Betting on the Bay with Malcolm X Academy
Victor and Naeemah — two fourth graders at Malcolm X Academy in the Bayview —recently presented the results of their class’ work with Y-PLAN (Youth-Plan, Learn, Act Now!), the San Francisco Planning Department, and the San Francisco chapter of the National Association of Minority Architects. This collaborative project aimed to educate the community about the local effects of climate change and sea level rise.
Malcolm X Academy is a public school near lslais Creek, once the city’s largest sources of fresh water. It was the Ohlone tribe’s primary water source and, as the city of San Francisco formed, where residents got their drinking water. Over the years, however, lslais Creek has been degraded by trash, toxins, and waste. Most of it is now covered with concrete or enclosed by industrial yards and roadways.
Walter & Elise Haas Fund Executive Director Jamie Allison recently spoke with Victor, Naeemah, and their teacher Christopher Moore to discuss their concerns for their community, their hopes for the future, and their willingness to play a role in making the Bay Area a better place for all.
Jamie: Thanks to all three of you for sharing what you’ve learned. Can we start with some background? Why partner with Y-PLAN, Mr. Moore?
Mr. Moore: It’s a wonderful organization that helps us do project based learning. Every year with Y-PLAN — and I’ve worked with them for 12 years — I get to help my students tackle a real world problem in a creative way.
This year, we were able to incorporate some of our ethnic studies curriculum and get students such as Victor and Naeemah to think about their community and about how climate change may affect the Bayview. These students have become more effective agents of change within their community.
If I tried to implement these projects without the resources Y-PLAN brings, I wouldn’t be as impactful. We’re addressing challenging concepts — sea level rise and global warming — and also discussing environmental racism, because the students asked how the chemical pollutants we’re dealing with in the Bayview got here in the first place. That’s an amazing educational tangent they brought in.
Jamie: And the students are engaged?
Mr. Moore: There’s a buzz in the room, and the buzz is about what we’re learning.
My students have a lot of energy; I’m always trying to give them structures where they can be loud in the classroom, while remaining on task. Our work with Y-PLAN is perfect for that.
Jamie: Victor, where do you live?
Victor: I live in Revere. That’s down the hill, walking distance from school.
Jamie: What are somethings about your neighborhoods that you would like to keep unchanged?
Naeemah: The trees.
Victor: Being outside.
Jamie: Do you want to keep living in your neighborhoods as adults?
Naeemah: Yes. I’ve lived in Oakland since I was little. When I grow up, I’ll know where everything is — all the stores and stuff I could go to.
Jamie: Excellent. And what do you think makes a neighborhood a good place to live?
Victor: Peace and safety.
Naeemah: A lot of trees and places where you can play outside; that makes a good neighborhood.
Jamie: And you’ve been doing some city planning, right? Tell me about working in groups. What do you have to do to make a group work well together?
Victor: We have to trust each other to get the work done right. And then if we do mess up anyway, we can work together to fix it.
Naeemah: When we work in groups we get things done faster and we help each other a lot. Someone always has a good idea and we can depend on each other to make a good idea even better.
Jamie: What do you wish for when you grow up?
Victor: That my family and community will be safe from danger. That if it floods we can be protected and ready.
Naeemah: When I get older, and when sea level does rise, I want to have a plan for it. When emergencies happen, I don’t want people to be in danger.
Jamie: What’s something that adults could learn from young people?
Naeemah: Don’t pollute the environment. Stop burning fossil fuels. Buy and use less stuff. Make sure you turn off the lights!
Jamie: You were just presenting your work at the University of California in Berkeley. What’s it like having an audience come and listen to you speak?
Victor: I felt nervous at first and then I started to feel better.
Naeemah: It actually felt pretty good. People our age have good ideas. We want to share what we are learning.
Jamie: What do you think you might like to do when you finish school?
Naeemah: Maybe get a job!
Victor: Maybe own a restaurant?
Jamie: What’s the best food they serve in the cafeteria?
Naeemah: Chicken tamales!
Victor: Cheese pizza!
Jamie: All this wisdom from fourth graders. Thanks for letting us learn from you — and thanks to Malcolm X Academy, Y-PLAN, the San Francisco Planning Department, and the National Association of Minority Architects for all the work you’ve done and will keep on doing on behalf of the Bay Area.