Like a pinata, it's what's inside that counts: Fairfield University co-sponsors elementary school Diversity Day


The Mohegan Elementary School PTO and Fairfield University are co-sponsoring the second annual school-wide Diversity Day on Friday, Feb. 9, in the Mohegan Elementary School Gymnasium.

The purpose of the Diversity Day program is to provide students with the opportunity to experience several physical and learning differences that affect their peers, in order to make them more aware of the challenges their classmates may face.

According to Dr. Paula Gill Lopez, director of the School Psychology Program at Fairfield University, last year's Diversity Day was a success, and she's excited to implement the program again.

"I love the community nature of the experience and it's such a great opportunity for our students at the university. It really validates their choice of career," said Dr. Gill Lopez.

This year, fourth and sixth grade Mohegan Elementary students will participate in a workshop in the gymnasium, where eight stations will be set up and monitored by graduate students in the School Psychology program at Fairfield University who created the activities at each station, and parent volunteers. Stations will deal with many differences such as visual, learning, cultural, and social skill differences.

For example, at the station dealing with motor skill differences, students are invited to use a wheelchair to move through an obstacle course with a heavy back pack hooked on the back of the chair and a full lunch tray on their laps. They will also be asked to perform a number of tasks wearing mittens in order to understand what some of their classmates experience on a daily basis.

Another station asks students to select an object from a board, and then asks them to repeat their actions while someone tickles them with a feather. This illustrates how a student might feel if they have sensory integration challenges, as do children with autism or ADHD.

Dr. Gill Lopez and some graduate students taught a lesson on diversity to all Mohegan Elementary students in early January. Mohegan Elementary has allowed the graduate students to collect program evaluation data and they will be presenting the Diversity Program with Dr. Gill Lopez at the National Association of School Psychologist's Conference in New York City in March.

The Mohegan Elementary students were asked to participate in a diversity-themed poster contest, and the winning posters are being used in the publicity leading up to Diversity Day. This event also includes volunteers from the Shelton High School Diversity Club.

Dr. Gill Lopez and her team of school psychology graduate students will also be implementing the Diversity Day experience at Elizabeth Shelton Elementary school in Shelton for the first time on April 27, 2007.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 1, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 138