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April 30, 2024

By Emma Johnson, Communications Manager

Ethical education is the cornerstone of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School experience, where students and the community engage in a dynamic exploration of ethical principles and social responsibility. 

Central to the ECFS’s approach is the belief that ethical education transcends theory — it’s about taking practical action and making a tangible impact on the world. Students and adults alike are encouraged to take responsibility not only for themselves but also for the well-being and success of their peers, embodying ethics as an active practice rather than a passive concept. 

A notable example in action is Ethical Culture’s recent 2nd Grade Earth Day and Nutrition Celebration. Originating from a conversation among a few parents over coffee, this event evolved into a multifaceted and hands-on educational experience merging environmental awareness and nutrition education.

Event volunteers pose in Ceremonial Hall.

Noticing an opportunity for additional sustainability and nutrition programming, organizer of the event and Ethical Culture parent Flora McKay P’34, P’36 — who was inspired by her work as the Director of Community and Nutrition for Butter Beans Kitchen, and as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist launching Food Wise Coaching — along with a team of parent/guardian volunteers, brought this event to fruition. Partnering with other parent/guardian volunteers and the School’s food provider, AVI Foodsystems, the Earth Day and Nutrition event came to life, featuring interactive stations addressing nutrition education, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. 

Flora and the parent/guardian volunteers set out to design a tactile and engaging experience for 2nd Grade students to grasp the roles of sustainability and nutrition in their daily lives. The students experienced seven dynamic stations, including composting, herb cultivation, nature art creation, and recycling education. At the composting station, they observed and handled red wiggler worms and learned about their remarkable ability to consume food scraps.

Led by parent and artist Sam Falls P’34, P’36, students created captivating nature art using Central Park flora, while other stations focused on recycling techniques and MyPlate principles for crafting balanced lunches. The interactive activities extended to taste tests, a cooking demo for “energy bites,” and even a “grow your own herb” station, where students planted seedlings they could take home, ultimately fostering a deeper understanding of healthy habits. This experience emphasized these concepts’ interconnectedness and ethical implications, creating an informative and engaging learning opportunity.

“I hope that the students took away from the event not just how tasty the energy bites were, but what an exhilarating feeling it was to hold a red wiggler worm, what can and can’t be recycled, how to grow your own food from a seed, make a balanced plate, try new foods, create a healthy snack, give back to those who are less fortunate, and make beautiful art from found objects in nature,” Flora explains. “All of this in hopes that they will absorb what they learned and bring it with them as they walk through life, enriched and empowered to make positive changes in their communities — and on their plates.” 

One of the event’s highlights was the collaboration with the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen as part of the EC Gives initiative to give back to the local community. The 2nd Grade students prepared 120 sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches for donation, emphasizing the importance of community service and social responsibility. 

The Earth Day and Nutrition Celebration exemplified Ethical Culture’s holistic approach to education, integrating ethics, environmental consciousness, and community engagement into a cohesive, impactful experience for students and the wider community.

Moving forward, Flora hopes to continue to plant seeds of nutrition awareness and ethical action, recognizing the potential for its ongoing growth and legacy at the School. 

“Based on the success of our event, we are planning to expand our reach and gather annually to celebrate Earth Day and Nutrition Month for a more sustainable planet and a healthier school community,” adds Flora.  

This event underscores ECFS’s commitment to community and fosters a culture where ethics is not merely taught but actively practiced every day. This approach will continue to prepare students to emerge as conscientious leaders and positive contributors to a brighter world, extending their impact within the school community and beyond.

Photo of student nature art.