Chico State’s Resource for International Studies in Education (RISE) Library is a treasure trove that helps North State teachers bring the world into their classrooms.

Originally established in 1988 as a California Subject Matter Project and now operating as a donor-funded, volunteer-staffed program, the RISE library is an educational tool for both local K–6 teachers and their students.

Every donated artifact—ceremonial masks from Japan and China, beaded earrings and bowls from the Maasai people of Africa, an ornate burqa from Pakistan—is available for teachers to check out and bring into their classrooms for a hands-on lesson.

“It teaches students appreciation for different cultures and exposes them to different ideas,” said Mary Edwards, a sixth-grade teacher at Little Chico Creek Elementary School who regularly incorporates its many artifacts into her ancient civilizations lessons.

“RISE teaches students that, although to us an item or a custom might seem really weird, for another culture it’s completely normal.”

—Mary Edwards, teacher at Little Chico Creek Elementary School

artifacts from around the globe.

The RISE Library’s collection brings clothing, art, and other artifacts from around the world to local K-12 classrooms. (Photo by Jason Halley)

She watches sixth graders become anthropologists as they inspect and analyze the artifacts and hypothesize where they’re from and how they’re used. Her students are surprised and delighted to learn the origins and purpose of each item, and they gain more than a hands-on introduction to world cultures.

“RISE teaches students that, although to us an item or a custom might seem really weird, for another culture it’s completely normal,” Edwards said.

Most of the artifacts housed within the RISE Library have been donated by friends of the program, including anthropology professor emeritus and former RISE Library co-director Tom Johnson. Much of the extensive collection he’s donated was accrued during years of research and travel in Asia.

“My general philosophy is that we are here to help prepare the future,” said Johnson, who has donated since 1998 to support the library. “I try to do what I can to make the world a better place—with my research, my writing, and with the donations I make to RISE.”

“I try to do what I can to make the world a better place—with my research, my writing, and with the donations I make to RISE.”

—Professor Emeritus Tom Johnson

The RISE Library gives local teachers resources to foster a more tolerant and understanding world, said volunteer, donor, and current director Sandy Shepard. Providing children with tangible lessons on world cultures helps them transcend prejudice and stereotypes.

When she was a fourth-grade teacher, Shepard recalls several of her students running to her in distress. They had encountered a local Sikh family passing by. Confronted by clothes, customs, and skin color different than their own, they responded with fear and misunderstanding.

Sandy Shepard, director of RISE Library, sorts through boxes of donated artifacts. (Photo by Jason Halley)

Sandy Shepard, director of RISE Library, sorts through boxes of donated artifacts. (Photo by Jason Halley)

“Fear is just not knowing,” Shepard said. “We have so many different cultures in this country, in California alone. That’s why RISE is important. That’s why RISE was founded.”

And that’s why everyone who believes in the RISE Library—the dedicated volunteers who staff it; the professors who fill its shelves, walls, and racks with objects from their travels; and the local teachers who use it to teach transformative lessons to our future leaders—are so grateful to donors like Johnson.

“We would not have this library without Tom,” Shepard says. “He so believed in what we were doing and how we were doing it, and he’s donated so much.”