PRSD Pulse - November 2022 Edition
Greetings Pearl River School District Families and Staff,
The month of October was jam-packed with a wide variety of hands-on lessons and collaborative classroom activities across our K-12 buildings. Between School Board Recognition Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Italian American Heritage Month, Fire Prevention Month, Global Math Week, preparation for the premiere of the Pearl River High School Class of 2023’s production of High School Musical, the first Equity Task Force meeting, increased work in the realm of social-emotional learning development, and Halloween parades and classroom celebrations, October certainly proved that the 2022-23 school year is in full swing.
This November edition of our monthly e-newsletter showcases a month full of spotlights on learning opportunities centered on the importance of heritage and history, preparations for school-wide celebrations of Unity Day (October 19), various math lessons across grade-levels, hands-on STEM activities and labs, the beginning stages of colorful and creative art projects, and the newly-implemented Congressional Medal of Honor Character Education Program in action through social studies coursework.
As we welcome another new month filled with an abundance of learning opportunities, I am excited to share what’s to come across all avenues of academics, the arts and athletics!
Marco F. Pochintesta, Ed.D.
Front of the Class: School Spotlights
Take a front row seat to see what's been going on inside our schools throughout the month of October...
Between themed curriculum activities, class parties and school-wide parade celebrations, Halloween at each of our elementary schools was fa-boo-lous! At Evans Park Elementary School, Lincoln Avenue Elementary School and Franklin Avenue Elementary School, K-4 students (as well as staff and administrators) dressed in costumes ranging from superheroes, to TV/movie characters, to animals, to spooky and scary creatures of all shapes and sizes. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
This year, students across grades 5-7 at Pearl River Middle School, along with staff and administrators, had the opportunity to dress up in unique and creative costumes that certainly provided all treats and no tricks! Ranging from pirates, to candies, to clever characters, students were decked out in celebration of Halloween. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
In anticipation of Halloween, students in Krista Potenza and Kimberly Duggan's third grade class at Evans Park Elementary School began designing a haunted house -- sketching its exterior and adding spooky features! Beginning with reviewing real estate listings, noting how they are written and the persuasive writing used to draw in the reader for a sale, students brainstormed Halloween-themed vocabulary they could include in the description that would lure visitors in. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Seventh graders in Kevin O'Connor's (pictured) and Al Staker's social studies classes at Pearl River Middle School participated in lessons as part of the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMOH) Character Education Program -- which is being implemented at the high school and middle school level during the 2022-23 school year. Students in Mr. O'Connor's class learned about the story of former United States Army soldier Salvatore Giunta -- the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the United States Armed Forces' highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. Students listed adjectives they associate with Mr. Giunta, and those that selflessly serve and sacrifice to protect our country's freedoms. Students analyzed heroes within their own community and the far-reaching impacts they have, sharing their ideas with Superintendent Dr. Marco Pochintesta. These seventh graders also attended a grade-wide trip to West Point, tying into the CMOH Program topics, and their studies of the American Revolution and the Civil War. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Franklin Avenue Elementary School social worker Natalie Cervantes-Libassi visited Kim Mealy's second grade classroom to engage students in a lesson centered on bullying, how not to be a bystander and how, as a school community, we can remain unified in acceptance and inclusion! Students discussed how different kinds of bullying (verbal, social and physical) can be defined -- noting how certain actions and words can be considered hurtful to others before brainstorming ways they can combat bullying in their classroom and throughout the building. Volunteers from the class were selected to act out a scenario at the front of the room depicting a student that is experiencing bullying. 'Audience members' came up with ways that they can stop bullying from happening, stand up for their peers and prevent future situations. