January 27, 2022

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Lesson of the Day: ‘In Los Angeles, Glimpses of an Oasis With Deep Immigrant Roots’

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Featured Article: “In Los Angeles, Glimpses of an Oasis With Deep Immigrant Roots.” Photographs and text by Stella Kalinina.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions in place worldwide, The New York Times started a new series, The World Through a Lens, in which photojournalists transport you, virtually, to some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places. In the featured article, Stella Kalinina shares a collection of images from a community garden in Los Angeles, a place that has provided physical and spiritual nourishment for the past half a century to multiple generations of immigrant Angelenos.

In this lesson, you will learn about the power of community gardens and consider the importance of nature in our lives. Then, you will act as a photojournalist to document an oasis in your own life.

Before reading the article, reflect on your experiences with nature by responding to one or more of the following prompts in writing or in discussion with a partner:

  • Describe your relationship with nature: What role does it play in your life? Do you have a favorite place? How has nature positively affected your life?

  • What experiences have you had growing plants, vegetables, flowers or fruits? Have you ever grown something in your home or backyard? Have you contributed to a community garden or a farm at your school or in your neighborhood?

  • How accessible is the natural world where you live? Are there many gardens or parks available to stroll through or sit in? Do you have any plants in your school or home? Do you spend as much time in nature as you would like?

  • Do you think humans need some contact with nature to be healthy? Why or why not?

Read the article, and then answer the following questions:

1. Look at the photographs and their captions throughout the article:

  • What do you notice? What can you learn about the San Pedro Community Gardens and the people who garden and farm there?

  • What questions do you have about the gardens?

  • Taken together, what story do these images tell?

2. Now choose one photograph from the article that feels meaningful to you. What draws you to this image? What does it make you feel or think? What do you find fascinating, informative or moving?

3. The article features many wonderful and expressive photographs, but it also includes vivid language and thoughtful personal reflections and insights. How does Ms. Kalinina place the reader in the San Pedro Community Gardens in the opening paragraphs? What words, images and details are particularly evocative?

4. Why have many immigrants, like Raúl Laly Fernández, joined the community gardens? How have they become a “connection to home and a means of preserving and passing on their cultural heritage” for Mr. Fernández and other gardeners?

5. Ms. Kalinina said the project had grown out of her interest in “stories of migration, severed connections, longing for one’s culture and the making of new homes.” Which personal story in the article do you find most memorable or moving? What connections can you make to your own life? Have you ever sought out your own cultural heritage or needed to make a new home?

6. The goal of the World Through a Lens series is to transport readers to some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places. In what ways did the featured article succeed in doing that? What does seeing and learning about another community teach you about your own? Does reading the article and viewing the photographs make you want to join a community garden or seek out nature more?

Option 1: Imagine your dream garden.

If you could plant a dream garden, what would it look like? What types of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other plants would you include? What smells, tastes and flavors would you hope for? Why? In what ways do these choices represent your own interests, culture or family history? Would it be open to the public or be a place of solitude and reflection for you and your family?

Now draw, label and caption your dream garden. Be creative and think big — it’s your own garden oasis.

Option 2: What’s your oasis? Document your place of refuge through photography.

Where do you go to relax and find peace when you are feeling stressed or down? Is there a place you go for physical and spiritual nourishment, to find connection to your cultural heritage or simply to appreciate the beauty of the world?

Now, capture your oasis through photography. Use the photos featured in the article as inspiration, whether it’s Ms. Kalinina’s close-up shot of a gardener’s hand delicately tending to a flower or her low-angle wide shot to capture the gratitude and pride of a garden member.

How would you reveal your special place to others? Whom or what would you photograph? What details would you show? When would you use wide, medium or close-up shots?

After you have captured at least three photographs, write a short artist’s statement that explains why you chose them and what they reveal about your oasis.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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