UTCDC celebrates diversity with multicultural drive-through festival and bookfair

On April 24, the UT Child Development Center (UTCDC) partnered with families and a local Black-owned bookstore to host a multicultural drive-through festival and bookfair for children and their families. The multicultural festival is an annual celebration of diversity that provides children an opportunity to learn and explore different cultures from around the world.

Typically, the festival is held in classrooms, with each room representing a different culture or country for families to explore. According to UTCDC Site Director Ashley Eglian, with the pandemic still in play, UTCDC staff and the Parent Advisory Council had to get creative about a way to host the event safely. They came up with the idea of a drive-through after hosting a successful drive-through story time. This year’s event was held at UTCDC Capitol Complex’s parking lot.

Eglian noted that like the university community, UTCDC’s staff, children and families come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities. As part of UTCDC’s commitment to diversity, the center incorporates curriculum that explores the unique heritage of others, creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all. Part of that curriculum includes UTCDC’s annual multicultural festival.

Eglian and UTCDC Assistant Site Director Paige Shaw were inspired by the staff’s commitment to this year’s festival.

“When you drove through the event, you saw the passion and knowledge each teacher exhibited with what culture they were representing,” said Shaw.

Eglian also noted that finding safe ways to connect and build relationships in the last year has been a challenge for UTCDC staff.

“Everything about this event showcased our team’s innovation and commitment to learn while supporting the values we hold,” said Eglian.

The multicultural festival gave children an opportunity to explore different cultures and countries in ways they may not otherwise experience.

“The UTCDC firmly believes in incorporating positive experiences for children surrounding diversity and the exploration of other cultures and people that may look or live differently than themselves,” said Eglian. “This multicultural festival cultivated the space for the families, staff and children to connect while learning about important cultures that represent the UTCDC’s school family through play.”

The festival also incorporated a bookfair. According to UTCDC Director Hara Cootes, UTCDC partnered with a local bookstore that focuses on promoting diversity, inclusion, equality, cultural awareness and community through literature.

One UTCDC parent, McCombs School of Business Senior Administrative Associate, Karl Spencer, helped organize the donation of $500 worth of books from the participating bookstore, fulfilling two teachers’ wish lists for their classrooms.

“As a father and primary contact for my son at UTCDC, I’ve built great relationships with the staff by having genuine conversations and letting the staff know we appreciate them,” said Spencer.  “When I saw this bookstore was partnering with UTCDC, I felt the need to step up and purchase all of the books of color for both Pre-K classrooms. Our kids are the future, and they need to know all people are created equal.”

According to Eglian, teachers set up nine tents that represented different countries or cultures throughout the world. Families were given a QR code to a music playlist. As families approached a tent, UTCDC staff were on hand to give facts about their specific culture while music from the region’s playlist could be heard in the background. Children were given activity bags to take home and create something from each region or culture represented. Families were also encouraged to dress up or decorate their vehicles to represent their unique background of origin.

“I could not be more proud of our multicultural festival this year,” said Shaw. “The amount of time, effort and intentionality that went into every detail was inspiring.”

Tents exhibiting different countries and cultures at the UTCDC multicultural festival drive-through
Tents exhibiting different countries and cultures at the UTCDC multicultural festival drive-through
April 30, 2021