Transcription of the episode “Paula Rogovin: Creating a social justice early childhood classroom”

Jon M: 00:15 Hi. I’m Jon Moscow.

Amy H-L: 00:17 And I’m Amy Halpern-Laff. Welcome to Ethical Schools where we discuss strategies for creating inclusive and equitable schools and youth programs that help students to develop both commitment and capacity to build ethical institutions.

Jon M: 00:32 Our guest today is veteran teacher, author, and activist, Paula Rogovin. Paula taught kindergarten and first grade in the New York City public schools for 44 years, empowering the youngest students to conduct research and to become civically engaged. She’s the author of “Why Can’t You Behave? The Teacher’s Guide to Creative Classroom Management, K-3,” “The Research Workshop: Bringing the World Into Your Classroom,” and “Classroom Interviews: A World of Learning.” A longtime environmentalist, Paula is a leader in the struggle for safe and sustainable energy sources. Welcome, Paula.

Paula R: 01:06 Thank you very much.

Amy H-L: 01:06 So let’s start with the project you spoke about at an Ethics in Education symposium. Your young students became researchers and activists in the fight to ban the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in New York City. Could you tell us about that?

Paula R: 01:24 Oh, I’d love to. It was very exciting. In 2014, my kindergarten students, our kindergarten students, were doing research. They chose their own topics. We were learning about our school, PS 290, and they chose a whole bunch of topics, and among the topics was tomatoes in our cafeteria. They get to choose the topic. So we went from there and in the process of learning about tomatoes, they talked about what they knew, what they wanted to learn. They had a lot of questions and then we tried to figure out different ways of getting the answers. So while answering those questions, the issue of pesticides came up. For example, we interviewed the gym teacher, who was also a chef and he cooked some tomato sauce for the pizza that he made with us, and he washed the fruit and we were wondering why would Michael wash the fruit? And some of the kids actually knew from home that there was a problem. Some of the kids knew about a little drop about pesticides, very little. We interviewed two of the grandparents, who had come in from Long Island where they had been very, very involved in a fight around pesticides. And it was so exciting because when they walked into the classroom, they were wearing signs, “ban toxic pesticides.” They were wearing these signs on their trip from Long Island. As they walked into the room, they had these signs and it was so exciting. The kids wanted to know what these signs were all about. And they also taught us a lot about pesticides. They brought in a little container of soil and under that container was another container. So the first container had little holes in the bottom and they put some little powder on representing pesticides and children poured water, each child got a chance to pour water on this little experiment, and they saw that the pretend rain that went into the soil ended up below the ground or below in the water table. It was the part of the groundwater. And they saw that when pesticides are applied to soil, it goes into the water, the water supply and nearby rivers and lakes, a very, very serious situation. We did a lot of role plays based on information that we found in books and on the internet. These are kindergarten kids, so when we were doing role plays about how tomatoes were grown, we pretended. And then the workers, the farm workers, were picking them or gardeners were picking them. We pretended that there were some little aphids on the tomato plants and these are insect pests. So I said, well, let’s just get out some of my pesticides and I pretend sprayed them. I had no pesticides with me, of course. We pretend sprayed them. And then we did role plays on other days. We did research almost every day. The children, I instructed them during the role play to scratch your leg, scratch your arm, because of rashes and cough as they were doing the work. So we looked at some of the problems that happen when you spray pesticides. So we were trying to make it as close to the real situation as we could get in our city classroom. And when we found out through our research that the pesticides were harmful, the kids were really concerned. And young kids are really, really, you know, they’re, they’re great researchers and they’re very passionate about what they’re doing. And the the thing is, they were angry about people getting sick from the pesticides. So I’ve never, in all my 44 years of teaching, never allowed children to stay angry as they’re doing research about a topic. You know, we’ve studied about child labor, we’ve learned about many other topics, and apartheid. And I don’t want them to stay angry and I feel that the best way to deal with it is to be proactive. And so we talked about what can we do, what can we do to stop the use of pesticides in growing food? And then we did a whole new part of our research and we read children’s books. There’s one wonderful book, “Molly’s Organic Farm,” that has some of the animals that are used, insects such as praying mantises, ladybugs and so on. I brought in my tomato plant from home. And right next to it was a marigold. Marigolds are used a lot in gardens because they stink, and aphids, insect pests like aphids, don’t like them. So we learned about alternatives to the use of pesticides. I didn’t get into with the young children, I didn’t get into all the details about them causing cancer and so on. We talked about them as being very bad for people’s health and the animals that live in the area where the plants are grown. So then one day, and I’ll get to my point of how this got resolved, one day, Councilman Ben Kallos, a Councilmember from the Upper East Side, where our school was, was in our school and I told the principal, “Bring him into our classroom.” He came into the room and the kids were so excited about their research and they were very angry about the pesticides and they said they had learned from the two grandparents who came in how they worked