The middle grades at Avenues had the great fortune of hearing from Matt Green, the subject of a new documentary titled The World Before Your Feet. As a young professional, Matt Green was a civil engineer here in New York City. He had an ordinary life that failed to cultivate his passions and interests. In 2011, he had an epiphany pertaining to this void of adventure in his life and made a decision to walk across the country. He initiated his walk from Rockaway Beach in Queens and decided to head towards a city also named Rockaway Beach in Oregon. Matt spent many months on this journey across the country and stayed wherever he was able to find a place to sleep. It could have been in someone’s home or a plot of land where they would permit him to set up his tent. Matt shared some spectacular photos and anecdotes from his journey across the United States; he exposed our community to many parts of the country that many of us don’t access on a regular basis. One theme that repeatedly popped up in his presentation is how he was regularly showered with kindness after some initial skepticism when people inquired about what he was doing. After five months of travel across the country, Matt got on a nonstop plane flight back to New York City in five hours. Upon returning to NY and finding odd jobs and tasks to fill his time, Matt decided that he didn’t want the adventure to end.
When the New Year ball dropped in 2012 (the same year as Avenues’ inception), Matt initiated his goal of walking every block of every borough in New York City. He is currently in his seventh year of exploration; he has walked close to 9,000 miles to date. He noted that he’s close to 95% complete in his goal. When strolling down certain blocks, Matt takes in all of his surroundings, carefully identifying beauty in places most would never stop and take in—whether it be a guard rail for a tree or a wild apricot plant in the most unlikely location.
In dean groups, many middle grades students have noted that when they walk around New York City, they are much more mindful of details that they would otherwise just overlook—such as the different plants and trees on various blocks. Some students have gone so far as attempting different routes home to see more parts of the city that they don’t normally get an opportunity to see. It was refreshing and fun for all middle grades students and faculty to see and hear from an adult who has really followed through on pursuing something that brings energy and joy to his life. His energy was contagious and deeply appreciated by all who were in attendance.
We are lucky to have Matt Green come back for Minimester in April where he will lead a small group of students (grades 6–8) who are studying the history of the Chelsea neighborhood and will deeply explore historical markers that many of us casually walk past and overlook daily.