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Music and movement go hand-in-hand! Third graders in Marie Walmsley's class at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School engaged in a fun-filled music lesson -- reviewing rhythm reading, participating in song games and discussing the history of square dancing. Students recited a 'rock candy' song, singing along as they took turns in pairs moving down the line and traveling under their classmates' 'bridge'. Wrapping up with a game of 'Unwind the Ball', third graders were challenged with following the direction of music teacher Scott Louis, maintaining interlocked hands, as he traveled around the room. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Did you know that the five themes of geography (location, place, region, movement and human-environment interaction) assist scientists in facilitating and organizing their research? Inside Kylie Grochowksi's grade 5 social studies classroom at Pearl River Middle School, students engaged in a station-focused activity -- rotating around the room to complete each task card! Each station focused on differing themes of geography as students designed posters, completed a classroom scavenger hunt, created postcards, compared and contrasted different states, and used Google Maps to search for latitude and longitude. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Rockland Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence Inc. (RCADD), Pearl River High School students attended a presentation about the dangers of fentanyl -- discussing its potency, its potentially fatal effects and how brightly-colored 'rainbow' fentanyl is being marketed to target both children and young adults. Students learned about the synthetic opioid and how it can be found in many forms including pills, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk or candy. RCADD Prevention Educator Kayla Cabacungan emphasized to students that any pill, regardless of color, shape or size, that does not come from a health care provider or pharmacist can contain fentanyl and can be deadly. She also discussed what students can do if they witness someone overdosing on fentanyl, providing information on how to administer Narcan (nasal spray) in the event of an emergency. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
In celebration of Italian American Heritage Month (throughout the month of October), members of Evans Park Elementary School's Tigers United Club visited kindergarteners for a read-aloud of the book, "Count Your Way Through Italy" written by James Haskins! Fourth graders Ella M., Anthony B., Noah G. (pictured) and Sophia P. (pictured) encouraged students in Tobi Breslaw/Lila Moreno's and Devorah Berman's classes to follow along as they explored using numbers one through ten in Italian to introduce aspects of the rich history and culture of Italy. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
October 25 marked Grade 6 STEM Day at Pearl River Middle School! Students were challenged with building the tallest pumpkin stand with minimal expense for a local pumpkin patch's haunted corn maze using items like masking tape, index cards, popsicle sticks and cups (each worth a certain amount of money). Keeping the cost low and the structure tall, sixth graders got to work in groups constructing their stands with the materials at hand, first starting with brainstorming and sketching their ideas. Students tested their finalized structures and class finalists were determined based on effectiveness and cost. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Now you see it, now you don't! Fourth graders in Molly Servello's classroom at Evans Park Elementary School explored the science behind optical illusions -- analyzing how an image changes based on how your brain processes it and how your eyes see it. Students reviewed images that can be seen/interpreted differently and discussed what they see with their classmates. In the spirit of all things Halloween, Mrs. Servello and teaching assistant Jean Maher worked with students in center groups to complete themed activities that tested their knowledge of illusions -- working to cut and tape printed images onto a pencil stick (that when rolled in between hands back and forth creates an optical illusion!) and drawing a lined image of a jack-o-lantern that appears to 'lift' right off of the paper. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks to a generous donation from Van Houten Farms, Pearl River Middle School students involved in the Green PEAS Club (along with club advisor and sixth grade science teacher Brittany Martinez) planted an array of mums, cabbage/kale and pansies in the outdoor patio space that serves as the September 11th memorial garden! Club members excitedly worked together to beautify the space -- carefully arranging the plants in each of the planters that surround the patio and picnic area. Through involvement in the Green PEAS Club, these students share a goal of helping to make the school community more eco-friendly through positive change. