PRSD Pulse - February 2023 Edition
Greetings Pearl River School District Families and Staff,
Throughout the month of January, the PRSD kicked off the 2023 year, and the return from winter recess, with engaging and exciting curriculum work spanning social-emotional learning (in alignment with our Yale RULER-based programming), Congressional Medal of Honor Character Education-centered lessons at PRMS, STEM activities and labs, literacy practice, music and art exploration, and celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Lunar New Year.
The talent of our Pearl River High School student-musicians and performers was on display as Pirate Repertory premiered their production of the play, “Clue: High School Edition,” and as selected students attended the Rockland County Music Educators Association’s various music festivals: Senior All-County (January 6-7) and Contemporary/Jazz All-County (January 20-21). In addition, a number of Pearl River High School Model United Nations students attended the Yale University Model United Nations Competition held on January 19-22, proudly representing the PRSD. On January 18 at Pearl River Middle School, fifth grade students performed in their third-annual musical ‘Informance’ – serving as an informative presentation showcasing the wonderful work of both the music department and our hardworking students.
There is much to look forward to in February and I am excited to share all that’s to come.
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 January...
The PRSD celebrated School Board Recognition Month in January by shining a spotlight on two Pearl River High School students: Jennifer Amaya Mazariego and Ryan Cowie, who both serve as student representatives to the PRSD Board of Education! Both Jennifer and Ryan participate actively on the Board -- attending each bi-weekly Board of Education meeting to report on district activities and accomplishments as representatives of the student body.
Jennifer, a junior, is an active member of the school community holding a secretary position in the Garden Club and Pirates United, as an inductee in Spanish Honor Society, working as a light manager for Stage Crew, and as a recipient of the 2022 Presidential Community Service Award. Ryan, a senior, dedicates himself to both academics and athletics -- holding membership in English, World Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, and National Honor Societies, dedicating over 100 hours of community service per year across grades 9-11, serving as captain of the tennis team, participating in Math League, Ping Pong Club and the Orangetown Youth Court, and as a three-time recipient of the Presidential Community Service Award.
In order to serve as student representatives, interested students submit an application and undergo an interview process with high school administrators. Students are then selected in their junior year to a two-year term. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Kindergarteners at Evans Park Elementary School learned all about the Lunar New Year with various lessons that took place over the course of 15 days -- just like the celebratory festivities that occur between January 22 and February 5! Students first learned about Yuan Xiao, the Lantern Festival, which takes place at the climax of the Lunar/Chinese New Year holiday as they discovered what lanterns look like, what their significance is and the traditions associated with them. These Evans Park Tigers also viewed videos about the Lunar New Year Parade -- watching the dragon dance as it's performed by dancers who carry the dragon's head and body through the streets as a symbol of good luck and fortune in Chinese culture. Tobi Breslaw's, Lila Moreno's, Devorah Berman's and Jacinta Winters' classes took to the hallways with their own designed dragon parade float as they shared their greetings of 'gong hei fat fat choy' (which translates to 'wishing you happiness and prosperity' in Cantonese) with all throughout the school building. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Oh SEW creative! Students enrolled in fifth grade Humanities teacher Kylie Grochowski's Home & Careers class at Pearl River Middle School finalized their sewing projects ranging from locker organizers to bookmarks, to character creations. Using cut felt material and embroidery thread, PRMS Pirates customized their projects with various colors, fabric marker illustrations and designs, buttons, and hand-stitching. Showing off their near-finished products to Superintendent Dr. Marco Pochintesta, students explained their creative processes -- beginning with their ideas, design development and stitching they chose to use. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Things heated up inside science teacher Thomas Mullane's Advanced Placement Environmental Science class at Pearl River High School -- and inside their 'greenhouse' bottles as part of their experiment! PRHS Pirates investigated whether or not they could observe the 'greenhouse effect' in a plastic bottle, as they were challenged to design the experiment themselves -- knowing that they could only use several two liter plastic bottles, lights and thermometers. "Each team of lab partners really embraced the challenge to design the experiment themselves, with various groups taking slightly different approaches to the investigation," said Mr. Mullane. With the knowledge that carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping (greenhouse) gas, students settled on trying to introduce CO2 into one bottle while having only plain air in the other. To achieve this, they dropped Alka Seltzer tablets into one to release carbon dioxide. Following the conducting of the experiment, students discussed their recorded data and submitted a lab report to share with the class. Each group observed that the bottle with elevated levels of carbon dioxide gas heated up to a greater temperature than the bottle with just air! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