on getting…I want to make a little, go back a little bit here, Amy, if I can. The two grandparents who came and talked to the children during their interview about how they were trying to get a law passed in their community in Long Island, and we had a room full of parents who’d come for the interview, too. We always invited the parents and other family members, so when the two grandparents came in, the kids were saying, “Well, what did you do? How did you get a law?” And they said, “Well, first we wrote to the lawmakers,” so we acted that out and we didn’t get too many lawmakers. We had some kids who were the lawmakers. We didn’t have too many lawmakers who were interested. Then the kids ask, “Well, what else are you doing? What have you been doing in Long Island?” They said, “Well, we call the lawmakers.” We tried that but didn’t get too far. The kids said, “Well, what else could you do, did you do to get a law passed?” And they said, “Well, we marched.” And literally we all got up and we marched – parents, grandparents, everybody who was in the room, we marched around the classroom, “Ban toxic pesticides, use only nature’s pesticides, pass a law,” and it didn’t work. The kids said, “Well, what did you do next?” “Well, we did it again and we marched. We had more people coming out. We had more and more people who got involved.” And so we kept marching around our classroom. It was really, really, really very exciting, based on our interviews and our role plays and the books we read and all are different ways of gathering information about this. The kids wanted to do something about it. And so they made a list of what we could do, we could put up signs, we could write about it. They love to write, kindergarten writers. And then they said, could we write a play, because we’d done other role plays and we’d written another play. And so of course, we sat around, this is a sequence of days. It wasn’t just one day. It went on for months. And so we wrote a play. I took it home and kind of reworked it so it would have a little umph in it. And a little rhyme, so, you know, these are kindergarten kids, you want the words to go right inside so they can perform their play. They did the play for parents at night. We had a family celebration. They did the play for the whole school. So they were doing a service to the whole community by teaching people, hundreds of people, about pesticides and why they’re bad. We didn’t specifically talk about Roundup, but they learned the word glyphosate, which is one of the ingredients of Roundup. So when the councilman came to our classroom, Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the area near our school, the kids were so excited. He said, “Come to City Hall.” So we took the subway, and you know, a month later, we went to City Hall, the kids, these are five and six years. They were dancing around the empty council chambers and they called him over and he said, “Well, do you have any questions?” So they asked a bunch of questions about what they do at City Hall and then he said, and he looked very serious, “What can I do for you? Is there anything I can do?” And they started chanting, “Ban toxic pesticides. Use only nature’s pesticides. Pass a law.” And they kept dancing around and repeating it and singing and chanting it. And he looked at them again and he said, “I promise I’ll try.” And so what happened was nothing initially, but during that period of time, then the subsequent period of time, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a possible carcinogen, which gave the council member and his legislative aides the tools and the information necessary to introduce the bill. If it causes cancer, we have to outlaw, we have to ban it and other toxic pesticides. So a year later he called the school, called the principal and said, “Can we have a press conference in the school yard?” And the kids from the year before came, the grandparents, parents, the current class. And he announced that he was introducing a bill the very next day, Intro 0800, which would ban toxic pesticides like glyphosate, like Roundup in New York City parks and public spaces. And then we were so excited. The kids were thrilled. It was so empowering. But you know, there’s a problem when you’re trying to get laws passed. There’s a whole process to get the law passed, to actually pass, you need co-sponsors and and a hearing and all that. And it went on and on for a couple of years with no progress despite the nudging of myself and some environmental groups. And then in 2017 in August, I get a note that they’re going to hold a hearing at City Council. It was Corey Johnson’s health committee at the time. He’s now the speaker and he held a hearing and we wrote a little play, a short play from all my classes back to 2014. And we had 60 children with all their permission slips and about 60, 70 parents, grandparents, babysitters and others. And we took the subway down to City Hall and the kids performed a skit. They let us in with all our signs because these were little kids. You’re not allowed to bring signs, you know, you’re not allowed to bring signs to City Hall. But we got escorted in by our councilman and these were little kids. So we did it and it was so exciting. The media was there. It was great. The kids were interviewed, parents, grandparents were interviewed. And so that was really, really exciting. But then we had to get, we had to get it passed. It didn’t pass so we spent the next year working with the environmental groups from all over the city and we improved on the bill, made it much stronger, and it was reintroduced in April as Intro 1524 and the meeting I had today with the legislative aide to Councilman Kallos and a whole bunch of other activists around the city, not a big meeting, is like the last push to get the 34 co-sponsors we need before a hearing will be held. This is exciting because these kids are now, the original group is now in sixth grade, but we’re still in touch and I’m still in touch with their families, so as soon as there’s a hearing we have to make a lot of phone calls. We need nine more co-sponsors and we’re going to have that hearing and we’re so excited. That is super exciting.