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Pearl River High School students -- along with science teachers Tom Mullane, Eileen McCaffrey and Brenda King -- participated in the 20th annual 'Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor' alongside scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory on October 13! A number of students joined nearly 5,000 elementary school to college students from local districts along the Hudson River and the piers of the New York Harbor to celebrate the science-focused field day hosted by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program. Assuming the role of 'scientists for the day,' students analyzed scientific data they collected during hands-on activities -- rotating to various stations that explored the physical and chemical aspects of the Hudson River and the species of fish found in its water. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Fifth grade mathematicians in Christine Oleksy's (pictured), Angela Roppolo's, Jamie Catrona's and Gal Seiler's math classes at Pearl River Middle School learned how place value serves as the basis for our entire number system -- using a white board place value chart and erasable marker to explore the position of a digit in a number and how that determines its value. Students paired up for a game of Place Value Tic Tac Toe, taking turns to complete the problems in each square on their worksheet to successfully mark X's and O's for three in a row. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Inside Chelsea Jevens' Introduction to Calculus class at Pearl River High School, students engaged in a lesson about factoring -- using the acronym SOAP (Same, Opposite, Always Positive) to assist in remembering the positive and negative signs when factoring the sum and difference of cubes. Beginning with a review of perfect cubes -- which includes numbers like 1, 8, 27, 64, and 125 (to name a few) -- students then delved into tackling more difficult equations with lengthier factorization up on the board as the class followed along. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Stop, drop and roll! First graders in Carolyn Murphy's class at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School celebrated Fire Prevention Month throughout October -- engaging in activities centered on fire safety awareness! Beginning with a read-aloud of the book, "Firefighters A to Z" written by Chris L. Demarest, students discussed the many ways that brave firefighters come to our rescue everyday -- ready to leap into action to save lives wherever and whenever needed. Students then colored and decorated crowns that proudly proved they're each 'Fire Safety Certified'! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Seventh grade students engaged in a Math Scavenger Hunt that tested their knowledge of order of operations skills and provided the 'tools' needed to solve equations! With numbered cards placed around the room, students in Sheila Mackin and Jessica Krentzman's (pictured) math classes at Pearl River Middle School moved step-by-step to complete equation problems using their knowledge of PEMDAS (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). Each card represented a tool, like a saw or a shovel, and each number answer achieved indicated which card students moved to next, as they 'collected' all the tools. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The Pearl River School District launched its first Equity Task Force (ETF) meeting on Wednesday, October 12 as our District began its work under the guidance of ETF Facilitator Dr. Lisa Brady (pictured). Beginning with full-group and small-group introductions, Dr. Brady established ground rules for listening and engagement -- discussing ways in which ETF members can effectively communicate and listen to one another with clarity. Dr. Brady introduced the idea of ‘establishing norms’ – staying engaged, experiencing discomfort, speaking your truth, and expecting and accepting non-closure. She explained that the goal is to take small steps and make progress in the right direction with intention and impact in mind. The group explored significant and thought-provoking excerpts from the text, "The Person You Mean To Be: How Good People Fight Bias," written by Dolly Chugh -- using Final Word Protocol to facilitate constructive response and idea sharing. In anticipation of their next meeting and continued progress, the ETF began to think about subcommittees that will be formed and will review curriculum materials, student and staff supports, professional development opportunities, community education and athletics/extracurricular activities. The school community can stay informed about all ETF updates by visiting our District website and scrolling through the DEI in Education webpage which will provide documents, resources, updates and meeting minutes.
The Pearl River School District proudly celebrated School Board Recognition Week (October 17-21)! Each of the individuals on the PRSD Board of Education dedicates their time and efforts in consistently supporting our school community in the roles of president, vice president and members. We shine a well-deserved spotlight on these volunteers who work towards enhancing our District's missions and goals.
A sincere thank you to BOE President Dr. Kathleen Ann Kelley, BOE Vice President Jackie Dubil Craig, Denise Caunitz, Terrence Cortelli and Thomas DePrisco.
