INSIDE Chico State
0 April 18, 2002
Volume 32 Number 14
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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RISE Brings the World to Northern CA

Children and teachers benefit from international resource library


Tony Waters and Sandy Shepard, co-directors with Deborah Summers of RISE, sit with a statue of the Hindu god Ganeshe. The RISE resource library keeps artifacts from other cultures that can be checked out by teachers to use in lessons, as well as thousands of articles and books.

photo by Kathleen McPartland

Cinderella in a sari? Looking at other cultures through the Cinderella story is just one example of how Resources for International Studies in Education (RISE) helps K­12 teachers from Butte County to the Oregon border enliven international studies education in their classrooms.

The RISE international resource library features the Cinderella story in Korean, African, Cambodian, Egyptian, and Native American settings, along with 3,000 books of children’s literature and teacher resources, plus tubs of fascinating artifacts, maps, games, and instruments—from Hmong batiks to Indonesian masks and Ethiopian drums. All are available for check-out by teachers for use in the classroom. “RISE materials give educators as far away as Yreka access to instructional resources otherwise unavailable to many teachers,” said Sandy Shepard, one of three RISE co-directors.

“International studies are just as critical in Etna [Siskiyou County, pop. 830] where there is much less diversity, as in ethnically diverse cities,” Shepard said, because the United States increasingly affects and is affected by events in other parts of the world and because history, culture, and language are basic skills for informed citizens.

One of nine California Subject Matter Projects based on the CSU, Chico campus, RISE is part of a statewide network of international resource centers for the California International Studies Project. The RISE program provides staff development to credential candidates seeking to add an international and multicultural dimension to courses in California’s Department of Education history-social science framework.

Workshops, institutes, and curriculum services are available to all classroom teachers in northeastern California. Typical workshops have included such topics as women in Afghanistan, the Hmong in Asia and America, standards-based performance assessment, and how to (and how not to) teach about religion in public schools. A K­3 reading workshop series in fall 2002 will focus on using multicultural literature to study the immigrant Mexican communities in Northern California. RISE programs are developed and presented in conjunction with local teachers, CSU, Chico faculty, county, and state curriculum planning institutions.

“RISE programs meet the directive of President Esteban that the university should have a K­12 connection,” said RISE co-director Tony Waters. “The programs work both ways—bringing teachers to the university for courses and taking professors to schools to talk with kids. It strengthens the university and strengthens the schools.”

Waters’ interest in international studies stems from his Peace Corps years in Thailand and Tanzania, working with Hmong, Burundi, and Rwandan refugees. Now, in addition to being a CSU, Chico assistant professor in sociology, he coordinates and teaches a RISE workshop series, “The Hmong in North America and Asia,” for Oroville area teachers. Waters spends only 20 percent of his time with RISE—which is typical for the subject matter projects. He is the administrative director and writes the annual proposal (like all subject matter projects, RISE must write proposals every year to get re-funded).

Year-round RISE institutes offer professional development by in-depth exploration of a cultural topic—“looking at one big idea across cultures.” This year’s institute, directed by Maureen Fredrickson, with curriculum taught by RISE co-director Deborah Summers, assistant professor in education, focuses on textiles and how they affect and reflect the cultures from which they come. This is the final year of a three-year series on “How People Meet Their Basic Needs for Shelter, Food, and Clothing.” Participating teachers produce a textiles teaching project that is appropriate to their grade-level interest and meets the California history-social science content standards. They may also earn university credit toward a master’s degree in education or social science.

Summers is the acknowledged “curriculum expert,” developing ways that international studies curriculum can be adapted to various grades. She also brings a valuable background in educational leader preparation to the RISE Partnership Schools and Districts program, which supports and extends the training of teacher leaders, especially in low-performing schools. In February, Summers was named Northern California College Professor of the Year by the California Association of Teachers of English. Like Waters, Summers’ RISE position is only 20 percent of her full-time position on campus.

Co-director Shepard is the “true backbone” of the program, according to Waters, because she is an 80 percent director—a true luxury among subject matter projects —giving her more time to manage the day-to-day programs and the “nuts and bolts” of RISE. Shepard taught for 20 years in Chico junior high and elementary schools and retired from teaching to join RISE. She also goes out to schools, speaks to classes, and coordinates the School Site Teams, composed of teachers committed to an international experience for their students, and Grade Level Teams, composed of teachers from regional school sites with a major focus on finding or creating materials not addressed in state-adopted textbooks.

Shepard’s interest in international studies bloomed when she presented to a social studies conference in Nairobi. She then was awarded a Fulbright to study for five weeks in India and choose artifacts for use in the RISE resource library. She once showed pictures of her meeting with Mother Teresa from her trip to India to her class just before Mother Teresa died. When she told the children of the death, they said, “but we just saw her,” as if Mother Teresa had been in the classroom in person. Exposure to international studies “gives students a very real connection to another part of the world,” Shepard said.

International affairs permeate Shepard’s home life as well. Her husband, retired from the Foreign Service, has contributed many artifacts to the RISE resource library. In her spare time, Shepard teaches manners, including multicultural manners and how to behave in other countries.

The RISE directors also mine the community for “living resources”—people willing to speak to students about other countries. “There’s nothing like having people with real-life experiences,” Shepard said. “We have them from many cultures—Greece, Ghana, Nepal, Ethiopia, the Mechoopda from the Chico area. We just hook people in whenever we find them.”

RISE welcomes faculty, staff, and university friends with experience in other countries, languages, or cross-cultural experiences to join a “talent bank” of subject experts willing to do school site visits on an informal basis. Donated artifacts are always welcome, as is help with researching, sorting, labeling, and photographing artifacts and instructional resources. Teachers and others involved in education are welcome to use the RISE resource library.

The RISE office, at 35 Main Street, Suite 205, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 1­5 pm, or by appointment. For details on resources and workshops, check the RISE Web site: www.csuchico.edu/rise.

CSU, Chico is the only site to have all nine subject matter projects, which include the California Foreign Language Project, the California History-Social Science Project, the California Mathematics Project, the California Physical Education-Health Project, the California Reading and Literature Project, the California Science Project, the California Writing Project, and the California Arts Project.

Francine Gair

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