PRSD Pulse: October Roundup 🍂
Greetings Pearl River School District Families and Staff,
October was bustling with much activity spanning our K-12 school buildings and classrooms as students and educators engaged in creative and innovative lessons, activities, and projects. Over the course of the month, our elementary students at Lincoln Avenue, Franklin Avenue and Evans Park Elementary Schools continued important curriculum work in the areas of literacy, math, science, phonemic awareness, RULER-centered social emotional learning, music, and art. At Pearl River Middle School, students built on their honed knowledge across a variety of subject levels. Fifth graders had the opportunity to take part in a number of team-building and bonding activities that enhanced a sense of school community. Pearl River High School participated in an exciting Homecoming Pep Rally event, celebrated a victorious homecoming varsity football game against Byram Hills High School, and took home the jug following an overtime win at the annual Little Brown Jug Varsity Football Game against Nanuet High School. In addition, the PRHS Class of 2024 debuted their production of Mamma Mia! The Musical which premiered Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4.
District-wide, the PRSD celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), Board Appreciation Week (October 16-20), National Principals Month, and Halloween – taking the time to learn about and celebrate cultural diversity and awareness, acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our five Board of Education members, highlight the continuous commitment of each of our building principals, and share in the holiday fun.
This October edition of our monthly PRSD Pulse e-newsletter reflects on a busy month as the autumn weather begins to take form. I look forward to continuing to share the highlights from what’s ahead as our District continues its work throughout the 2023-24 school year!
Marco F. Pochintesta, Ed.D.
Halloween in the PRSD
K-12 students celebrated Halloween on Tuesday, October 31 along with teachers, staff and administrators! Seniors at Pearl River High School, students in grades 5-7 at Pearl River Middle School and K-4 students at each of our elementary buildings dressed in creative costumes, and engaged in themed lessons and activities. Check out our Halloween coverage at each school on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Fire Prevention Month Heats Up
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Fire Lieutenant Kevin Garrison spoke with Franklin Avenue Elementary School kindergarteners about fire safety, and his role as a firefighter, in alignment with October's Fire Prevention Month! Garrison explained how a firefighter is responsible for emergency response and rescue, fire extinguishing, and treating sick or injured individuals - showing students his gear including tools and equipment like his helmet, boots, protection hood, door stoppers, and radio. Fielding questions from curious Franklin Ave Stars, Garrison emphasized the importance of having an exit plan and designated safe zone in a fire situation. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank You, Principals
The PRSD spotlighted each of our school principals during October - sharing the many reasons they each serve as valuable and integral leaders who are dedicated to providing effective leadership for their students, teachers and staff. We thank: Pearl River High School Principal Dr. Robert Zegarelli, Pearl River Middle School Principal Dave Wright, Franklin Avenue Elementary School Principal Dr. Kristin Talleyrand, Lincoln Avenue Elementary School Principal Kathleenann Cool, and Evans Park Elementary School Interim Principal Nadine McDermott.
Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages to check out our #NationalPrincipalsMonth and #ThankAPrincipal campaign.
The Class of 2024 Presents Mamma Mia! The Musical
MY, MY...there was much preparation for the premiere of the Pearl River High School Class of 2024's production of Mamma Mia! We drew back the curtain to give you an inside look behind-the-scenes as seniors were hard at work gearing up for their debut. The PRSD stopped by rehearsals to capture snapshots of the stage crew, lighting crew, costume fitting/organizing, ensembles and main characters in-action...how could we resist?! There's more to see on Facebook and Instagram...
