In 2014, while my kindergarten students at PS 290 in Manhattan were doing research about tomatoes and other foods in our cafeteria, they learned about pesticides. They did role-plays where farmworkers or gardeners were coughing and rubbing the rashes caused by the (pretend) pesticides sprayed on the tomatoes.
Rather than remain angry, we took action. We interviewed two grandparents about their efforts to get a law to ban toxic pesticides in their town and role-played what they had done: emails, phone calls, meetings and demonstrations.
When City Council member Ben Kallos visited our school, the children told him about their research. He invited us to City Hall, promised he would try to honor their request to introduce a bill to ban toxic pesticides in New York City and, in 2015, he did so, although it wasn’t passed. In 2017, 60 of my current and former kindergartners presented a skit at the City Hall hearing!
Scientists have linked exposure to Roundup (used in NYC parks) with harmful health outcomes, especially for children, including increased risks of certain types of cancer, neurological problems, endocrine disruption and birth defects. People and pets shouldn’t be exposed to these toxins. (Young children don’t need to know all these details; older students and adults should.)
In April, Council member Kallos reintroduced the bill, which would ban Roundup and other pesticides in NYC parks and public spaces. Now, we need the help of students and adults to get this bill passed. Please go to www.parksforkidsNYC.org to learn how you can help.
Paula Rogovin, retired