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‘Extraordinary Class’ Moves Up to Rye Neck Middle School

‘Extraordinary Class’ Moves Up to Rye Neck Middle School photo

F.E. Bellows Elementary School fifth graders – who have been described by their principal as a class of kind and extraordinary children – said farewell to their elementary school days during a moving-up ceremony on June 20. Together, they will embark on the next phase of their educational journey as sixth graders at Rye Neck Middle School in the fall.

The program began with a processional to “Pomp and Circumstance,” a flag salute and a performance of “America the Beautiful” before Principal Michael Scarantino welcomed the guests and honorees. He shared a few words of wisdom with the students and reminded them to look after one another because they are a family who will travel together through their entire school career. 

“My hope has always been that this theme – this message of family – would resonate with each and everyone one of you, and it has,” said Scarantino, who fondly remembered the students as his first third grade class at the school that he’s had the privilege of watching grow and learn over the years. “As I stand here proudly on your moving-up day, I am confident that you will take care of one another in middle school.” 

Scarantino encouraged the students to continue to show kindness and respect toward others and strive to achieve their goals. 

“Stay extraordinary whether you are an athlete, a scholar, an artist, a scientist, an innovator or a humanitarian – or a combination of all of the above,” he said. “Being extraordinary means anything you put your mind to is possible.” 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barbara Ferraro acknowledged that the students are ready for new, exciting challenges and opportunities that await them at middle school.  

“You have become strong, confident boys and girls with dreams and aspirations,” Dr. Ferraro said. “You are all extraordinary in so many ways. I ask you to remember that you have the Bellows spirit, so push yourselves to explore, take on a bit more, and when you do – new doors will open.” 

Before the students were called one by one to receive their certificates, they performed “Words of Wisdom,” a song that was written by the students and music teacher Tom Galgano. The ceremony concluded with a performance of “The Moving-Up Song 2019,” another song written by the students and Galgano.


Adventure Book Author Inspires Fourth Graders

Adventure Book Author Inspires Fourth Graders

Fourth grade students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School – who had been studying about New York State and its history – recently welcomed to their school author Peter Lourie, who shared his adventures that had inspired his numerous nonfiction books for children and adults.

During his visit, Lourie shared with the students that he wanted to become an archaeologist to travel the world, but after an experience in Ecuador, during which he researched the story of the Inca gold, he began writing adventure-travel books. He also discussed the many places around the world he has traveled to and how his experiences have inspired his books. He’s written books about rivers, including the Hudson River, as well as ancient cultures, animals and the environment. 

“It’s all about exploring the world,” he told the students. “Not the world of computers, the real world, where there are people and places to go to.” 

Lourie also took the students on a virtual adventure by sharing with them a selection of pictures and video clips from his travels and showed them the gear he brings on his river adventures. Following the gradewide assembly, Lourie hosted workshops to inspire young writers to embark on their own writing adventures and teach them the process of research, journal-keeping and revision. He encouraged the students to improve their storytelling skills by rewriting their stories numerous times, include details and not get discouraged. 

“Peter is a wonderful author and great storyteller,” fourth grade teacher Joan Spedafino said. “We loved having him here.” 

Lourie’s visit was generously sponsored by the PTSA.


Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community

Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 2
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 3
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 4
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 5
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 6
Daniel Warren Students Create ‘Wonderville’ Community 7
Complete with a school, police station, toy shop, bakery, pizza restaurant, local bank and library, as well as roads and traffic lights, kindergarten through second grade students at Daniel Warren Elementary School have created their own model of a community, called Wonderville. 

Inspired by the community that surrounds Rye Neck, each class was tasked with creating their own building out of cardboard and decorating it to resemble a real location in their community. Throughout the year, they have been focused on exploring three topics of study as part of their school’s new inquiry-based learning space, the Wonder Studio, which launched at the beginning of the school year. Each study – Garden, Architecture and Community – provided them with opportunities to wonder, discover, explore and create.

