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Nassau School Notebook: Virtual speakers enlighten students

In East Norwich, James H. Vernon Middle School

In East Norwich, James H. Vernon Middle School was visited virtually by Pakistani children's author Rukhsana Khan via Zoom. From left are students Shufei Liu, Hannah Vidro and Evan Cruz. Credit: Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District

Long Island schools have been inviting a variety of virtual visitors — ranging from celebrities to children's authors — into their classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New Hyde Park, Village Mayor Lawrence Montreuil recently discussed his day-to-day responsibilities through Google Meet with students in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District. Meanwhile, John Contratti's fourth-grade class in the district's Garden City Park School have been interviewing well-known performers — such as actress Maureen McCormick from the 1970s sitcom, "The Brady Bunch."

"My main goal of hosting these Skype interviews is to show the students how to hold meaningful conversations with people," said Contratti. "Maybe it will spark an interest in a future career in broadcasting."

In Ronkonkoma, kindergartners at Edith L. Slocum Elementary School supplemented their unit on weather with a visit from NBC New York meteorologist Matt Brickman on Google Meet. Brickman incorporated prerecorded videos by his colleagues to teach about climate and covered his arms in shaving cream to demonstrate different types of clouds.

In East Rockaway, sixth-graders at Centre Avenue Elementary School were joined by Richie Chu, a software development engineer for Amazon Robotics, during Computer Science in Education Week. Chu's topics lncluded programming robots and college and career readiness.

In East Norwich, James H. Vernon Middle School was visited by children's author Rukhsana Khan, who enlightened children about her Pakistani heritage and how it shaped her into an award-winning author, via Zoom.

"I am an author because of my library card," Khan told students. "Books helped me forget about my problems and escape my life."


Mental wellness book

Fifth-graders in Meghan Hunt's class at Seaford Manor Elementary School recently collaborated to publish a book about mental wellness. The book, "Guide to a Better You!," consists of essays written by each student along with a corresponding illustration.

Topics ranged from the importance of kindness and mindfulness to a methodology called 16 Habits of Mind. A small number of books were printed in soft and hardcover formats.

"This came from the kids," Hunt said. "It was their interpretation of what we've been learning about self-care."


PPE donation

An organization created by Syosset High School sophomore Sabrina Guo recently donated thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to Mount Sinai South Nassau, the hospital in Oceanside.

The group, LI Laboring Against COVID-19, donated 15,000 three-ply masks, 4,000 KN95 masks, 350 isolation gowns and 10 boxes of hand sanitizers. The organization also provided 120 lunches to front-line workers through a $2,000 donation supplied by Sarah Brown Catering of Great Neck and Benny B's Restaurant in Baldwin.

"Members of our communities should come together to fight this pandemic and help each other and those in need, and that starts with our youth," said Guo, who founded the organization last spring.


Calming corners

The Valley Stream School District 30 has created wellness spaces, called "calming corners," in its classrooms that are intended to help students manage their behavior and social-emotional skills.

The corners feature tools that children can use to calm themselves such as drawing paper, glitter jars and stress balls. Teachers also encourage kids to reflect on their feelings by using a "mood meter" chart in which colors represent emotions.

"Calming corners are a designated space in the classroom with the sole intent of being a safe space for a child to go to when they feel their emotions are running too high and they need to regain their emotional and physical control," said Shaw Avenue Elementary School second-grade teacher Jeanine Lichter.


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