Jon M: 14:18 Since you’ve retired, have the teachers in the school continued to be supportive of the children being involved, or are you staying in touch sort of outside the school?

Paula R: 14:28 We’re in touch outside of the school. By the way, during that period of time we had a parent forum at the school with researchers on this issue and advocates from Beyond Pesticides and we had parents who participated in the forum. I think parent involvement is the most critically important part of all the work that I did.

Jon M: 14:50 Did you run into any parents who objected to the children being involved in political activity?

Paula R: 14:55 No. Not every single parent signed for their child to go to City Hall, but that does not mean necessarily that they objected politically on that issue. No, there were no parents who objected to this. It’s very, very, very exciting. If people want to see that process and how it got introduced and actually see the kids in the class, Charlie Olson from the Environment TV did a video and interviewed myself, student teachers, and you see us going down to City Hall. You see us in City Hall with the kids during their play. And so that’s a YouTube video that he produces called “No way. Don’t spray. Ban toxic pesticides.”

Jon M: 15:43 We can put a link to that.

Paula R: 15:45 Please.

Amy H-L: 15:45 Paula, your approach to K3 is very student-centered. The children seem to actively participate in choosing what they’ll study. Are they missing out on any standard curriculum content?

Paula R: 15:59 No, actually I think, you know, I know about the standards, of course, I know about the standards. I’ve been there for a long, long time in the schools. I’m fine with standards, but I think this goes way beyond the standards because they’re learning about the same issues, but they are invested in it. When you choose the topic, then you’re more invested. Okay. So the topic in kindergarten is very often “my school” and a lot of teachers will go to “my principal, my assistant principal, the school secretary.” I don’t do that. I say, what do you want to learn about your school? One year we did, and I’d love to tell you a little bit more about it after I answer the question, we learned about how we get clean water for our drinking fountain. You know, where does that come from? So what we do is in the very first day of school I say we’re going to be learning about our school and you can ask questions. Let’s make a list of questions. I make a list of questions, anything goes, it could be how were the windows made, how were the carpets made, the paint that we use, you know, that we use for painting, the paints on the wall, and how is that made. We learned about lead paint because of that study about the paint on the wall. They choose the topics. Then I’ll use, I worked with student teachers or if I didn’t have a student teacher one semester, I usually did, but we’d form a couple of groups. We, the adults, chose the topics from their list.They made the list of topics. We selected the bigger topics from that list and then they chose which research group they would be in. You know, I would say, I’ve written about this, when you have kids, some kids who might have problematic behavior, when kids are excited about what they’re learning, some of those problematic behaviors vanish.

