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"We saw factories on the Mississippi River. It smelled like smoke."

"The Haley Story Quilt Project

Our goal is to encourage students
to observe their environment

by Cherice Harrison-Nelson
New Orleans, Louisiana

Cherice Harrison-NelsonThe following article is composed of extracts from the Haley Story Quilt Project newsletter written be elementary school students from Oretha Castle Haley school in New Orleans. The project director and the students teacher is Cherice Harrison-Nelson. Haley is a community partner of the Environmental Justice Festival Project.

The Haley Story Quilt Project is in full swing. The two-year long project is on the theme "Environmental Justice." The program includes a writing initiative, classroom visits by Donald Harrison, Jr. (composer-in-residence for Junebug Productions. Inc.), John O'Neal, Adella Gautier, and Pat Bryant, the production of a beaded quilt, and student performances.

Our goal is to encourage students to observe their environment and record their findings (observations) in a journal. These writings will be accompanied by student created drawings. At the end of this school session, selected journal entries will be professionally bound into books which will become a permanent part of the school's library collection.

Yuck, It Stinks Around Here! (An Olfactory Observation)
by Soreonne Spellman

We had just passed chemical factories on our way to the Brer Rabbit Festival when I smelled something. I did an olfactory (sniff and smell) observation, and it was stinky. All of a sudden a sudden we saw 2 factories putting chemicals in the air. It really stunk!

On the way back, we saw factories on the Mississippi River. It smelled like smoke. I thought I would not want to drink that water. It might have poison in it. Also, I would not want to eat fish from the river, Mr. Bryant said did they might have sores on them. I wish we could have clean water.

Read To Me by David Antunez

On Friday, January 24, 1997 the whole school had, "Read to Me." We had two great people come to our class. Mrs. Nelson's brother and their mother, Mrs. Harrison. Mrs. Harrison read two books to us about music, Charlie Parker Played Bebop and What a Wonderful World. Mr. Harrison played music after each page. Afterwards Mr. Harrison played bebop music by Charlie Parker. I think we had the best "Read to Me" in the whole school.

Big Companies Poison Our Environment by Soreonne Spellman

Mr. Pat Bryant came to our class on Wednesday, October 16th. He talked to us about factories and what we might see an our way to the Brer Rabbit Festival.

We asked Mr. Pat Bryant a lot of questions. He gave us good answers. He told us pollution is a nice word for poison. He also told us what can happen when you live around a factory that puts poison in your environment. The air, water, and land can become poisoned. People can also get cancer. Cancer is a bad disease. It can cause a person to die. His visit was a good visit because he talked to us about serious stuff. I enjoyed his visit.

Toxic Roach Spray by Soreonne Spellman

On my way home from school I saw some men that looked like they were wearing space suits. Then one day my teacher, Mrs. Nelson, was telling the class about another house around the school that had been sprayed with toxic roach spray. Some men in Mississippi started a home roach spraying business with a spray that is only supposed to be used outside. When it is used outside the sun stops it from being toxic. But, when it is used inside it poisons the environment. The men with the space suit looking clothes clean out houses that were sprayed with the toxic spray. It is important to clean those houses out. If not, the people that live in the houses could become very sick. They could even become sick enough to die. I think it was bad that toxic spray was used in homes. I also think those men in Mississippi should not want to make money by selling poison that can hurt people. It is very bad when people want money that bad.

We Did Not See Brer Rabbit by Leon Thomas

We went to the Brer Rabbit Festival and Brer Rabbit was not there. I wonder where Brer Rabbit was. I wonder if he was playing a trick on Brer Fox.

Even though we did not get to see Brer Rabbit we did see and do other things at the Laura Plantation. We saw the slave cabins and they were not pretty. We peeped into the cabins and saw vases, chains and a rusty floor. They were very raggedy. The Big House is yellow and a little pretty We went to the well and looked in. It had water in it.

Adella Adella the Storyteller by Maurice Johnson

Adella is the best storyteller in the whole world. She came to our school, Oretha Castle Haley, to tell us a story. She read the book, Sammy and the Tigers. I hope she comes back to our class again. I think when I grow up I want to be a storyteller.

Until I grow up I will read lots of books. I will start with Sammy and the Tigers.

A Special Day at Haley by Maurice Johnson

January 6, 1997 was a special day at Haley School. It was the first time since the beginning of the school year we had soap and paper towels in the restrooms. We need to be able to wash our hands, so I hope children do not put paper towels in the toilets. If they do they might not give them to us again for a long time. It is important to be able to wash your hands after you use the toilet. I hope we keep having soap and paper towels for the rest of the school year.

Happy Freedom Day by Monique Smith

On March 14, 1997 our Painted Lady Butterflies got their freedom. Mrs. Nelson made a butterfly and caterpillar cake. At 2:30 we sang "Happy Freedom Day to You" to our butterflies. The song sounds like the "Happy Birthday Song." After the song our class, Miss Michele and Mr. G had cake. Then we went outside on the yard and let the butterflies go. Some of them did not want to leave. So Mrs. Nelson took them out of the Butterfly Garden and helped them fly away. I was glad when they got their freedom.

Published in In Motion Magazine November 23, 1997.