[December 5, 2013] On November 21, 15 Suffern High School students were recognized for determination and perseverance during the first Mountie PRIDE Luncheon of the 2013-14 academic year.
The Mountie PRIDE Award has become an important tradition at Suffern High School. Teachers nominate students who are “unsung heroes”—those who have worked hard to overcome challenges—or go the extra mile—and achieve success.
Congratulations to: Keren Appelbaum, George Blankson, Jenna Borenkoff, Mitch Brodsky, Heather Clifford, Justin Galfo, Austin Jennings, Riley Mallet, Samantha Mazen, Adil Myrzabekov, Emily Quiros, John Saviano, Rebecca Silver, Jon-Carols Villegas and Jessica Wenz.
[December 5, 2013] The Holocaust Museum & Study Center honored Suffern Middle School counselor Travis Jackson with its Education Award at the organization’s annual benefit brunch on November 3.
Jackson was cited as a leader in promoting tolerance and anti-bullying messages through his work with students. As a school counselor, he has worked closely with the Holocaust Museum & Study Center to bring Holocaust survivors, liberators and educators to Suffern Middle School each year for the past six years.
“Young people need to be taught the importance of civility, tolerance, character and empathy in this day and age. This is a critical task for all educators—myself included,” said Jackson. “Every year, the feedback I receive from students, parents and faculty reinforces that learning about the Holocaust through the eyes, hearts and voices of those who lived through it is the absolute right thing to do.”
Caption: HMSC Education Award recipient Travis Jackson in his office at Suffern Middle School.
[December 2, 2013] Cherry Lane art teacher Nicole MacKenzie uses her classroom as a laboratory for STEAM—by integrating Art into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning.
Second-graders learning about wind in science class are also experimenting with the element in art. MacKenzie is harnessing their developing understanding to teach a bit of art history. She’s even taken students on a virtual field trip to Amsterdam.
“Who is the artist that shows wind with use of line?” she asked a recent class.
“Vincent Van Gogh!” Natalia replied.
“Can you name a painting that is an example of how Van Gogh uses line to show wind?” MacKenzie inquired.
Twenty-three hands flew in the air.
“Starry Night,” responded Matilda, as an image of the painting appeared on the Promethean Board.
Students quickly set to work on Van Gogh-inspired crayon drawings to adorn paper windsocks which, when completed, will hang in the hallway outside the art room.
Part of the aim of the project is to teach students to apply pressure to create strong lines with crayons, as opposed to just shading.
But why align art instruction with a science unit?
“For our visual learners,” MacKenzie explained. “Literally, air and wind are invisible—you can’t see them. But students can connect with these forces by seeing how they act on windsocks they create.”
Matilda offered an additional reason.
“It will help with ideas if we have to do a science project, because we’ll already know how to work with wind,” she said.
Caption: Christopher shows off his Van Gogh-inspired windsock, a science-infused art project designed by teacher Nicole MacKenzie.
[November 27, 2013] Room 30 at Montebello Elementary School was bustling on November 25, as kindergarteners celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with song, art and a hearty breakfast.
The much-anticipated, annual event was organized by teachers and class parents who were especially thankful for the generosity of the Airmont Diner, which donated pancakes, sausage, eggs and fruit salad for the 60 students.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Caption: Montebello kindergarteners were in a festive mood for their November 25 Thanksgiving breakfast.
[November 26, 2013] Cherry Lane third-graders in teacher David Grammerstorf’s class are sharing their love of math…on YouTube.
Students have teamed up to produce video tutorials that demonstrate expanded addition and subtraction problem-solving techniques.
Fiona and Jenna, who report that they “love math,” collaborated on an expanded subtraction tutorial.
“When we first started, we had three equations,” explained Fiona. “But we decided to do a regrouping problem, because we’re good at it.”
Choosing a problem to demonstrate, writing a script, practicing delivery and learning to use Camtasia and Inspire are all part of the project, which aims to build mastery of basic operations. The tutorials, posted on Grammerstorf’s YouTube channel, are also available to help others—including parents assisting their children with homework.
