Serving Pasta with a Side of Activism

11 Jan 2019
ByKevin Ko-wen Chen, Communications Manager

You’re invited to India B. ’23’s dinner party, where you’re served linguini with clams sautéed in a white wine sauce. But there’s a catch. “I choose this meal because it cannot be made if global warming’s patterns persist,” India writes. “Soon enough, the ocean will be too warm to cultivate clams, vineyards will be too sweltering to grow grapes, and wheat fields will dry out, leaving us without pasta.”

This sobering image is at the heart of India’s essay, “A Feast for the Future,” which was selected from over 600 entries as the middle school winner of the YES! Magazine student writing competition in December. Participants were invited to read Korsha Wilson’s article, “Cooking Stirs the Pot for Social Change,” and to respond to it by describing a dinner they would host to discuss a challenge within their own community. India chose to focus on climate change, and for her creativity, thoughtfulness, and humor — “on the off chance the conversation gets drastically tense, pasta is a relatively difficult food to throw,” she writes — her essay took the crown.

Reflecting on societal issues comes naturally to students at ECFS, where an impetus to effect positive change on the world undergirds all parts of the curriculum. The YES! Magazine competition, which required students to identify and examine a critical issue and relate it to readers through the conceit of a dinner party, dovetails with the English department’s goal to cultivate fluency in both analytical and narrative writing.

“In real life, most people aren’t writing a literary essay, but analysis and critical thinking are something that people do all the time,” says India’s teacher, Sharan Gill. “That’s what we try to do in eighth grade: work in the interconnectivity.”

Several ECFS eighth graders were honored by YES! Magazine for their particularly well-turned phrases. “We zest the bright yellow lemons and the peels of flavor fall lightly into the batter,” writes Jane M. “Bubula, Come Eat!” is the title of Jordan F.’s piece. The other awardees were Bernie W., Hannah R., Jedd H., Morgan S., and Noah G. Seventh graders Ana K., Anna-Lies V., and Rachel Y. and eighth graders Ben K., Brianne B., Gabriel L., Maddy K., Marisa H., Rowhan D., and Tess M. were chosen as semi-finalists for the competition.

Exploring topics from anti-Semitism to environmental activism, India and her classmates used their essays as a platform to inspire society to respond. “Our future is in our control if we take actions, ranging from small steps, such as not using plastic straws, to large ones, such as reducing fossil fuel consumption and electing leaders who take the problem seriously,” writes India. It’s a reminder of the power of the individual — and of the power of writing.