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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 10.29.21

How did it happen that Halloween and Día de Muertos have so many similarities including being celebrated almost on the same day of the year? All of these festivities were developed by indigenous people and celebrated more and more in the mainstream. HMMM?


It Amazes Me We had a great week over at BPLiving. First off, was Angel’s UpBeet program featuring Dr. Marsha Gail-Davis graphic by Angel. Then, on Wednesday Rocio, Jasmine and Emma did an amazing BPLiving webinar. Right now, it is up on YouTube. This webinar started off with Emma presenting how her gardening gives her life meaning. I took some notes on her presentation here to give you an idea of how Emma made it all fit together but I certainly don’t do it justice once you hear Emma tell her story. As you go deep you learn many things Van Gough

Emma is Mexican/Native American and Pilipino. She has been passionate about gardening since she was five years old. To Emma, her garden is her refuge, her peace, her sanctuary along with lots of the hard work of weeding, irrigating, cultivating and harvesting, distributing, and composting. She is always in awe at how tiny seeds can produce plants that get so big. Emma is always testing her limits. She grew 200 heads of lettuce to feed her school. She has made a Freida Kahlo garden from all of the flowers and vegetables that appear in Freida Kahlo’s paintings and has created her own collages and paintings of Freida’s plants and flowers. Emma gets joy in beautifying the ground that makes people smile as they walk through her gardens. At her school, Emma started a Seed to Table Club to get students and staff involved in healthy eating and the other benefits of gardening including taking action around climate change. When Emma was young, she was small in size. Weighing only 60 lbs. she was picked on by other students because she was “too dark, too small and wore glasses.” Through her garden, she “became 6 feet tall.” She grew flowers for bouquets to give to students and teachers using her skills to turn the situation around. After the Parkland shooting, Emma commemorated the tragic event with a garden of 17 plants for each person who was tragically taken and for all of us to have the right to live. In the midst of COVID, Emma’s baby brother was born. This is when Emma got interested in traditional herbal medicines and started an indigenous garden akin to her Native American background. She grew fennel, milkweed, wheatgrass to purify your system and hops to help you sleep better. Growing medicinal plants was not only a response to COVID but also a response to the “oversaturation of prescription drugs” used to medicate young and old. She also got interested in the back story of Japanese gardens as places of design for refuge and sanctuary. Emma wants to make a regenerative world where healthy eating is an option for all and not just a luxury; where gardening is something we all do and the benefits from it sustain ourselves and change our communities and the world ending disparities across race and class. As Frank Wilson referenced many times, For young people, “there's the problem of finding your own voice and earning a place among your peers in the bigger world you're moving into.” Emma is certainly on her way to doing such and isn’t this what we want for each and every one of our youth? Similar to Maddie, Emma will soon be on helping us with B-Unbound


Out of Nowhere

Next, Rocio and Jasmine presented their work that combined Project InSight and BPLiving by showing how second-hand smoke contributes to poor eye health. I don’t know how this brilliant connection came to them but once again, creating these types of metaphors and connections through experiences that have meaning to you because you are interested in learning more about things is what we are looking for. I never forget how students come over to me and show me this type of everyday brilliance coming from what seems out of nowhere. Years ago when I was principal, we had students at the school interested in mapmaking both traditional and digital. One day, a student came over to me with his hand in a fist and said, “El, want to see a Mercator map?” Before I could say anything, he opened his hand, and there it was – his whole hand turned into the semblance of a Mercator map. This body/idea <------> idea/body plays out all the time. It did with Rocio and Jasmine as well.


This week, a highlight of HFF was our presentation at the Aurora Conference. Charlie, Maddie, Lorna Manglona-Alexander - CTE Coordinator from South Carolina and I were there to represent. Maddie did her presentation from onboard a ship. It always adds lots of authenticity to the whole thing when you know where someone is actually at the place they are referring to. She talked about her challenge of increasing the number of women of color in the marine trades and how she’s fairing. Lorna was a fantastic advocate as someone on the ground embracing HFF’s program and measures. Charlie and I provided comic relief.

At our IBPLC training session students, Bassam and Brandon were great. I had more time with Bassam who graduated from Liverpool Boys School last year and is now running a Shisha Bar managing 70 staff and going to Uni. His explanation of the IBPLC and the answers he gave to the workshop participants moved their practice. All of this work mentioned is one student/youth at a time in a community where the community is the school that the student is the curriculum On Sunday, I’m off to DC and Alexandria, VA with Pam to hopefully get our third site for B-U at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. We’re also going to stop in and see Kelly Young at Education Reimagined. I’m also dropping in on Equity Fellow Dennis Campbell. And, I’m finally looking forward to meeting someone who I have known about for years but never met Joe Youcha. Be well!

--- Elliot Washor Co-Founder Big Picture Learning

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