Jon M: 18:09 Absolutely.

Paula R: 18:09 They’re excited because the research is based on their interests. At first we talk about what I already know about the topic, what questions do I have, how will we find the answers. But when it’s their topic, they’re so excited about it. They bring their family into the research. I write about it, a little bulletin for the families every week so they know what’s going on with the research and then they may send in resources. They may tell us whom we could interview. One time when we were learning about about how cupcakes are made, we learned about wheat. We interviewed an uncle who’s a wheat farmer in Australia. How do we get there? Skype, we interviewed a wheat farmer who’s a third cousin of one of my kids in Nebraska on Skype. So yeah, the kids were so invested in it and they would often bring their research home.

Jon M: 19:09 And this, this fits right into my next question, which is that in January the State Department of Education released the Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education Framework, and the Framework is founded on a view of education that regards culture as a critical component of learning. Multiple expressions of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, language and sexual orientation are regarded as assets to be recognized and cultivated. How can early grades teachers support the framework’s objectives?

Paula R: 19:43 Well, I think it has to evolve from, I like to have it evolve from the research. So, for example, when we were doing research about how cupcakes were made, this is, it’s such a weird topic, but you know, if there are cupcakes in your school perhaps, and in their lunch bag or they’re at home, it’s a legitimate topic. So how do you make it culturally relevant? We did an interview of an uncle in, you know, we’re focusing on the wheat, an interview of an uncle in Australia, which was so much fun because it was 9:00 in the morning for us, 9:00 PM for him. And they thanked him for staying up so late and he told us that he’s near Perth. So if, if they, if we could really drill a hole through the earth, if you could, we’d get out at his farm and we looked on Google Earth to see that. Okay, so we’re learning about different cultures and we interviewed an uncle, a third cousin out in Nebraska. We were learning, we’re interviewing all sorts of people from different backgrounds. And then one of the kids said to me, I’ll never forget it, she said, “But what about interviewing Titi Pils, my aunt, she’s in the Philippines.” And I’m thinking to myself only, but we’re learning about wheat. I don’t know if they have a lot of wheat in the Philippines. So I did a little bit of research at home about it and I said, “Let’s ask.” They don’t have a lot of wheat but we could do rice because we found out that there’s a lot of rice grown. And so we ended up, she was dying to interview her aunt, her Aunt, Titi Pils. We went to the Philippines on Skype and her whole family was on that call and we sang “Happy Birthday” to the cousin who was on the Skype call. And so then a mom was helping in class, she, she was trying to learn English. She’s from Japan. She knew almost zero English when she started out helping in the class. I kept saying to her, “Helping our class, you’ll learn English well.” She said, “Could I do an interview right in class and I’ll do a PowerPoint about how rice is grown?” And so she worked so hard. Her whole family helped her and she did an interview about rice. It was spectacular what she did because she did beautiful illustrations to go with the interview. Then I’d write to the parents. “Is there anyone else who grew rice? Anyone in your family?” One of the fathers, their family was a rice farming family in Trinidad. So instead of it being like, here’s a, you know, we’re going to study about this culture, this culture, this culture in a kind of very formal way. It evolved from the research because I was conscious and the student teachers were conscious of trying to make it evolve through interviews, through literature, through poetry. Any way we could bring that topic and make it culturally relevant. One of the things we found was that some rice farmers use tractors. In the Philippines, they were using water buffalo. That was interesting. So we started doing a survey. What about in Trinidad? Did they use tractors or water buffalo? In Japan, they never use a water buffalo. It’s more advanced technology. And so we were learning about water buffaloes and tractors and technology, but it evolved from the research. And it was fun. It was fun, too.