I spy with my little eye...learning in-action! Second graders at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School engaged in an i-Spy Scavenger Hunt, reviewing nonfiction text features with the help of teacher Courtney O'Grady. Using a chart worksheet, these Lincoln Ave Lions searched around the classroom to locate hidden cards -- in an effort to match nonfiction text features (like labels, heading, caption, photograph, subheading and index). Students worked individually, writing down the letters of the card next to the listed features, before reviewing all together with Ms. O'Grady. This FLEx activity served as the perfect way for these Lions to work on executive functioning, like organizing and problem-solving, while also reviewing current curriculum material! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
It's time for slime! Fifth graders at Pearl River Middle School engaged in a hands-on science lesson -- carrying out an investigation to observe what happens when two or more substances are mixed. Inside Christine Oleksy's (pictured), Angela Roppolo's (pictured), Jamie Catrona's and Gal Seiler's science classes, PRMS Pirates first created 'control' slime following the experiment instructions -- mixing specific measurements of white glue, baking soda, and eye washing solution, and noting the slime's properties. Students then altered a measurement of just one of the ingredients, comparing the 'variable' slime's properties. These grade 5 scientists carefully observed what happens to these substances as they mix them -- writing properties of their slime like 'solid', 'bouncy,' and 'stretchy.' Supporting their answers with evidence, students determined what occurs when they mixed two or more substances together, and what happens when they altered one variable. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Pearl River High School students represented the PRSD at the Yale Model United Nations Competition (YMUN) held at Yale University on January 19-22! A number of PRHS Pirates participated in debate spanning historical topics -- like solving the troubles in Northern Ireland, to the current status of the British monarch, to geopolitical situations in the African Union, and organization of American States and South East Asia.
On Friday, January 20, students attended a Yale University lecture on International Law and the current situation in Ukraine by a leading International Law expert, author, professor, founder and Director of the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale Law School Oona Hathaway. Students also toured the Yale Art Gallery -- viewing a range of worldly works across different time periods including Ancient Greek artifacts, Civil War bonds, Picassos, Monets, Jackson Pollacks, and Asian and Meso-American artifacts. To see this impressive array of art, many would have had to explore many museums, but these students were able to view it all in one location!
Students spent the final two days of YMUN debating and negotiating to have their resolutions passed in order to create peaceful solutions and solve global issues utilizing parliamentary procedure. As students actively engaged in debate, they also had the opportunity to network with over 1500 students in attendance, half of which were internationally-based hailing from South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Spain (to name a few). Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Kindergarteners at Franklin Avenue Elementary School are SNOW ready for whatever the weather forecast may bring...thanks to an engaging read-aloud and writing journal activity! Inside Alyson Fishman's classroom, Franklin Ave Stars listened to a reading of the book, "Rabbit's Snow Dance" written by James & Joseph Bruchac -- tying into their letter of the week focus ('R') as well as the Lunar New Year (2023 is The Year of the Rabbit). Following along with Rabbit as he dances, sings and drums in an effort to encourage snow, our little learners discussed their own snow day superstitions and rituals -- including sleeping with a spoon under their pillow, flushing an ice cube down the toilet and wearing their pajamas inside out -- that they use to manifest snowfall. Students then headed to their desks to open their writer's journals, using their spacers to ensure they neatly and accurately write and format their sentences about snow before creating an illustration to match. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
What better way to learn about our country's government, legislation, policies, and committees than by speaking with a United States Representative? Seventh graders at Pearl River Middle School were visited by Congressman Mike Lawler -- who spoke with students about his experiences in both state and federal government, tying into their current Social Studies unit about the Constitution. Our curious PRMS Pirates proposed various questions about Representative Lawler's initial interest in politics, how elections are run, his favorite aspects of his role in government and advice he'd give for those interested in running for Student Council. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The art classrooms at Pearl River High School are always bustling with creativity and innovation, and students enrolled in art teachers Lorna Carroll's Drawing & Painting I class and Andrea della Cava's Metal/Jewelry I class were hard at work this month...
