seal  Purdue News

November 25, 2003

Cultural expression shares stage with outreach efforts at Palooza

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A semester-long outreach project in which Purdue University education students worked with low-income Lafayette School Corp. students will culminate in a celebration of culture and diversity.

Students in the School of Education's "Multiculturalism in Education" class have spent the semester volunteering at area elementary and middle schools, as well as local charities, as a way to both learn about their own cultural identities and help those who are less fortunate.

The project concludes with the third Cultural Palooza, which will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday (12/2) in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

Cultural Palooza will include art projects that the more than 300 students in the multicultural education classes made to describe their cultural identity. There also will be displays of art projects made by the Lafayette students, as well as video presentations and musical performances.

"This is a way for both the Purdue students and the Lafayette School Corporation students to demonstrate what they have learned about both multiculturalism and themselves," said Rochelle Brock, an assistant professor of curriculum and the instructor who designed and oversaw the project. "More importantly, it will give the campus and the community a chance to reflect on the same issues in their own lives."

At the event, students in the School of Education will be accepting monetary donations to help purchase art supplies for each of the local schools involved.

Brock said one purpose of the class is to educate future teachers about the different types of student they will encounter in their careers. Brock said that most of her students are white women from Indiana who do not think they have experience in diverse environments and often do not understand the different experiences their future students will bring into the classroom.

"There is more to diversity than just race," Brock said. "There is diversity in religion, in sexual preference, in family background, in income level. Just because a teacher has a class full of white students doesn't mean that each one of those students isn't different, and it is important for our future teachers to understand that."

To that end, the students have done service work in five Lafayette schools: Linwood, Washington and Miller elementary schools, and Tecumseh and Sunnyside middle schools. Projects included helping students with artworks that explored their own cultural identities, staffing after-school programs and recording bilingual books on tape. Other students worked with residents at shelters run by the YWCA Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program and Lafayette Urban Ministries.

Brock said that many of the children the students worked with come from low-income families. At each of the elementary schools, more than half of the students live in poverty.

"Many people don't understand that there is poverty and homelessness in Lafayette," Brock said. "Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. One thing that separates good teachers from great ones is the ability to see the obstacles these students are facing and help them overcome them. The goal of this project is to help our future teachers see the importance of that."

George Hynd, dean of the School of Education, said that service-learning, like Brock's classes' project, are an important part of the school's mission.

"It is important for the School of Education to be a resource for schools in which the students need extra assistance," Hynd said. "Not only are we preparing our students to be better teachers, we are teaching them the importance of being good citizens."

Lafayette students and their families will be provided with transportation and chaperones to attend Cultural Palooza. The event also will feature guest speaker Mary Weems, a visiting professor in cultural studies at Ohio University and the author of "Public Education and the Imagination-Intellect: I Speak from the Wound in My Mouth."

Cultural Palooza is funded by a $30,000 anonymous gift.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: George Hynd, (765) 494-2336,

Rachelle Brock, (765) 494-9735,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page