Whole-Class Novels in English Language Arts (ELA)
Fifth grade English Language Arts (ELA) classes at Pearl River Middle School are hard at work analyzing the text and characters, engaging in peer discussions, and reviewing overarching themes in their whole-class novels, "Save Me a Seat" written by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. The book focuses on characters Joe and Ravi - who are from very different places, but share a similar struggle navigating where they fit in at school. Despite thinking they don't share anything in common, Joe and Ravi join together in friendship - celebrating their vastly different cultures and accepting what makes them unique. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Digital Citizenship Lessons at Pearl River High School
In lieu of Digital Citizenship Week (October 16-20), a number of Pearl River High School classes collaborated with Library Media Specialist Diana Nicaj for lessons in digital literacy. Andrew Elbrecht's Intro to Computer Science students dropped by the library classroom to engage in a discussion and activity centered on thinking traps - certain types or patterns of thoughts that tend to 'trap' our minds in anxiety - and how one can best strengthen their digital well-being. Students learned about the five thinking traps: all-or-nothing thinking, labeling, mind reading, shoulds, negative filter, personalizing, and fortune telling, as they worked to pair a thought scenario with its matching thinking trap. Ms. Nicaj spoke with students about the effects of social media and how technology can aggravate negative thought patterns. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Haunted Houses for Sale!
Third graders at Franklin Avenue Elementary School used imaginative, persuasive and descriptive writing to advertise their haunted houses just in time for the Halloween season! Students shared their spooky home listings with their peers as they attempted to catch the interest of potential buyers in the market with specific details ranging from creaky floors, to cobweb-covered windows, to the presence of ghostly apparitions. These Franklin Ave Stars then designed the interior and exterior of their homes to showcase to interested buyers - coloring, cutting and pasting features of their choice. Following their presentations, voting commenced as classmates each casted their vote for the house they find most descriptive. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Picasso Monsters Merge Art History and Creativity
Little artists at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School created abstract Picasso-inspired monsters! Third graders in Nancy Ferst's class, under the direction of art teacher Erin Girling, first learned about Pablo Picasso's cubism period - analyzing how he used various shapes to create multiple viewpoints. Students then began designing their monster's face - selecting two colors to 'split' their monster, and cutting and arranging small pieces of construction paper into facial features like eyes, a nose, a mouth, teeth, and cheeks. The Picasso monsters then received spooky enhancements - like Halloween stickers to frame the backdrop, and clothing to finish the portrait. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Veolia New York Visits Sixth Grade Science
Learning is always in the forecast in the PRSD! Sixth graders at Pearl River Middle School were visited by professionals from Veolia Water New York as they learned about the continuous movement of water within the Earth and the atmosphere. In small groups, students engaged in a game - moving to stations located around the classroom each representing the places where a water droplet can 'travel' (like clouds, oceans, plants, rivers, lakes, ground water, glaciers, soil and animals). With a pipe cleaner in hand, students collected beads from each station to create a bracelet - rolling the dice to determine which station to move to next. Sixth grade scientists then discussed the importance of water conservation, and how they can do their part in making every drop count. Leading up to Veolia's visit, students have been learning about the water cycle - gaining an in-depth understanding of its complex system. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Unity Day in the PRSD
Across the District, building commUNITY was at the forefront as we recognized Unity Day 2023 in alignment with October's celebration of National Bullying Prevention Month. Wearing orange, our elementary and Pearl River Middle School students came together to celebrate the values of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Clinicians actively engaged with K-4 students as well as students in grades 5-7 through open discussions, activities and read-alouds centered on how we can grow stronger together by building a supportive and inclusive learning environment. At Franklin Avenue Elementary School (pictured), students worked with art teacher Tom Price to create footprints and a Unity Day display with words and images that represent ways they can be kinder and more inclusive. Designed to help students recognize and visualize that every step they take individually helps unite all students along the path of acceptance and respect, the footprints are now displayed throughout the school as a visual reminder of the steps they can take every day. More on Facebook and Instagram.
PRTA Walks for Breast Cancer Awareness
On October 15, members of the Pearl River Teachers Association joined together to take part in the annual American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year's dedicated team of PRSD teachers and staff members (not all pictured) raised upwards of $10,000 towards American Cancer Society’s support services and lifesaving research - ranking as one of the top fundraising teams in the Hudson Valley. The Making Strides movement aims to advocate for the future of breast cancer research, patient support and advocacy, and raises lifesaving funds that support breast cancer patients, survivors, thrivers, and caregivers. A very special thank you to the PRTA members who donated and participated, Lincoln Avenue Elementary School fourth grade teacher Karen DiMenna (who served as team captain), and Pearl River Middle School teacher Marni Hogne (who topped the charts as #1 participant). More on Facebook and Instagram.
