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First Grade Changemakers Visit Council Member’s Office


On a lovely afternoon in May, several first graders and teachers took a neignborhood walk.  Lower School Head Teacher Laura Leopardo and Student Teacher Claire Shaman accompanied a group of seven kids — two or three  from each first grade homeroom – on a march of sorts  to drop off a stack of letters written by themselves and their classmates at the office of City Council Member Stephen Levin on Atlantic Avenue.

i-tbp8wvq-xl_bLaura started an animal ethics curriculum in the first grade’s social justice unit this semester, and this very special field trip was its culmination.  “After reading a book about the life of circus animals,” said Laura, “we charted our reasons why we think wild animals should not be allowed in circuses.”

Knowing that a bill is presently before the City Council, Int. 1233 to be precise, which bans wild and exotic animals from performances in New York City, the students and their teachers sprang into action.  “We know that to be a change maker people can protest, boycott, make phone calls and write letters,” she said.  “We each wrote a letter to Council Member Levin, the representative for BFS’s district, asking him to sign on to the bill.”

Why should wild animals not be in circuses?  A hand-written visual aid on the flipchart in the 1C classroom summed it up:
-babies are taken away from their families
– they spend their life in small cages, trucks and railcars or are chained up
– can’t perform any of their natural behaviors
– they are hurt when they are taught unnatural tricks — people use bullhooks, whips and electric prods
– they are not fed healthy food.
*Animals should be treated the way we want to be* Animals have the same emotions as us–they feel joy, pain, fear, stress and love.

In January, elected officials and animal advocates in New York City staged a rally at City Hall and testified at a public hearing in support of the bill.  the event, City Council Member Corey Johnson, a co-sponsor on the bill, said, “We’re probably going to look back on this years from now and say, ‘Why were we comfortable with that?’ In the largest city in the United States, I think we need to set the tone and example for the rest of the country.”

May 29th was National Animal Rights Day.  More information can be found at