PRHS Pirates in Metal/Jewelry I wrapped up their final projects, demonstrating their understanding of the fundamentals of contemporary jewelry design. Throughout this course, students were introduced to metalsmith/jewelry design as an art form, and learned basic techniques necessary for the design and fabrication of jewelry and small three-dimensional forms. Using sheet and wire metals including copper, nickel, silver and brass, students cut, filed, sanded and formed pieces, and also learned how to safely use equipment like the drill press, buffing wheel and roller mill.
Student-artists in Drawing & Painting I learned how to use acrylic paint by mixing values, tints, grays and black using only the three primary colors. Beginning with sketching onto their canvases, students then added color to their paintings -- using a variety of techniques and different brushes to achieve their desired results. This full-year course allows students to explore drawing and painting color theory and compositional skills through using pencil, pen and ink, colored pencil, charcoal, and pastels as well as transparent watercolor, acrylic and tempera paint. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Goal-setting and perseverance were social-emotional areas of focus this month across our elementary schools, and inside Joanne Martini's classroom at Evans Park Elementary School first graders learned about the power of 'yet'! Thanks to a visit from school counselor Morgan O'Donohue, these Evans Park Tigers are armed with the tools to tackle challenges and tasks head on. Beginning with a building challenge, students worked in groups to stack paper cups as high as they can -- using creativity, strategy and teamwork to create a solid foundation and stable base for each level.
Reading aloud the book, "The Magical Yet" written by Angela DiTerlizzi, students learned that difficult learning moments -- like trying to tie their shoes, ride a bike, or read a clock -- are simply just challenges they cannot do YET. Over time with confidence and the belief that they indeed 'can,' these first graders can achieve anything they set their minds to. Students then illustrated their own 'Magical Yet' character -- adding unique colors and patterns, and wrote down one challenge that they may not be able to do yet but will be able to do if they stay determined! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
A number of talented student-musicians from Pearl River High School were selected to perform alongside orchestra, jazz and choral ensembles this month for the Rockland County Music Educators Association’s various music festivals: Senior All-County (January 6-7) and Contemporary/Jazz All-County (January 20-21). We are so proud of all who participated! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The PRSD warmly welcomed Kathleen E. Affigne, Ph.D. to Pearl River High School as Interim Assistant Principal! In her new role, Dr. Affigne will work closely with Principal Dr. Robert Zegarelli and Assistant Principal Aaron McCasland in school management and leadership. Dr. Affigne, a retired school and district-level administrator, most recently served as an Interim and Per Diem Substitute Administrator in the Wappingers Central School District -- assuming the role of building-level administration in the absence of the building principal or assistant principal. Dr. Affigne brings a wealth of administrative experience at the high school, middle school and elementary school level as an Interim Assistant Principal, Interim Principal, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Pupil Personnel Services, and Elementary Principal. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Bravo! Fifth graders at Pearl River Middle School performed in the third-annual musical 'Informance' on January 18 -- an 'informal performance' that includes informative talk and presentation showcasing the ensemble work of both the PRMS music department and grade 5 orchestra, band, and choral students. These talented student-musicians put on a performance of various musical selections that they've been diligently rehearsing in class for an auditorium of parents, families, staff and administrators -- serving to both educate and entertain. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Pearl River High School students in Michael Santini's Health classes were visited on January 18 by staff members from the Rockland County District Attorney's Office to discuss the importance of making good choices, as well as the life-altering consequences that can result from poor decision making.
