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Promoting healthy living with a bit of dirt and dance

Promoting healthy living with a bit of dirt and dance

Story by Adrian Cabreja

“Please don’t throw your trash on the floor,” read a handmade sign tucked inside a tree bed, one of the eight that bordered the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Elementary School, located on West 146th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

The colorful sign was made by students, and was one of the many indications that this was a special day around the neighborhood this past Sat., Apr. 28th.

Scores of parents, students, teachers, staff members, and community members participated in the day-long Livin’ Lean & Green, Love Your Block Health Fair.

The health fair, sponsored by Urban Garden Center, Harlem Seeds, Grow NYC, CHALK and Healthy Kids in the Heights, focused on issues of personal and environmental health.

“Our kids are concerned about their futures. They are telling adults that they are interested in their environment, because they are going to live in it,” said Miriam Aristy-Farer, a member of the school’s PTA Green Committee.

“When they grow up they want clean air, they want clean water and they want green trees,” she added.

The day was planned to encourage the elementary students to dialogue knowledgeably on environmental issues such as recycling and reforestation.

The young would-be environmentalists began their day by getting their hands dirty. They planted small plants provided by Urban Garden Center in tree beds to keep the existing trees company; those trees had previously been adopted by community residents.

As part of the day’s agenda, there were healthy living sessions that offered children a chance to jump in on various physical activities such as soccer, basketball, tae kwon do and tennis.

And there was dancing.

The dance lessons by Maria Duarte and Lettie Battle of Dance Theater of Harlem instructed young dancers on basic basic ballet moves and creative dancing.

“Dancing is great way for kids to learn. Dancing [might not be] taken seriously in academia, because it is a physical activity. However, dancing provides students with the opportunity to submerge them into the world of aesthetics.  Aesthetics promotes critical thinking,” argued Battle.

After their dance lessons, the instructors and the young girls played a game of memory were Duarte varied the meanings of basic actions.

For example, when Duarte told her students to walk, the girls were instructed to stop and when they were told to stop they were instructed to walk.

Dozens of other actions were given new meanings.

“The girls were learning how to use their memories and to follow instructions critically. They also were learning how to use a new language,” said Duarte. “These developments are very important.”

For more information on the Urban Garden Center, please visit or call 646.872.3991.

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