“This interactive opportunity allowed students and staff the chance to consider the significance and roles that people, places and shared ideas play in the creation of a community,” said library and media teacher Leigh Ann Kowalchick-Porphy, who spearheaded the activity. “It also allowed students an authentic opportunity to consider why community is important to us all.” 

The student-created community served as a culminating project to the students’ experiences and exploration of the concept of community. 

“As an inquiry-based learning space, the Wonder Studio is all about the process of asking questions and the exploration and discoveries we make as we find the answers to our questions,” Kowalchick-Porphy said.  

Science Symposium Celebrates Students’ Achievements

Science Symposium Celebrates Students’ Achievements photo

Members of Rye Neck High School’s Science Research Program celebrated their outstanding achievements and showcased their science research projects during the 17th annual Science Research Symposium, held on June 4 in the middle/high school campus library.

The evening consisted of posterboard presentations by first-, second- and third-year students in the program, who had been developing their ideas and refining their research throughout the year. Junior Lisa Engelen and seniors Ema Jovanovic, Marion Kerviche, Elizabeth Mioli, Anna Nakagama, Rebecca Super, Rebecca Tenner and Melissa Valqui presented their science research and discussed their findings, while senior Nicole Pereira provided the evening’s keynote address before an audience of peers, parents and teachers. 

Pereira presented her project, “The Effect of Valproic Acid on the Memory and Social Behavior of Blaberus Discoidalis Cockroaches.” Jovanovic presented her research, “The Effects of Valerian on Social Facilitation in Blaberus Discoidalis Cockroaches.” Kerviche and Engelen presented their project, “The Effects of Facial Features on Political Candidates’ Chances of Election.” Mioli presented her project, “The Knowledge and Perceptions of Concussions Amongst Adolescents.” Anna Nakagama and Rebecca Tenner presented their project, “High School Students’ Perceptions and Knowledge of and Access to Vaccinations.” Super presented her research, “Cardiac Development of Mice Lacking the Crk and CrkL Genes.” Valqui presented her research, “The Effect of Time and Implantation of False Memories on Eyewitness Testimony Memory.”

The Science Research Program provides students with the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of a topic of their choice and conduct independent research with the help of a mentor in a variety of scientific areas, including biology, medicine, computer science, mathematics, physics, space science, social sciences and psychology. Over the course of the program, students complete projects in labs and participate in numerous competitions at the local and national level.

Members of the science research program include first-year students Kimberly Carlton, Jackson Hillyer, Marion Kerviche, Zachary Leontiou Ava Liebmann; second-year students Jonathan Marcuse, Elizabeth Mioli and Owen Robertson; and third-year students Lisa Engelen, Adam Galluccio, Ema Jovanovic, Anna Nakagama, Nicole Pereira, Rebecca Super, Rebecca Tenner and Melissa Valqui. 


Rye Neck High School Wins Four Metro Awards for ‘Grease’

Rye Neck High School Wins Four Metro Awards for ‘Grease’
Rye Neck High School’s musical production of “Grease” won four awards from the prestigious 2019 Metropolitan High School Theater Awards during a ceremony held on June 10 at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College. 

Ethan Chin won the male dance performance for his role as Johnny Casino, Kathryn Krull won the musical direction award, Ris Igrec won an award in the teacher-nominated technical merit category for her work as director of costumes, and the theater program won the stage crew award for the hardworking students serving in backstage duties.

“I’m so happy for our students and the entire cast and crew of ‘Grease,’” theater director Scott Harris said. “While we already knew we had put on a fantastic show, it’s a pleasure for the students to receive this recognition from the judges that came to see our production. I’m very proud of what the theater department achieved this year, and I am already looking forward to next year’s productions.”

The Metro Awards shine a spotlight on exceptional musical theater productions, talented actors and actresses, and creative teams from Bergen, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, according to the awards website.

