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Kansas Program Helps Teachers Incorporate Cultural History

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Two Kansas lawmakers are encouraging teachers to incorporate culturally relevant studies into their lesson plans.

Democratic Reps. John Alcala and Valdenia Winn have spearheaded the Kansas Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Summer Intensive program, which is in its second year, the Topeka-Capital Journal reported.

Alcala helped create the initiative after noticing a lack of representation of various ethnic groups in history text books.

The four-week-long program teaches Kansas educators about culturally relevant pedagogy, including Native American, Chicano/Latino, African American and Asian American studies. Teachers then implement the lessons in their classrooms, and share with program directors what did and didn't work.

Alcala said all teachers who participate will be certified in culturally relevant pedagogy upon completion of the program. Those educators can then share the information with other teachers, he said.

"As far as we know, this model we have created in Kansas is unique," said Christina Valdivia-Alcala, founder of the Tonantzin Society who also helped organize the program.

Valdivia-Alcala said the program helps educators teach students about "important footprints across America that different cultures have made," as well as the importance of critical thinking.

Michelle McClaine, an English teacher at the Sumner Academy of Arts and Science school in Kansas City, Kansas, is among the educators participating in the program. She said Mexican American students make up about 60% of her students.

"Having a program like this where you can really ask those uncomfortable questions or get that info that you can be able to show all perspectives of what it means to be Americans, or what that story is of America is very cool and very empowering," McClaine said.