“Viola Achieves” is the focus of student-led tour

posted by Ramapo Central   [ updated ]

[April 23, 2014] An “Achievement Tour” for families was the highlight of Viola Elementary School’s annual Curriculum Night celebration on March 27. The special event was designed to provide parents with a deeper understanding of the school’s K-5 instructional program and promote student work.

“This was really was the brainchild of our school improvement team: fostering a discussion, spanning all grade levels, for students and parents centered on how we inspire achievement at Viola,” explained Principal Christine Druss.

Improvement team member and special education teacher Cathy Battaglia agreed.

“The idea for Viola's curriculum night tour stemmed from our Comprehensive School Improvement Plan work on community building,” she noted. “We wanted to emphasize working together to achieve as a community of learners: parents, educators and students. Staff worked together to design activities not only for their classrooms, but for all children and parents to engage in throughout the school.” 

Student tour guides, with itineraries in hand, navigated their families through the building, pausing to note the learning landmarks of their personal educational journeys. Each “tourist” received a passport containing information on both school-wide and grade-specific goals that was stamped at designated stops. Outside classrooms, prominently placed quotes from notably successful individuals, such as Michael Jordan and Bill Gates, challenged families to reflect and discuss on what inspires achievement.

“Many families expressed enthusiasm and excitement,” said Battaglia. “Several parents were pleased that their children had many activities that extended outside the classroom to choose from this year.”

Photo caption: A student pauses to ponder an inspirational quote as part of Viola’s Achievement Tour on Curriculum Night.

Cherry Lane Canstruction builds meals for neighbors in need

posted Apr 21, 2014, 7:54 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 21, 2014, 7:54 AM ]

[April 21, 2014] Thirty-five Cherry Lane fifth-graders met after school on March 25 to configure a sculpture composed of nearly 800 food items—peanut butter, rice and canned goods—donated through a school-wide food drive to benefit the Sloatsburg Food Pantry.

“Before they began building, they learned about the Food Pantry and how their efforts will help so many families in the community,” said Cherry Lane 5th Grade Committee Co-Chair Cheryl Valenti. “They also sorted and counted the cans, then calculated the total number of servings. Lots of math, engineering and community service skills were put to good use!”

By early evening, an apple with a caterpillar sat next to a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich filled the stage in the school’s gymnasium. Cherry Lane donations totaled a whopping 11,000 servings for Ramapo residents in need.

Canstruction was launched as a social responsibility project by last year’s 5th Grade Committee and is becoming a Cherry Lane tradition. 

Photo caption: The Cherry Lane 5th Grade Committee’s Canstruction project gathered more than 11,000 meals for the Sloatsburg Food Pantry.

Breakfast encourages eighth-grade girls to elect engineering

posted Apr 18, 2014, 10:24 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 18, 2014, 10:59 AM ]

[April 18, 2014] Seventeen mother-daughter pairs attended the 6th Annual Women In Engineering Breakfast at Suffern Middle School on April 5. The goal? To encourage eighth-grade girls who have demonstrated an aptitude in pre-engineering coursework at the middle school level to enroll in the high school’s elective engineering sequence—and to consider an engineering career.

Jointly sponsored by Suffern Middle School and Suffern High School, this year’s Breakfast included a screening of a TEDx Talk by GoldieBlox creator Debbie Sterling, a presentation by UPS app development manager and Ramapo Central parent Theresa Bell, a recruitment pitch by female members of the Suffern High School’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team and a hands-on, mother-daughter design challenge.

“At Suffern Middle School, we pride ourselves on our pre-engineering program, Project Lead the Way, which exposes all students to engineering,” said Principal Brian Fox, as he welcomed participants against a backdrop

that read Our Girls Deserve More. “Students who start taking engineering coursework early are at an advantage when they get to college. Just as importantly, it also gives them the chance to decide whether engineering is something they want to pursue before they are in an undergraduate program.”

In recent years, there has been a nationwide push to encourage more girls to pursue STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—careers, in which women are significantly underrepresented. According to the National Science Foundation, only 11% of practicing engineers are women.

Every engineering and technology teacher from the two schools took part in the event to raise awareness of the gender gap and encourage Ramapo Central girls to consider a career in engineering.

“You were invited here because you’ve got it,” explained Suffern Middle School technology teacher Tom DiFabio. “Your technology teachers saw something when you were building your igloos, engineering a solution for the egg drop, and creating the air cars…we saw potential that tells us that this may be something you want to consider.” 

