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Students Learn New Programming Languages With Progate

Students Learn New Programming Languages With Progate photo

Rye Neck High School students – who are studying math and computer programming in Shelley Swick’s classes – welcomed representatives from Progate, a company that provides an online platform for coding lessons, for a special visit to their school on April 10.

During their visit, the three representatives – Chandler Azling, Nathan Knight and Sayuri Kojima – hosted coding workshops for the students by giving them access to their platform and allowing them to explore and study different computer programming languages. They also discussed the various applications of programming and how it can be used for web development, data science, digital art and more. 

“In this day and age, it’s really important for all students to have some exposure to coding, so this was a great opportunity for the students to learn from professionals in the field,” 
said Swick, who teaches Algebra 2, Introduction to Programming in Java and Advanced Placement Computer Science, a college-level course with an emphasis on the Java programming language, problem-solving and algorithm development.  

Thomas Crook, a senior who is interested in pursuing a future in computer science, said he appreciated the opportunity to teach himself a new programming language, React, and gain new app development skills through Progate’s platform. 

Swick said the coding workshops were made possible thanks to Takuno Nishimura – a member of the Rye Neck High School Class of 2015, founder and global manager of Progate – who wanted to give back to his high school.


Eighth Graders Celebrate Spanish Food and Culture

Eighth Graders Celebrate Spanish Food and Culture photo

Eighth grade students – who have been mastering the food chapter in Nadia Whiting’s Spanish language classes – demonstrated their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary by creating their own authentic cooking videos in Spanish.

Working in small groups, the students created educational and entertaining videos that listed each ingredient and instruction for making a variety of different foods, including tres leches cupcakes, tortilla Española, empanadas, churros, Spanish rice pudding, and frisuelos, a traditional Spanish crepe. After sharing their videos with their peers in class, the students enjoyed a sampling of different foods that they had prepared at home. 

“I had them integrate different recipes from different cultures so they can learn a little bit more about those cultures and the food that we have in various parts of the Spanish-speaking world,” Whiting said. 

As a culmination to the Spanish food chapter, Whiting will compile all of the recipes into a cookbook, which she will share with her students and their families. 

“I want them to remember the food that is so important in our culture, because we love to sit with family, talk and have fun with it,” Whiting said. “I also want them to remember their time in this class and look back fondly on the projects they completed.” 


Students Break Down Processes of Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis

Students Break Down Processes of Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis photo
Students Break Down Processes of Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis photo 2
Students Break Down Processes of Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis photo 3
When science teacher Peter Wilson created a Hopscotch-like game on his classroom floor using masking tape and signs that read “sugar,” “oxygen,” “cellular respiration,” “carbon dioxide,” “water,” “energy” and “photosynthesis,” he had one mission. His goal was to help his sixth grade students visualize and master the complex concepts of the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. 

“An important and helpful aspect of photosynthesis and cellular respiration is that chemically, they are basically the reverse of each other,” Wilson said. “Using an activity similar to Hopscotch addresses some of the challenges of learning the topic by having a visual reference of the processes that the students are physically moving through as they state the chemistry of each step out loud.” 

Wilson said the concepts of photosynthesis and cellular respiration can be challenging to learn because one cannot directly observe either process happening. In addition, the students were introduced to new vocabulary and terminology that are complex and abstract. But despite the challenges, the students successfully mastered the concepts thanks to the visual activity. 

“The students were hopping to and from, saying the steps of each process out loud, and they didn't even realize they were memorizing both processes,” Wilson said.

Sixth Graders Use Code to Create Animated Stories

Sixth Graders Use Code to Create Animated Stories photo

Sixth grade students have been studying block coding and learning basic computer language skills in Nicole Pelosi’s coding class. Now, as part of a storytelling unit, they are putting their knowledge to the test by creating an animated story with a clear plot, dialogue, characters and setting.

“Each student will create the first half of an original story and then trade so another student creates the ending,” Pelosi said. “By sharing the work, students need to creatively and logically resolve the story's problem, as well as interpret code written by their peers.”

