PRSD Pulse - January 2023 Edition
Greetings Pearl River School District Families and Staff,
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had both a restful and reinvigorating winter recess in December spent with family, friends and loved ones. We can be confident that the new year brings new opportunities for learning and growth, and I am looking forward to our district’s continued work towards supporting our core values and mission. There is much to look forward to in the month of January, and continuing into the remainder of the academic year.
December was a month filled with wonderful musical performances as part of our K-12 winter concert series which showcased the dedication and talent of both our music departments/educators and our students. Gathering together to rejoice in the festive spirit of the season was exciting and rewarding for all. Throughout the past month, we spotlighted Computer Science Education Week – stopping into lessons centered on coding and its powerful influence on our digital world, our English 12 students kicked off their Capstone pitch presentations, PRHS hosted its first-ever Pirates Holiday Extravaganza to raise money for families in need, students at the high school level were inducted into the National Honor Society, each of our fall varsity sports teams were recognized for achieving NYSPHSAA Scholar-Athlete team status, and students across all buildings engaged in fun academic lessons centered on the holiday season.
As we jump into 2023, I am excited to share all that’s to come as we continue to highlight and celebrate all of the great work of our administrators, staff, faculty and students.
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 December...
The Pearl River School District excitedly congratulated Pearl River High School tenth grader Julia Onishi, whose original artwork was selected to grace the front of the Pearl River School District’s official 2022 holiday greeting card. Each year, a PRHS student’s unique creation is chosen to serve as the cover of the annual holiday card sent to local school districts in Rockland County, the district’s vendors/professional services partners, and administrators. Read more (and see the card up close!) on Facebook and Instagram.
It 'twas a candy cane calamity inside the sixth grade wing of Pearl River Middle School on December 23 as students engaged in a STEM Challenge Day! Sixth graders first attended a virtual field trip to a candy cane factory before tackling their task at hand: to mail candy canes to a friend that has never had one before -- ensuring that they arrive in one piece, without breaking. Along with designing a package that effectively protects the candy canes in transit, students aimed to ensure that their package weighed the least amount possible. With thirty minutes on the clock, groups of pairs worked quickly and efficiently to meet the criteria and to package their two candy canes safely. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Leading up to winter recess, kindergarteners at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School participated in an engaging and interactive Nutcracker-themed musical lesson, thanks to music teacher Sarah Gill! Dressed in their comfiest and coziest pajamas as part of their Polar Express celebrations, students reviewed sight reading, played rhythm sticks, hand drums and jingle bell instruments, and practiced melodic contour -- matching their scarf movements to the music. Each of these hands-on activities incorporated the soundtrack from the Nutcracker...which really got these little Lions excited and prepared for the holidays! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The best way to spread holiday cheer is...caroling in the halls for all to hear! Seventh grade band, orchestra and choral ensembles at Pearl River Middle School traveled through each wing of the building to perform an array of festive tunes for fifth, sixth and fellow seventh grade students as well as staff, faculty and administrators -- stopping by classrooms and offices to share their spirit. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
On Thursday, December 22, Pearl River High School band, orchestra and choral ensembles excitedly prepared to take the stage for their annual Winter Concert performances! Student-musicians diligently prepared to showcase their talents in an array of tunes spanning Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas holiday songs -- thanks to the direction of band teacher Brian Evans, orchestra teacher Darcie Pickering and choral teacher Shereen Way. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
What better way to ring in the holidays than by joining all together to work on a festive art project? Led by art teacher Tom Price, fourth graders at Franklin Avenue Elementary School were joined by Superintendent Dr. Marco Pochintesta along with administrators and staff, to create a paper star decoration as part of an Art Party celebration. Students from Kayla Kurzhals's and Laurie Lewis's classes followed along as Mr. Price instructed all in attendance on how to fold and glue their pieces of colored paper together in order to create the final star. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Celebrating student writing was on the agenda in Finuala O'Shea's classroom at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School as second graders participated in a very special Publishing Party! Wrapping up their personal narratives writing unit, students proudly shared their original work -- including illustrations and cover art -- with their classmates, taking turns reading aloud. Personal narrative topics ranged from family trips and vacations, to memorable moments spent with friends, to stories about the holidays...with each student's shared story serving as a reflection of their unique experiences. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Students enrolled in Social Studies teacher Christina Hohner's AP World History 10 course at Pearl River High School studied the Atlantic Revolutions of the late 1700s and early 1800s -- assuming the roles of countries representing the European Absolute Monarchs in a mock Congress of Vienna diplomatic meeting to discuss and decide territorial gain and how to restore the balance of power in Europe. Students debated the issues faced by these sovereign nations to benefit their national interest between 1814-1815 with the goal of understanding how Europe returned to a reactionary time under the absolute control of the monarchs. