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Norwalk Charter School Celebrates Human Rights With Garden Dedication

Norwalk Side by Side Charter School fifth grade teacher Chris Berich and fifth grade student Samantha Stone at the Perennial Human Rights Garden ceremony at the school Friday.
Norwalk Side by Side Charter School fifth grade teacher Chris Berich and fifth grade student Samantha Stone at the Perennial Human Rights Garden ceremony at the school Friday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
The Perennial Human Rights Garden at Norwalk's Side By Side Charter School.
The Perennial Human Rights Garden at Norwalk's Side By Side Charter School. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk fifth-grader Samantha Stone said that studying human rights during the school year was an eye-opener for her.

"(I was surprised) how much human rights people should have compared to what they actually do have," said the student at Side By Side Charter School in Norwalk.

She and her fellow fifth-graders studied human rights throughout the school year, and on Friday a ceremony was held to dedicate a Perennial Human Rights Garden that the students planted at the school. City officials joined with students and staff at the ceremony.

Chris Berich, the fifth grade teacher involved in the project, said the students have been studying human rights and that planting the garden helps bring those rights to life.

"We created two flower boxes to represent peace and harmony," he said. "In addition to that, they created peace stones where they had messages painted to move the message forward."

The school wants to instill in students a commitment to human rights, he said.

"Ultimately, we want them to leave this community and spread that message forward and to promote what is right," Berich said.

Mary Newbery, the school's assistant director, said Side by Side strives to instill a respect for individuals among the students.

"The school has a social justice mission that really focuses on the notion that every member of this school community has a voice that deserves to be heard," she said at the ceremony.

"We really, really try to teach our children from a very young age the importance of recognizing rights in every single human being," Newbery added.

Daisy Franklin, chair of the city's Human Relations Subcommittee on International Human Rights Day, said that teaching everyone about human rights is vital.

"It has to be told, it has to be told and that is why I'm glad we continue to do it," she said. "It brings joy to know that the story continues to be told."

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