College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2011 > Penn State Freshmen Encounter “Diverse” Children and “Diverse” Contexts in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar

Penn State Freshmen Encounter “Diverse” Children and “Diverse” Contexts in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar

Students who are considering a career in education often sign up for CI 295D: The Philadelphia Urban Seminar prior to their entrance to the major.

(March 2011)

Students who are considering a career in education often sign up for CI 295D: The Philadelphia Urban Seminar prior to their entrance to the major. Jeanine M. Staples, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, leads this two-week, 3-credit immersion course that takes place in Philadelphia.

Students are housed in La Salle University residence halls and are assigned to early childhood, elementary, middle or high school practicum sites. They work with mentor teachers and participate in service projects in the neighborhood communities. Touring cultural sites in Philadelphia, participating in multiple social activities with community members, and hearing from political leaders and Philadelphia school district personnel during evening classes round out a comprehensive, engaging, intense, and, some say, “life changing” experience.

This is often students’ first encounter with the real world of a major city and in-depth encounters with people who do not look or live like them. Staples emphasizes the importance of how these encounters and her teaching encourage students to “see themselves in every person. This is a process by which negative judgments, criticisms, and prejudices are reduced by aligning with the differences they perceive in people unlike themselves.” She gives an example of how students can recognize and countermand their disparaging ideas about social contexts and neighborhoods while viewing the physical nature of a school's neighborhood and its often “close-knit” row houses. Students are encouraged to explore the benefits of urban communities where people live in overlapping spaces and contrast those to their own suburban or rural living contexts. “By negotiating how such prejudices might make them feel through discussions and writing exercises, students are able to see themselves in ‘other’ people’s contexts and gain a more personalized appreciation of those contexts,” she says.

Staples plans to write about her experiences as the professor-in-charge of this course and the many opportunities it has to teach about what it means to encounter and appreciate diversity.