Amy H-L: 23:38 Paula, how do you encourage these young students to begin thinking about the ethical implications of their actions – what they wear, what they eat, those sorts of things.

Paula R: 23:51 Little kids are passionate little people. They’re passionate people. They’re people of justice. You know, parents will tell you, at home, they, they can be pretty tough on their parents sometimes. But on social issues they can be so passionate and so determined. On things like what clothes we wear in class and that kind of thing, we play that stuff down, those things. I tried to make them very unimportant, very minor issues because we have important things to do. I want to just give you a little, a little story from today. Can I, can I do a quick story today? When I went to the meeting today with the City Councilmember’s staff. I didn’t know which way to go. After I got out of the subway, I was trying to get to Park Place. I walked up to two, three construction workers and I said, “Which way is Park Place? “They said, “Aren’t you the teacher?” These are random construction workers. “Aren’t you the teacher? Are you the one who brought your class to meet us?” And I like I was, we were all screaming. We were screaming with joy. It was so exciting. You know, construction workers work on different projects with our students. I’ve always studied with my students about construction workers. I want them to value the people who build our buildings, our city, our subways. Well, they were building the Second Avenue subway around the corner from our school. Our schools is at 82nd between First and Second. And so every single Friday, unless there was a storm, we went out of the school and went to different places along Second Avenue where the workers were working. This is for eight years. We did this, we interviewed the workers. Laurie, who was up on the gantry crane near our school, way up high. She would either use her walkie talkie or just come down and talk to us. We learned about union issues. We learned about safety stuff, like workers were wearing the hard hats and they’d always show us their gloves. They’d show us their goggles and they, they showed us their, their safety boots and they even let us step on their shoes. Even me, I stepped on their shoes many a time to see how safe they were because they were steel-toed boots. So we learned about safety. We looked at the work of Fernand L├ęger, the French artist, and the workers in all his construction pictures had no safety gear. No. Sometimes they didn’t even have a shirt on, but no hard hats. And so we tried to think about why weren’t they wearing safety equipment, safety gear. And we had to figure out about that it was because these pictures were done before workers were required to wear safety gear. And then we spent time thinking and doing role plays. How would you get a law or regulation so that workers have to wear safety gear? And when we studied about lead paint, another year, when we’re studying about the paint on the classroom wall, somebody told us that some paint has lead in it. Okay. We had learned about the paint we use for our paintings and we made our own paint from beet juice and turmeric and all sorts of things. But the paint on the wall has other ingredients, one of which used to be, of course, lead. And when we did learn that it was poisonous, that was, and we learned the word toxic. We figured out how you would fight for a law to ban lead in paint.

Jon M: 28:07 I wanted to go back for a second off of your last topic you’ve been talking about. When Amy was asking about children thinking about the ethical aspects of what they wear and you responded, you know, in terms of minimizing sort of the class implications of what kids were like, who’s wearing fancier clothes or stuff like that. But I wonder whether it’s come up in terms of the other kind of contexts, like how clothes are produced in Bangladesh or in Vietnam or places like this. What do you find when you’re talking about topics like that?