Pearl River High School students enrolled in the new science elective: Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Human Body Systems are gaining hands-on, real-world experience as biomedical professionals in training...no bones about it! Kicking off at the start of the 2022-23 school year, the PLTW Human Body Systems course examines the interactions of human body systems as students explore identity, power, movement, protection and homeostasis in the body to solve medical cases at hand. Students enrolled in this course with teacher Brenda King worked to measure a pelvis, skull, femur, tibia and humerus as part of their careful observation and analysis of human bones. Recording their measurements, students determined the vertical (maximum) diameter, bicondylar width, and maximum length to infer ancestry, gender and age for their Human Remains Identification Lab. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Fifth graders in Brianna Reale's (along with consult teacher Lauren Kane's) social studies class at Pearl River Middle School finalized their Hispanic Heritage Month research projects! Selecting a notable and influential Hispanic figure spanning the arts, sports and history, students launched their research to gather information about their chosen figure's legacy, achievements and life events. Students showed off their final product -- which Ms. Reale and Ms. Kane printed and strung together to create a classroom banner! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The PROOF is in the...reasons and statements! Inside Andrew Elbrecht's Geometry Regents class at Pearl River High School, students explored geometric proofs -- working to list steps that prove a mathematical concept to be true. Building their proofs requires critical thinking, logical reasoning and organization, allowing each student to think and develop their steps individually. These proofs may be written in a different order or take on different forms, but demonstrate that there may be various ways to arrive at the same conclusion! Like a puzzle, proof writing uses different 'pieces' that when assembled, forms a final 'picture.' Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
English as a New Language (ENL) teacher Kristen Perez visited each first grade classroom at Franklin Avenue Elementary School for an engaging read-aloud and lesson centered on learning about colors in Spanish as part of Hispanic Heritage Month! Students (pictured: Colleen Rourke's class) began with listening to the short story, "Siesta" written by Ginger Foglesong Guy which blends English and Spanish together to describe two characters' quests for items they need for their afternoon siesta (which means 'nap' in English!) Students practiced repeating the English to Spanish translation -- following the proper pronunciation from Ms. Perez. After the story, first graders kicked off a Scavenger Hunt -- in pairs, locating items around the classroom that match the color said aloud in Spanish. Students wrapped up their lesson with testing out their knowledge of colors in Spanish, using crayons to correctly color in the stripes on their own siesta 'blankets.' Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Sixth graders in Shauna O'Flynn and Karen Krystel's (pictured) math classes at Pearl River Middle School prepared for their Number Theory Test by playing a variety of mathematical games, each using dice provided, to engage in thinking and exploration of number relationships. Games ranged from 5 Dice: Order of Operations, to 'Is It Divisible?,' to Prime Factorization, to LCM (Least Common Multiple)/GCF (Greatest Common Factor) Flip Game -- which all together, not only enhanced their knowledge but added an element of excitement and friendly competition! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Students enrolled in Michael Santini's Introduction to Sports Medicine course at Pearl River High School learned all about functions of muscles -- putting their knowledge into action by practicing treatments for athletes like ankle taping! Students carefully placed pre-wrap and used taping techniques to successfully support the ankle and further prevent any injuries. Students also explored the role muscles play in producing body movement, maintaining posture, stabilizing joints and generating heat. Throughout this course, students understand the connection between athletics and health -- examining the physical and physiological changes that occur in the body as a result of exercise and proper nutrition. Through hands-on lessons like this one, students focus on knowledge and skills in the area of injury prevention, recognition and treatment. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
October's social-emotional learning focus centered on unity across our District -- and students at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School began delving into activities centered on bridging connections, embracing what makes each person unique and how, as a school community, we can foster a welcoming and inclusive learning space! Psychologist Rebecca Massa joined kindergarteners in Stephanie Shapiro's class -- reading aloud the book, "A Rainbow of Friends" written by P.K. Hallinan and discussing ways that students can celebrate their differences with one another. Students then drew hobbies and interests that they enjoy on a lion paw template which was added to a bulletin board depicting a lion (that's made up of various projects that clinicians worked with K-4 students on in anticipation of Unity Day on October 19!) School social worker Eric Borcherding (pictured) spoke with third graders in Nancy Ferst's class about how our differing opinions on topics can serve as opportunities for us to converse and connect -- and help us understand our peers' thoughts through open discussion! Students engaged in a game of 'Where We Stand' which involved taking a stance in various locations around the room based on answers to scenario prompts given by Mr. Borcherding. Third grade students then began to personalize pieces of colored paper, that made up the lion's mane on the bulletin board, with things that make them unique! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Seventh graders (pictured: Rosann Whipple's class) at Pearl River Middle School took an up close look at their cheek cell samples under the microscope -- as they carefully identified and labeled parts of the cell for their lab assignment! Beginning by gently swabbing the inside of their mouths and using both an iodine solution and coverslip to successfully transfer their sample to a slide, students observed and analyzed their collected cheek cell samples. Experimenting with various magnifications, students spotted and located parts of the cell including the cell membrane, cytoplasm, the nucleus and the nuclear membrane. They even got to take turns looking at Principal David Wright's sample! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
