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Long IslandSuffolk

Suffolk: Port Jefferson 'Mind' winners

A team from Our Lady of Wisdom Regional

A team from Our Lady of Wisdom Regional Catholic School in Port Jefferson is the only Long Island team to advance to the world finals of Odyssey of the Mind, which is slated for May 22-25. Team coach Eugene Joseph, left, Shane Hampson, James Cunningham, Sara Mermelstein, Logan Almberg, Daniela Ferrigno, Emma Koscinski, Jessica D'Iorio, and team coach Kim Cunningham. (March 2013) Credit: Handout

A Port Jefferson student team is getting ready to demonstrate its creativity on a global level.

A seven-member squad from Our Lady of Wisdom Regional Catholic School in Port Jefferson won first place in their division at the New York State Odyssey of the Mind competition, which challenges students to explore creative problem-solving methods.

The team is the only Long Island group that will advance to the world finals in Michigan on May 22-25. Its members are Logan Almberg, James Cunningham, Jessica D'Iorio, Daniela Ferrigno, Shane Hampson, Emma Koscinski and Sara Mermelstein.

"Our team just blew me away," co-coach Eugene Joseph said. Of Odyssey's importance, he said: "It's necessary for kids to think outside the box, and this competition rewards that."

At the state level Our Lady of Wisdom chose one of five possible challenges available to schools and competed in the Tumble-wood Division II, comprised of teams in grades 6-8. To advance, the team successfully designed and built a structure made entirely of balsa wood and glue that supported 1,051 pounds -- after supporting only 560 pounds earlier last month at the regional level -- and also generated a "spontaneous solution" to a problem they hadn't seen before, Joseph said.

Teams from other local schools to reach the state level included Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School in Freeport, Long Beach Middle School, Long Beach High School, Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, Weldon E. Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale, Farmingdale High School, Locust Valley High School, Northport-East Northport School District and Berner Middle School and the Lockhart, McKenna and Unqua elementary schools, all in Massapequa.

Odyssey of the Mind is administered by Creative Competitions Inc. in New Jersey.



Edible garden

William Paca Middle School seventh-graders are learning the importance of healthy eating this spring through creation of an 80-square-foot garden on school grounds that includes vegetables from broccoli to eggplant to tomatoes.

The edible garden is intended to teach children how to care for crops and also see the difference between processed and organic foods.

"You can't get any more up-close-and-personal than putting your hands in the dirt and cultivating a garden of your own," principal Ed Plaia said. "We are already hearing some of them say that they'll never look at fast food the same way. This is exactly what we want."

The effort was facilitated by the school's partnerships with the nonprofit Slow Foods East End, Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation and Edible School Gardens in Bridgehampton.



Multicultural celebration

The North Babylon school district recently recognized its community's diversity with a districtwide multicultural celebration that included a series of student-run work stations focusing on various cultures.

Activities ranged from creating Chilean rainsticks with the high school's Life Skills Club to designing Polynesian leis and Guatemalan worry dolls with kids from Belmont and Marion G. Vedder elementary schools.

"Our goal is to keep our own identities, but to also take time to enjoy and respect cultures of those around us," said Maureen Fallon, the district's director of social studies and language arts, who organized the event.



LI History Day

Four Suffolk County teens were first-place winners last month in the 2013 Long Island History Day at Hofstra University.

The program, sponsored by the New York State Historical Association, encourages youths to explore historical topics through libraries, archives, museums and oral interviews.

Nick Karavolias and Reah Vasilakopoulos of Hauppauge High School won in the categories of senior individual website and senior historical paper, respectively, and Julianna Barca and Gabriella Mandriota of Huntington High School took top honors for senior group performance.



Grants for schools

Long Beach Middle School and William Paca Middle School in Mastic Beach were among 15 schools statewide to receive replication grants for low-performing schools from the state Education Department.

The grants enable schools to be mentored by districts that won Commissioner's Schools Dissemination Grants last year based on high performance. Long Beach received $150,000 to replicate the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district, and William Paca received $149,996 to replicate the Carle Place school district.

"Last year we awarded Commissioner's Schools grants that are designed to help successful schools identify and share their best practices," Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said. "Replication grants are the second piece of the puzzle."

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