The Lenox Elementary School PTA in Baldwin looked to the stars to win the state's top award for efforts to make reading fun for children.
The local group — with the theme "Discover a New Universe with Books" — took the top spot in this year's Pick a Reading Partner program, the literacy initiative sponsored by the New York State PTA that asks adults to read with children for at least 15 minutes daily. The school's PTA earlier earned the Nassau County regional award.
Lenox Elementary's program was inspired by Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA astronaut candidate who attended the school and graduated from Baldwin Senior High School. Activities included a Dress Like an Astronaut Day, an assembly with a StarLab portable planetarium, and a chart that used rockets to track each grade's volume of reading.
The theme was so popular that almost all of Lenox's approximately 300 students participated last school year, according to Camaker Heyward, the school's PARP chair. By comparison, only 15 students took part the previous year, she said.
"We are so proud of the example Lenox has set, and that their hard work and dedication to our students is being recognized across New York State," district Superintendent Shari Camhi said.
In Suffolk County, the PTA at Bayview Elementary School in West Islip won that regional award.
Bayview's program, which had the theme of "Cruising Through a Good Book," included boating-themed activities, such as ships that advanced on a world map based on the amount of minutes read by students. The grade that read the most won a pizza party.
The Amityville school district is introducing a virtual reality experience to support its curriculum through zSpace, a technology firm that combines elements of virtual and augmented reality. Lessons will range from life cycles of a butterfly to the history of flight.
The additions will include a laptop cart of zSpace systems for use at Amityville Memorial High School, Edmund W. Miles Middle School and Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School, making Amityville the first school system with this resource on Long Island, district officials said. There also will be desktop units for each school.
"Students are drawn to technology, and zSpace provides an engaging way to support our curriculum," said Carole Polney, the district's assistant superintendent for technology and administrative services.
Deer Park High School's "Dark Falcons" team placed second in the youth division of this year's Extreme Chunkin competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The event challenged 35 teams to design trebuchets to fling pumpkins as far as possible.
Deer Park's pumpkin traveled 860 feet. Their trebuchet was made of Microllam and included an aluminum arm, 12 commercial garage door springs, and a 12,000-pound electric winch.
"It was quite an exciting thing for them," Deer Park technology teacher Bruce Sander said of his 10-student team's achievement. "They're learning, they're listening, they're doing it."
Schools of Excellence
Six Long Island schools have been named 2018-2020 National PTA Schools of Excellence in recognition of their "commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school community," National PTA officials said. They are among 279 schools nationwide to receive the honor.
The schools recognized are Albany Avenue Elementary School in North Massapequa, Dutch Broadway Elementary School in Elmont, George H. McVey Elementary School in East Meadow, Lenox Elementary School and Plaza Elementary School, both in Baldwin, and Ogden Elementary School in Valley Stream.
"Research shows that when families and schools work together, students do better in school and schools improve," National PTA president Jim Accomando said.