Some learn by doing, others by seeing. At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, 8th Graders learn by eating. For their first English class assignment of the 2022–2023 academic year, students read an essay about bialy in the “New York Times Magazine” called “Letters of Recommendation.” Essays in the “Letters of Recommendation” section explore and celebrate things typically overlooked or underappreciated. In the essay Fieldston Middle 8th Graders studied, author Jason Diamond uses the bialy — a flat, baked roll originally from Poland — to explore topics such as mental health, the Jewish diaspora, and the pitfalls of having too many choices at any given time.
After reading Diamond’s article, 8th Graders practiced writing their own essays, using his writing on the bialy as an example of focusing specifically on one thing to highlight broader, more universal ideas. One student wrote about taking cold showers and how leaning into discomfort can make us stronger. Another student used bees as an example of things that are at once frightening and helpful. The students stretched their imaginations and critical thinking skills to craft insightful and creative essays.
To help bring the article to life, the entire 8th Grade gathered on the lower field to sample bialys from Kossars, a beloved bakery known for their bialys that opened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1936. Students munched on the treats, chatted about the essay, and enjoyed a beautiful fall morning — a learning experience for all the senses.