Awards Ceremony Recognizes RNHS Students’ Achievements

Awards Ceremony Recognizes RNHS Students’ Achievements
Juniors and seniors were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments during the annual Rye Neck High School Awards Ceremony on May 30. They were presented with awards in a variety of categories, including academics, arts, athletics and community scholarships. 

Principal Tina Wilson provided the opening remarks before Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ferraro recognized seniors Rafael Zyngier and Grace O’Rourke as the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2019. Administrators and teachers presented academic awards to students in each department, including English, science, math, technology, social studies, foreign languages, arts, music, health and physical education, and special achievement and community service. 

Curtis Alter, Joseph Catanzariti, Doris Igrec, Ema Jovanovic, Grace O’Rourke, Margaret Victory and Rafael Zyngier were recognized for being the 2019 National Merit Commended Students. Risa Liebmann, Delaney Park and Elena Tisnovsky were recognized for being 2019 National Merit finalists.

The Blue Ribbon Award for Service, Leadership, Achievement and Rye Neck Spirit was awarded to Julian Allison, Stella Ewen-Tanaka, Cole Hodys, Doris Igrec, Lucia Kaempf, Colin Kelly, Olivia King, Jose Latorre, Risa Liebmann, Elizabeth Mioli, Charlotte Murphy, Anna Nakagama, Nicole Pereira and Rebecca Tenner. The PTSA Scholarship Award, presented to a graduating senior who consistently exemplified scholastic integrity, commitment to the school community and an admirable record of volunteerism, was awarded to Stephanie Corona.

Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Ready for Future Success

Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Ready for Future Success
Rye Neck High School seniors Rafael Zyngier and Grace O’Rourke have been named the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2019. Both accomplished students said it was validating to receive the school’s top honors and rewarding that they were able to accomplish a personal goal. 

“The recognition is nice externally, but what really matters to me is the fact that I reached a personal goal,” Zyngier said. “Internal drive is really important; no one ever put pressure on me except myself.” 

Both students attributed their success to their self-motivation, as well as the support of their parents. 

“They have always trusted me implicitly to succeed on my own, and I feel that that trust caused me to rise to the occasion, and allowed me to find motivation within myself, rather than from outside pressure,” O’Rourke said. “I can say with certainty that this lack of intervention allowed me to flourish academically and created an incredibly supportive emotional environment.” 

Over her high school career, O’Rourke dedicated most of her time to the theater program. She has been in four musicals and three plays and was the clerk and treasurer of the Thespian Society. In addition, she has been a member of the Science Olympiad team for four years and served as co-president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance for two years, after having been a member of the club for four. Zyngier has spent time volunteering at the Rye Marshlands, as well as surfing and playing ultimate frisbee in his spare time. 

The soon-to-be graduates said if they could give any piece of advice to the incoming freshmen, it would be to not be afraid of change, work hard and find a good balance in their lives. 

“High school, to me, can be summarized as a very important landmark along the journey of finding who you are,” O’Rourke said. “Leaving high school, I feel like a totally different person than I did coming into it. My interests have shifted, my goals for life have changed dramatically, even my personality is different than it used to be. All of those changes are due in a large part to the cumulative experience of high school – the classes, the extracurricular activities, the friends I have made. To me, high school is, in a major way, a crucible for personal development and a major step forward towards becoming yourself.” 

O’Rourke and Zyngier said they will miss the personal connections they have made with teachers and peers and the friendships they’ve developed over the years. 

“I definitely had a good high school experience and am well equipped for future success,” said Zyngier, adding that he’s grateful to all of the people in his life who have supported his endeavors. “Thinking back to everyone who’s helped me along the way, I’m starting to tear up thinking about how kind and supportive everyone has been from teachers to family and friends.”

In the fall, Zyngier will attend Brown University as an applied mathematics major with a specialization in its applications through an economic lens. O’Rourke will attend Mount Holyoke College as an English major. 