Bell shared the realities of starting out as one of two women on a team of 60 at UPS, where she now heads up a Lean In chapter (inspired by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg) to support female employees.

“You are very lucky to be in a school district like this, with teachers willing to bring you in on a Saturday morning to inspire you to think about what you can achieve,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas S. Adams, an engineer himself, noted that those able to overcome the academic and professional challenges can expect great opportunities.

“The sky is the limit,” he noted. “There are very few unemployed engineers. Please take advantage of what this school district has to offer.”

Suffern High School technology teacher Robert Quinn described the elective engineering sequence at Suffern High School, which will include a new, computer programming/app development course next year. 

Then, participants broke into mother-daughter teams to set to work on building the tallest possible structure with one marshmallow, 20 pieces of dry spaghetti, three feet of string and three feet of masking tape.

“Brainstorming is the key component to success,” advised Suffern Middle School technology teacher Nicholas Irving. “Daughters should be the leaders. You’ve been through the program; it’s time to show your moms what you’re capable of.”

Megan, a Suffern High School junior and aspiring aeronautics engineer, made a strong case for joining the robotics team.

“I’m here to get more girls interested in engineering…and I’d really like to lead an all-girl robotics team next year!” she said.

Suffern High School alumna Taylor was on the team that placed 24th in the 2012 FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship. She is currently in her second year of the computer engineering program at the University of Miami.

“Freshman year, others struggled,” she recalled. “But I had experience with AutoCAD, Inventor, 3D printing and the engineering design process. Half the people dropped out, but I got an A. I’m glad that I did robotics for those three years in high school.”

Suffern High School engineering/math teacher George Mugno made a final pitch.

“There is over $14M in scholarships available each year just for FTC competitors, and if you’re a girl, there are even more opportunities,” he urged. “Taylor is a great example of the fact that women are strong competitors. Although the percentage of girls in college engineering programs is small, there are a lot of girls in the top 10% of those programs.” 

Photo caption 1: Suffern Middle School eighth-grader Molly came up with this innovative tape design. “You’ve got to have equal weight on each side—and the base is key,” she said.
Photo caption 2: The winning mother-daughter team with their 27.5-inch tower.
Photo caption3: Eighth-graders worked to assemble puzzle cubes created by students in the ninth-grade Intro to Engineering Design course. 
Photo caption4: Suffern Middle School technology teacher Steve Bower stood by as engineers test their design on the earthquake table.
Photo caption 5: Eighth-graders got hands-on with the FTC robots.
Photo caption 6: Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas S. Adams visited teams as they rushed to complete the design challenge.

Innovative SMS educator makes headlines

posted Apr 15, 2014, 5:54 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 15, 2014, 5:54 AM ]

[April 15, 2014] Suffern Middle School sixth-grade teacher Peggy Sheehy, an award-winning pioneer in virtual world education, was the subject of a front page feature in the April 14 issue of The Journal News. Click here to read the article by education reporter Gary Stern.

Student musicians wow the crowd at the 7th Annual Strings Extravaganza

posted Apr 11, 2014, 10:23 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 11, 2014, 10:29 AM ]

[April 11, 2014] Ramapo Central musicians dressed in their best took to the Suffern High School stage on the evening of April 10 for the 7th Annual Strings Extravaganza. The concert featured hundreds of students, in grades four through twelve, who participate in the District’s instrumental music program. 

Performances were conducted by music teachers Yoonhee Roberts, Peter Kincaid, Tara Goozee and Daniel McCarter. The program featured selections composed by Brian Balmages, Richard Meter, Elliot Del Borgo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonin Dvorak. The finale, Mark Williams’s Fiddles on Fire, was performed by the nearly 400-piece, combined Ramapo Central orchestra.

The Strings Extravaganza was the last in a series of three district-wide concerts this month, following an April 3 guitar concert and the April 9 Band Bonanza.

R.P. Connor Elementary School music teacher Alison Meyer said that the combined concerts are great motivators for young students and their parents.

“This is the first time that they get to be part of a big event, with 300 to 400 other musicians,” she explained. “It’s so important for them to hear the progression of how they sound now, how they’ll sound as eighth-graders and how they may sound as high school juniors or seniors. The experience encourages them to continue with our music program and develop as musicians.”

Spring concert season is just beginning. Be sure to check the calendar on the District home page for upcoming musical events in each of the seven Ramapo Central schools.

Photo caption1: Bows flew as musicians rehearsed with Suffern High School orchestra teacher/conductor Daniel McCarter just before the doors opened for the 7th Annual Strings Extravaganza.

