Russian Class Presentation
I was born in Russia and moved to the United States when I was six months
old. When I started school here I did not speak any English! Now it is my
second native language. My parents and I speak Russian at home, and I can
read and write in Russian too.
My grandmother, my mom and I decided to familiarize the girls in my class
with Russian culture. We brought a few of the traditional foods and items
to class. We brought pirogy, a kind of bread with different fruits inside,
which my grandmother baked that morning as they are supposed to be served
warm and sushki, unsweetened, small doughnuts that are dried and served
with tea. We also brought some beautiful artifacts-dolls made of porcelain
and cloth and wooden toys.
I wore a traditional authentic Russian girl's costume. I spoke some
Russian and talked about the country. I answered questions about Russia
that the girls had. Everybody was smiling and happy to learn about Russia.
Such meetings and cultural exchanges bring people from all over the world
Nina Vorobieva, 9
"You won't be cutting your hair," my dad said. It was an honest reply to
the question I just asked him.
"Why not? I can't make friends. I am teased, and sports are hard for me to
take part in. Is this all worth it?" I asked.
"The answer is NO. I did not come to this country to see my kids give up
their religion. What about all the other kids who have turbans?"
Such ignorance! What on Earth was he talking about? If there were other
kids around here with turbans, I would not be in such a bind. It was all
too hard to digest; I was only 14 at the time.
"How do you want to see your kid grow up? A depressed child who never made
friends or joined sports all for the stupid religion you are forcing me to
take up!?" I was now over the edge. The conversation had taken a new level,
and there was no coming out without a good yelling.
I was sick and tired of being laughed at and teased for my religion, the
Sikh faith. Our religion focuses on a strict means of life, daily prayer
and equality between men and women. The turban is a symbol of strength. In
my world, religious beliefs are strong, and sacrifices to everyday life are
made. I had hardly any friends. There was not much to look forward to in
the days, weeks or years ahead. I tried to join organized sports. Whether
it be hockey, lacrosse, football or any of the other sports kids played, I
was turned down. Not that I was unable to try new things, but I was not
allowed to play because I had a turban. There was nothing I could do. My
family tried desperately to do something. They were willing to spend money
to help me get to play. I was upset about this every day. I did not feel
compelled to return even if I found a way to play because once I was turned
down everyone knew, and the jokes spread like wildfire.
"Ha ha, you can't even play 'cause your helmet won't fit over your turban!"
My parents had come to this country over 20 years ago. My father had 23
dollars, and with that, he got himself an education. My mother worked hard,
and together they started a family. We now live in an upper-middle class
neighborhood in a top school district. It's hard even to imagine what my
parents went through because I was too young, and I have never seen that
kind of hardship.
School had always been tough. I got teased and laughed at-the cruelty of
children. I was different. I was the only Sikh child in a school of more
than 3,000 students. My religion was not even clear to me. I did not
understand it, as most kids don't understand things. My only hope was to
remove my turban and get a haircut. It was not exactly a sin in my mind. I
felt that if Jewish people can be Orthodox and wear the traditional garb,
and at the same time, there can be Jews who follow the religion but do not
wear traditional clothing, this should apply to me as well. My parents did
not think so. It was a sin in their eyes, a rejection of the Sikh community
and a family disgrace. In Asian culture you are an integral part of the
growing community and must do as everyone else around you wants you to do.
How much worse could it get for me?
I visited India for the first time last winter, and there I saw the many
massive golden temples and the millions of Sikhs who were proud and strong.
I began reading books about the history of Sikhs and learned that the
turban was not a sacrifice but a symbol of strength and power. Things
became clearer to me, and I made the choice not to give up my religion. Now
I understand what it means, and that sometimes giving in to others may be
the wrong thing to do. I followed my parents' ideals, and I am a happier
person. I no longer lust to be the most popular person or to be in the most
rigorous of sports.
People mature and change with time, and high school proved to me that
people don't care only about what you look like. I made many friends and
joined the track team. Even if they do judge me, I know who I am and what
my heritage is, and that has made the difference.
Shawn Gulati, 16,
New City, New York
A Sweet Celebration for German Children
Do you remember your very first day of school? Maybe your mom or dad stayed
home from work so they could drive you to school, or maybe they waved
good-bye as you rode away in the school bus. You probably wore new clothes
for the first day of school, and perhaps, you were just a bit scared.
Did you know the first day of school is not the same for every child
everywhere? Children living in different countries share different
traditions or different ways of doing things.
For children living in Germany the first day of kindergarten is filled with
sweets and surprises! It is a day of celebration for the whole family. Like
American children, German children start the first day dressed in their
best clothes. After that, their day is very different.
In Germany parents go to the school with their children on the first day.
That way the child is not alone. The parents stay at the school the whole
When they arrive each child receives a zuckertute. A zuckertute is a
cone-shaped goodie package filled with toys and sweets. The top is covered
with flowers. It is usually large and sometimes stands as tall as the child!
