“Elementary School Really Formed Me”

Dear Families:

A few weeks ago, Kemala Karmen, parent of BNS graduates Asha and Talya, sent us an email.  She wrote, “I don’t see everything Talya writes, but we were talking about the “Food Pathway” she chose as part of the schoolwide interdisciplinary project that ICE started this year with and she sighed and said something to the effect of “I am sixteen, but I realized when doing my assignment that elementary school really formed me.” So I asked if she would read the assignment to me and immediately thought you might like to read it too. I asked if I could share and she said yes. So here it is below and thanks for the world you and others at BNS made for her.”

We share Talya’s essay below:

I came out of my public elementary school with many things, but some that I am forever grateful for are my interest in urban farming, environmental sciences and sustainability that were kindled there. Even though it was just elementary school, I have had a lot of time to reflect on beneficial practices that were done there by the community that had a big impact on the students. 

My school often had a sort of community lunch where all students wouldn’t eat home lunch or the school lunch, and instead would eat vegetables prepared in different ways that were picked from our school’s garden. This was one of the central parts of our school: a lot of the science was focused mainly on earth sciences and biology, where we would learn hands-on in the school garden. We would watch the plants grow from seed (primarily leafy greens and various root vegetables and berries), while learning how to nurture them and their benefits for the human body. This was deeply important for my peers and I to witness at a young age: to know where our food was coming from. One these days, we would harvest in the morning and later help to prepare various salads that kids would line up to sample.

I am so thankful that I was able to go to a public school in NYC that had the resources to do such a thing, because I am increasingly aware of the number of schools in NYC and across the country that can’t. I was fortunate to go to a school with parents of children that had the time to be on the PTA, and for the resources that we had to qualify for grants and involvement that helped this come to life. This isn’t a common story, and it should be. It is important for children to be able to learn hands-on and outside from a young age, and it is important for children to be given the resources to eat healthy and stay nourished for long school days. This highlighted a stark juxtaposition between those community lunch days and normal lunch days where students would eat the same NYC public school lunches: I remember frozen pizza and burgers and cold cut turkey slices for Thanksgiving. 

We need to broaden access to community school gardens in New York City public schools. While this may seem hard in an urban environment with limited space, planters in a school yards make a huge difference-or even hydroponics in classrooms. It is beneficial to student’s mental health, diet, and learning, especially in early education.

Talya reminds us so eloquently of the power of these formative years.  Let’s not forget.

All for now,

Anna and Diane and Malika

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