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Nassau School Notebook: Smithtown West team wins $10K grant

Smithtown High School West was one of just

Smithtown High School West was one of just 13 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam. Smithtown's team is seen here with Principal John Coady, left, science research teacher Joanne Figueiredo, second from left, and the district's director of science Laura Snell , far right. Credit: Smithtown Central School District

A Smithtown High School West team is one of just 13 high schools nationwide to receive a $10,000 grant to create an invention.

The nine-student team has been named an InventTeam by the Lemelson-MIT Program, which awards several prizes annually to inventors in the United States. InvenTeams consist of high schoolers, teachers and mentors who invent technological solutions to real-world problems.

Smithtown West's invention, called the Personal Distance Monitor, will consist of an infrared sensor that alerts autistic individuals when they are getting too close to another person in an effort to improve their social interactions. It also reports to an app that can help a teacher or parent to monitor progress.

Autistic children "sometimes exhibit difficulties understanding the idea of interpersonal space," Smithtown West science research teacher Joanne Figueiredo said. "Our invention is a cost-effective solution to this problem."

Smithtown West's InvenTeam will now work with Glen Meyerowitz, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former engineer at SpaceX, who will guide the students through the development of their invention.

The team members are Sinead Doyle, Jensen Herbst, Liza Lleshaj, Rehan Mian, Tyler Nagosky, Patrick Noto, Eric Pentecoste, Madeline Raeihle and Aaquib Syed.


Identity initiative

Stratford Elementary School's second-graders are participating in a new initiative designed to help children explore selfhood and the identities of others.

The initiative, spearheaded by teachers Irene Mendonis and Lindsay Werner, includes reading books that inspire students to respect and live in harmony with others who don't look or know the world as they do. Assignments have included penning poems in which pupils describe the best parts of themselves and creating "identity webs" that express their unique attributes.

"When we recognize and value students' identities, it helps them feel heard, understood and visible," Mendonis and Werner said in a statement.


Bullying prevention

Many schools hosted educational activities last month in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month.

In Locust Valley, the district's elementary schoolers used chalk to fill driveways and sidewalks with such uplifting messages as "Be Kind," "Peace" and "Smile." Children at the Bayville Primary and Intermediate schools also created "unity chains" by decorating links of orange construction paper with positive phrases during a Unity Day.

In Wantagh, middle schoolers participated in the Anti-Defamation League's #WalkAgainstHate during physical education classes and took photos of themselves carrying signs with that hashtag while walking in their neighborhoods.

In Lynbrook, students at the Marion Street and Waverly Park elementary schools signed a "No Place for Hate" Pledge. Waverly Park pupils also participated in a karate workout called "Kicked Out Bullying."


Mobile libraries

Several schools have created "libraries on wheels" to make reading more accessible to students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Oakdale, Idle Hour Elementary School's library media specialist Julia DeMaio honks a horn to alert classes that she is stopping with a cart decorated to look like a yellow school bus. DeMaio also plays "The Price is Right" theme song and encourages children to do a dance as they "come on down" to check out a book, school officials said.

In East Meadow, George McVey Elementary School librarian Ellen O'Neill curates a collection of age-appropriate books that she transports to classrooms on a 70-pound cart. She also requires kids to wash and sanitize their hands before making a selection.

In Deer Park, a mobile library cart stops at classrooms weekly with books being taken out of circulation for at least a week once they are returned for safety purposes.


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