Spanish 5 Creates Living Wax Museum
Spanish 5 students in Marc Wolf's class at Pearl River High School hosted a unique event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month...an interactive Living Wax Museum! With their displays set up in Pirate Cove, Spanish 5 students showcased the final products of their biography research reports on famous Hispanic figures of their choosing across entertainment, sports, politics, or music. Dressed as the influential figure they researched, students 'posed' at their display stands as museum visitors (PRHS administrators, teachers and fellow students) interacted with the exhibits - stepping onto a spot that prompted each wax figure to 'come alive' and begin a short speech in Spanish about their figure's life. Through extensive research about the biography, history, achievements, and legacy of their chosen Hispanic figure, students had the opportunity to learn about cultural diversity, and share their discoveries and knowledge with their peers! More on Facebook and Instagram.
Math Games Rock (and Roll the Dice!)
Evans Park Elementary School fourth graders in Melissa Alm and Johannah Mitchell's class engaged in a Roll It Rounding Numbers game as part of their math centers! With game boards, dice, and counters, students paired up to go head to head - taking turns rolling the dice to determine their five digit number and then rounding to the nearest thousandth. On their game boards, students placed their counter on top of the number as they aim to be the first to make a line of four in a row vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Did you know that rounding numbers makes them simpler and easier to use, which is particularly helpful when doing mental math? Fourth graders are learning that having the ability to round numbers can be useful in many real-world situations they may find themselves in on a regular basis. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Celebrating Cultural Backgrounds at Franklin Avenue Elementary School
Across our elementary school buildings, celebrating cultural backgrounds serves as an opportunity for K-4 students to learn what makes them 'Individually Unique, Together Complete' - the framework for activities that will take place throughout the 2023-24 school year. These activities in alignment with the elementary schools' shared theme aim to highlight individual uniqueness, while enhancing school community. At Franklin Avenue Elementary School, fourth grader Hayden "Coco" S. presented to her peers about her heritage as a Japanese-American student and her recent travels to Japan where she attended school over the summer. With her family, teachers and Principal Dr. Kristin Talleyrand in attendance, Coco introduced her special guest, Chihiro, who came from Japan to join Coco in her presentation. Together, they discussed Japanese traditions she took part in, traditional clothing she wore (like her floral kimono), and how school in Japan differs from school in America. Coco fielded questions from curious students about the celebrations and ceremonies she took part in, her everyday life there, and the meals she ate. More on Facebook and Instagram.
The PRSD Celebrates School Board Recognition Week
October 16-20 marked New York State School Boards Association's School Board Recognition Week, and in the PRSD, we honor the service of our five dedicated Board of Education (BOE) members who "Support Success for ALL Students," in alignment with this year's campaign. We sincerely thank:
- BOE President Jackie Dubil Craig
- BOE Vice President Denise Caunitz
- BOE Member Terrence Cortelli
- BOE Member Thomas DePrisco
- BOE Member Dr. Kathleen Ann Kelley
Each elected at large for three-year terms, the Board functions as a unit and makes resolutions about the District's educational programs and financial matters. Within the framework of education law, the Board concerns itself with broad questions of policy, both their own and those recommended by its executive officer, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marco Pochintesta. As the legislative and policy-making body of the District, the Board is firmly committed to providing the best education possible within the resources of the Pearl River School District, always striving for continuous improvement in public education. Thank you to our entire Board of Education...we are stronger together because of the selfless work that you do! More on Facebook and Instagram.
A Victorious Homecoming Pep Rally and Varsity Football Game!
Pirate Pride was in the air for Pearl River High School's Homecoming Pep Rally! As the PRHS varsity football team prepared to take on Byram Hills High School for their Homecoming Game, PRHS students, teachers and administrators gathered together to celebrate and show their school spirit. With musical accompaniment from the PRHS band (and band teacher Brian Evans), a rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner' performed by student Nora A., and applause for each junior varsity and varsity fall sports team and their graduating student-athletes, students were then selected to compete in interactive sports challenges. From the 10 yard line, Principal Dr. Robert Zegarelli kicked off the weekend's festivities (and made a field goal!) More on Facebook and Instagram.