Beginning with a video presentation, students listened intently as individuals spoke about tragic personal experiences they've endured due to certain choices at the hands of both themselves and others -- including drug overdoses, drug addictions and drunk driving accidents. Judge William Warren, First Assistant District Attorney Charles Apotheker, and Assistant District Attorneys Renada Lewis and Rosibel Ventura then fielded questions from students about the legal repercussions that someone with a felony, misdemeanor and infraction will have to deal with -- directly affecting their public record, college acceptances, job opportunities, personal relationships and overall reputation. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Learning reaches new heights in the PRSD -- and these Evans Park Tigers are rock and rope climbing, tumbling, hula-hooping and balancing as part of their physical education unit focus: gymnastics! We caught second and third graders at Evans Park Elementary School in action as physical education teacher Krystal Plattner introduced station activities that develop movement concepts and body control related to traveling, balancing, rolling and the transfer of weight through fun, explorative challenges.
Rotating through each station located around the space, third grade students are honing strength, flexibility and balance -- fundamental skills that will assist them in future physical education units and participation in athletics. These stations allow students to independently practice what they've learned and enhances work towards mastering a variety of gymnastics skills. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Students at Pearl River Middle School are engaging in lessons, discussions, activities and projects across various subjects centered on the six values of courage, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, citizenship and patriotism -- as part of the newly-integrated Congressional Medal of Honor Character Education Program that kicked off in the 2022-23 school year. In fifth grade classrooms (pictured: Annmarie Lentini's Humanities class), PRMS Pirates delved into individual writing entries centered on the courage to leave their comfort zone, based on stories of heroic and voluntary service.
Students began with learning about the inspirational story of U.S. Army Sergeant and Green Beret medic Gary Beikirch -- who saved several wounded men in the 4th Special Forces Group he served alongside during the Vietnam War. In his selfless and courageous efforts to save his fellow soldiers from enemy fire, Beikirch was severely wounded -- resulting in paralyzation of his lower body which would require extensive rehabilitation. Students openly discussed Beikirch's story and how his bravery in the face of danger earned him respect, honor and the nation's highest award for valor. Reflecting on their own lives, fifth graders spoke in small groups about the differences between courage and bravery, sharing ways in which they can step outside of what they consider to be comfortable based on their own experiences --using their discussion as a writing prompt. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Across each of our school buildings in the PRSD, discussions and lessons centering on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and impactful work as a prominent American civil rights leader took place leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16.
Fourth grade Lion's Council members at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School stopped into classrooms to read aloud a biography about Dr. King's life -- sharing his story of courage, peaceful protest and desire to make social change during the 1950s and 1960s. Inside Margaret Lynch's kindergarten classroom (pictured), Lincoln Ave Lions listened intently to a reading shared by Council members as they learned about treating all with dignity and equality, just like Dr. King. Ran by fourth grade teacher Karen DiMenna, the Lion's Council spearheads a number of school-wide events and activities that aim to educate and inform the school community, as well as promote kindness, acceptance and a greater understanding of various national and cultural celebrations. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Pearl River High School's Pirates United Club prepared for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16) by working together to create a poster reading, "I Have a Dream" with clouds in the background that feature the various dreams of PRHS students. On Tuesday, December 17 upon the return from the holiday, students school-wide wrote their own dreams that were then be added as clouds on the poster. Dreams ranged from personal goals and hopes for the future, or more general dreams for both society and the world. Club members continue to work to promote awareness and facilitate a healthy environment around open conversations, respect and information that raises awareness in the school community. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
It was a dark and stormy night, and they were invited to a very unusual dinner party...to find out 'whodunnit'! Pearl River High School's Pirate Repertory presented Clue: High School Edition, with the premiere kicking off on Thursday, January 12. These PRHS Pirates diligently prepared and rehearsed leading up to the performances which took place January 12-14. Round of applause! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Classroom rhythm instruments are the perfect tools to enhance music education at the elementary-level...and with so many options, students in Colleen Rourke's first grade class at Franklin Avenue Elementary School had a difficult time selecting just one to play! Thanks to the help of music teacher Scott Louis, these Franklin Ave Stars explored a variety of instruments -- and their unique sounds -- ranging from tambourines, to finger cymbals, to pellet drums, to maracas (just to name a few). Choosing one to take back to their seat, students listened as Mr. Louis read aloud the book, "When It Starts to Snow," written by Phillis Gershator -- noting the animal characters throughout the story and the sounds that they each make. Assigned an animal role to play their instrument along to, the first grade musicians listened to the story as well as the noises their peers' instruments make. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Writer's Workshop is more than just independent writing time for students...it also serves as the opportunity to bridge connections in curriculum through a student-centered framework!