Paula R: 28:43 We did research about those topics, actually we did, this was in a first and some of my first grade classes. Some kids want to know how our clothes were made. And among the questions were how was it made, where is it made, what is it made from, who does the work? And we ended up learning about sweatshops and child labor and oh, did we get involved in that. And another related topic, um, they want to know how chocolate was made. That was one of our research topics and I thought, well, chocolate, that’s fine. That’s part of our school, our community, our lives. And you know, at that time, 93% of US chocolate was made in Cote d’Ivoire by children. The picking of the cacao. And there’s still quite a bit produced by children, young children. We learned about that. We found resources to learn about that. We role played about that. But then instead of being angry, just angry about that, that this is not fair. I mean, we pretended we were the kids, you know, using machetes. Well that makes no sense for child to be cutting cacao pod with a machete. That’s dangerous. And the kids were so scared that other kids would get hurt. And so we tried to figure out what could be done about it. And we learned about fair trade and we did a lot of research about fair trade and we learned about fair trade chocolate and then the process, you know, we had to find the right stores to go to, the stores anywhere in New York that had fair trade chocolate. And we did math lessons about the different kinds of dark chocolate. You know, there’s 100%, which tastes so bitter , and then we had 50%, well that’s 50% cacao and the rest milk and sugar. So we learned. It wasn’t just learning social studies, but it was social studies with math, reading, literature, art, music. We included all of the curriculum areas. But we always did stuff about it. So one of the things that we did was the parents and the families organized, and boy did they do a great job, they organized a fair trade sale that we held right in our classroom and in the hallway because they went out and got donations of fair trade things. We learned, the children and the families, learned the different symbols that you would look for on a product that’s made by adults. And we learned about, you know, the co-ops in some of the countries, some of the places that have fair trade products. So we got deeply involved, but we always did something, not every single topic, but we would, you know, of course, pick and choose. But the issue of clothes, we had a fair trade sale and we raised about a thousand dollars that the first year. We actually did that study another time and the parents raised about $2,000. The parents took this stuff outside and sold it at dismissal time so that they could teach other people.

Jon M: 31:58 That is parent involvement.

Paula R: 31:58 Oh my gosh. Those parents were unreal. They were so great.

Jon M: 32:04 Let me ask you another question. In addition to all the many other things that you do, you’ve been an antiwar activist for many years, particularly Military Families Speak Out, an organization of families of the people in the military, which I’ve also been involved with through you, whose slogan is, “Support our troops. Bring them home now.” How can teachers promote peace education within schools?

Paula R: 32:33 And we really need to, we really need to. It’s urgent. I like to work through literature and there are some wonderful books, for example, by Leo Leoni, “The Alphabet Tree.” There are quite a few books about problem solving. Oh, The Alphabet Tree, by the way, at end of the book, the little animals in the book go to the president, to say, you know, “We want peace on earth, goodwill to all.” They said “all mankind.” We changed it to “all people.” But I love to use literature. I love to use trying to create a peaceful classroom and learning to solve problems within our classroom, within our school. One of the things that we did in the earlier years at this school, there were a lot of children from Serbia, from Croatia, and there was a lot of hatred at home among the families because of the wars that were going on in that region. And so we got together, the principal, uh, Shelley Harwin at the time, called all of the kids from that region into the auditorium and asked me if I would join them with a guitar. And we didn’t battle out that topic because we had chosen not to. We sang together, we just sang together and talked about peace and friendship.

Amy H-L: 34:01 So Paula, in 44 years, you’ve worked with many administrators, chancellors in the old Board of Education and now the Department of Education. What advice would you give new teachers on surviving the New York City school system?

Paula R: 34:21 My mother, who had been a teacher for many years in special ed, she said, “Do your job well.” Do it well. Do the very best that you can of course. So that, that’s one thing. If you have requirements, you have to do them. But if you look at your schedule, what can you take out of your schedule? What can you tighten up? So, for example, I never had a morning meeting and all those years, after the first few, because that saved me at least a half hour to three quarters of an hour that people often take for morning meeting. We used it for research. I advise student teachers learn ways to transition your class quickly. If you’re going to, you know, finish one activity, what are ways to have that go quickly so that you don’t waste time. Everybody’s standing in line. You see teachers with their kids lined up for extensive periods of time. So work on, on classroom management. If you have to teach about something, stretch it. I always say stretch it. So teach what you are required to teach and then bring in your ,you know, additional issues. Get the support of the parents. That is critically important. Not always easy, but it’s critically important. I’m still in touch with parents from 35, 40 years ago because I did so much outreach to involve parents. Parents were welcomed. You know a lot of teachers hate parents in the room. I loved parents being in the room, come on in, come, you don’t have to make an appointment, come on in and help or we’ll interview. Could we interview you or do you know somebody we could interview about whatever topic we were studying? So parent involvement is very, very important. Getting the parents to really understand what you’re doing and to participate in what you’re doing because then the administration is not as likely to come after you for doing things that aren’t exactly according to the script. You know, sometimes there’s pressure from the district or from the city, you know, depending on where you’re teaching. I just saw so many principals who appreciated or just let it be, appreciated what was going on. Because when they walked in our room, those kids were excited about what they were doing. But I feel for young teachers and for all the other teachers all around the country who are being forced to follow these reading programs that, I mean, you have to follow them exactly. Or you have to teach for the test. I feel so badly for the young teachers. It’s a terrible situation. But what I would say to them is if you’re in that situation, do everything you can to teach well and to create time so you can do some research with the children, some inquiry. Teach them poetry. Teach them to love learning and then teach them to do social activism as part of their research.