Music and Movement at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School
What better way to learn about another culture and its rich history than through music?! Kindergarteners visited Sarah Gill's music classroom at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School to engage in dance activities and instrument exploration celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. These Lincoln Avenue Lions excitedly paired up to merge music and movement as Mrs. Gill played "La Raspa," a traditional mariachi dance song that originated in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Linking arms and shuffling their feet, students followed along with Mrs. Gill - noting the beat and rhythm throughout. Mrs. Gill then introduced the güiro to students - a wooden percussion instrument with raised ridges that are scraped with a stick to produce a distinctive sound to emphasize musical rhythms, especially in Latin American music. With their own instruments in hand including egg shakers, hand drums and one key mini xylophones, kindergarteners then played along to the famous (and catchy!) Mexican folk song, "La Bamba." More on Facebook and Instagram.
Daily Phonemic Awareness Practice at Evans Park Elementary School
Daily phonemic awareness activities take place inside our kindergarten classrooms as students work towards improvement in their reading, spelling, and writing. Across the PRSD, our K-2 teachers integrate Heggerty phonics practice which supplements their existing literacy curriculum and aligns with the Common Core State Standards for Phonological Awareness. Evans Park Tigers in kindergarten teacher Jacinta Winters' class participate in an array of language play activities that progress to the phoneme level - covering consonants, short vowels, digraphs, blends and rhyme patterns. Positioned at the front of the classroom, Ms. Winters led students in practice using hand motion to build awareness of the sounds heard in spoken words. Students also referenced their alphabet list on their name tag - selecting a letter to add to '-am' featured on a tree design. Kindergarteners then wrote their chosen letter on a colored paper leaf - heading up to the tree design on the class board to sound out the completed word and determine if it is a correct word. During their designated phonological awareness sessions, students are learning about rhyme, phoneme isolation, blend words, syllables, and segment words! More on Facebook and Instagram.
Second Graders Explore Units of Measurement
Merging a lesson on the history of Ancient Egyptian units of measurement and basic math fundamentals, second graders at Franklin Avenue Elementary School worked in their Eureka Math² workbooks to complete an activity - working with their peers in pairs. Utilizing 'measurement tools' from long ago like their arms (cubits), palms and fingers (digits), students measured one another's arms and hands as well as objects located around the room including their desk, the door, bookshelves and windows. Through this activity, students analyzed the relationship between the size of the measurement unit and the number of units needed to measure. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Fifth Graders Connect During Team-Building Days
Between group challenges, scavenger hunts, rock painting, speed friending, yoga/meditation, and kickball games, fifth grade students at Pearl River Middle School eased into the transition of a new grade level and school building! With the 2023-24 school year in high gear, fifth graders had the opportunity to make new connections with fellow students and familiarize themselves with their new school setting through a number of 'Transition Days,' taking place throughout the months of September and October. Taking the leap from elementary school to middle school can be overwhelming, but through participation in these exciting and fun-filled activity days, students are learning all there is to know! More on Facebook and Instagram.
Join the Club(s) at Pearl River High School
During lunch periods, Pearl River High School hosted its annual Club Fair as a number of students across grades 8-12 made the rounds to each table set-up - exploring the many co-curricular opportunities they can take part in! Speaking to student representatives and club members, students asked questions about involvement, signing up for meetings and community outreach. Did you know that participation in clubs not only gives an extra nudge on college applications but provides awesome opportunities to get involved in the school community, develop new passions and interests, and gain teamwork and leadership experience? Special thanks to the Pearl River High School PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) for providing students with ice cream treats as they browsed the Club Fair. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Third Graders Create a Classroom Mood Meter
One of the anchors of emotional intelligence, the Mood Meter teaches students how to identify and label their emotions - and third graders in Krista Potenza and Kimberly Duggan's class at Evans Park Elementary School created their own for use in the classroom! These students first began with a review of the four quadrants on the Mood Meter - each color quadrant representing a category of moods ranging from high energy positive and negative emotions to low energy positive and negative emotions. Ms. Potenza and Ms. Duggan prompted students to close their eyes and think about their various emotions they experienced throughout the course of the day, sharing openly with their peers. Third grade students then worked independently to plot their own mood - receiving a word that describes an emotion on the Mood Meter. Visualizing what that emotion looks like, students sketched a self portrait and used the accurate shade on the Mood Meter to color their illustration. Once finalized, the Mood Meter they've each contributed to will serve as a daily check-in for third graders to log their feelings. More on Facebook and Instagram.