Photo caption 2: Audrey, a Sloatsburg fourth-grader, was excited to perform in her first big concert.

District-wide exhibit celebrates creativity

posted Apr 11, 2014, 9:31 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 11, 2014, 9:31 AM ]

[April 11, 2014] On the evening of April 4, 200 Ramapo Central families and friends attended the opening of the 3rd Annual District-Wide Art Show at Suffern High School. 

The event showcased work created by pupils in grades K-12 over the course of the school year. Suffern High School ceramics students held their annual Empty Bowls fundraiser; for just $10, donors received a beautiful, handcrafted bowl and provided much-needed funds for local soup kitchens.  National Art Honor Society members ran a number of inventive, interactive art activities that held great appeal for young attendees. The full exhibit remained on display through April 6. 

Art enthusiasts, mark your calendars: The Senior Showcase and AP Art Studio Presentation reception, featuring portfolios of Suffern High School seniors, is April 30 at 6:30pm. Next month, don’t miss the Art  & Music Nights at Suffern Middle School (May 5, 17 & 19) and Sloatsburg Elementary School’s legendary Annual Art Show on May 20. Details are posted on the District web calendar.

Photo caption 1: Frank, a proud Montebello fifth-grader, struck a proud pose beneath his art work

Photo caption 2: Lily, a Sloatsburg third-grader, was a picture perfect Mona Lisa.

Photo caption 3: Collaboration and some elbow grease helped to create this larger-than-life sculpture, one of several interactive art activities created by Suffern High School National Art Honor Society members.

Photo caption 4: Art appreciation became a hands-on affair with the giant Starry Night puzzle.

Photo caption 5: More than 200 Ramapo Central families and friends attended the District’s second annual District-Wide Art Show on April 4.

SMS Wellness Fair aims to promote healthy habits

posted Apr 11, 2014, 9:09 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 11, 2014, 9:09 AM ]

[April 11, 2014] On March 27, Suffern Middle School hosted a health promotion celebration in recognition of National Nutrition Month and National Kick Butts Day. During their lunch periods, students participated in a series of fun and healthy activities created by the Wellness Warriors club, in partnership with Family and Consumer Science (FACS) staff.

FACs students schoolwide contributed to the event’s success. Sixth-graders who recently learned about advertising in a FACS consumer unit used their knowledge to create attention-getting posters to build excitement for the fair. Seventh-graders developed nutrition-oriented word searches, crossword puzzles and other ELA activities designed to help students understand snack food nutrition labels. A display created by eighth-grade volunteers described the variety of careers for those interested in nutrition.

Attendees who signed the Wellness Warriors’ “1000 Reasons Why I Don’t Smoke” commitment poster received fortune cookies containing facts on the health risks associated with tobacco use. All were treated to clementines donated by ShopRite of Ramsey.

ShopRite nutritionist Sondra Tackett shared healthy, simple food recipes, ranging from fruit pizzas to veggie wraps. Students were able to handle a replica representing five pounds of fat—the equivalent of the amount of sugar consumed by a person who drinks a single can of soda every day for one year.

Photo captions: Suffern Middle School students designed and took part in fun activities which promoted a healthy lifestyle during the March 27 Wellness Fair.

Interact pitches in for global disaster relief

posted Apr 9, 2014, 8:12 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 9, 2014, 8:12 AM ]

[April 9, 2014] Fundraising efforts over the past two school years have yielded enough money for Suffern High School’s Interact Club to support disaster relief for a family in need.

In February, the club donated $1,000 to ShelterBox USA, a project partner with Rotary International, which delivers aid to communities impacted by natural and other disasters around the world. The gift will sponsor the provision of one ShelterBox, which typically contains:

    • a disaster relief tent large enough to house an extended family and rugged enough to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall;
    • survival equipment customized to the deployment location, such as mosquito nets, thermal blankets and a LifeStraw for water-purification;
    • a hammer, axe, saw and other basic tools;
    • a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove; and
    • coloring books, crayons and paper for children.

“Interact is all about service above self,” said club co-advisor and special education teacher Amy MacKenzie. “Our members are always looking for ways to give back.”

The Interact Club donated its first ShelterBox to aid victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

“Since then, we’ve been working to raise enough money to donate another ShelterBox,” explained club president and Suffern High School senior Alyson Kim. “Disasters happen all the time. Unfortunately, there’s always going to be another family out there in need. This is a way we can help, even if it’s just one family.”

Interact is a Rotary International service club for members ages 14-18. Suffern High School’s Interact Club is self-governing and independent, but students work closely with Suffern Rotary Club members.