“People can log on and we can show them how to solve this type of problem,” Jenna noted.
“Providing an authentic audience for students is highly motivating,” said Grammerstorf. “Also, by going through the process of creating effective tutorials, students develop a high level of understanding of the topics they are teaching.”
Grammerstorf promises that tutorials on fractions and other concepts will be posted throughout the year, so stay tuned.
Caption: Fiona and Jenna proudly displayed their video tutorial on expanded subtraction during a recent visit with David Grammerstorf’s third-grade class at Cherry Lane Elementary School.
[November 26, 2013] Motivational speaker Jerry Ackerman had seventh- and eighth-graders on their feet and at the edge of their seats during Suffern Middle School’s Olweus kickoff assemblies earlier this month. Ackerman’s engaging presentation focused on personal responsibility and leadership.
“When you go online, it is your responsibility. Every picture you upload, every video you link to, every comment you post is forever,” Ackerman advised. “As you all digitally catalogue your present, you are dictating your future. It matters. College admissions counselors and employers can find out who you are by what you put out there. Think twice—because once you hit “send,” you can’t get it back.”
Since its roll-out in Suffern Middle School last year, the Olweus anti-bullying curriculum has been expanded with new lessons for students in grades seven and eight.
“Our overall goal is to develop three distinct years of curriculum,” explained Principal Brian Fox. “We are able to tailor the framework to meet our school’s needs.”
Feedback from teachers and administrators and the results of an annual, anonymous student survey inform program development.
“The data from last year’s study indicated an increase in students’ empathy and a decrease in their fear of being bullied,” Fox reported.
Monthly classroom meetings will cover a number of topics related to bullying-prevention and provide students with the support they need to stand up and stop bullying.
“From the kickoff through the classroom meetings, the curriculum is designed to reinforce the key message: ‘Bully-free starts with me,’” noted eighth-grade school counselor Travis Jackson.
Bullying prevention resources for parents are available online at the Olweus site.
Caption: Motivational speaker Jerry Ackerman led eighth-graders in a role play exercise, as part of an anti-bullying assembly at Suffern Middle School.
[November 22, 2013] Suffern High School Robotics was a formidable presence at the FIRST Tech Challenge Fall Harvest Qualifier in Marlton, NJ on November 16.
With four teams entered, Suffern was nominated for four of six total judged awards—and won three: Think! Award (Team 7450), Innovate Award (Team 7486) and Control Award (Team 7488). Team 7488 was also a nominee for the PTC Design Award.
In the competition arena, three Suffern High School teams advanced to the Championship Rounds. Team 7450 made it to the Final Championship Round, finished in the second place Alliance and out-scored every other individual team at the competition.
Want to learn more about FIRST Tech Challenge robotics? Volunteer for the Lower Hudson Valley FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier on January 12 at Suffern High School. Judges and referees are needed—no prior or technical experience necessary. Click here to learn more or email Suffern High School math teacher and robotics advisor George Mugno.
Caption: Suffern Robotics members were back in the shop this week to tweak their designs in preparation for the January qualifier.
[November 20, 2013] Suffern High School students in teacher Rob Addon’s health classes learned about the dangers of drinking and driving from Town of Ramapo Police Department Detective Dennis Procter and Officer Jonathan Quinn last week. Procter and Quinn discussed the effects of alcohol on the body, laws surrounding drinking and driving and roadside tests police officers use. Students were given the opportunities to role play specific scenarios police officers typically see, utilize tools which simulate the effects of alcohol on the body and ask questions.
The presentation was made through Rockland County STOP-DWI, a collaborative, community-based program which aims to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence and reduce the use of alcohol as a socially acceptable drug.
“Detective Procter and Officer Quinn were well received by all the students as they learned about the perspective of police officers and how to conduct themselves on a daily basis to keep the public safe,” reported Addon.
Caption: Town of Ramapo Police Officer Jonathan Quinn raised students’ awareness of the health and legal consequences of drinking and driving, as part of a November STOP-DWI presentation at Suffern High School.