Composer Inspires Eighth Graders at Rye Neck Middle School

Eighth grade students were treated to a special music workshop by Andrew Beall, an international composer and soloist, who filled the school’s auditorium with Broadway tunes on June 3. 

During his visit, Beall discussed his inspirations behind his music, shared how he started out in the industry and played a variety of songs from his musicals. In addition, he talked about the creative process and challenged the students to sing along to a song from his musical “Goodbye New York.”  

“An extraordinarily talented and accomplished young man, Andrew shared his knowledge with our students,” Principal Eric Lutinski said. “He travels and performs with world-class symphonies throughout the world, and his musicals, starring Tony-award winning actors, are captivating audiences in the states and abroad.” 

Two of Beall’s three musicals were produced last season. His first musical, “Song of Solomon,” recently finished a sold-out run at the Thespis New York Festival, where it was nominated for best musical. His second musical, “Goodbye New York,” will receive its premiere production in Kansas City in 2020. His third musical, “Platinum Girls,” was produced in September 2018 to critical acclaim. In addition, Beall has performed on Broadway in “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “In The Heights,” “Les Misérables,” “Lion King,” and “Spiderman,” as well as in numerous orchestras. If not performing at Carnegie Hall, he may be found at his regular gig, playing percussion and marimba for “Lion King” on Broadway. 

Beall’s visit was generously arranged and sponsored by the RN PTSA HS/MS STEAM Committee, chaired by Susan Banker, in collaboration with Lutinski and middle school teacher Jenny Theall. It was designed to expose students to the world of musical composition and composing a Broadway musical, as well as to help them connect personally to the experience. 

“Students have many opportunities and paths to consider for their own talents, and hopefully they were inspired to think differently about them and to develop and pursue them,” Banker said. “We also hope we inspired learning through close listening, participating, seeing and hearing how stories are told musically, lyrically and through the use of voice.” 


Fifth Graders Raise Money for Freshman Class on Paint Night


F.E. Bellows Elementary School fifth graders created their own spring landscape masterpieces during Paint Night, which was held on May 31 at Rye Neck Middle School’s art room.

Using a white canvas, acrylic paint and brushes, the students followed step-by-step instructions from art teacher Dara Goodman to paint the spring landscape scene, which included trees, mountains, fields and red flowers. Meanwhile, fellow art teachers Trisha Appel, Jennifer Dallow and Karen Fontecchio provided the fifth graders with personalized attention and positive feedback and helped them stay on task. 

“Students started with the sky and learned how to blend with the paint from dark blue to light by adding white and overlapping different layers of paint,” Appel said. “They used their finger to paint in clouds with white paint. They used green paint to create the land and added accents of yellow to create hills within their landscape. Students thought about highlights and shadows while working to create more realistic effects.” 

In addition, Rye Neck High School freshmen Alicia Greco Correa, Maya Julian, Dylan Kujawski, Asher Rabinowitz and Olivia Taylor and their adviser, Mark Lauren, guided the students throughout the evening and helped with the setup, cleanup and the overall organization of the event. 

The event, a fundraiser for the Rye Neck High School freshman class, raised $400. Held twice a year, it benefits students as they raise money for their respective classes. 


Students Gain Cultural Appreciation on Japan Immersion Day

Students Gain Cultural Appreciation on Japan Immersion Day

Third grade students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School – who had been studying the culture, geography, history and government of Japan in their social studies classes – participated in a variety of hands-on activities during the annual Japan Immersion Day on May 31.

Deeply connected to the curriculum, the day was designed to help students get immersed into the Japanese culture and foster a greater sensitivity and appreciation of other cultures. 

“People around us might be different due to different things, but we can definitely respect and have a greater empathy for one another,” said Ann Cullagh, a third-grade teacher and team leader.