Photo caption:  The Suffern High School Interact Club raised $1,000 to sponsor a ShelterBox disaster relief kit for a family in need.

SHS defends title as Rockland debate champs

posted Apr 9, 2014, 7:41 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 9, 2014, 7:42 AM ]

[April 9, 2014] Suffern High School teams placed first and fourth among 14 teams in the Rockland County Debate Championship at Clarkstown High School on March 25. The policy debate concerned Second Amendment gun rights and gun restrictions and took place over three days.

Seniors Sean Clinton and Tom Bristow took first place; senior Rebecca Philip and sophomore Cameron Martel placed fourth.

This is the second consecutive year that Suffern High has won the county championships and the third time in the past five years.

“This year’s competition was very difficult,” said Clinton. “We were lucky to be put on the affirmative a few times and had great support from Rebecca and Cameron.”

“Sean and Tom are excellent debaters,” Philip added. “They work seamlessly together, like they can read each others’ minds.”

Since December, the debaters—and an additional 10 student researchers—have been compiling data and preparing arguments on the Second Amendment, this year’s topic.

“We were looking at gun control,” explained Martel. “The affirmative position essentially argues that the status quo is working, but you have to research and find evidence to support both positions.”

The competitors felt that their debate team experience has been valuable.

“It’s given me confidence with public speaking and delivering a sound argument,” noted Bristow.

Clinton agreed.

“For me, it’s the research—being able to defend your position,” he said. “In the workplace, your ideas are going to be challenged and it’s important to know your stuff.”

Debate team coach and English/history teacher Dr. Robert Wilson reflected on the season.

“My most memorable time was watching our two teams practice against each other with no one else around in a chilly Suffern Village Hall room one late Sunday afternoon at the end of February recess,” he recalled. “We had missed practices due to snow days. The students were truly dedicated to be there on time and ready to work.”

Photo caption: Suffern High School debate teams, pictured with advisor Dr. Robert Wilson, placed first and fourth in the 2014 Rockland County Debate Championship on March 25.

Career Week brings students and professionals together

posted Apr 9, 2014, 7:28 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Apr 9, 2014, 7:28 AM ]

[April 9, 2014] Beginning March 31, Suffern High School celebrated its 2nd Annual Career Week. Each day during unit lunch, students are invited to meet with professionals representing a broad range of careers, from airline pilot to FBI agent to restaurateur. 

“The Guidance Department has been working closely with the Suffern Rotary to bring in fun, dynamic and relevant speakers to give our students an authentic glimpse of a variety of careers,” reported Director of Guidance Sarah Kern. “In conjunction with our guest speakers, counselors will be meeting with the entire 10th grade throughout the week to facilitate career workshops to help students gain insight on their strengths and identify possible future career goals.”

On April 3, Suffern Rotary members John Shepitka and Dr. Kenneth Blank shared their motivation for vocational outreach to Suffern High School.

“Kids are pushed into studies so much these days, that they don’t get to work with their hands,” said Shepitka, a principal with A&J Reliable, Inc., an exterior construction firm. “The construction trades are very creative and it’s real world, physical—not theoretical—work.”

Blank, a chiropractor, recalled being inspired as a student by adults who visited his high school to talk about their careers.

“Hearing the real life experiences from people in the field helped me make connections that wouldn’t have been possible by reading a book or seeing a movie,” he remarked.

As for advice, Blank shared what served him when he was in high school.

“You have to pick something you enjoy. My work is extremely rewarding—I get paid to do what I love to do. It’s a hands-on, inside-out approach to problem solving; people come to me for help when they aren’t getting results with traditional medicine,” he explained.

For active students who can’t envision themselves in an office setting, a career in the construction trades or chiropractic care is worth considering.

“Either way, it’s about creating a positive change for people,” Blank said.

Suffern High School extends its thanks to Suffern Rotary and all its Career Week presenters: Dr. Kevin Barret, Donalee Berard, Gina Bertolino, Brian Brooker, Dr. Kenneth Blank, Lauren Kohn Brown, Teri Duke, Maryann Goldman, Laura Hudson, Dan Johnson, Debi Klein, Dennis O’Connell, Marcello Russodivito, Rona Shah and John Shepitka.

Photo caption 1: Dr. Kenneth Blank spoke with students during Suffern High School’s 2nd Annual Career Week.

Photo caption 2: Suffern Rotary members John Sheptika (left) and Dr. Kenneth Blank (right) promoted construction trades and chiropractic practice as active, hands-on careers for students who like to problem-solve and achieve tangible results.

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