Five years ago, an enterprising parent approached Christine Moloney, Coordinator of Diversity, and introduced her to The National SEED Project. SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) is a program that offers a structured space for peers to learn and listen in conversation to promote personal and societal change toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. After researching the program, Ms. Moloney thought SEED would be a wonderful opportunity to offer to Windward’s faculty and staff. She and former Westchester Middle School Teacher Neil Jaggernauth participated in SEED facilitator training, and together they led the first cohort of 20 faculty and staff through eight three-hour workshops during the 2017-18 school year.
Over the next few years, nearly 200 faculty and staff members have volunteered to participate in SEED for their own personal and professional development. The widespread appeal has stemmed from a desire for colleagues to learn about DEI-related subjects such as race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, intersectionality, implicit bias, and empathy.
A former participant expressed the program’s impact at Windward, stating, “SEED has been one of the most important things I have attended and participated in during my time at Windward. SEED provides the tools to facilitate discussions we all need to be having if we truly want equity and diversity in every community of which we are a part.”
Along with Ms. Moloney, SEED is facilitated in its fourth year by Westchester Middle School Teacher Emily Frawley, Westchester Middle School Teacher Katherine Kaneko, and The Windward Institute Manhattan Administrative Assistant Erikka Ramkishun.
A typical SEED session focuses on one topic, and the facilitators open each workshop with a presentation that includes historical context, videos, readings, and/or vocabulary definitions to provide foundational knowledge. This is when the SEED concept of “shelves and selves” is often applied. If the cohort happens to be homogenous in their self-identities, such as all individuals are cis-gender, the facilitators can pull a resource off the “shelf” in order to highlight a different perspective, such as one of a transgender person.
Because SEED emphasizes storytelling rather than lecturing, the facilitators also share prompts to generate conversation on the matter at hand amongst cohort members. One of the signature structural features of SEED that ensures equality and equity in facilitation is serial testimony, where each member has precisely one minute to share their thoughts. During serial testimony, the SEED concept of “windows and mirrors” is drawn upon, as individuals may comment on how they have insight into a topic like implicit bias (a mirror) or what they have learned from another’s point of view (a window).
“SEED provides a safe environment for challenging conversations that most people in society fear having, but we have a structure that encourages authentic and courageous conversations so we learn to reduce that fear,” said Ms. Moloney. “Our time as a cohort is us metaphorically planting the seed, and, after practice and establishing trust with others, our understanding of the world and of others’ experiences can grow into a tree.”