Throughout the day, the students discussed what school is like for students in Japan, learned about the significance of kimonos and the tradition behind them, and practiced calligraphy by writing Japanese words with a brush and ink. They also learned how to use chopsticks, tasted traditional food and created origami, which challenged them to use their math skills and taught them about symmetry. In addition, they learned about kendo, a modern Japanese martial art, which encourages thinking with kindness and respect for others. 

The celebration was made possible thanks to parent volunteers and members of the Japanese community, who provided insight into numerous Japanese traditions.


Senior Earns a Playwriting Award

Senior Earns a Playwriting Award photo
Rye Neck High School senior Grace O’Rourke – a talented actor and writer and an accomplished student – has been selected as one of three finalists for the Palace Theatre’s 2019 Ernie DiMattia Emerging Young Artist Scholarship Award for her original play, “Pushing Up Daisies.” 

“I’m so proud of Grace,” theater director Scott Harris said. “In her time as a Rye Neck theater student, she has taken intermediate acting, advanced acting and musical theater class, played leading roles in many of our plays and musicals, and was also a Thespian Officer for the past two years. Not to mention her astounding academic achievements – she is the salutatorian of her class. The fact that she submitted her play this year on her own, and not as part of a class project, just further illustrates her immense talent and work ethic.” 

O’Rourke was invited to attend the annual awards ceremony on May 20, where her play was performed onstage by a group of students from New York University’s Tisch Drama program. 

In addition, O’Rourke’s play is featured in this year's edition of the high school's literary magazine, Muses, which will be available in early June. 

Theater Students, Production Receive 8 Metro Award Nominations

Theater Students, Production Receive 8 Metro Award Nominations photo
Rye Neck High School’s theater program received eight award nominations for its musical production of “Grease” from the prestigious 2019 Metropolitan High School Theater Awards, which are organized by the Helen Hayes Youth Theatre. 

Yu Zushiden was nominated in the Dance Performance Female category for her role as Cha-Cha DeGregorio. Ethan Chin was nominated in the Dance Performance Male category for his role as Johnny Casino. Francesca DeAngelo received a nomination for Choreography, while Kathryn Krull received a nomination for Musical Direction. Ris Igrec was nominated in the Technical Merit category for her work as director of costumes. 

In addition, Rye Neck High School received a nomination in the Production Number category for the cast's performance of the “Born to Hand Jive” dance number. Rounding out the nominations were a full-cast Outstanding Chorus nomination and an Outstanding Stage Crew nomination for the hard-working students serving in backstage duties. 

"I always tell my students that the quality of our production is something we already know, without needing outside validation,” theater director Scott Harris said. “If we had been nominated for zero awards, I would feel just as proud of our cast and crew. That said, it’s nice to know our efforts were appreciated by those three judges who came to see our production.” 

The Metro Awards shine a spotlight on exceptional musical theater productions, talented actors and actresses, and creative teams from Bergen, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, according to the awards website. 

The annual awards ceremony will be held on June 10 at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College. 

Art Show Celebrates Kindness at Rye Neck Schools

Art Show Celebrates Kindness at Rye Neck Schools

Kindergarten through fifth grade students showcased their best artwork during the annual art show, held at F.E. Bellows Elementary School from May 7-9. Under the direction of art teachers Trisha Appel and Dara Goodman, this year’s art show focused on the idea of spreading kindness through the creation of artwork.

“Through the use of color, shape, line and words, the students created a wide variety of artworks, while immersing themselves in the creative process and studying different artists and art movements,” Goodman said.

Fifth graders, who were inspired by Albrecht Durer, wrote words or phrases of kindness with quills. Fourth graders created colorful, collaged hearts inspired by Peter Max, and third graders created drawings inspired by Robert Indiana and Keith Haring. Second grade students created three-dimensional hearts popping off the page, which were inspired by Peter Max. Meanwhile, first graders created hearts inspired by Jim Dine and Zentangle patterns to share kindness with everyone. Kindergartners also learned about Jim Dine and created hearts of kindness. 

