We Look Towards the Future

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Dear Families:

Yesterday we took the time to remember Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr., listening to his words and reflecting sadly on how little has changed since his passing in  1968. 

Tomorrow we look towards the future with the inauguration of our 46th president, Joe Biden.  Today, we enter our third week of school in January, marveling at the work that has been accomplished despite the pandemic and with hope that the new presidency will support education in such a way that we can successfully teach our students to think and to care, always with the goal of a new tomorrow. 

We share now a story from one fourth grade classroom, a perfect example of the work that we do. 

Julia Kamen Birnbaum is a student teacher from Bank Street College working with Kristen’s fourth grade class.   Julia read Abiyoyo Returns by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs with Kristen’s class.  Amina Jiang Abillama and Sienna Woolcock then wrote an imagined sequel.  

Julia wrote to  Paul DuBois Jacobs, “Subject: Abiyoyo in a New Town: A sequel to Abiyoyo Returns. Message: Dear Mr. Jacobs, Two of my students wrote a sequel to Abiyoyo Returns.  Would you like to read it ?  They would love to share it with you.  Thank you, Julia Kamen Birnbaum.”

Mr. Jacobs responded, “Thanks for contacting me, Ms. Kamen Birnbaum. Yes, it would be great to see the work of your students. Glad to hear Abiyoyo is finding new adventures in your classroom (virtual perhaps). Depending on my workload, it might take a week or two for me to get back to them, but feel free to give me a shout if it goes beyond that.  Have a good evening and all the best to you and your students in the new year.”  

And indeed, Mr. Jacobs did read the girls’ writing and it wasn’t too long afterwards that Julia received another email, 

“Hi Ms. Kamen Birnbaum–

I love this sequel and how it introduces new characters and new wrinkles. And I know the late Pete Seeger would enjoy it as well because of three wonderful details included by Sienna and Amina: 

#1) The sailboat voyage–Pete loved sailboats–In fact, he was instrumental in getting the sloop, “Clearwater,” up and running. (A sloop is a type of boat used long ago on the Hudson River.) Pete was also a huge fan of Rocking the Boat, a wonderful boat building school in the Bronx. (Rockingtheboat.org). 

#2) Pete loved when people problem-solved with the help of music, food and dance! And he loved a good sing-along around the campfire, too (just like Abiyoyo). 

#3) And finally, Pete would love that Abiyoyo helped rebuild the houses that he destroyed. In fact, Pete was a good carpenter, and the Seegers built their own house in Beacon, NY. 

I often think, Pete and I got along because my first career was as a carpenter, too!

Well, thanks again to Sienna and Amina for sharing their writing and illustration with me!

All best to you and your students.


Congratulations to Kristen’s class and Julia and Amina and Sienna.  They read, they wrote, they corresponded and through it all, they learned the power of communication, storytelling, collaboration and more.  Here is an example of remote learning at its finest.

All for now,

Anna, Diane and Malika

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