Jon M: 37:40 So is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t had a chance to cover?

Paula R: 37:47 Well, one of the things that, that I think is, is so important is to find ways for social activism to evolve.

Paula R: 37:57 You can’t plant social activism, “I want you boys and girls to do this project and to help dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,” whatever. The best social activism I’ve ever seen in teaching is when it evolves from the research kids are doing about topics that they want to learn about. And I just want to throw in one that they did when they were learning about water, the water from the water fountain, and where that comes from. That was a several months study and we were learning, we used the Magic School Bus book, we acted it out, we made our own reservoir, you know a lot, a lot, a lot of things. We learned about how the water treatment plant works and so on. And then when Hurricane Maria hit and the water supply was ruined, we talked about what could we do to help people in Puerto Rico get clean water because it seemed like from what we read in the newspaper that the President wasn’t, the government was not helping people very much to get clean water. So what could we do? And the kids invented, took their journals and invented things based on what they knew. Because they know that the water treatment plant has filters and we’d played around with filters, you know, it has some chlorine, it has this and this and this. So they invented stuff based on what they knew. And I said to them and the student teacher, I wonder if there’s anything like that that we could give to the people in Puerto Rico. And I knew that there was and my student teacher knew that there was, but we had the research group look it up and try to, you know, try to find out if there’s anything like that. And there is, it’s called a LifeStraw. So what we did was we found out where we could get them and we had a school-wide fundraiser. We involved a few other classes and we raised $1,000 and sent life straws to a friend of mine who teaches in university in Ponce. And she and her college students took those life straws to a school up in the region that had some pretty wicked bad flooding and the principal distributed the Lifestraws to families and the college students did a huge art project with about 250 students in that school. So, you know, teaching children to be socially responsible. “I’m not learning this just for me. I’m learning it so I can help make it better. We can help make it better.” It’s a we. “We can help make a better world.”

Jon M: 40:36 Wow. You’ve just summarized ethical education.

Amy H-L: 40:42 Right. Exactly. Well, thank you so much Paula Rogovin.

Paula R: 40:45 You’re so welcome. Um, I could probably go out a little longer, quite a bit longer, because in 44 years we did so, so, so much of it. And, and I encourage people who are either going into the field of education or are already in, stay with it. If you really can’t do these kinds of things in your school and you tried and you tried and you’ve tried to work with others in the school, you know, and you try to be friends and work with people in other schools, also they’re educational groups that you can work with. And you know, if really, really it’s not working out, then do a little research and find another. You know, if people are in graduate programs and you’ve met some people who are socially concerned or teachers at the school who are socially concerned, stay in touch with them because you need to lean on each other when things get rough. It is not easy the way things are set up right now in education, but even if you do a little bit, that’s fantastic.

Jon M: 41:54 Thank you again, Paula, and actually what you just said is a lot of what we hope to contribute to in building a community with this podcast. So thank you listeners for joining us. Our editor is Amanda Denti, our parent organization is Ethics in Education Network, a leader in customized ethics-focused professional development. Contact us for more information. We’d like to hear how you’ve incorporated ideas you’ve heard on the podcast or read on our blog and you can email us at Check out prior episodes and articles on our site, which is We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Till next week.

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