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Kids can learn road safety in Suffolk's new 'town'

Students from Moriches Elementary School in the William

Students from Moriches Elementary School in the William Floyd School District ride their bikes at the new Safety Town in Holtsville. Credit: Handout, 2009

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 as well as an overpass, tunnels and 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 that travel up to 5 miles per hour. The children practice safety techniques - such as looking both ways before crossing the street and 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 


Postponed retirementThe Huntington Board of Education voted 5-2 last month to approve an amended contract for Superintendent John J. Finello that postpones his retirement for a full year and keeps him in the district through June 30, 2011.

Finello had said in July that he intended to retire at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

"With several significant initiatives being considered for the district, it is reassuring to know that we'll have an experienced leader to guide us," said board president Bill Dwyer.



Media savvy teacher

Evan Curran, a fourth-grade teacher at Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, is the sole educator nationwide to receive the Media Savvy Teacher Award from the Fair Media Council, a nonprofit that aims to educate the public to become savvy news consumers.

The Miller Place district cited his efforts to help parents and district officials better understand the media and its power during a presentation at a recent Board of Education meeting in which it recognized Curran.



Lunch program award

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District is one of two districts statewide to receive a Best Practices Award from the New York State Office of General Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture based on its "innovative practices and creative use of USDA foods in school lunch programs." The district received a $5,000 prize to be used for lunch-related items.



Prizes for Latin expertiseRiverhead High School claimed seven out of 12 prizes last month at the Suffolk Classical Society's 7th Annual Suffolk Declamatio, a competition in which students recite memorized passages of Latin literature at Stony Brook University. Riverhead winners were Emily Cardillo, Meghan Davis, Jaclyn Griffith, James Rios, John Rios, Edgar Samudio and Jessica Sisti.

Other competing high schools were McGann-Mercy in Riverhead, Ward Melville in East Setauket, The Stony Brook School, Westhampton Beach, Commack, and North Shore in Glen Head.



'Twilight' fun

Fifty students from Rocky Point Middle School marked the release of the popular vampire film, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," with a celebration that included "Twilight" trivia and photos alongside life-size cutouts of actors Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.

"The series is mesmerizing," said school librarian Cathy O'Connell, crediting the creative vision of author Stephanie Meyers. "She knows how to draw in everyone from sixth-graders to adults in this unspoken love story."



Pumpkin Fling

Seven teams of students recently competed in the Seventh Annual Pumpkin Fling, a science-minded competition at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank in which kids create a catapult, trebuchet or other device to propel pumpkins into a field. Contestants are judged on distance, accuracy and most creative design.

The overall winner was Harbor Hawks Flinger, a 13-and-under team from St. James that had a launch of 532.4 feet. Teams from Robert Frost Middle School in Deer Park and Islip Middle School were runners-up with flings of 439.7 feet and 424.4 feet, respectively.

Other participating schools were Islip High School, Locust Valley High School and South Side High School in Rockville Centre.

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