Pelosi said the goals of all such coding projects that the students undertake vary and are based on the skills they learn in curricular units. During a recent gaming unit, for example, the sixth graders created two types of games. Doing so taught them how to program variables that are affected by different events which occur during the course of a game. They also learned how to program loops, in which certain sounds repeat to create a song, during a music unit.

At the end of each unit, the students celebrate their accomplishments by displaying and sharing their work as a class. 

“I hope our students are inspired to delve deeper into computer science and understand the important connection between mathematics and programming,” Pelosi said. “There are many high-order cognitive skills involved when programming and it's great to see students so focused on a goal.” 


Students Discuss Nuclear Weapons at United Nations

Students Discuss Nuclear Weapons at United Nations photo
Students Discuss Nuclear Weapons at United Nations photo 2
Students Discuss Nuclear Weapons at United Nations photo 3
Members of the Rye Neck Model United Nations team spent a day at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on April 2, where they listened to delegates who discussed their positions concerning the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons during a committee meeting in the Office for Disarmament Affairs. 

During their visit, the students heard speeches from the delegates, who demonstrated varying degrees of support for non-proliferation. They also met with Christopher King, a senior political affairs officer with the ODA, and engaged in meaningful conversation. 

“Our students discussed the history of nuclear proliferation and how proliferation is a more important subject in their lifetimes than in the past,” said Thomas Graziano, a social studies teacher and adviser of the Model UN Club. “As countries have looked to modernize their nuclear arsenals, it has led to clearer divisions in the world concerning those who support and have nuclear weapons and those who don't.” 

Graziano said the discussions in the UN concerning disarmament and weapons of mass destruction cannot be taken lightly.

“It is the future generation – our students – who will have to answer the question of nuclear proliferation in the future,” he said. 

Students Discuss Human Rights With Community Leaders

Students Discuss Human Rights With Community Leaders photo

Rye Neck High School students welcomed four prominent community members to their school on April 4 for a panel discussion on “The Future of Race Relations.” Organized by senior Rebecca Tenner, junior Adesuwa Carlton and sophomore Noah Thurer as part of the Independent Learner Program, the event was designed to raised awareness and engage students in meaningful discussions.

“We realize how students have an active voice, and we can show that students’ initiative can really have an impact on our community,” Tenner said. “We hope that by doing this, students will be more aware of their community, who they are as a person and how they act towards [others] in certain situations.” 

The panelists included Jirandy Martinez, executive director of the Community Resource Center; Ernie Ricketts, security director at Rye Neck High School; Danielle Tagger-Epstein, Rye City councilwoman and chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Rye; and Sidney Young, a Rye Neck High School graduate who is a digital account specialist with background in music marketing, distribution, promotions and strategy. Each panelist shared their experiences and encouraged the students to do their part in making the world a better place. 

“You have a certain power in the world,” Young said. “You have to understand what power you have and use it in the positive effect. You have to think about it if you want to change the world around you.” 

Thurer said he and his classmates have taken on a leadership role in bringing the panel together to engage their peers in meaningful discussions about current issues and provide them with different perspectives.

“We lead by example in bringing this together and enabling the rest of the community in forming their own opinions and thinking for themselves about such topics as human rights in our world today,” he said. 

Carlton, who is working on a project that analyzes youth activism and the influence of musicians over time from the civil rights movement to the Black Lives Matter era, said she hopes the panel discussion encouraged students to take action in solving real-world problems.

“I hope they take away solutions to problems of racial inequality and also to think about people who are oppressed in society and do not have a voice and encourage them to have a voice and help others,” she said. 


Science Research Students Earn Awards at WESEF

Science Research Students Earn Awards at WESEF photo
Members of the Rye Neck High School Science Research program had an outstanding performance at the 19th annual Westchester Science and Engineering Fair, held at Sleepy Hollow High School on March 16. 

Anna Nakagama and Rebecca Tenner, both seniors, earned the Leason Ellis Team Project Award, which is presented to a top team for working well together to achieve a goal. Nicole Pereira, a senior, earned fourth place in the Behavioral and Social Science category. 

“I am so proud of all of the girls who competed in WESEF,” science research teacher Kristen Bonnici said. “Over the past three years they have put so much time, energy and perseverance into a single research project. It has been a fulfilling experience for the girls and myself to watch the evolution of their projects into a sophisticated research experiment. The accolades and awards they have won at the competition are truly well-deserved.”

