Students at St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington recently honored a late classmate by going the extra mile - a few thousand miles, to be exact.
The school's student council and chorus coordinated a "Miles for Matt" overnight track relay held in memory of Matthew Gonzalez, a 17-year-old student from Miller Place who died last spring of a rare blood disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
The event raised more than $100,000 to be divided between research into the disease and the cost of a new organ to be named in Matt's honor at the school's Our Lady of Angels chapel.
"If you knew Matt, you knew people would come," said senior Chloe Forman, who conceived the fundraiser with classmate Jonathan Gallagher. "We basically started with a sheet of paper and some ideas. It became something special."
Forman said 88 teams, each consisting of 12 people, had one teammate walk for one hour each around the school's indoor track. Each walker paid $10 to enter, and some also secured sponsorships.
Before the walk, the school held a memorial Mass and an inaugural lap featuring Matt's family and close friends.
As for getting out the word about the activity among students, Gallagher said that was easy. "Matt pretty much took care of that for us," he said, noting that word-of-mouth played a large role in the relay's success. "He was the funniest kid I knew, and we all smiled when he entered a room. This was a chance to celebrate his life."
Chinese culture lessons
Academy Street Elementary School recently celebrated Chinese culture through activities that included reading and writing in the Mandarin language and learning to play the gong, an instrument with Asian origins. Huntington musician Patricia Shih also led pupils in a traditional dragon dance and introduced them to Chinese products such as jade, porcelain and silk.
In other news, the school has launched a knitting club that will teach basic stitches to 30 fifth-grade members.
Contribution to a book
Steve Corso, a social studies teacher at Elwood-John H. Glenn High School, is one of 34 college and high school teachers nationwide selected to contribute to the book "Teaching World History in the Twenty-first Century." The book, published by upstate-based M.E. Sharpe in December, is designed to serve as a handbook for history teachers.
Corso's chapter addresses common pitfalls of teaching advanced-placement classes.
Exploring maglev vehicles
Riverhead Middle School's technology classes recently explored the concept of magnetic levitation by creating maglev vehicles out of balsa wood, magnets and paper sails to catch wind currents. The cars, propelled by magnetic force, are designed after China's Shanghai maglev train, which can reach 300 miles per hour.
"The project helps students see how math is applied in real-world settings," said technology teacher Kevin Brennan.
A good turn for terns
Sixth-graders at Setauket Elementary School are helping to restore nesting colonies of least terns by painting decoys that will be placed at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. The completed decoys and a recording of the birds' mating call will be put into use later this month.
The effort is part of an Eagle Scout project by Ward Melville High School sophomore Adam Gittin, who is working with officials from the Town of Brookhaven and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
"It's our goal to help the birds find an adequate nesting ground to repopulate," he said.
Udall Road and Beach Street middle school students recently received anti-bullying advice from John Halligan, a Vermont man whose 13-year-old son, Ryan, took his own life in 2003 after being harassed online. During the lecture, Halligan urged West Islip teens to speak out whenever peers are teased.
"It's one thing to be bullied and humiliated in front of a few kids," said Halligan, but it's even worse "when the humiliation is witnessed by a far larger, online audience."
Continuing to help Haiti
Long Island schools continue to collect supplies and monetary donations for victims of the Haiti earthquake.
South Huntington School District raised $11,000 for the Red Cross through change collections and the sale of homemade bracelets for $1 each at Walt Whitman High School.
Meanwhile, St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington raised about $10,000 through a Dress Down Day. Students paid $5 each to be exempt from wearing their school uniforms.
Cayuga Elementary School in Lake Grove raised $2,600 for the Red Cross by placing a collection jar in the school cafeteria and sending letters to parents inviting them to donate.
In Nassau County, North Shore Middle School in Glen Head raised $2,000 for the Red Cross through a teacher basketball game held by the Global Citizens Club.