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Learning road safety in Nassau's kid-size 'town'

Andrew Kohnken, 8, tries out the cars that

Andrew Kohnken, 8, tries out the cars that are set up to teach the kids about traffic safety at Safety Town in Eisenhower Park. Credit: Newsday File, 2001 / Nelson Ching

The rules of the road are something that can't be learned in books - it takes practice.

That's the motive behind a Nassau County Police Department attempt to teach traffic safety awareness: a child-sized "Safety Town" built to one-third scale that includes paved streets with traffic signals, an overpass, tunnels and a railroad crossing. Since 1972, the 21-building village - located at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow - has been visited by 10,000 children annually.

>>PHOTOS: Safety Town through the years

In Suffolk County, a new Safety Town was recently unveiled at the Town of Brookhaven's Ecology Site, Park & Animal Preserve in Holtsville. School groups can visit by appointment.

"Safety Towns give kids the opportunity to see what it's like to be out on a road," said Cecelia Casimano, a Safety Town crossing guard with the Nassau Police Traffic Safety Unit. "Nobody gets hurt, so it's a dry run. Their mistakes are made here."

Casimano divides students into rotating groups of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists driving battery-operated cars up to 5 miles per hour. Children practice safety measures - such as looking both ways before crossing the street or waiting for cars to come to a complete stop - with the help of crossing guards.

Common mistakes that kids make, Casimano said, include trusting that drivers will obey traffic signs and failing to have their bikes equipped with reflectors and other accessories.

"Learning to be safe on the roads and in the neighborhood is extremely important," said Melissa Dunbar, a third-grade teacher at Moriches Elementary School whose students visited the Holtsville site last month. "They'll remember this experience for years to come."

>>PHOTOS: Safety Town through the years



Peace and understanding

Hundreds of Freeport students celebrated peace and understanding last month with an evening of dance, song and poetry held at the high school in conjunction with Mahatma Gandhi's birthday and the International Day of Non-Violence.

As part of the festivities, Archer Street School raised $250 through a "Pennies for Peace" drive, while students Mica Gerald and Luis Cepeda won a peace-themed poster contest. The event stemmed from a partnership between the district and Shanti Fund in Medford via Pathways to Peace, a nonprofit that promotes peace.



Breakfast for Champions

Thirteen students from Garden City High School were recognized last month as the first honorees of the school's new Breakfast for Champions program. Champions were chosen by teachers based on character, conduct and contributions to the community. A second group of honorees will be honored at a special breakfast in the spring.

"They make Garden City a great place to go to school," said principal Nanine Cuttitta. "We also recognize their parents and thank them for raising such wonderful children."



Interviewing seniors

Unqua Elementary School second-graders brought holiday cheer to residents of Bristal Assisted Living in Massapequa last month by interviewing them about their life experiences.

As part of the project, kids also created "treasure boxes" they filled with homemade items - ranging from paper flowers to hats - that were intended to serve as fond reminders from each resident's life.

"They were all so proud . . . that they could bring such joy to residents of Bristal," said enrichment teacher Lori Moran.



New playground

James A. Dever Elementary School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month for a new playground assembled by hundreds of volunteers from the school community. The equipment was funded by a $50,000 grant secured by State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

"Today's ribbon-cutting symbolizes the hard work and dedication of a whole community coming together for a cause," said principal Darren Gruen.



Performance winners

More than 100 students from Nassau County high schools have received Nassau Zone Awards from the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance based on academics, leadership and physical performance. Local winners include:

Bellmore: Taylor Kruter and Jordan Goldberg of John F. Kennedy High School; Danielle Parker and Jonathan Genn of Mepham High School; Bethpage: Kathryn Banzer and Stephen Trifilio of Bethpage High School; East Meadow: Lindsay McKillop and Michael Favuzzi of East Meadow High School; Farmingdale: Alyssa Ana Rosa Cardillo and Scott Fritsche of Farmingdale High School; Hicksville: Kimberly Chirco and James Kinsepp of Hicksville High School; Levittown: Jacklyn Carabott and Christopher Nickel of Island Trees High School; Jessica Horan and Nicholas Casey of Division Avenue High School; Rose Berktas and Michael Samet of MacArthur High School; Massapequa: Katelynn Boland and Brian Smith of Massapequa High School; Oceanside: Tess Ytuarte and Metri Abdul-Karim of Oceanside High School; Plainedge: Kim Kovar and Cliff Lafemina of Plainedge High School; Wantagh: Madeline Ilibassi and Derek Novotny of Wantagh High School; Westbury: Allison Tamney and John Chodkowski of W. Tresper Clarke High School.

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