The competition featured more than 650 projects from 41 high schools from Putnam and Westchester counties. Students presented before a panel of judges, including local experts in the fields of life science, physical science, environmental studies, psychology and engineering. 

Author Prompts Students to Tap Into Their Imaginations

Author Prompts Students to Tap Into Their Imaginations photo
Author Prompts Students to Tap Into Their Imaginations photo 2
Seventh-graders, who have been creating their own fictional stories in Jenny Theall’s Creative Writing classes, welcomed author and Rye Neck parent Beth Duchanaud to their school to gain new skills about the writing process. 

During her visits on March 5 and 6, Duchanaud shared insight about her creative writing process, discussed her experiences in self-publishing her young adult novel “Hold Up” and offered practical advice to the budding student-authors. She encouraged them to create a writing ritual and continue to practice crafting original stories. Duchanaud also discussed the importance of knowing their audience, drawing inspiration from real-life experiences to develop a compelling story and provided them with tips on how they can bring their characters to life. 

As a conclusion to her interactive workshop, the author challenged the students to a writing prompt, which centered around one setting – a fictional Spring Fair. 

“Each student received a prompt, which depicted a specific character and scene,” Theall said. “Yet, they were all interconnected. The students used their imaginations to become a staff member running an air castle, a lost child, the winner of the Cake Walk and more. They were actually assigned opposing characters, which created hilarious contrasting points-of-view and they loved it.” 

Theall said she hopes the learning experience inspires her students to establish their own writing rituals. 

Library Clerk Sparks Interest in Indian Culture, Traditions

Indian image

Seventh-graders – who have been reading “Homeless Bird” by Gloria Whelan in Jenny Theall’s English classes – welcomed library clerk Shailaja Vangala as a special guest in their classes to discuss the concepts in the book.

Referencing “Homeless Bird,” a fictional story that takes place in rural India, Vangala shared insights about her Indian culture and customs and the places depicted in the book. She shared photographs from her own travels to the capital of New Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra, as well as India’s sacred Ganges River, where prayer offerings take place every evening. She also showed them how to wear a sari, which is a garment traditionally worn in India, and discussed various examples of embroidery. 

“The novel’s protagonist, Koly, is in an arranged marriage and becomes a widow as a child,” Theall said. “She is abandoned in the City of Widows, deals with poverty, violence and starvation – a far cry from Rye Neck in many, many aspects. So, Mrs. Vangala helped this realistic fiction novel come to life.” 

During her presentation, Vangala explained that although child marriages and the tradition of dowry still happen in villages and small towns, they are illegal. In addition, for the most part, widow houses in Vrindavan give shelter to older women who are abandoned by their children and family. She also discussed that arranged marriages remain common in India, but dating and live-in relationships have become more common in Indian cities and many Bollywood films revolve around these themes. 

“I wanted to give students a current perspective to these places and traditions,” Vangala said. “I hope they understand that younger people in India focus on reaching their passions and dreams and do not always live in an archaic bubble. As an Indian-American, I always wish people knew more about how alike the two countries are – both are democracies, secular and open economies, even though India still has its own issues."

Science Olympiad Members Earn Medals, Spirit Award

Science Olympiad Members Earn Medals, Spirit Award photo
Science Olympiad Members Earn Medals, Spirit Award photo 2
Sixteen members of the Rye Neck Middle School Science Olympiad Club competed in the annual Lower Hudson Regional Science Olympiad on March 2 at Scarsdale Middle School. The competition brought together students from 35 area schools and allowed them to demonstrate their skills in various scientific and mathematical disciplines.

Seventh-grader Derek Ryan and eighth-grader Katie Sykes won second place in the Heredity category, which tested their knowledge of biology, heredity, genetics and DNA. Eighth-grader Nicholas Boron and seventh-grader Alex Harris won fourth place in the Roller Coaster category, where they had to build a device to maneuver a rolling marble for a designated time frame. The club also won the Spirit Award based on the team’s sportsmanship, attitude and enthusiasm.