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Super! Thanks to a lesson delivered by school counselor Morgan O'Donohue, third graders in Nancy Ferst's class at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School identified their own individual strengths and weaknesses as part of December's social-emotional learning focus. Students were presented with different examples from 'school superheroes' of things they are good at (like always looking to help others, or never giving up) alongside what they need to improve on (like time management, or being fearful of trying new things). Students offered suggestions in order to assist the superheroes -- guiding them in the direction of improvement -- and brainstormed adjectives that would describe the superheroes in relation to their areas of strength. Third graders then designed their own superhero t-shirts -- using words and drawings to describe their personal strengths, discussing with one another. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The week of December 16 marked the last of our elementary schools' Winter Concert performances which took place at Evans Park Elementary School (December 9), Franklin Avenue Elementary School (December 13) and Lincoln Avenue Elementary School (December 16)! Audience members -- which included parents and family, staff and administrators -- were treated to choral renditions and medleys of winter, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs including "Hanukkah is Here," "Peace Like a River," and "Drink From the Unity Cup." Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Combining fun and engaging educational activities with a celebration of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final? SCORE! Students geared up to watch teams Argentina vs. France take the field by engaging in various station activities at different tables around their classroom inside Nancy McCarthy's second grade class at Evans Park Elementary School. Students not only sported their jerseys to celebrate the World Cup, they worked on art, writing, reading comprehension and math activities at various stations -- designing their own World Cup jerseys, coloring in Argentina and France flags, listing nouns they spotted in a World Cup illustration, working with Mrs. McCarthy to complete dice/place value soccer scoreboard math, and using their Chromebooks to read a World Cup passage and jot down noteworthy facts. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Third graders at Franklin Avenue Elementary School proved that they're SNOW ready for the weather forecast...and to take on Makerspace challenges! Cornelia Quinn's students (under the direction of Makerspace teaching assistant Beth Granelli) were provided masking tape, paper towels and construction paper to create a snowman fit with eyes, a nose, a mouth and buttons that can stand on its own with three circular structures. Students were encouraged to get creative in order to plan and design their snowman, first on paper, before bringing it to life with the materials provided. In order to successfully complete the task at hand, students had to use their creativity, innovation and problem-solving skills to ensure the snowman had all of its required features. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced its fall 2022 scholar-athlete teams and individuals...and each of our fall varsity sports teams at Pearl River High School were recognized! The Pearl River School District applauds these teams' commitment and dedication to both athletics and academics: Girls Tennis, Boys Cross Country, Girls Cross Country, Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Game Day Cheer, Football, Field Hockey, Girls Volleyball and Girls Swimming/Diving. At the end of each sports season, the NYSPHSAA honors teams and individuals across New York State that excel in the classroom. In order to receive Scholar-Athlete team recognition with a certificate, the team’s average GPA for 75% of the roster must be greater than or equal to 90.00. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
On December 14, Pearl River Middle School student-musicians took the stage for their Winter Concert choral, band and orchestra performances! Students were hard at work diligently prepping their music and rehearsing under the direction of band teacher Brianna Hensley, orchestra teacher Danice Claud-Desir and choral/general music teacher Rene Dalandan in anticipation of the musical showcase. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Seventh graders in English Language Arts (ELA) teacher Jeanenne Verret's class at Pearl River Middle School kicked off a new unit: exploring elements of fairytales, as students worked in small groups to complete a Character Archetypes Digital Station Activity. Rotating with their group members to stations located around the classroom, students worked to analyze videos, images and texts about Princess Fiona from Shrek, Link from The Legend of Zelda, and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Archetypes present within fairytales (and evidenced in these characters) range from heroes/heroines, to villains, to sidekicks/companions, to outcasts, to mentors -- and students filled in their charts based on what they noted from each story's characters. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