English as a New Language (ENL) teacher Beth Toubin visited Kayla Kurzhals' fourth grade class at Franklin Avenue Elementary School to deliver a lesson on beginner Spanish sentences as part of Hispanic Heritage Month! Starting with an explanation of proper pronunciations and English to Spanish translations, Ms. Kurzhals' class echoed Ms. Toubin as they practiced speaking and writing a number of commonly-used Spanish greetings, questions and phrases. The class then took a trip down the hall to visit the Hispanic Heritage bulletin board on display near the main entrance of Franklin Ave where they spotted some of their very own classmates' photos and asked questions about where they're from and how they celebrate their heritage! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Inside Technology teacher Andrew Tully's Manufacturing class at Pearl River High School, students made progress on their latest project focus: large wood cutting boards fit with grooves, handles and a laser-etched design of choice. Students got to work measuring their wood pieces to ensure the correct dimensions, and cutting and rounding off the ends of their boards. Students then began making their final design selection that they create on their boards using a laser cutter machine. Throughout this course, students have the opportunity to build on their knowledge of how to process various advanced materials, like wood and metal, and apply their skills to project work. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Ever wonder what the science is behind our shadows? Fifth graders (pictured: Gal Seiler's science class) at Pearl River Middle School launched shadow investigations -- engaging in a game of shadow tag and carefully measuring their shadows (in centimeters) at different times off the day using a yardstick! Tying into their Science 21: Space Systems Unit, students worked in groups to determine the lengths and the relative direction of their shadows in both the morning and the afternoon -- recording their results. They concluded that due to the sun's position in the sky, shadow lengths are the shortest at noon -- making it most challenging to engage in shadow tag at that time. In the morning and late afternoon, their shadows are longer in length and thus, much easier to tag and measure. From group to group, their results differed based on their heights, but all came to the consensus that longer shadows make their appearance based on the position of the sun! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
After hearing the story, "Pepe and the Parade: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage" written by Tracey Kyle, students in Monica Price's second grade classroom at Evans Park Elementary School discussed ways in which the main character, Pepe, jubilantly celebrates his Mexican-American heritage -- attending a Hispanic Day parade, tasting new foods and dancing to music. In the story, Pepe's friends also attend the festival and celebrate their own Hispanic ties -- sharing similarities and differences in their cultures. Second graders worked in their Writer's Notebooks, listing and drawing the ways in which they celebrate their own cultural identities and how they share excitement in teaching their friends and peers about their own, just like Pepe does. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks to the help of school social worker Norma Canals (whose family is from Puerto Rico and speaks fluent Spanish and English), Pearl River High School students enrolled in Marc Wolf's Spanish 5 class followed along to merengue, bachata and salsa choreography -- learning Latin dances as part of Hispanic Heritage Month! Mr. Wolf and Mrs. Canals explained how the different types of Latin dance they explored each draw from indigenous American and African influences, and play an important role in Hispanic heritage, history and culture. Each dance is unique in music, tempo and rhythm! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Autumn leaves made their appearance on the trees outside, but inside Franklin Avenue Elementary School, first graders created their own colorful visuals in art class with Tom Price! Student artists in Emily Jammett's first grade class finalized their tree paintings -- dipping their small tapered paint brushes into red, orange and yellow paint. Being sure to dot carefully on their painted branches to create festive fall foliage, students put the finishing touches on their creations. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Seventh graders in Jeanenne Verret's English Language Arts (ELA) class at Pearl River Middle School began to structure their paragraph writing -- using a quote analysis chart as a tool to assist them! As they explored how the main characters in the book, "A Long Walk to Water," by Linda Sue Park are affected by culture and setting, students collected quotes to include in their writing. Through analyzing selected quotes and arranging them in charts on their Chromebooks, students tied their ideas together into a paragraph using context to introduce their evidence and making inferences to connect their quote to the topic. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.