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Students participate in Philadelphia Urban Seminar

AUGUST 6, 2003 - Nine Muskingum College education students recently traveled to Philadelphia for two weeks to join five other colleges in a seminar designed to give them first-hand experience in teaching in an urban setting.

"The purpose of the seminar was to examine the issues, challenges and opportunities found in diverse populations of urban schools," explained Dr. Joy Cowdery, assistant professor of education. "Our students had the opportunity to learn concepts and practices needed to become effective teachers in any setting by discovering ways to reduce bias and increase social justice within the educational system."

Muskingum College students who participated in the seminar were: Nathan Clark '06, Jessica Labs '07, Matt Howard '06, Kristin Henthorne '06, Ryan Hurley-Niezgoda '05, Sharon Rogers '05, Sharon Lewis '05 and Tim Vincent '06.

Each student observed and taught in Kindergarten through grade 12 licensure areas in an East Central Region school of the Philadelphia City Schools. Primarily a Latino district, the East Central Region is comprised of 27 schools serving a multilingual and multiethnic population. It houses the largest population of limited English-proficient students in Philadelphia, who collectively speak more than 80 languages. According to Dr. Cowdery, "One of the objectives of teaching in this diverse setting was to foster educational growth and a greater understanding of the cultures and languages that contribute to our national culture."

Experiencing this new culture proved to be a learning experience for the students involved. Sophomore Nathan Clark said, "The Philadelphia Urban Seminar has truly been an enlightening experience for me in the area of urban teaching. The poverty in the community is certainly detrimental to the performance of the students in the schools. However, my feelings about the communities changed when I started to see the people, instead of the poverty, that those people were combating."

Labs agreed. "I never realized just how important an open mind was when teaching. I believe I became a more compassionate person during my time in Philadelphia," she said. "I also realized just how awkward it is to be a member of the minority. By drawing on these two weeks, I will be able to identify with the students in my classroom who have a different skin color, accent or handicap."

This is the first year that Muskingum College students have attended the Philadelphia Urban Seminar and Cowdrey plans to return there in the spring of 2004 with another group of students.