Early childhood education students address social justice issues

Professor Caprice Paduano’s Early Childhood Education class finished fall quarter with a service project in which students addressed various social justice issues in the community.

The assignment was to “find something in our community that is creating a barrier or a challenge for someone….and then to take action,” said Paduano.

Each student first wrote about two different issues, as an introduction to the project. Then, the class was divided into groups; each group selected one issue to work on.

Crosswalk markings were the focus of one group. The team was concerned with the unclear and fading markings, Paduano said.

After talking to security, the group was informed that the pavement markings were painted yearly and the signs only needed cleaning, she said.

Another group approached Brewery City Pizza about installing a baby-changing table in the men’s restroom.

“This group constructed a great letter stating that Brewery City was not meeting the needs of a large population of single parents, same sex partners, and/or dads wanting to take this role in their families,” said Paduano.

One group selected elevator issues. Alicia Paulsen, a student from this group, said their choice was based on the personal experiences of two of her teammates.

“One had actually experienced another student being entrapped in a campus elevator. The other had escorted another classmate, who is in a wheelchair, to a class only to discover that the elevator was down,” she said.

“Our ultimate goal is that the elevators be maintain regularly and that safety and accessibility remain the concern,” Paulsen said.

The solution proposed by Paulsen’s group involved posting signs near the elevators that display the phone number of the campus’ maintenance contacts to use during emergencies. Also, they suggested the addition of telephones near the elevators, she said.

Paulsen said the issue her project addressed is important because “all students who pay for classes and show up to participate should have equal access to the classrooms and facilities on campus.”

According to Paduano, “Future teachers need to understand how to help those who need help and how to effectively get change to occur.”

Reflecting on her team’s work, Paulsen said, “This project is an important demonstration of cooperative work between peers. Overall, it is an example of a small-scale way to make a change in society.”

To Paduano, the success of each project is not determined solely on whether or not the problem was completely resolved. The process each group takes is just as important to the lesson as the end result, she said.