The art exhibit also featured artworks that were created as part of an interdisciplinary project that connects art to the learning that goes on in the academic classroom. Third graders, who learned about Japanese art and culture, created drawings of pagodas and bamboo branches using gold and silver ink. Fourth graders, who learned about Native American art and culture, created stylized fish focusing on symbols, line work and a sense of movement. Fifth graders, who learned about Mexican art and culture, created sugar skulls inspired by Dia de los Muertos.

In addition to the art exhibit, Appel and Goodman brought together students and adults to create an interactive, colorful, Keith Haring-inspired mural. 

“As art educators we always try to incorporate current art happenings, gallery exhibits and museum shows into our projects, giving the opportunity to our students to see professional artwork firsthand, outside of our classroom as well as inside,” Goodman said. “To feed off of the most recent Warhol retrospective at the Whitney Museum, we created multiple projects inspired by New York’s own Andy Warhol. We had a ‘Warhol Corner’ designated for artwork inspired by the artist that visitors used as a backdrop for photo ops, just as in the Whitney exhibit.”


Seventh Graders ‘Escape the Math Classroom’

Seventh Graders ‘Escape the Math Classroom’ photo
Seventh Graders ‘Escape the Math Classroom’ photo 2
Seventh grade students – who have been studying about ratios, proportions and percentages in Eileen Pillig’s math classes – were recently challenged to solve a variety of puzzles to test their knowledge. 

Set up as an “Escape the Room” challenge, the students worked in groups and competed against other teams to be the first ones to solve a series of math problems and obtain a code to unlock a digital lock. The team who successfully solved eight puzzles and opened eight locks would “escape the math classroom.”

“It was a great motivator, as students stayed engaged and worked together as a team to achieve a goal,” Pillig said. “They found the puzzles were much easier when they listened to and supported each other’s ideas. I hope they took away from this that math can be challenging as well as fun, and that working as a team can make a hard task easier.”

The students said that despite the challenging activity, they had fun working together while also learning math.

Rye Neck Students Earn Awards at Science and Technology Fair

Rye Neck Union Free School District students – who have been diligently working on their science research projects – earned awards when they showcased their exhibits at the Tri-County Science & Technology Fair, held on April 27 at White Plains Senior High School. 

Congratulations to the following F.E. Bellows students who earned awards in their respective categories:

Dylan Arouh – first place in the Middle School Biology category. 
Spencer Elliot and Henry Holtman – second place in the Middle School Chemistry category. 
Lily Fauci – second place in the Middle School Earth/Space Science category. 
Max Cea and Osborne Ringstad – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Chemistry category.
Sydney Healy – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Earth/Space Science category.
Dalia Mansell and Sela Rozov – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Engineering and Technology category.
Annie Kasanin and Virgina Latorre – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Engineering and Technology category.
Melanie Kramer and Sheena Haviland – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Health and Medicine category.
Sage Abbey and Bianca Canonico – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Health and Medicine category.
Owen Wagner – “Outstanding” award in the Elementary Physics category. 
Tammy Zhang – "Excellent" award in the Elementary Physics category.

Congratulations to the following high school seniors who earned medals in their respective categories:

Nicole Pereira – second place in the Physiological/Experimental Psychology category. 
Elizabeth Mioli – second place in the Health and Nutrition category. 

Congratulations to the following middle school students who placed in the top three spots in their respective categories:

Matthew Steeves and Jaime Latorre – first place in the Engineering and Technology category. 
Isabel Palacios-Ferrer – second place in the Psychology category.
Derek Ryan – third place in the Biology category.
Ethan Felenstein – third place in the Biology category.
Kyle Ryan – third place in the Earth Science category.
Jeremie Thinat – third place in the Engineering and Technology category. 
Ella Grann – third place in the Environmental category. 

