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Nassau: Puppets talking in Italian

Walt Whitman Elementary School second-graders learn Italian phrases,

Walt Whitman Elementary School second-graders learn Italian phrases, including buongiorno and ciao, using puppets as a learning aid in Maria Cammarano's Italian class. At Walt Whitman in Syosset, students in second through fourth grades are learning Italian. (Sept. 13, 2012) Credit: Handout

Woodbury elementary school students are getting help in learning a foreign language from special friends: puppets.

Maria Cammarano, a teacher of Italian at Walt Whitman Elementary School in the Syosset Central School District, uses a collection of hand puppets to teach foreign language vocabulary and phrases to kids in an entertaining way.

Some of the more popular puppets are Pinocchio, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

"Puppetry, for me, is a springboard -- an animated motivator," said Cammarano, who teaches second-, third- and fourth-graders. "It enables kids to engage in spontaneous conversation and get them doing what I want without me even asking them."

She bought the puppets at different stores throughout her teaching career, Cammarano said. They range from well-known fairy-tale characters to animals and insects. Cammarano operates the puppets and provides the voices based on the character's age and gender, to entice kids to recite phrases such as "buongiorno" (good morning) and "come ti chiami" (what is your name).

Syosset's commitment to foreign language starts in kindergarten, where pupils learn Russian, and continues with Chinese for first-graders. Italian, Spanish, French and Latin are taught in subsequent years, and middle-schoolers get a choice of language.

Cammarano's classes usually consist of rotating groups of about 25 pupils meeting twice a week. The puppets always seem to leave the children "wanting more and all smiles," she said.

"When it comes to foreign languages, all of the studies say the sooner, the better," Cammarano said. "By the time our students leave elementary school, they are culturally enriched and able to speak in a limited conversational format."



Online class

Bethpage High School has launched a pilot program that allows students to participate in an online class designed to prepare them for college-style work.

The Advanced Placement government and politics class is run through OpenClass, a free Google-based service that creates a secure network for high school students.

The idea stemmed from a meeting Superintendent Terrence Clark held with Bethpage students, who expressed a desire for online offerings.

"I've spent the last several months taking everything that is in my head and typing it out into words, finding support materials online, and creating videos which contain mini-lectures for students to view," teacher Robert Verdi said.



The Memory Project

Twenty-two students from North Shore High School recently created original portraits for children in orphanages worldwide through The Memory Project, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit. The project's goal is to provide orphans with a special memory of their youth and give them a positive self-image by honoring their heritage, school officials said.

North Shore pupils created the children's portraits using photos of them supplied by The Memory Project, and the orphans were invited to respond by letter to the American teens.

"The portraits were stunning, and it is clear the students received excellent instruction to create artwork of such high caliber," Memory Project program director Ben Schumaker said.



New principal

Gayle Steele has been appointed principal of Wheeler Avenue Elementary School in Valley Stream Union Free School District 13. She replaced Christine Zerillo, who retired.

Steele previously was assistant principal of Sunquam Elementary School in Melville. She began her career as a foster care caseworker and also has taught in Brooklyn and Elmont.



'Heroglobin' Awards

Eight Long Island schools have received "Heroglobin" Awards from the New York Blood Center for collecting some of the highest number of blood donations among local schools during the 2011-12 academic year.

Winners were Chaminade High School, Mineola; East Rockaway High School; Holy Trinity High School, Hicksville; Sachem High School East, Farmingville; Sachem High School North, Lake Ronkonkoma; Seaford High School; Nassau BOCES' Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Education Center, Westbury; and Western Suffolk BOCES, based in Dix Hills.

"The kids are enthusiastic about it, and that spirit is inspiring," said Tania Cintorino, co-adviser of Seaford's Student Council, which helped collect 20,000 donations last year. "They talk it up with friends and family and post facts around school to raise awareness of the need for donors. We also advertise at sporting events and in the community."

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