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‘A’ in activism: Students wrap lessons on gun violence with march through central Bklyn • Brooklyn Paper

‘A’ in activism: Students wrap lessons on gun violence with march through central Bklyn

Loud and proud: Neyfa Philogene chants through a megaphone at a protest march featuring students from Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School in Crown Heights.
Photo by Jason Speakman

These youngsters learned to walk out.

Kids at a Crown Heights charter school capped off weeks of studying gun violence in the United States with a protest march on Friday — but the adolescent activists didn’t walk alone, according to one student.

“It was effective because we actually got people from the community to come and walk with us,” said Starasia Bethune, a seventh-grader at Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School on Dean Street between Troy and Schenectady avenues.

Dozens of locals and faculty flanked some 175 seventh and eighth graders on the roughly 1-mile march from their learning house to Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street between New York and Brooklyn avenues in nearby Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Many youngsters waved signs and wore bright orange shirts — similar to those donned by demonstrators who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge for common-sense gun-law reform earlier this month — during the protest, which educators okayed ahead of time so that nobody would be marked absent like some kids who walked out of borough schools earlier this year in a nationwide call for legislative change.

“We choose as a school to leave today, because we’re fed up with gun violence,” said Launch social-studies teacher Lindsay Herz. “Teachers, students, and administration together decided this issue is important enough.”

The charter school’s sixth-to-eighth grade classes supplement their traditional curriculum in subjects including literature, writing, social studies, and science with so-called “expeditionary learning,” hands-on studies of real-world problems designed to foster practical skills and a deeper understanding of certain issues.

And this spring, for the second year in a row, Launch seventh graders’ expeditionary learning focused on the topic of gun violence, according to Herz, who said students in her social studies class learned how a culture of “toxic masculinity” can lead to dangerous behavior, while in writing class they crafted science-fiction tales exploring a future free of senseless firearm fatalities.

“In almost every class students are looking at gun violence from different perspectives, and trying to find solutions,” the teacher said.

The walkout culminated the students’ various lessons, and kids got to apply what they learned to help make it happen by posting fliers about the event inside local businesses, creating the signs they carried at the march, and even drafting materials circulated to spread word about the demonstration, Bethune said.

“I wrote the press release,” the seventh-grader said. “I looked at examples to learn how to write one. It was actually fun.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Sign of the times: The students participated in a walk out against gun violence, marching from their school to Restoration Plaza on Friday.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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