“We are so proud of our students and the team’s hard work and energy,” said seventh-grade science teacher Lauren Zeoli, who co-advises the club with eighth-grade science teacher Jessie Vega. “It was so much fun working with them and watching them grow over the year. We are already looking forward to next year’s events.”

Members of the Science Olympiad team are Ella Aulfinger, Nicholas Boron, Mateo Casciano, Valentine Casciano, Johnny DeToro, Charlotte Geary, Alex Harris, Alex Hull, Lily Kapustin, Hiroto Plugh, Matthew Rubin, Derek Ryan, Kyle Ryan, Katie Sykes, Julie van Roijen and Maya Wintermantel.

Two Freshmen Perform With All-County Ensembles

Two Freshmen Perform With All-County Ensembles photo
Rye Neck High School freshmen – Nicholas Esposito and Diana Teodorescu – were selected to perform for All-County music ensembles by the prestigious Westchester County School Music Association for its 2019 festival concerts.

Esposito (timpani drums) performed with the Intermediate All-County Orchestra, and Teodorescu (flute/piccolo flute) performed with the Intermediate All-County Band. The talented musicians were selected based on results from a highly competitive and rigorous audition process that took place last spring. 

“They devoted many months of private study and practice to this endeavor,” music teacher John Mattera said. “Their commitment affords them the opportunity to perform challenging musical repertoire alongside other highly dedicated student musicians from Westchester County, all under the direction of special guest conductors.”

The Intermediate All-County Band concert was held on March 2 and the Intermediate All-County Orchestra concert was held on March 3 at SUNY Purchase.

Seniors Discuss Policy Issues With Senator

Seniors Discuss Policy Issues With Senator photo

Rye Neck High School seniors – who have been conducting extensive research on public policy issues that affect our local community as part of their Participation in Government classes – welcomed New York State Sen. Shelley Mayer as a special guest speaker to their school on March 1.

“It’s important that government leaders visit schools to understand the issues and priorities of our young adults,” said teacher and social studies department chairperson Karen Parisi, who organized Mayer’s visit. “It is also important for young adults to hear about the actions that our elected leaders are taking, their plans for the future and how students can influence the legislative process.” 

During her visit, Sen. Mayer shared her experiences working in Albany and encouraged the students to be civically engaged and have a voice in what happens in their community. Some of the policy issues that Sen. Mayer discussed with the students included school safety, climate change, water safety on the Long Island Sound, legalization of medical marijuana and prevention of trucks from accessing roads like the Hutchinson River Parkway and hitting overpasses. 

“I liked the solutions and actions that she spoke about regarding water pollution, which is important to us as we live so close to the Long Island Sound,” senior Joseph Yang said. 


Seniors Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists

Seniors Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists photo
Three distinguished Rye Neck High School seniors – Risa Liebman, Delaney Park and Elena Tisnovsky – were selected as finalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program competition. 

The three students entered the competition along with approximately 1.6 million students nationwide by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as juniors in 2017. Students with the highest scores were chosen to advance as semifinalists and required to submit a detailed scholarship application, demonstrate an outstanding academic record, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirmed their high performance on the qualifying test.  

The pool was further narrowed down to 16,000 finalists who remain in the competition for 7,500 prestigious scholarships. 

National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in the spring.

Three Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month

Three Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month photo
Rye Neck Middle School students Ensar Burrja, Margaux Duchanaud and Ethan Felenstein were recognized for their accomplishments and honored with Student of the Month awards for the month of January. 

Burrja, a sixth-grader, earned the recognition for being polite and conscientious. According to his teachers, he is hardworking and enjoys helping others in class. He is also a leader in small groups, takes feedback and is able to make changes to his work to improve it when asked. Outside of the classroom, he likes to play basketball and soccer.

Duchanaud, a seventh-grader, is a high-achieving, kind, respectful and caring student who is concerned with the well-being of others. According to her teacher Trisha Appel, she is motivated and dedicated to being successful in all of her art projects and always tries to be creative with her ideas. In addition, Duchanaud always has a smile on her face and says hello to others. 

Felenstein, an eighth-grader, is a trustworthy, compassionate, approachable, hardworking, polite and well-mannered student. According to his teachers, he puts forth excellent effort on a daily basis, both in and out of class. Outside of school, Felenstein enjoys music, videogames and volunteering with his synagogue youth program.  

