With an aspiration to ensure equity in the learning environment, nearly 250 people gather every year on the SUNY New Paltz campus for the Multicultural Education Conference, according to professor of educational studies, Nancy Schniedwind.
The conference, now in its 19th year, is designed to bring students, staff and other local residents together to help develop skills for handling sensitive situations. In past years, conferences have covered issues such as violence and sexism in the classroom and how to approach problems that arise regarding these issues, Schniedwind said.
This year’s conference, “A Million Moments For Ensuring Equity and Creating Change,” focuses on creating and maintaining equitable learning environments.
Through a variety of hands-on workshops, participants were given a chance to learn and practice appropriate responses to sensitive situations that were designed to promote equity throughout the community.
The workshops are on all different issues and “help us to develop skills for teaching and creating more inclusive classrooms,” Schniedwind said.
The workshops cover topics such as gender binary, oppression, racism and other controversial topics teachers and students face in school and in everyday life.
One of the workshops will feature a cultural arts performance by the Hip Hop Psychology Performing Arts Movement. Their performance, “Creativity & Hip Hop Performance: A Catalyst for Intrinsic Motivation for Learning & Action,” will give students and educators a chance to learn the basics of hip hop verbal and dance arts in regards to hip hop culture. The activity is designed to explore ways in which Hip Hop expression can be used to increase engagement and learning in classrooms.
“They [Hip Hop Psychology Performing Arts Movement] focus on performing pieces that encourage identity development and social change,” Schniedwind said.
Along with the hands-on workshops, Schniedwind said she is “looking forward” to hearing the insights of this year’s keynote speaker, Enid Lee. Lee, author of “Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development,” was the keynote speaker at New Paltz’s first Multicultural Education Conference 19 years ago.
Lee is the author more than 30 publications, and is an ardent advocate of racial equality. She has taught and lectured in the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States.
Schniedwind said Lee is “very persuasive with lots of tactical ideas.”
“Lee is able to effectively communicate how we can be attentive to those issues and address those issues day in and day out,” she said.
Schniedwind said she has high expectations for the event.
“The conferences are a wonderful gathering of diverse folks,” Schniedwind said, “They’re always successful and people always leave with new ideas and improved technical skills.”