In the fourth grade hallway of St. Stanislaus Kaska Catholic Academy in Williamsburg, there is a row of handwritten dreams.
Written inside a cloud, each one begins at the edge of the historical echo: I have a dream...
The dream above? It starts with a call to stop littering in parks. "If you see trash on in the park, don't just look at it, pick it up and throw it in the trash!" And then it expands: "Another example of how to stop pollution is to ride bikes or walk more because cars create carbon dioxide." These kids dream big, but that's because they see the larger picture.
Are some of these dreams political? Yes, but only because they are personal:
"I have a dream that everyone can have equal rights. For me equal rights means all girls will have the opportunity to get the same education as boys which is still not possible in many countries. It means the same pay because we all work equally as hard as should be paid fairly. It means people, no matter the color of their skin, will be included and not discriminated against. I Have a Dream that we will stand together as one."
The thing about these dreams, and this handwritten project, is that it's not just some thing these students do once a year. And it's not just an activity to keep kids busy, or to check off a curricular box. At St. Stan's, handwriting is core to the curriculum because it is fundamental to a student's growth, development, and understanding. It is through the act of writing by hand that students come closer to themselves, our history, and each other.
"The MLK writing assignment was a way for students to envision a world where all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities could live in peace and harmony," says 4th Grade Teacher Mrs. Zito. "The writing assignment was followed by a film clip of a young MLK and the beginning of the civil right movement."
On our visit, we had the chance to meet and talk with the driving force of the academy: Principal Christina Cieloszczyk.
"We believe that even in these times of increasing dependence on internet and social media," says Mrs. C, "connections between people, handwriting — namely script — is definitely not a lost art. Our students are taught script beginning in 2nd grade. They polish up the skill in 3rd grade so that by 4th grade, the expectation is that the majority of their work is done in script."
Each hallway is evidence of this. Handwriting, and not just in script form, is everywhere.
We know education is the key to unlocking doors. We know handwriting benefits the brain on neurological and physiological levels. We know an understanding of the past strengthens our ability to understand the present. And we know that engaging students with the issues of today prepare us, and them, for those that lie ahead. We hope the selection of letters below will bring you a little bit of energy, and re-ignite your dreams, if they're not already on fire.
With thanks to St. Stan's Board Advisor Tatiana Serafin for telling us about this lovely project, and for inviting us in to take photographs, and get to know one school that takes handwriting to the heart.