By Alex Christodoulides
“The organization we're working with is United Neighborhood Housing. The Conservation Corps teaches kids to take care of their neighborhood,” explained Natasha Jones, assistant director for children's services and one of the counselors in charge of the project. The groups are divided by age, with the younger grades mapping the green spaces in the area and noting what already exists and what they would like to see.The members of the second- and third-grade group created their map of the area near the Forest Hills Community House at 108-25 62nd Drive, including parks, bodies of water, what animals they see, and where trash cans are located.”We looked at a real map and did one of our own,” said Arnav Sharma, who said he is 8 1/2 and a student at PS 220 in Forest Hills.”The counselors asked us where were the avenues” and the children worked from there, said Jennifer Alvarez, 8.”We made an environment with flowers and grass by cutting them out of construction paper and pasting them,” said Arnav.”Each one had a responsibility,” said Jones as the children pointed out the elements of their map.Their map includes swans in Meadow Lake, butterflies, insects, birds, fish, trees, grass, some of their houses and a Chinese food place.Any omissions were deliberate.”We didn't put litter. No bottles and cans,” said Daniel Vasquez, 8, who attends PS 54 in Richmond Hill.”We used it to show what we want our environment to look like. We didn't put litter, but we put trash cans,” said Arnav. “Besides animals, we also made people to show it's a real environment.”The fourth- and fifth-graders wrote about what they see outside their front doors, what sort of litter they found in their neighborhoods and what they would like to have in their local parks. Their essays ranged from the fanciful (“I would like to change the color of the leafs [sic], red, orange, yellow”) to the practical (“a bathroom”) to the fun (jungle gyms, swings, slides), and two children wrote that they would like a garden with fruits and vegetables. Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.