Water, Water, Nowhere…and Not a Drop to Drink
We’ve all heard that there is a drought in California. However, it’s been raining the past couple weeks, so it’s all fixed, right? Not even close. Our November Peace & Justice Lab focused on the water issues in the state of California.
We rolled out of the parking lot on a Thursday morning with our bags packed to head overnight to Fresno. Our first stop was Fresno Pacific University for our annual all-school college tour. We saw the campus and learned there they do many thing similarly to our school. They have a restorative justice student panel, they take community very seriously, and they are rooted in the Mennonite peacemaking tradition.
After our tour, we went to play and hang out together before we headed to Community Mennonite Church, our hosts for the evening. We had a wonderful taco bar dinner, played games, and watched a movie before settling in to sleep.
The next morning came too early, but we were up and ready to go to meet our tour guide for water issues in the area, Stephenie Frederick. We looked at Fresno’s canal system that flows through the city, including both the drinking water and the water for crops.
We then headed up to Friant Reservoir, the major holding area for the area’s water. As we headed into the reservoir, we drove toward the water…down one boat ramp…still no water…down a second boat ramp...still no water…. We parked in a lot and walked down a third boat ramp, but still had to walk over 100 yards to the water’s edge. Looking around we could see where the water once was. In fact, the GPS on the car said we were parked in the middle of a large lake!
It must have taken YEARS for it to get that low, but it was full almost 5 years ago! Even our youngest students remembered 5 years ago! When we left the reservoir we went in search of hope. There was a river with extra water released to help the salmon recover, there were large water basins in the city to recharge the underground aquifers, and there was a co-housing community that demonstrated strategies for wise water use.
End of Year Donation
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Interfaith Community Arts Project Unfurls! (Written by Nora Lee)
Right before Thanksgiving, middle-schoolers from Pasadena's New Horizon School, Weizmann Day School, and the Peace & Justice Academy joined forces with muralist Monica Grizowski to paint two enormous murals on canvas to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning in Pasadena's public elementary schools
This was the first time that the three schools had tackled a project together, and some of the students came with low expectations. Many of them had been involved in previous "interfaith" projects in which the emphasis was on the differences among them. This project, in contrast, was an opportunity to get to know each other and have fun. Alec Weissman, a 7th grader at Weizmann Day School, enjoyed the teambuilding games that were part of the day's activities. He admitted that at the beginning of the day he stuck pretty close to his friends, but after the games, they split up and he made new friends. Said Alec, "I like the feeling of the religions coming together. It's symbolic."
Abdullah Hasan, Noor Hasan (no relation) and Layla Karam, all 8th graders from New Horizons, were very happy with how fast the time flew. Abdullah said, "They say that time flies when you are having fun, right? Well, it flew today!" Noor admitted that in the beginning she, too, looked for her friends, but by the end of the day, "I couldn't tell which people were from which school."
Layla enjoyed painting and getting to know new people. She reported that when the Muslim students stopped for midday prayers, they invited anyone who was interested to watch. Several of the Jewish students were astonished that they could understand some of the words in the prayers.
The 60 middle school students were divided into four groups of 15 each. They worked on the murals in rotation, and when they weren't painting they were playing games like Human Knot and Magic Bamboo, or getting some idea of what high school life is like at the Peace & Justice Academy Interfaith High School from upperclassmen Jacob and Casey.
The high school students from the Peace & Justice Academy were put in charge of various parts of the day. Kayla and Nathaniel organized and taught the games. Kayla enjoyed her leadership role and was amazed at how quickly the students learned the games. "The games are all about learning to work together towards a common goal. All the students learned really fast."
Randy Christopher thought the day went really well. "We have a tradition here at PAJA. After we do a collective project like this one, we come together for a moment to share what was most meaningful about the experience. So many of the students said the two words we wanted to hear: fun and community. That was the whole idea. Everyone is committed to doing this again."