The zuckertute is brought to school by the parents before the school day
begins. It is tradition for children to have their picture taken holding
their zuckertute. Class pictures are also taken on the first day of school.
The first day is spent exploring the classroom and getting to know one
another. When the day is over, children and parents go home for a family
party. The party usually takes place at home, but sometimes it is held at a
Brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles are invited to
the party. In small towns neighbors even come to congratulate the child.
Everyone brings gifts for the guest of honor.
This is how it was 60 years ago when my mother was a young girl in Germany,
and these traditions are still observed today. It is a sweet
celebration for everyone, especially for the children!
Hackettstown, New Jersey
To learn about the natural world, would you rather sit in front of a
computer and see images of nature that aren't real or walk through nature
and smell, feel and touch the real thing?
When you go to learn about minnows, you walk through the forest to go to a
pond. You hear the birds chirping and the squirrels chasing each other. You
see the silver line on rocks left by snails and slugs, and you even feel
the bite of mosquitos. When you get to the pond, you hear the frogs
croaking and breathe the smell of flowers and fresh air. You see hundreds
of minnows swimming in the pond.
When you sit in front of a computer, you do not hear the animals or smell
the flowers or breathe the fresh air. You sit for hours and do not get any
exercise, and you do not touch or feel anything at all.
I would much rather hear and smell and touch to learn about nature than sit
and see images on a screen.
When you go to a computer and click onto "fish," you miss the unexpected
surprises you find on your journey to the pond.
Abbey Forbes, 10, Port Deposit, Maryland. "I'm homeschooled. My dad
teaches me the spiritual way of looking at nature. My mom teaches me the
scientific facts of nature. I merge the two of them together, and that
makes me who I am and how I look at things."
Feeling the Earth's Breath In
My Lungs and Her Blood in My Veins
It's funny how the smell of chicken poop in the summer breeze is a pleasant
memory, and the experience of putting my hand in a hot compost pile makes
me feel good inside. It's hard to explain the heart of farming, the
connection that is built between the human and the Earth, where both
organism's well-being depends on the well-being of the other, or the
feeling of being completely fulfilled after a proud day's work, yet
exhausted from the labor. In our search for wisdom as a human species we
struggle to find the tools and opportunities from which to gather
Everything on this planet has a connection in some way; life cycles rely on
each other. If the balance is tipped then the hourglass slowly runs out of
time, gathering speed the farther it tips out of balance. We need to become
the future and stop relying on the future to fix our mistakes. Organic
farming is food grown without chemicals. There are so many toxic chemicals
and fossil fuels put directly onto the food and workers on conventional
farms that it seems like health alone will force us all to look to
organics, not to mention how it affects the consumer.
Our connection to food has changed. The bond between the farmer and the
community has changed. Honest hard workers spend their lives trying to
learn, practice and teach the art of farming, while their nights are filled
with worries about how to compete with the larger companies who are ruining
the water sources and taking all the business, while gaining huge support
from the communities. I know it's not because people want to eat chemicals,
or even that everyone knows what they're putting into their bodies. But a
lot of us who see the hazards of pesticides and herbicides can't afford to
buy the organically grown produce. That's why farms like the Youth Farm,
where youth are taught the value of organic farming and how to actually run
the farm, are so important.
The Youth Farm is run by Food For Lane County, an organization focused on
ending hunger in our community. The food is sold for about what you'd pay
for non-organics in a grocery store. We are able to sell it so cheaply
because the local organic farms and community members donate most of the
seeds and starts on the farm. What is not sold is sent out to the homeless
shelters and directly into the community in emergency food boxes.
Volunteers get paid with produce and flowers. If you're hungry and willing
to work for your food, then spend an hour weeding, get a bag of produce.
There is a constant feeling of pride when the effect you see is so directly
Positive energy surrounds our farm, even though it's just a block from a
mall. The valley's rich riverbed soil blossoms thick luscious greenery in
the growing seasons. Huge plants with intricate concentrated communities
line the fields. The Earth's secrets are as beautiful and simple as a
child's coloring book, its pages torn into strips like the rows in our
fields, brightly colored like crayons scattered upon a scribbled on desk
As I feel my soul soak into the soil with my sweat, I find my center of
peace and love being put into each precise movement. My hands skim over the
top of the muddy soil asking the weeds to understand why, while my peers
and I question the meanings of life and the pressures we all feel. The soil
is healing me as it sucks all the stress from my body, a meditative process
that is different for us all. Release your walls built so high by society
and plunge your hands to the dirt. Take a stand to make a difference one
plant at a time.
The dew clinging to the spiders' webs hanging from the flowers' open
fingers...their open hands full of water as they take in the morning's
sun....each roaming insect doing the work of angels unseen, filling the
air with a pulse of chaotic buzzing songs. So much to take in, just take it
one thought at a time. Don't rush to be finished and skip over the details.
They're the moments you will remember in the end.
Dove Miller, senior, Northwest Youth Corps Outdoor High School,
Oregon. Dove is a crew leader on the Youth Farm.