“Our cheese, our cheese, we’re gonna eat our cheese” was the refrain in the tale Miss Thandisizwe Jackson-Nisan, vegan chef and social justice activist, spun for our youngest students on Monday, as we (belatedly) celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In her story, Cat and Dog were best friends who shared everything equally until one day Cat began singing, “My cheese, my cheese, I’m gonna eat my cheese.” While our K-2 students ate their lunches, Miss Jackson-Nisan wove a story that ended up with the estranged friends making up, just as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would advise, since Unity was so highly valued. Students were captivated by this story, the message, and her additional two-minute tale about how monkeys came to live in trees.
Each year when we celebrate MLK Day, we focus on a new theme, and this year we studied food justice. Michelle Horovitz, aunt of students Louis and Jake H., described her program in North Minneapolis, Appetite for Change (AFC), inspired by her family’s delicatessen on the Old North Side, when it was a largely Jewish neighborhood. With her partners, Princess Haley and Tasha Powell, AFC has a “dedicated team of educators, growers, guides, and leaders who bring a variety of flavors to [their] table. Together, [they] use [their] skills and passions to enact positive change for everyone in the North Minneapolis community and beyond.” In two sessions, our third-fifth graders and sixth-eighth graders learned about the lack of grocery stores and affordable healthy food options and what AFC is doing to change that. Students were so moved by Michelle’s talk.
General Studies teachers led lessons on the topics of food justice and Jewish Studies teachers studied various MLK speeches similar to Torah study and included lessons on the Shmita Year of letting fields go fallow.
Some other highlights:
Our youngest students studied the basics: Who was MLK and his contemporaries, Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, etc. They also wrote their dreams for the world, which now adorn the hallways.
Third-fifth graders focused their learning on particular events of the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, and school desegregation. Students also explored food deserts through a mapping activity and watched "Food Frontiers," a movie that explores urban and rural food deserts and what those communities are doing to confront these problems.
They also had a chance to make 3-D portraits of various activists, including local celebrity chef Rose McGee, of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, and urban gardener Ron Finley. The Makerspace was alive with art, which will be showcased when they are finished.
Led by social studies teacher Annika Graif, sixth-eighth graders presented to each other about local and global food scarcity due to water shortages and other barriers to growing or buying food.
This year we also had a student-led service project, detailed in last week’s Roar, as fifth graders Dalia Plotsker and Adina Togal inspired students and faculty to bring in winter clothing, pet food, and human food. Stay tuned for their next tzedakah (charity) drive for Passover food, coming up in March.
We understand that some families who participated in Sustainable Soup Sunday have already made and shared another round of Sustainable Soup. Keep it going, and please share photos of future soups with us.
In March, our sixth-eighth graders will follow up on food justice efforts with a simulation activity led by Simone Ahuja, parent to first grader Niko Bahn Amarilli, through her program, “Frugal Innovations.”
Thank you to MLK Day planners, Annika Graif, Elena Levitt, Simcha Cohen, Ilena Marron, Sammie Danovsky, Adina Togal, Dalia Plotsker, Chef Liz Kaplan, Esther Goldberg-Davis, Laurie Goldsmith, Liba Zweigbaum-Herman, Annie Byrne, Simone Ahuja, and all of the teachers.