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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Kindergarteners introduced to differences

Literacy Day program exposes kids to a diverse world.

Brian Ojanpa, Mankato Free Press 11-29-30

More than 250 kindergartners got to cavort at Minnesota State University Wednesday — and received some cultural­diversity exposure to boot.

As part of the school’s biennial Literacy Day program, the students from Hoover Elementary in North Mankato and South Elementary in St. Peter received more than two hours of instructional activities from 44 of MSU’s elementary edu­cation teacher candidates.

In academic jargon, the object of the exercise was to expose the chil­dren to the College of Education’s “devotion to infusion of cultural proficiency.”

That is, schools have become melting pots of diverse populations, whose educational attainments are dependent upon how educators and students respond to that changed landscape.

“Teacher lesson plans have changed to include ... all diversities. There’s not one stan­dard lesson plan. You can’t teach one way down the middle of the road,” said Lori Piowlski, an assistant professor in the MSU Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

And by diversity she means more than racial and ethnic. She said it also includes sociological and intel­lectual diversities that include impoverished students and special education pupils, all of whom must be “reached” by their instructors.

Is that placing an unfair expectation upon teachers?

“It’s the reality,” Piowlski said, citing her own teaching experience.

After graduating from Minnesota State, she taught in 1990 at a California elementary school that had no Caucasians and where teachers had to pass through two security gates to get to their cars.

Her point: Not all of today’s teachers-to-be will land jobs in non- diverse schools because even Kansas isn’t Kansas anymore.

Mankato Area Public Schools are still overwhelmingly white (82.8 percent), but minority enrollments continue to grow. The breakdown: Black, 9.7 percent; Hispanic, 4.3 percent; Asian, 2.7 percent; American Indian, 0.5 percent.

The Literacy Day program incorporated teacherstudent activities inspired by the Skippyjon Jones children’s book series that employs liberal use of Spanish and Spanglish (words combining Spanish and English).

The program, in its second year, will be held again in spring for kindergartners from two more schools.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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