The Journey Begins with Us
My original questions was…Can we provide refugee students with information that can assist them in overcoming the unique challenges that exist in their classrooms? As the nation’s demographics change, so does our responsibility to meet the needs of this diverse student body. These students have significant implications for educational and social policy. One component of the Nahed Chapman New American Academy ecological milieu was to provide avenues for in-depth discussions of practices that can help all students make informed choices when it comes to our environment. As a result of those discussions, surveys were taken and students decided to plan and grow an International Garden.
We began our quest to become a “greener school” with conducting student-led school-wide needs assessments, conducting research, advocating for change with key stakeholders and coordinating a symposia that highlighted successes via our school newsletter. There is always a lot to learn about the lives of people that we interact with each day that will establish a better rapport. Without some connections, people often unintentionally make gross generalizations about others. The end result of this activity—students who come from diverse backgrounds became teachers, too.
Most supermarkets are stocked with foods that could easily be grown locally. Yet food is often transported from countries thousands of miles away to local supermarkets. If home grown food was grown and/or purchased more often, this would dramatically reduce the amount of fuel used and consequently the amount of pollution created. Likewise, if our community partners consumed locally produced seasonal foods instead of out of season foods, this too would decrease our carbon footprint. Composting is good for the environment and for gardens. We have designated an area in our court yard to put fruit peels, and uneaten food. After a while, we’ll be able to use the compost to fertilize our International Garden.
Education still remains the pathway that leads people out of despair and hopelessness. My intent was to provide information concerning culturally relevant strategies, school-wide initiatives, and individual classroom practices that help to close the vocabulary, reading, writing, and content area literacy gaps that exist for many students. In this Science Unit, I included adaptations and accommodations to help a range of learners gain access to the curriculum. Schools reflect the attitudes and commitment of the entire community. Indeed what seems to have occurred is the first endorsement of a school-wide “Go Greener” initiative. I am cheered by the possibility of making a difference.
Together we can make a difference that will last for millions of lifetimes—the journey begins with us.
By Nelver Brooks, Middle School Science Teacher at Nahed Chapman New American Academy and Garden Leader with the International Garden.