During the December season of celebration, extracurricular clubs and athletic teams at Pearl River High School sponsored the first-ever Pirates Holiday Extravaganza on Saturday, December 10! Hosted in the PRHS cafeteria, Pearl River School District families and school community members engaged in an afternoon of activities including crafts, games, entertainment and browsing the Holiday Boutique, along with a meet and greet with the Pirate mascot and Santa Claus. In the spirit of giving back, all proceeds from the event went towards families in need, and non-perishable food items and unwrapped gifts from event attendees were donated to local food pantries and Toys For Tots. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Serve, set, bump and block...fourth graders at Evans Park Elementary School kicked off their volleyball unit in their physical education class! With the guidance (and demonstrations) of physical education teacher Krystal Plattner, students learned the basic rules of playing volleyball, positions they can play and the number of ball hits allowed per player. Most importantly, students actively practiced good sportsmanship -- ensuring that they treated all players with dignity and respect through playing fair, following directions, encouraging teammates, and always ending games with high faves and handshakes. Throughout the year, varying unit by unit, all K-4 students across each of our elementary buildings work towards practicing gamesmanship in their P.E. classes! Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Thirteen Pearl River High School students enrolled in Tracy Holihan's English 12 class presented their Capstone pitch presentations, sharing their ideas with administrators (including Superintendent Dr. Marco Pochintesta and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Robert Roelle), PRHS Principal Dr. Robert Zegarelli and a number of teachers/ counselors in attendance. Students began to delve into the in-depth research and progressional process of their senior year 'passion projects'. Over the remainder of the 2022-23 school year, students will work towards completing their Capstone projects -- meeting benchmarks and check-ins along the way to ensure they're staying on track. Come May 2023, students will present their final results and showcase what they've created, achieved and learned throughout completing their project. Both an in-class presentation, inviting back administrators and staff/faculty, along with a Capstone Night (details to follow later in the year) will provide the opportunity for students to show off their final products. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
Kindergarteners code too! In celebration of Computer Science Education Week (December 5-11), students in Jacinta Winters's class at Evans Park Elementary School explored sequencing and troubleshooting -- using fun, interactive games and activities on Code.org to understand beginner computer science functions. With the help of K-12 Instructional Technology Coach Jessica Kearns, students used drag and drop blocks, like a puzzle, to move step-by-step. Students were then challenged with moving the Ice Age character, Scrat, through a maze to retrieve his acorn safely via ice blocks -- using vectors (arrows) to successfully maneuver him through the course. Throughout this week, these kindergarten Tigers learned that algorithm serves as a set of directions/instructions and that when a bug/problem in their code is experienced, they must troubleshoot in order to fix and try again. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
During Computer Science Education Week, students enrolled in Computer Science teacher Steve Parisi's Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science class at Pearl River High School kicked off a data lists mini-project using Code.org software. AP students began to create an application that will allow the user to scroll through a list in both directions and add items. As an extra feature, students also had the option to include a remove button to take things off of the list. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
We have the power to become better together through awareness of different cultures and understanding intent versus impact! Fifth and sixth grade PEP (Personalized Education Period) classes at Pearl River Middle School were visited by school counselors, psychologists, the school social worker and building administrators for an impactful 'Better Together' lesson, taking place on December 7. Fifth grade students (pictured: Dina Casale's PEP class, along with social worker Jessica Bersani) defined the term 'culture' and what it means to them. Students discussed how culture can include race, ethnicity, religion, country, and languages, and can be learned and transmitted from one generation to another. Fifth graders then worked on completing a culture flower -- working individually to label the petals with words that describe their own culture. In small groups, students shared with one another, and with Mrs. Bersani, what makes their cultural experiences similar and different from one another.
Sixth grade students analyzed the power of language -- noting how if they are not mindful of the language that they use, it can negatively affect interactions and relationships. By being mindful and careful of the language they use and how it can be received, students can improve the way they effectively communicate. Acknowledging intent (what they mean to say) and impact (how a message is received), sixth graders then completed a class activity, analyzing scenario examples and differentiating intent and impact. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.
During their FLEx (Flexible Learning Exchange) period, second graders at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School honed their reading comprehension skills, participating in various engaging and interactive activities! Inside Courtney O'Grady's classroom, students worked together in small groups on Rainbow Retelling, Tell the Story, Red Word Rock Paper Scissors and Sentence Scrambles. After a read aloud of the Aesop fable, "The Fox and the Goat," students headed to the Tell the Story aisle runner -- traveling down the 'road' with their partner as they used their critical thinking skills to recall details of the story. Second graders referenced their Rainbow Retelling Bracelets -- using the colored beads to distinguish setting, characters, conflict, events and solution. At a table station, students took turns flipping over cards to build sentences with mismatched words -- noting which ones would fit into the blank space within the sentence to create one that makes sense. At the conclusion of FLEx, these second grade Lions competed against Ms. O'Grady, selecting a red/sight word from their chart like 'other,' 'where,' and 'then' to spell out loud before choosing rock, paper or scissors. Read more on Facebook and Instagram.