First graders in Elizabeth Marzolla's class at Evans Park Elementary School are not only becoming confident and capable writers, they're also learning all about polar bears -- putting their honed knowledge into written words and sentences. Students first listened to a read aloud of the book, "National Geographic Readers: Polar Bears" written by Laura Marsh before writing in their booklets. Evans Park Tigers noted where polar bears live, what they look like, what they do, and discussed what they learned. Psst...did you know that polar bears have a layer of fat under their fur called blubber that insulates their bodies from the cold? Now these first graders do! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Fifth grade students in ELA and Social Studies (Humanities) teacher Kylie Grochowski's class at Pearl River Middle School worked on their weekly 'Learning Journal' entries -- addressing a letter to someone important in their lives, and discussing both personal and academic goals. As part of their Friday ELA 'Do Now' activities, these PRMS Pirates write to parents, siblings, friends and teachers to recap the previous week's events, lessons and activities, as well as share something they hope to achieve. Some fifth graders even exchanged letters with one another and with Ms. Grochowski! Writing entries in their journals serves as a powerful strategy for students to respond to what they've been learning and understanding, reflect on their short- and long-term goals, and improve overall writing fluency. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Lions and (Evans Park) tigers and bears (plus lots of other animals too), OH MY! Inside art teacher Tom Price's classroom at Evans Park Elementary School, second graders began constructing their animal creations using up-cycled cardboard that they drew on, carefully cut and shaped into various parts. Using Mr. Price's own animal figure of a bull as a reference, these Evans Park Tigers first selected an animal that they like best before they got to sketching on their cardboard. Piecing together various elements including the body, legs, tails, antlers and horns with scissors, students glued it all together -- ensuring it stands upright. These artists then brought their pieces to life using paint! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
What do you get when you combine careful observation, chemical formula writing, reaction classification and equation balancing all together? An engaging, hands-on lab opportunity! Students enrolled in science teacher Eileen McCaffrey's Honors Chemistry class at Pearl River High School assumed the role of chemists, working in pairs to complete their 'Types of Chemical Reactions' lab assignment -- diligently following procedure to analyze synthesis, decomposition, and single and double replacement reactions of substances.
These PRHS Pirates recorded their observations of each substance before and after the reaction as they used laboratory apparatuses and materials including safety goggles, a bunsen burner, test tubes, wooden splints, crucible tongs, an evaporating dish and a micro spatula -- along with various elements and compounds like zinc, copper and magnesium. Students then worked on balancing equations for the reactions they carried out by inserting proper coefficients where needed, specifying reactants and products. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Technology I students in Michael Herskowitz's class (under substitute teacher Tara Quinlivan's direction) at Pearl River Middle School put their engineering design skills to the ultimate test...for an exciting egg drop experiment! Putting the final touches onto their unique contraptions, these PRMS Pirates headed outdoors to release their creations from an elevated drop-point to determine if their hard-boiled eggs inside stayed intact. Using materials like balloons, masking tape, cotton balls, styrofoam and cardboard, students were tasked with creating an effective capsule that would protect the egg inside.
This engaging STEM project promotes imagination and investigation -- as students determine what makes for the best shock absorber when dropping an egg from a distance. This activity also introduces students to physics, materials science and fluid dynamics! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Settling back into daily routine and schedules, first graders in Carolyn Murphy's and Ali Stone's classes at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School spent their morning completing their Morning Do Now assignments, engaging in FLEx (Flexible Learning Exchange) time and practicing their 'Daily 4'!
These Lincoln Ave Lions are making significant strides in both literacy and math -- working individually and in small groups to engage in beneficial and engaging activities that enhance curriculum. Currently, students are learning and recognizing 'blends' (two letters/consonants blended together to make one sound in words like crunch, cracker, breeze and broken) in reading and writing. These Lions are also learning about 'ten frames' (charts into which counters are placed to demonstrate numbers less than or equal to ten) that serve to visually assist in developing strong number sense. Rotating in their groups, students completed word work practice, read in groups (using their read-aloud microphones) and worked on writing. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.