As a result of their outstanding performance, Steeves and Latorre have advanced to the Broadcom MASTERS competition, a national science fair that is sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation, while Palacios-Ferrer and Thinat were selected as alternates. The top 10% of science fair applicants from across the country are nominated to compete. In addition, Rye Neck Middle School, which had the highest overall average among all other middle schools, won the Susan Schaell Handelman Award for Scholastic Excellence in Science & Technology for the second year in a row.

The Tri-County Science & Technology Fair brings together student-scientists from Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties who showcase their exhibits before a team of judges in their respective categories. 


Seventh Graders Build Roller Coasters

Seventh Graders Build Roller Coasters photo

Rye Neck Middle School seventh graders, who recently studied about potential and kinetic energy in their science classes, built roller coasters to bring those concepts to life.

Using foam tubing, a marble and tape, the students worked in groups to design their roller coasters and secure them against walls, books or lab tables. Each group dropped their marble on the tracks and it soared through several loops – the minimum requirement for the roller coasters was that they have one loop, one curve and one hill – before landing in a paper cup. 

“Not only are they required to observe the potential and kinetic energy throughout, but they must also calculate both energies numerically,” Zeoli said. “The students found it challenging to create a roller coaster that accomplished all guidelines at first and had to get creative with their materials and space. In the end, they found it rewarding when their marble successfully completed its full path through the coaster.” 

Student Caroline Johansen, whose group designed a roller coaster with hills and successfully completed the project, said she enjoyed being able to collaborate with her fellow classmates and contribute with different ideas. 

“The students not only learned about energy throughout, but also learned to work together as a team to create a successful product,” Zeoli said.



Students Learn To Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes

Students Learn To Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes photo

Fourth grade students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School welcomed 13-year-old Ava, who suffers from Usher syndrome, and her mother Carly Fredericks as special guests to their school on April 26. During the assembly, Ava, who was born deaf and is slowly losing her vision due to the disease, talked about Usher syndrome and her experiences.

“We are learning about how everyone is unique and embracing who we are and what makes us special,” said teacher Ellie Speros, who organized the assembly. 

During the assembly, the students talked about the five senses, learned how to sign each letter of the alphabet and spelled words using the Braille alphabet. In addition, one student walked with Ava’s cane and others completed a mystery box challenge, in which they were asked to guess what was in the box without looking at the items. The activities were designed to raise awareness and help students experience what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Speros said her students have been learning sign language, how to read lips and read Braille, notice Braille in the real world and more, as part of the Seekers and Solvers’ “A Mile in Your Shoes” unit. 

“They’ve been participating in various real-world applications and hands-on class experiences to learn strategies that differently abled people use to navigate life,” Speros said. “At the end of our unit, students will create an interactive, station-based experience for other fourth grade students.”  

For more information on Usher syndrome, visit


Sixth Graders Explore Significance of Greek Gods and Goddesses

Sixth Graders Explore Significance of Greek Gods and Goddesses photo

Sixth grade students – who have been studying ancient Greece in Eric Rudolph’s and Colleen Slattery’s social studies classes – recently demonstrated their knowledge by completing an extensive research report on a Greek god or goddess of their choice and sharing their findings with their classmates.

Having studied the ancient civilization’s geography and government, as well as mythology and daily life for men and women, the students were challenged to write a report on one god or goddess. They were tasked with describing their family history and appearance, explaining the symbol that represents the god or goddess, summarizing one myth they played a key role in, and explaining how the god or goddess influenced Greek culture. 

“The students prepared short presentations about what they learned,” Slattery said. “In addition to presenting key facts or interesting myths to the class, some students were extremely creative and either dressed up or brought in props, such as tridents and armor, to go along with their presentation.” 

Throughout the research process, the students worked closely with library media specialist Linda Costelloe to navigate databases and used NoodleTools, a platform that helps students record and organize their notecards. 

Before beginning their studies on ancient Greece, Slattery said the students read “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan in their English language arts classes and were eager to further explore some of the gods and goddesses mentioned in the book.