Some Long Island teens are enjoying the challenges of pondering ethical dilemmas.
The second annual Long Island High School Ethics Bowl last month included 13 teams from seven local high schools, plus a New Jersey entry, that argued the morality of such issues as using brain-enhancing drugs and telling a white lie on a job application.
Bethpage High's team -- Michelle Durnack, Mark Han, Amy Jaines, Alex Mangano and Matt Lippertshauser -- defeated N.J.-based Moorestown Friends School in the final round to take top honors.
"Since philosophy teaches us to think about how we think, rather than instruct us what to think, it's the bedrock subject," said Roberta Israeloff, director of the Squire Family Foundation, an East Northport-based nonprofit that coordinated the event and promotes the pre-college teaching of philosophy.
In the competition, teams prepared arguments before panels of judges comprised of local attorneys, journalists and school officials.
Durnack, a senior, said one of her team's strategies was to squeeze each other's legs under the table when they wanted to cut in with a point. "Our team had been together last year, so we were very confident in our abilities," she said.
In Huntington, school district humanities director Joseph Leavy credited the bowl for promoting the study of philosophy and said only a few local high schools offer it. "I'm very proud of that elective," he said, noting Huntington High's course has been popular since he wrote the syllabus in 2006.
Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School students recently learned the importance of tolerance during activities held for No Name-Calling Week. They had an anti-bullying poster contest and made, for the school lobby, a paper "friendship chain" of links listing compliments about classmates.
Walking across Asia
Woodhull Intermediate School recently engaged kids in a big geography lesson using a giant 35-by-26-foot map of Asia spread on the gym floor. As part of the project, students had to find various countries and trace the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow east and along a branch line to Beijing.
"The ultimate goal was to have students . . . not only see a specific location, but to walk it on a scale they typically do not see," said Joseph Leavy, district director of humanities.
ROCKY POINTHelping good causes
Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School recently raised $7,700 to benefit the American Heart Association through a Jump Rope for Heart event in which more than 150 students solicited sponsors and participated in cardiovascular activities ranging from jumping rope to hula-hooping. Third-grader Ken Massa led the way by single-handedly raising $1,795.
Five Suffolk County students were among 250 nationwide recently named regional scholars and recipients of $10,000 college scholarships by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. The five -- David Bynum of Longwood High School in Middle Island, Lilith Chasen of West Babylon High School, Samuel Kim of Northport High School, Ryan Lisann of Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills, and Jeremy Schneck, a Dix Hills resident and student at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck -- are eligible to be one of 50 national scholars this spring who will earn an additional $10,000 scholarship. They will go to Atlanta in April for interviews with a selection committee.
Helping Island Harvest
A group of 40 students from 17 Long Island school districts lent a helping hand last month to local soup kitchens and food pantries during a visit to the Uniondale warehouse of Island Harvest, a nonprofit that provides food and grocery items to the region's needy.
Student tasks included assisting with food preparation, loading vehicles and handling paperwork. The goal was to engage teens in issues affecting Long Island "while teaching about active participation as a means to address the region's problems," Island Harvest said.
Participating districts were Carle Place, Copiague, East Williston, Great Neck, Half Hollow Hills, Herricks, Jericho, Levittown, Manhasset, Mineola, North Shore, Port Washington, Roslyn, Seaford and Wantagh. Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset also participated.