Public demand for racial equity following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while he was being arrested have led to new diversity, equity and inclusion education spanning kindergarten through college.
Among them is Girl Scouts of Colorado, which has launched a two-pronged program to help children and parents — not just girls or Girl Scouts — develop an appreciation for diverse cultures.
“You don’t have to be a Girl Scout to participate in this programming, which is unusual for us,” said Leanna Clark, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Colorado. The organization enrolls 20,000 girls statewide, with 3,226 registered in the Pikes Peak region.
“Girl Scouting has always embraced diversity and inclusion in our 100-year-plus history,” Clark said. “We feel it’s our responsibility to share this, given this important time.”
The organization is working with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Mountain College, Denver Public Schools, and Denver7 television station on the initiative, which was adapted from curriculum developed by the Girl Scout chapter in Minneapolis before George Floyd was killed.
An online “Conversation Starter” will take place 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday for parents and caregivers to learn how to talk to kids about differences, race and racism. A virtual conversation for children will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 13.
Both sessions will feature experts and be available for free to the public on Denver7’s online streaming channel, and Girl Scouts of Colorado’s Facebook and YouTube pages. To RSVP for the free virtual event, go to girlscoutsofcolorado.org.
The diversity, equity and inclusion program also has an online curriculum available for free for kindergarten through 12th grade students statewide.
Hands-on activities, reflective writing, discussions on understanding and other lessons by grade level are provided. Younger students can do coloring and artwork, while older students can engage in writing projects, for example.
“It’s an entire curriculum parents can do with their kids,” Clark said. “We need to have these conversations with all of our youth; they are going to be the ones unafraid to tackle these issues to improve the community and the world.”
The nation’s social justice climate likely will inspire more teachers to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, said Jamy Stillman, associate professor of education in the Equity, Bilingualism and Biliteracy program at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“I hope districts, school leaders and teachers leverage this moment to start centering diversity and equity as topics in curriculum, and part of that is how they build school culture and community,” she said.
Instead of designating a specific month to highlight a group of people who have been marginalized, such as Black History Month, schools will move toward including the perspectives, voices, knowledge and values of marginalized groups into regular curriculum, said Stillman, who also heads the campus’ elementary teacher education program.
“We tend to focus on the voices, knowledge and perspectives of white, English-speaking people, mostly men,” she said.
Social studies lessons, for example, can expose children to multiple viewpoints on history and how it unfolded in the United States, Stillman said.
“It’s really important for kids to learn the real stories about our country’s roots and how we got to where we are today,” she said. “We need to teach about racism, not only oppression, but resistance and resilience of marginalized communities, and the way people have worked for justice over time and how kids can work for justice now.
“We need to emphasize the problems we face related to equity aren’t permanent fixtures and people have successfully worked for change, and kids can be part of this effort today,” Stillman added.,
Under a new commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, students at Colorado College, a private liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, this fall will experience a push to ensure all are welcomed and treated fairly inside and outside the classroom, said Claire Oberon Garcia, an English professor and dean of the faculty.
Changes adopted by the faculty to diversify the curriculum in May 2019 and developed over the past year will go into effect this coming academic year and include a requirement that students take two Equity & Power courses.
Three new employees have been hired to lead the antiracism initiative, which started being created last year, based on results of an external review of racism on the campus. The review was conducted in the fall of 2018 after several racist incidents had occurred on social media and on campus.
Peony Fhagen is the new senior associate dean for inclusion and faculty development. Rosalie M. Rodriguez is the senior associate dean of students for equity and inclusion. Barbara J. Wilson is the interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion for staff.
The chairwoman of Colorado College’s Board of Trustees, Susie Burghart, donated $1 million to fund the antiracism initiative.
“I wanted to underscore how important this initiative is to all of us — as educators, parents, students, staff and alumni,” Burghart said in a statement. “These experts will guide the college in long-needed work that is now even more crucial. This is a moment when CC can lead and make a difference.”
The team will scrutinize and improve academic programming, students, and employees and college business relations. The goal, Garcia said, is to make “substantive changes” in all areas of college life and activity.
“To combat racist ideas, policies and behaviors, we must develop and implement antiracist ideas, policies and behaviors,” she wrote in a letter to the campus earlier this year.
Rodriguez also will serve as the new director of the Butler Center, which addresses diversity, inclusion, intercultural exchange, equity and empowerment.
Paul Buckley, who had been assistant vice president and director of the Butler Center, which primarily has provided student-focused support and programming, has resigned.
“The illusion that a high-level administrator will be able to construct systems of accountability and change racist policies and practices campus wide is just that — an illusion,” Garcia said. “Antiracism doesn’t happen top down. It happens on the front lines of the classrooms, departments, offices and programs.”