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Nassau School Notebook: Long Island students learn about agriculture

Long Beach Middle School recently held a ribbon-cutting

Long Beach Middle School recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new greenhouse in the school's courtyard. Credit: Long Beach School District

Green thumbs have been sprouting on children across Long Island.

Schools have been increasingly teaching the importance of agriculture in recent years through the addition of gardens and greenhouses intended to provide students with unique learning opportunities and instill the value of healthy eating.

In Long Beach, the middle school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony this spring for a new greenhouse in the school's courtyard that is being used for environmental education and hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, art and math — also known as STEAM. In one of the first projects, eighth-graders germinated seeds of their choice that they maintained during science periods.

"It's a great way for us to connect to nature, to really help students learn about sustainability, global awareness and our responsibility as citizens for that," Long Beach Principal Lorie Beard said.

In North Merrick, an existing garden at the Brookside Educational Center that provides produce to the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District's Community Cupboard was expanded this summer to include new varieties of produce. In addition, John F. Kennedy High School junior Chris Field built gardening tables and raised planters, and Sanford H. Calhoun High School senior Tyler Berke introduced hydroponic gardening.

In Manhasset, student volunteers at Shelter Rock Elementary School recently planted garden beds with help from Planet Manhasset, an eco-committee of the Manhasset School Community Association. Two beds contain herbs and perennials that serve as a butterfly way station, while another has organic produce ranging from broccoli to bok choy.

In Levittown, Northside Elementary School unveiled a small greenhouse earlier this year that features a variety of fruits and vegetables — such as peppers, strawberries and tomatoes — with some of the food going to a pantry at the district's Wisdom Lane Middle School.

"I want students to come out here and learn a little bit about agriculture, growth and how to sustain themselves," Northside Principal Frank Mortillaro said.


Poetry winner

Herricks High School junior Carolyn Lau won first place in a student poetry contest coordinated by the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, the former home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer in North Carolina.

Lau's piece, "Stuck in Some Time," won the high school division of the contest, which had a theme of "seasons" in honor of the beauty captured by Sandburg in the lives and landscapes of America.

As a winner, Lau recently participated in a special virtual program coordinated by the site.


New principal

Leigh Shaw has been appointed principal of Hampton Street Elementary School in the Mineola School District.

Shaw was previously an instructional leader in the district and a virtual school principal for prekindergarten through second grade. She also taught the fourth grade's academically gifted program last school year.

"It's an honor to join the Hampton family, a place I have admired and respected for the past five years," Shaw said. "I look forward to supporting the dedicated learners, educators and families in continuing to achieve the Mineola mission."


Interim principal

Robin Small has been named interim principal of North High School in the Valley Stream Central High School District. She replaced Rachel Green, who resigned.

Small had been the school's assistant principal since 2018; before that was a special-education teacher and the district's department chairwoman for special education.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to lead Valley Stream North's faculty and staff to ensure the success of all of our students," Small said.


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