nature of children and their curiosity and understanding the role and importance of children’s environments as rich opportunities for free exploration, creativity, and learning. Watching Carolyn interact with teachers around possibilities for children’s learning, and listening to her explanations of what she was observing allowed each of us to broaden our thinking about developmental processes.

Through Carolyn’s initiatives and writings, we learned about the Reggio Emilia approach to early education, Francis and David Hawkins’ “Messing About” approach to learning through exploration, and the importance of activities in nature outside the classroom environment for children’s learning. 

Carolyn’s respect for the important roles played by children, parents, and teachers in early childhood education helped further and enrich understandings by researchers and scholars about the challenges and successes present in classrooms and schools. Carolyn will be greatly missed and her many contributions to early childhood education will be lasting sources of knowledge, inspiration, and perspective.

-Dr. Tori Molfese

Edward’s book, The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education (co-written with Lella Gandini and George Forman), was ground-breaking. The book has been distributed around the world and translated into many languages, and Edwards had the pleasure of traveling and presenting around the world. The book has become an important reference in the field of early childhood education and is a physical representation of the passion that Edwards had for innovation in teaching and learning.

Carolyn Edwards book signing

During a visit to a preschool with students on an earlier study tour to China, one of the Chinese teachers mentioned Hundred Languages of Children. I was pleasantly surprised that she read the book and told her we were from the department where Dr. Carolyn Edwards was a professor. The teacher’s eyes went big. We received royal treatment.

-Dr. Yan Ruth Xia

Edwards' research took her all over the world, from Italy, to China, to Colorado and back. She had the unique ability to cross disciplines and collaborate on all levels. 

I had the good fortune to have the colleagueship, mentorship, and friendship of Carolyn for more than a decade. What a gift it was and still is. Carolyn was a psychologist. I am a teacher educator. She focused on learning while I focused on teaching. We were a perfect match. We ended up doing work together in math education that neither of us could have done alone. We shared a common interest in many authors but when I think about what I most appreciate about what I learned from Carolyn, a book we both loved by Pat Carini, From Another Angle, comes to mind. The book focuses on processes for documenting and understanding children as thinkers and learners from multiple perspectives. Carolyn helped me over and over, year after year, learn to see from another angle. With her keen insight, penetrating questions, sharp wit, and graceful spirit, she enriched the angles from which I have learned to see children, learning, teachers, teaching, people around me, the world, and myself. In fact, I was able to work so long and so intensely with Carolyn, that many of her habits of looking, seeing, knowing, and wondering have become my habits. It’s a gift I carry with me every day. For that I will be forever grateful.

-Dr. Ruth Heaton

Edwards on Italy Study Tour

Edwards was an integral piece of the collaborative, innovative, friendly atmosphere that has been carefully cultivated in the department, and her absence will be felt, even as her legacy lives on.

As a mentor, Carolyn showed much humility and humanity. She was one of my grad advisors and from the outset, she treated me and others as peers -- engaging us as equals, showing both nurturance and firmness. It was not uncommon to see Carolyn, literally side-by-side with students in front of a computer. Years later, I came back to UNL to be a faculty member and prior to my first day she said to me "remember, you are my peer now -- none of this Dr. Edwards business..."  She was such a kind and humble person. I miss her.

-Dr. Maria de Guzman

Carolyn Edwards transformed the way people think about early care and education in the U.S. and around the world. Carolyn’s work helped early educators, parents, and other professionals understand how children represent their learning, how to make children’s learning visible, how support children’s learning and development in supportive and authentic ways, and how to do all of this within a community of mutually respectful relationships. I remember Carolyn describing children’s rights, and particularly a conversation about how children have a right to beautiful environments. That conversation was transformative for me, because I had implicitly thought about beauty as more of a luxury than a necessity, but Carolyn helped me to understand how creating beautiful environments for children communicates care and respect for them. Carolyn was a giant in the field, but forever humble.

 Carolyn was a sage scholar, but she was also a person who connected with children. The first day I met her I had my 4-year-old daughter with me. I left the room to make some copies for Carolyn, and when I came back she was sitting on the floor in her beautiful purple wool skirt, playing with my daughter. For Carolyn, the children were usually the most interesting people in the room.

-Dr. Julia Torquati

A memorial will take place tomorrow, June 9th, 2018 at 11:00am at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln.


Child, Youth and Family Studies