First-Round Verdict in Favor of Mock Trial Team

First-Round Verdict in Favor of Mock Trial Team photo
First-Round Verdict in Favor of Mock Trial Team photo 2
First-Round Verdict in Favor of Mock Trial Team photo 3
Members of the Rye Neck High School Mock Trial team – who are vying for the coveted Westchester County championship title – won the first preliminary round of the competition against the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, held at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains on Feb. 28. 

The students have been diligently examining this year’s case of Harley Davison v. Gotham City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and preparing to act as attorneys and witnesses as they present their case in a courtroom setting. The case is about Harley Davison, who is fighting for legal custody of an apartment that Harley claims to live in with their aunt before the aunt’s unfortunate passing. After the aunt’s death, Harley filed for succession rights of the apartment but was denied by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Harley is appealing the department’s initial decision on the grounds that the investigation was arbitrary and capricious and Harley did in fact meet the department’s guidelines for succession.

In the first round, juniors Nathan Lesser, Lucas Pasquina and Juliana Silva led the plaintiff side of the case as attorneys, while junior Tiana Colon and sophomores Josh Rubin and Gabe Miller supported their strong case as convincing witnesses. 

Marcella Scalise, the Mock Trial team coach and a social studies teacher, said her students have been diligently preparing for the competitions and are ready for the challenges ahead. 

“We have gotten off to a great start and I hope to continue this success throughout the season,” Scalise said. 

The Rye Neck High School Mock Trial team will compete in the second round against Blind Brook High School at the Westchester County Courthouse on March 7. 

Publishing Party

Publishing Party photo

F.E. Bellows Students Craft Authentic Stories

F.E. Bellows Students Craft Authentic Stories photo
F.E. Bellows Students Craft Authentic Stories photo 2
F.E. Bellows Students Craft Authentic Stories photo 3
F.E. Bellows Students Craft Authentic Stories photo 4
Fifth-grade students who have been studying the art of fictional writing and character development in their English language arts classes recently worked with Jenna Gavigan, a writer and accomplished Broadway and television actress, to craft their own stories. 

During the first session, Gavigan, who graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, shared insight about her professional career, the process of writing and getting one’s work published. She also helped the students develop a list of character traits and plots, as well as locations throughout Rye Neck that could make for a good setting for their fictional stories. 

“Jenna encouraged the students to create a story that leads our characters through Rye Neck in an effort to solve a problem at hand,” said William McKeon, the library media specialist at the school. “This year, we used a ‘choose kindness’ theme, and the story outline has been bringing students together for the purpose of making a new student’s transition to Bellows easier.” 

As a conclusion to the lessons, Gavigan will provide each fifth-grade class with the completed story they created together. Then in May, the students will welcome local artist Laura Bott from The Bott Shoppe to their school to create digital illustrations for their books. 

“Laura will show the students immediately what their character might look like with red hair or wearing gym shorts and sneakers,” McKeon said. “The students are always wonderfully engaged during this session. Laura will then take their ideas and images back to her shop to create the booklet in digital form.” 

Once printed, parent volunteers will bind the books and provide each fifth-grader with a copy. Special thanks the PTSA for generously supporting the students’ work with the author and artist.  

Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month

Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month photo
Rye Neck Middle School students Blathnaid Grenouillon and Shelby Preisser were recently recognized for their accomplishments and honored with Student of the Month awards.

Grenouillon, a seventh-grader, is an eager, attentive student. According to her teacher Jenny Theall, she has one of the highest GPAs in her class and willingly helps others. Outside of school, Grenouillon participates in gymnastics and basketball. In addition, she volunteers at a food pantry in Port Chester and is in the Girl Scouts, where she has earned a certificate in archery.

Preisser, a sixth-grader, is an enthusiastic and conscientious student who always puts forth her best effort. According to her teachers, she earned the recognition for preparing well for her classes, having a great sense of humor and interacting well with students and teachers. In addition, her teachers described her as a great leader in and out of the classroom. Preisser enjoys reading, playing tennis, softball and diving, and also plans to volunteer at a soup kitchen in the near future.