K-4 Read Alouds Promote Connectedness
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, English as a New Language (ENL) teacher Beth Toubin shared the book, "Dreamers" written by Yuyi Morales with fourth graders in Laurie Lewis' class at Franklin Avenue Elementary School! Beginning with a review of unfamiliar vocabulary words and Spanish terms used throughout the book (and proper pronunciation help thanks to ENL students in Mrs. Lewis' class), Ms. Toubin shared the book on the projector screen. Students followed along as they learned of the main character Yuyi and her son Kelly's journey about bringing strength, passion, hopes and dreams with her to an unfamiliar setting. With no English speaking knowledge, Yuyi and Kelly find home in the library as they learn the language of a new place. Students then opened their Writer's Notebooks - writing sentences about why the library was such an important aspect of the story and how it can serve as a place where those from all different backgrounds can come to learn about one another's stories. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Science 8 Experiments with Force
As part of their unit focused on contact forces, eighth graders in Kara Afanasewicz's Science 8 class at Pearl River High School planned and carried out an investigation to discover the relationship between the amount of force applied and the amount of deformation that occurs in different materials. Working in groups, students worked with materials that represent the elastic and nonelastic behavior of solid objects in response to various amounts of force applied to them. Logging their data, students determined that all solid objects deform elastically when force is applied to them, up to a point. The type of material, the shape and the thickness of an object all affect how much it deforms when a force is applied to it, its elastic limit and its breaking point. Students reviewed the experimental design process and learned new skills, like how to use a spring scale to measure force. Following their lab activity, students then graphed their collected data and compared their graphs to those from tests done on different materials. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Multi-Sensory Rotation Stations Enhance Phonics Understanding
Inside Nancy McCarthy and Gina DiMartini's classroom at Evans Park Elementary School, second graders engaged in the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) Orton-Gillingham Phonics Rotations! Through small-group hands-on, multi-sensory activities, these students are developing phonemic awareness which, in turn, sets the stage for the development of strong reading and writing understanding and ability. Across our elementary buildings, our K-4 educators incorporate this comprehensive approach into their lessons and activities. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Analyzing Day to Night Shadow Patterns
What causes day to night and why do our shadows change direction and length? Seeking the answers to these questions, fifth grade scientists at Pearl River Middle School engaged in a Science 21© Space Systems: Earth-Sun Interactive Model Activity. In pairs, students (pictured: Gal Seiler's class) used a flashlight (representing the Sun) and a marker (representing a person on Earth) to practice observing the shadow patterns of the marker and day/night patterns that occur as a result of Earth’s rotation relative to the stationary sun. The student holding the marker (Earth) slowly rotated counter-clockwise as the student holding the flashlight (Sun) remained still, not moving. Switching roles, groups then repeated the process - noting their observations. More on Facebook and Instagram.
Kindergarteners Build Reading Skills
In the spirit of all things fall, kindergarteners in Maria Panuccio's class at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School are learning how to develop their reading skills with festive autumn-themed books and activities! Beginning with a read-aloud of the book, "We're Going on a Leaf Hunt" written by Steve Metzger, students listened to Ms. Panuccio as she noted the qualities of a good reader which include looking at the book's text and illustrations, thinking about the words and sentences being read, and learning about the world based on the book's content. Students pointed out Red Words (part of the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education/IMSE Orton-Gillingham method that involves recognizing high-frequency sight words) and followed along with the story, periodically closing their eyes to visualize the story in their head. These little learners then worked on their Wiggle's Apple Book - coloring in the templates and placing cut outs of Wiggle the Worm on the appropriate parts of the apple based on each page's text. As the school year progresses, kindergarten students will learn the routines and procedures of reading workshop as they gain a confident sense of reading identity. More on Facebook and Instagram.