Ohio Humanities Council awards $16,000 for school-community workshop

June 20, 2013 | Events, UToday, — Education, Health Science and Human Service
By Staff

Twenty-five area teachers and teacher educators will receive full or half scholarships to learn about how to reach their students by experiencing the communities that are important to them.

The workshop, “From Kuschwantz to Kwanzaa Park: Everyday Humanities in Urban Neighborhoods as a Basis for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” will be held from Monday through Friday, July 22-26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ohio Humanities CouncilIt will bring together teachers, neighborhood religious and cultural leaders, and humanities scholars to learn garden lore, religious traditions, food, verbal arts and music as practiced in an urban neighborhood — and to use these as the basis for lessons throughout the curriculum.

There are still a few scholarships for teachers to attend the workshop thanks to the Ohio Humanities Council and the UT College of Graduate Studies. Interested teachers should contact Dr. Lynne Hamer at 419.283.8288 or lynne.hamer@utoledo.edu.

“All urban neighborhoods are full of the ‘humanities of everyday life,’ and teachers can use these cultural treasures to create culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy for teaching all subjects to neighborhood children,” said Hamer, UT associate professor of foundations of education in the Judith Herb College of Education and lead teacher for the workshop.

Sally Castillo, who teaches fourth grade at Old Orchard Elementary School and is an intern consultant for new teachers in Toledo Public Schools, is participating in the workshop along with several of the teachers she mentors.

“I am finding a larger disconnect than ever before between myself and the young students in Toledo Public Schools,” Castillo said. “I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the urban neighborhoods in Toledo. It is clear that though I was born and raised in Toledo, there are many places and things that I am unfamiliar with.”

Castillo’s situation as a teacher is the new normal.

“Most teachers don’t teach in their own communities like they did prior to World War II,” Hamer said. “It is well-researched that teachers’ lack of familiarity with families and community leaders is detrimental to students’ success in school — especially in urban schools. It’s not the teachers’ fault; it’s just the historic situation we are in. We need to help teachers learn to get familiar.”

The workshop, which will meet in the Padua Center, 1416 Nebraska Ave., will include daily field trips to different sites within the Kwanzaa Park neighborhood of Toledo. There, teachers will interact with community leaders and parents before returning to the center to create ways to teach all subjects, including science and math, based in the cultural content they experience.

“Today we can have a better understanding of each other, and we have to understand each other’s cultures and religious beliefs,” said Oscar Shaheer, president of Kwanzaa Park Neighbors, the community organization hosting the workshop intended to increase that understanding.

Joe Martin, longtime member of Paradise Baptist Church and lifelong artist, will help lead the workshop.

“I think teachers are always a positive influence on any project, especially projects that involve children and the community,” Martin said. “I learned a long time ago that children get one-third of their influence from teachers. The parents and others in the community give another third. The last third is from outsiders — peer pressure. It’s very important that teachers and parents know each other and work together, and that parents let the teachers run the classroom instead of the children.”

Ohio Humanities Council Senior Program Officer Jack Shortlidge noted the Toledo workshop was highly ranked by the state panel charged with selecting the six workshops to receive funding. The six, to be held throughout the state, are featured on the Ohio Humanities Council website. Teachers from as far away as Zanesville already have registered to attend the Kwanzaa Park workshop.

One Ohio Humanities Council reviewer noted, “[The Toledo] program as a whole is ambitious, creative and relevant with a well-articulated theme that relates to Ohio Humanities Council requirements and is carried through even into the lunch sessions.”

Lunches will include an urban chicken fest barbeque, collard green and cornbread cookoff, navy bean buffet and traditional church BBQ dinner.

Dr. Tom Barden, UT professor of English, is one of three University humanities scholars on the workshop faculty.

“When Dr. Hamer and I taught together in UT Humanities Institute summer classes in the 1990s, we had wonderful sessions with area teachers exploring how everyday life is full of art, and stories, and history, and wisdom. And I’m excited about getting back to those stimulating gatherings,” he said.

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