Pardis For Children is the name of a New York based weekend school for children. It is run by Sanam Akhlagh.
The school is a place where children learn about the Persian culture and language, developing friendships with their Iranian peers, and building a strong community of next generation Iranian-Americans connected to their cultural roots.
I visited Pardis School about four years ago and recently had a chat with its founder, Sanam. From that initial visit I vividly recall a Baba Karam dance class that I will never forget. The image of little girls and boys enthusiastically trying to emulate the moves of their dance teacher left me with a lasting memory. During my visit I also sat in an art history and a music class teaching students the Farsi language through music.
Sanam Akhlagh, the founder of the school kindly spent some time speaking with me, providing update about her school and their plans for Nowruz 2018.
Please share with me the story behind the school. When and why did you open Pardis For Children?
We started with a small, informal group in the summer of 2011. In the fall of 2011, we moved to our current location and we officially opened the school.
The reason I started running a school for kids was due to the birth of my first child. I wanted to have a family for him. There were no family members around in New York, so I wanted to create a family with friends and a warm Persian environment for him.
I wanted my son to grow up with his friends in a school where they learn about real Iranian culture, not the negative image of Iran that they see in the media and news.
Is the school running on weekdays?
It is a weekend school. We have activities for children, just on Sundays. Usually, kids come here with their families on the weekend, so it is family orientated on the weekend with the kids and their parents.
We have around 160 students and all the classes and workshops happen between 10 am to 2 pm.
What is the age group of the students?
At the moment, we have a one year-old child in the school, and the oldest children are 14 years of age.
Would you please name a few workshops and classes you offer in your school?
This semester we are offering a Persian dance workshop. Last semester, we had Iranian handicraft sessions such as calligraphy, and making miniatures. We also offer some workshops to give them basic information about traditional Iranian architecture and Iranian gardens. There was a project regarding illustration and animation based on stories from Kalila and Demna or Shahnameh.
We also teach them about famous monuments, buildings and gardens in different cities of Iran.
What are the school’s plans for Nowruz?
Every year we have a private Nowruz event at our school. We also organise the family program for the Asia Society, in New York. There are about 600 people joining the event. This year, the event is on March 17th and it is open to the public. We will have performances, music and, workshops based on Iranian culture and Nowruz activities for children and their families.