Students learn lessons in diversityDakota Wesleyan class pays visit to Worthington WORTHINGTON — When Gloria Leonard, a professor of education at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., saw the quickly changing demographics around her, she decided her students needed more hands-on learning.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — When Gloria Leonard, a professor of education at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., saw the quickly changing demographics around her, she decided her students needed more hands-on learning.
“I can’t talk about change in the classroom anymore. It’s too big; it’s happening too fast, and the students need to experience it,” she said. “So they understand struggles, so they understand change. So they can be flexible enough in the field of education to understand and appreciate diversity.”
The idea to visit Worthington came from Leonard’s sister, Minnesota West Provost Diane Graber. The two had talked about the high level of cultural diversity in the community, and Leonard agreed that Worthington just might be the perfect place for her Human Relations class to visit. Graber contacted the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, which set up a schedule of activities for the students.
“It’ll better prepare them for the future if they end up teaching in a diverse school system,” said NCIC Coordinator Sharon Johnson.
“We’re having the experience to teach adults and children that are nationalities that we’ve never come across in our lives,” said Katie Budahl, a student in the class. “I think it teaches me to be more aware of other cultures so that I don’t offend anyone. If I know their traditions and their celebrations I’ll be more welcoming of them and be able to involve their culture into the curriculum. Bringing in other cultures can only benefit all of the students.”
The group of 10, most of them education majors, spent the past week in the community, assisting and observing teachers at Prairie Elementary, visiting the English Language Learning classrooms at Worthington Middle School, and working with students in the district’s community education U.S. Citizenship and English as a Second Language classes.
They also planned activities for students in NCIC’s after-school program and participated in a panel discussion with adult and youth immigrants.
“We were lucky enough to have immigrants from the collaborative come in and visit with us about their experience, which was quite an eye-opening,” Leonard said. “One girl made the remark that if we only got to stay one day, we would have learned enough.”
She said her goals is for students to learn empathy — not sympathy — for those attending school in a new language and an unfamiliar place.
Clint Farrar, a senior elementary education major at the university, said he has found small-group work with those of diverse backgrounds to be helpful.
“I feel like I’m learning more (by) being able to speak with them and seeing their progress at the time,” he said.
The students will finish the weeklong class with online scrap blogs and PowerPoint presentations detailing their experiences.
“It’s going to help us our whole teaching career, because it’s going to teach us how to teach at different levels of abilities; not just different languages. … It’s going to apply in a classroom where some students aren’t quick in math or as good of readers and writers; it’s relatable in other senses not just tied to culture and diversity,” Budahl said.