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Coming Together to Create Success

More than 130 people attended the district’s Bilingual Nights, an event that brings the community together and offers support to Spanish-speaking families to make them feel more comfortable being part of their children’s school lives.
The two-night event was organized and moderated by teaching assistant Cyndy Ergen, who translates documents into Spanish for the school district and communicates with Spanish-speaking families on behalf of the schools. Held at Bayville Primary School on March 13 and at Locust Valley Intermediate School on March 14, this year’s turnout was far greater than those held in the past four years.
“As word gets out about how helpful these programs are, more Spanish-speaking families want to attend,” Ms. Ergen said. She explained that the information offered helps parents understand the support available in the schools for them and for their children. “We explain how to use the website and how to translate the website into Spanish, who to call with various questions and who is in charge of different departments.”
Administrators representing areas such as special education, curriculum and health education spoke to the attendees, with Ms. Ergen translating their presentations into Spanish as they spoke.
Representatives from the local libraries provided information on their services, and various businesses donated items such as bags, reusable water bottles, toothbrushes and keychains.
“These presentations prove that bringing the community together is beneficial for everyone,” Ms. Ergen said. “The families are very thankful that we want to help them become more involved in their children’s education.”

As Henry Ford once said about teamwork, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

STEAM Skills Beat the Trickiness of Leprechauns

Three student build a leprechaun trap.

Leprechauns don’t stand a chance against the STEAM skills of kindergarten students. The young inventors used science, technology, engineering, artand math skills to create leprechaun traps. Hoping the leprechauns would lead them to a pot of gold, the traps used all the things the students thought would attract the mythical creatures in Irish folklore.

Teachers and students read books about leprechauns that taught them that these little bearded men love mischief, shiny objects and rainbows. They used this knowledge to build traps from cardboard boxes that contained glitter, slides and rainbow collages. Some even had beds inside to keep the leprechauns happy once caught.

Ann MacArthur Primary School teacher Candice Pellicane said the kindergarten classes have been learning about problem-solving with academic work and real-world situations. The students have learned to plan out the solution to their problem before designing it.

“This project not only prompted them to use the problem-solving skills they have learned in kindergarten, but also required them to use higher-order thinking,” Ms. Pellicane said. “It is amazing to watch the students really communicate with their peers and for us as educators to be able to see their thinking process.”

Ms. Pellicane said that the students faced challenges when building the traps that they had planned out on paper. This required them to figure out what was wrong with their plan and how to correct the problem.

Bayville Primary School teacher Kelsey Burns had her students build the leprechaun traps using the same method of planning it out on paper first. She said that the project was a wonderful way to incorporate the STEAM curriculum into a hands-on activity. Her class worked in groups of four to create each trap, and as they presented their finished products to the rest of the class, they shared the challenges and the successes they had while doing the actual building.

“My students learned to take a step back and evaluate their plans to see what they could do better,” Ms. Burns said. “In the end, they all felt their traps would catch the leprechauns!”


Time to Write ... But First, Yoga

Several students do a yoga pose.

Standing in warrior pose and practicing bear breath, snake breath, elephant breath or bunny breath, first-graders in Brianna Spitaliere’s class at Ann MacArthur Primary School are learning to self-regulate. Students choose the yoga breath they need depending on whether they need to calm down or energize before beginning their writing workshop.
Yoga is practiced in this classroom as a transition between guided reading and writing workshop to help children prepare for their creative session. The mindfulness activity is performed during the Integrated ENL/ELA block with co-teacher Marie Mills.
Standing yoga poses such as mountain, triangle and warrior contribute to the development of strength, balance and focus. Students also learn partner poses, which they do with their writing partners. Elevator and back-to-back chair pose offer additional benefits, such as building trust and cooperation.
Ms. Mills said that yoga has offered a positive transition to the writing process. “Physical movement fosters learning,” she said. Similarly, “writing partners must work together, provide feedback and cooperate with one another,” she said. 
Ms. Spitaliere said that the students have benefited from the workshops in many ways. “Students feeling tired now know some breathing techniques they can use to gain energy, while those feeling like they can’t sit still can use different breaths to calm them down and prepare them to write,” she said.
Co-teaching during the ENL/ELA block has allowed the two yoga enthusiasts to work together to bring more enrichment to the children. The idea was gleaned from a workshop the two teachers attended on Superintendent’s Conference Day. Taught by Bayville Primary School librarian Stefanie Lipsey, the session focused on ways to incorporate yoga into writing workshops and recommended various materials that Ms. Spitaliere and Ms. Mills have incorporated into their workshop, including the use of chimes to signal the start of breathing exercises and for behavior management.

Second-Graders Debate Topical Issue

The entire class poses with their speeches.
Should plastic straws be banned? This was the topic debated in Tanya Becker’s second-grade integrated ENL class at Ann MacArthur Primary School. Using persuasive writing, the students chose one side of this topical issue and made their viewpoint known.
Ms. Becker and her co-teacher Suzette Ioannou said the debate took place after the class researched the topic by reading an article on whether or not plastic straws should be banned. The information in the article was discussed in small groups before each child wrote their opinion with supporting information, based on the article and their personal experiences. 

Those students favoring the banning of plastic straws pointed out that the straws can injure animals and are bad for the environment. On the opposing side, students said that straws are needed by people with certain disabilities and that those using the straws should learn to recycle them.
Once each student in the class had read their persuasive essay, they answered questions as to whether or not the debate changed their own opinion. Some students said that indeed, a classmate had provided information that changed their opinion.

Ms. Becker and Ms. Ioannou explained that this type of challenging assignment will help prepare students for future academic goals and achievements and that the topic was chosen because it was one that the students could relate to regardless of language acquisition. 

100 Days of Learning

Four girls are dressed like 100-year-old ladies.

Primary school students can count to 100 by fives, tens and twenties and they proved it during assemblies celebrating the 100th day of school at Ann MacArthur and Bayville Primary Schools.

Students in kindergarten through second grade sang songs that included counting to 100, listened to a story about the 100th day of school and celebrated the number 100. The 100th student to enter the school that day, students who were present for all 100 days of school and those that correctly guessed the number of treats in a jar were all recognized. 

“While the 100th day of school may not be an official holiday, it is an opportunity to reinforce math skills through collaboration with reading, music and movement,” said Locust Valley Elementary Schools Principal Dr. Sophia Gary.