[November 19, 2013] Suffern Middle School’s award-winning, student environmental organization—the Green Team—kicked-off a new, lunchtime composting program on November 6.
“We’re composting to cut down on the amount of garbage we produce,” reported Brandon, a sixth-grade member of the Green Team. “It’s unnecessary to have stuff that can be recycled, or used to help feed people, being wasted.”
Students are being encouraged to dispose of their compostable food waste, primarily fruits and vegetables, in compost pails located in the cafeteria recycling centers. At the end of the each collection day, Green Team co-advisor and science teacher Elio Ficarella transfers the material outside to large compost bins in the school garden.
“Our Grounds staff have pitched in by gathering up leaves that can be layered with the food waste to create the compost,” Ficarella said. “When they visited last month, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners explained that properly layered compost doesn’t emit an odor.”
By spring, the Green Team hopes to have three of the eight bins (all purchased through a REACH Foundation grant) full of ready-to-use compost. The Master Gardeners are scheduled to return in early spring to recommend low-maintenance plantings.
Meanwhile, as the sixth-grade lunch period drew to a close, Green Team members Alicia and Kyra assessed the launch.
“It went well,” Alicia noted. “But we expect participation to build over time as people get used to it. A lot of times, people are in a rush to get outside. So, they just need to remember to compost.”
Although he’s not a Green Team member, Patrick is a strong supporter of the campaign.
“It’s a good idea,” he said. “It makes the soil rich and helps create a cleaner environment.”
Green Team co-advisor and math teacher sees the program as an opportunity to both educate and build community.
“We had a great start,” she said. “It was nice to see students excited about the program—dropping their apple cores and banana peels in the composting containers and asking questions. Many of our Green Team members compost at home, but others didn’t know what composting was. It’s terrific learning experience for everyone—and another way to bring students and teachers together for a great cause.”
The Green Team would like to thank the Solid Waste Management Authority, the REACH Foundation, the Suffern Middle School PTA and Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners program for their support of this endeavor.
Caption: Alicia and Kyra felt that the first day of the composting campaign was a success.
[November 18, 2013] Third-graders in Dr. Cortney Steffens’ class were given Sony Xperia Z tablets to experiment with last month, as part of Steffens’ work as a Sony Education Ambassador.
“Students had their own tablet for a month to complete work in school,” Steffens explained. “I assigned mini projects which enabled them to use the tablet in authentic ways, ultimately, to create a video or audio presentation demonstrating their knowledge of map skills and landforms.”
Students were challenged to use three apps of their choice to produce their presentations.
“Technology makes learning fun,” said Jonathan. “With the tablets, we can work a lot faster. We don’t have to wait to print out a picture and paste it on a piece of paper. We can just open an app and insert the picture in, like, two seconds.”
“We’re bored with computers,” added Morgan. “We want to use tablets. They’re faster and you can take pictures and move around to work with different partners. And, you don’t lose stuff because it’s all in the device.”
Ease of collaboration is a big benefit with tablets, according to students who reported that the devices made sharing and editing each others’ work simple.
“If my partner was home sick, but our project was due the next day, I could share the presentation with her. Then, she could make changes that would make it better and send it back,” Jonathan said.
The students also noticed that working with devices boosted their ability to focus on assignments in class.
“If I was reading a regular book, I’d get distracted and say to my friend, ‘Hey, do you want to have a play date after school today?’” Lexi acknowledged.
“But with a device it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I get to use the tablet!’ and it’s so exciting that you don’t even notice that there’s someone sitting right next to you,” said Morgan.
The class has launched a letter-writing campaign asking Sony to send the tablets back.
“They have way more battery power and storage than other devices,” Morgan noted. “You can have hundreds of apps and the battery stays at 100%.”
Looking for educational apps to try at home? Lexi, Morgan and Jonathan gave high marks to PicCollage, Lensoo Create and Math Heroes.
To learn more, check out Steffens’ blog post on her students’ experience with tablets.
Caption: Jonathan and Morgan were eager to discuss the educational advantages of working with tablets in the classroom.