back to news Oct. 19, 2020

Learning with Miss Natalia teaches kids diversity and inclusion

The thought of virtually educating small children for hours each day is undoubtedly daunting. But for Department of English PhD candidate Natalia Colón Alvarez, rising to that challenge is exactly what unlocked a newfound love of hers.

“It was very unexpected, but I realized that I loved working with kids,” she said.

This summer, as Alvarez searched for a job when her spring teaching assignment ended, she never imagined she would end up being a virtual camp counselor, entertaining 5- to 7-year-olds every day over Zoom for a summer program through Columbus’ Godman Guild. 

“Suddenly I was thrust into this virtual camp programming where I had to keep my kids entertained, so I started making these videos,” Alvarez said.

The enjoyment of creating educational videos for children eventually led Alvarez to launch a new YouTube channel in August called Learning with Miss Natalia. There, she posts videos broadly designed to teach students about diversity.

When she first started creating videos for her campers, Alvarez said she had no idea what she was doing. But each week they started getting a little better, and eventually her partner noticed how much she enjoyed making those videos, so he mentioned the possibility of her starting her own channel once the camp came to an end. 

Now, her channel includes three main types of videos: arts and crafts, easy Spanish lessons and “reading trees” — where she reads children's books like Distinguished University Professor Frederick Luis Aldama’s The Adventures of Chupacabra Charlie.

Beyond these, though, Alvarez hopes to also start creating social-justice oriented videos. When she was putting together lesson plans for her students over the summer, she had a difficult time finding age-appropriate videos explaining simple concepts in straightforward ways.

“While I would see a lot of social justice videos for children, they were either for children that were a little older or they included cartoons,” she said. “There weren't the sorts of videos that I wanted for my kids at the camp, which was just somebody very plainly explaining like, ‘This is what racism is. This is what sexism is,’ and I don't think that we should shy away from those conversations with children.”

Alvarez says most of her videos are meant for children ages 5 to 10, but she says older kids, and even adults, may find them helpful too. For her, personally, she’s discovered that the enjoyment and fulfillment she finds in teaching transcends all ages, and working as a camp counselor, paired with the emphasis the Department of English places on training students to be good educators, gave her more confidence in how she hopes to instruct all her students and in her own work as a graduate student.