Students are Back in the Building!

By: Sarabeth Weszely, Senior Writer
April 29, 2021

On April 19, we began our school-wide return to in-person learning, welcoming students into both buildings one grade level at a time in order to promote social distancing. Our goals for the spring in-person learning experience are to assess where students are at in order to plan for next year’s instruction, allow them to connect with each other and their teachers, and check in on their holistic well-being. 

For middle school, we chose to bring in grades one week at a time to allow for more focused time with our younger students. We were overjoyed to finally meet our newest students face to face last week, and we’ve had an especially fun time working together on the week’s environmentally-themed projects. 

Letter and drawing by Eleany

In addition to continued online instruction, fifth grade teachers were asked to come up with an immersive, hands-on project that they could lead across all subjects. In honor of Earth Day and in an effort to further our school-wide commitment to sustainability, our teachers chose focus on urban gardens. Students read stories about gardens, took walks to see different gardens in the neighborhood, investigated the health benefits of gardens, and then worked together to craft compelling letters to their principal, Mrs. Hoekstra, advocating for a school garden.

Letter and drawing by Edith, who is learning English as a New Language with us this year

“I have been so impressed with the ownership our students took over this project,” Mrs. Hoekstra praises. 

Both Eleany and Edith (whose letters are shown) share excitement about the kinds of food we would be able to grow in a school garden.

“Imagine this,” says 5th grader Eleany. “There’s no light, the power is out. The microwave isn’t working, the oven isn’t working, there’s nothing to cook. What do we do? We make a garden! Why? Because even when it’s raining and there is a storm, you have food. And drinks!” she adds. “You can make orange juice, apple juice, lemonade – everybody loves lemonade.”

Along with many leaders in our school, Principal Hoekstra has dreamt about opening a school garden for years. “I would love for the 5th graders who have been thinking, writing, and persuading over this past week to actually get their hands dirty with the final product and experience the fruit of their labor, she says, and then adds with a smile, “pun intended.”

While 5th grade may have had the most fun Earth Day celebration this year, we made sure to mark the occasion across all of our grades through another specialized Advisory lesson on environmental advocacy from our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. 

In this lesson, students looked at some key figures from a youth-led activist group in California and then learned about local groups fighting climate change in our city, including The NYC Climate Action Alliance, GrowNYC, UPROSE, and our very own Inwood Hill Park.

There is a lot of work to be done if we really want to ensure a healthy future for our next generation, and we are grateful to work in a community where our students can serve with partners like these as they learn to advocate for the world around them.

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