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School Notebook: Long Island curriculums change with seasons

Sixth-graders in Rachel Graber's test a pumpkin stand

Sixth-graders in Rachel Graber's test a pumpkin stand built using such items as cups, index cards and masking tape last month at Martin Avenue Elementary School in the North Bellmore School District. Credit: North Bellmore School District

The changing seasons have inspired many Long Island educators to get creative with their curriculums.

Dozens of schools have used everything from fall foliage to apples and pumpkins to bring an autumn twist to lessons in science, technology, engineering, art and math — also known as STEAM.

In Bay Shore, kindergartners at Brook Avenue Elementary School built block towers capable of supporting an apple, and children in the district's universal prekindergarten program used items like clothes pins and cups to create fences able to support five pumpkins.

In Levittown, kindergartners at Summit Lane Elementary School recently engaged in variety of fall-oriented learning activities as part of an annual Fall Day. Tasks included craft projects like making jack-o'-lanterns, decorating leaves and creating "fall bags" to hold their artwork.

"The Fall Day allows our students to enjoy a fun day of fall-themed activities while working on their fine motor skills, listening and following directions," said Summit Lane kindergarten teacher Maureen McLaughlin.

In Hicksville, second-graders in Gayle Pinsky's class prepared homemade applesauce by peeling and chopping apples then putting them in a slower cooker at Woodland Elementary School. They also wrote out their recipe as part of a sequencing lesson.

In Massapequa, McKenna Elementary School students designed graphs depicting their favorite types of Halloween candy and estimated how many paper ghosts it would take to walk from the lobby to the nurse's office.

In Port Jefferson, middle schoolers in Michelle Landetta's class made a spooky fog by dropping dry ice in plain water and then in soapy water.

"The students were amazed by the gas and bubbles that were created," Landetta said. "It was such a ‘cool’ experience for them."

At Seaford Harbor, kindergartners in Marisa Cirillo's class used household items, such as clothes pins and straws, to build fences for five small pumpkins to rest atop.

"It is amazing to see children so engaged and making connections to the world around them," Cirillo said.

In Smithtown, sixth-graders in Ben McKillop's class at Accompsett Middle School determined which of seven Halloween candies would be the most filling by performing such tasks as submerging them in water to determine their volumes. Their final answer was Baby Ruth.

In Westhampton Beach, Kim Ledda’s class studied the life cycle of a pumpkin and then dissected one to examine its parts at the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Westhampton Beach Learning Center. They also made pumpkin diagrams using seeds removed from the insides of their gourdes.

"This lesson was fun and informative on many levels," Ledda said. "My students learned how pumpkins grow from seeds and then extracted some from one in the classroom."


Interim superintendent

David Flatley has been named interim superintendent of Commack School District. He will replace Donald James, who is resigning effective Nov. 30.

Flatley was previously interim deputy superintendent of Hewlett-Woodmere School District. He has also served nine years as superintendent of Carle Place School District.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Commack School District and work with such an outstanding and accomplished faculty and dedicated staff who make this district so special," Flatley said.


Surfing program

The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District's Brookside PREP Academy is educating students on surfing as part of an experiential partnership with Skudin Surf in Long Beach. The 10-week program covers topics ranging from oceanography to environmental awareness.

"Seeing students apprehensive at first, then growing more confident and getting up on boards in the water, actually surfing, during the first session was such a proud moment to witness," said Eric Caballero, the district's director of physical education, athletics, driver education and health.

The academy is an educational and vocational program for students with developmental disabilities.


Red Ribbon Week

Many schools hosted programs for children and teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in recognition of Red Ribbon Week, from Oct. 25 to 29.

In Commack, Indian Hollow Primary School held different dress-up days over the course of the week — such as wearing sweatpants to show that "making good choices is no sweat" and wearing gold or orange to show they are "shining with great choices."

In Massapequa, Fairfield Elementary School's Students Against Destructive Decisions Club created a bulletin board that featured the message "Drug Free Looks Like Me" and included mirrors so students could see they don't need any substances to be happy and healthy.

In North Babylon, children were treated to a decorative display of scarecrows strapped to a fence in front of the building to "ward off drugs" at William E. DeLuca Jr. Elementary School.

In Ronkonkoma, Samoset Middle School pupils discussed how healthy choices can help them reach their goals as part of this year's theme, "Drug Free Looks like Me."

In North Merrick, the district's three schools participated in different dress-up days over the course of the week — such as wearing tie-dyed clothes, to say "peace out to drugs," and crazy socks, to "sock it to drugs."

In Roslyn, students districtwide wore red clothing to support the cause, brought healthy snacks to school, and signed banners pledging to be drug free.


'New York Recycles'

Six Long Island students were among the winners of the 2021 New York Recycles Poster Contest sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Recycles Steering Committee. Their recycling-themed artwork will framed and displayed in the DEC's lobby in Albany.

Alayna Gonzalez of Forest Lake Elementary School in Wantagh and Shoshana Weinstock of the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway High School in Cedarhurst placed first in the grades four-to-six and grades 10-to-12 categories, respectively.

Runners-up in various categories were: Adrian Rafael De Chavez, Forest Lake; Navya Gautum, Hauppauge High School; Derek Pankratz, Oquenock Elementary School in West Islip; and Nicole Kim, Smithtown High School West.


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