Oregon teachers learn to better engage Latino students

Summer institute this week at UO (photo by Jack Liu)

Fifteen Oregon teachers are on campus this week, making art and learning Latin American history, thanks to the Summer Institute for Middle School and High School Teachers.

The institute – spearheaded by the UO Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and the Latin American Studies Program, and directed by Anthropology Professor Lynn Stephen – explores themes of race and ethnicity. It also offers ways to better engage Latino students, who now comprise 21.5 percent of Oregon’s public school student population.

This year’s theme, “Understanding the Many Faces of Latin America through Art and History: Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism,” offers institute participants lesson plans and teaching through the vehicles of Latino art and history.

In the institute’s workshops, participating teachers are able to interact directly with experts in Latin American Studies, who offer updated information from their own research. Much of the Latino history curriculum taught in schools comes from sources where the research is decades old, according to Stephen.

“For example, 30 percent of the population of Latin America is Afro-descendant, but most textbooks mention little to nothing about this part of history,” she says.

Two artists from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico – Itandehui Franco Ortiz and Cesar Chávez Victoria – are participating in daily lectures. The two are offering a workshop on how the art images of Mexican social movements can be linked to a wide range of issues, including human rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, youth movements, food security and education.

This week's institute is designed to help teachers bring indigenous concepts and ways of seeing the world into their classrooms.

“They may ask students, for example, to walk around the perimeter of the school yard and to map the geography, plans and other significant features they see and talk about, the way Incan and other indigenous peoples mapped their belief systems onto the landscape,” Stephen says.

A committee of art, Latin American Studies and education experts specifically chose the 15 participating teachers of Spanish, Spanish literature, English, visual art, special education, drama, science, math and social science to attend the institute.

Participating UO instructors Gabriela Martínez (Journalism and Communication), Stephanie Wood (Wired Humanities Projects, School of Education), Simone Da Silva (Romance Languages) and Roberto Arroyo (Romance Languages, Willamette University) are lecturing on “Race and Colonialism in the Caribbean and Brazil,” “African Diasporas and Nationalism in Latin America,” "Indigenous Identities and Histories in the Andes,” “Mestizaje and Nationalism in the Andes,” “Indigenous Identities and Histories in Mexico: 1400-1800,” “Mestizaje in Mexican Art and Culture,” “Transnational Currents in Latin American Arts: Mexico and Cuba” and “The Role of Art in Chile’s Movement to Find the Disappeared.”

Art instructors include Merrill Watrous (K-12 Teacher Education Faculty, Lane Community College), June Koehler (assistant curator, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art), Lisa Albia-Smith (Director of Educational Outreach, JSMA), Allison and Lynne Gardner-Allers (doctoral candidate in education, curriculum development), who have developed a unique focus for each day to coordinate lecture themes with specific art objects and art production techniques.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is collaborating on the program.

-Aria Seligmann, UO Office of Strategic Communications