' A great place to learn."                                                                    
May 2011, Vol. 1: Issue 2




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Elementary Art: Integral to Deeper Learning

For Coman Hill second grader Erica Nicolelli, art class doesn't get much better than the unit on making clay pots. "This is the most fun in all three years," she enthused recently while preparing her pot for glazing.

Coman Hill art

Coman Hill second grader Lorraine DiSano works on her clay pot.
Art teacher Judy DeJarlar appreciates her enthusiasm and says she sees it all the time. "Art is really important to young children," she explains. "Seeing things visually and creating things themselves helps their understanding. It helps them interpret the world around them."

With her classes tied in with learning across the curriculum, art, Ms. DeJarlar says, is integral to the education of children. When second graders work on optical illusions in art, Ms. DeJarlar reviews math concepts, such as relationships between 2D and 3D shapes, angles, parallel lines, and symmetry.

"The more ways kids learn, the better they learn," Ms. DeJarlar says. "When they learn symmetry in math, they see symmetry in art. Science classroom concepts like translucence and transparency can also be examined in art. The connections enrich both subjects."

On the clay glazing day, Harry Smart learned another important lesson frequently grasped in art. Handing his pot to Ms. DeJarlar, he confided that he had "made a few mistakes."

"There are no mistakes in art," his teacher told him. And so another value of art class was revealed. "Art really helps build children's self-esteem," Ms. DeJarlar says.

She believes that it is at this young age when children find their creative side. "If they develop a love of art now, it's always going to be with them."

Research Exercise Teaches a Range of Skills at Wampus


Wampus fourth graders not only read Time for Kids, a pint-sized version of Time, they research and write their own magazine-style reports on topics as worldly as those covered in the international news journal.

cover story

Molly Toscano talks about her cover story on glass sculptures.

As part of their study of non-fiction, the students read the weekly in an introduction to the world of news magazines, savoring an in-depth cover story. Extending that lesson, they write a cover story of their own in a month-long exercise of research, culling, writing and publishing. It's a multidisciplinary exercise that allows students to follow their passions and show off their best work.


"By encouraging students to choose their own topics, we find they really get into it," says fourth grade teacher Heidi Marchesini. This year's fourth graders demonstrated encyclopedic interests, ranging from candy and ice cream, to the human brain, Canadian culture, and the White House.


The finishing touches are completed in the technology lab where students pull everything together in creating a poster presentation in Miscrosoft Publisher.


But that is not where the learning ends: The unit includes work on presentation skills, such as voice clarity and eye contact, and participation in a small-group presentation where they learn the art of constructive criticism. "It really is a soup-to-nuts experience, introducing students to a lot of concepts that they have to pull together," says Ms. Marchesini. "The Publisher document at the end is very rewarding for them."


For more photos and cover story examples click here.

Middle School Students Empowered to Take Action 


H.C. Crittenden Middle School students put down their books for a full day in March to attend workshops to learn about sustainability, human rights, social justice, and how to take action. It was the school's annual Power of One Day.

HCC Power of One

Sixth graders Maggie Croke (left) and Emma Fruhling at the lemonade stand they developed in their Power of One workshop on Alex's Lemonade Stand. The cause first started when 4-year-old Alex Scott wanted to raise money to help children with cancer. Since her death in 2004, Alex's Lemonade Stand has raised more than $35 million.

Jim Keady, a labor activist and director of the nonprofit Educating for Justice, set the tone of the day with a moving presentation about globalization and sweatshop labor in Nike factories overseas.  "He was very inspiring," said English Language Arts teacher Mary Staudt, who together with social studies teacher Sheila St. Onge, conceived Power of One Day five years ago. "Mr. Keady explained how students have the power to change their world." And he told them about a world that needed changing. "He described how labor costs in production are not just another line item. That labor means 'people' who deserve a fair wage for a fair day's work, just like anyone else," said Ms. Staudt.


Mr. Keady, who later ran a workshop entitled Behind the Swoosh: Sweatshops and Social Justice, told the audience that a $110 pair of Nikes has a $2.50 labor cost, and explained how tripling those wages would transform laborers' lives. His workshop involved students creating letters to Nike management encouraging fair labor practices.


It was one of 20 workshops the students could choose from, which ranged from learning about current issues in Afghanistan, where participants Skyped with a soldier, to designing T shirts for Tay-bandz, a fundraising organization started and run by kids. Workshops on sustainable farming, microfinancing, Fair Trade, and food security engaged the students. Power of One Day was a community affair, and included Town Councilman Michael Schiliro running a composting and recycling workshop and encouraging students to adopt green lifestyles. Even lunch period involved consciousness raising, with students running a variety of fundraisers, many conceived and created that morning.


"Power of One Day gives students an opportunity to create positive change in their world," says Ms. Staudt. "They tell me they feel inspired and empowered by the message.  I think this day is so important because these students are the future leaders of business and politics in our world. We hope they will remember the lessons of the day, and use their wonderful education, their many gifts and talents, and work towards building a better world not only now, but in the future."


At the end of the day, students heard from human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, and shared their workshop experiences in an all-school assembly to learn of all the initiatives that had been inspired by the day's activities.

More photos.

Students Get Their Hands On Physics at the High School

In Eric Savino's Concepts of Physics elective, there's not much work with pen and paper, or even computers. In this class, the most used tools are basic household materials: nails, thumbtacks, razor blades, paper clips, graphite pencil tips, pizza boxes, soda bottles ...

"We use materials that we might have at home and we make things we never thought we'd do," says senior Doug Kelsey. "We learn things we can actually use!" And they do. In a recent class, 1010 WINS was playing on a radio that the students had built.

BHHS Physics

Chad Marsh and Amanda Massoni work on an AM radio.

When planning his units for the year, Mr. Savino looks for everyday applications of physics and seeks input from his students, most of whom are seniors, successfully securing their interest at the same time. It was Miles Applebaum's passion for music that spawned a two-month unit on building an electric guitar. The project required learning some carpentry skills as well as the physics of vibration, electro magnetism and sound waves.

"We're free to make our own projects as long as we cover the curriculum," Mr. Savino says, explaining that the course covers the same physics concepts as Regents physics, "but without the rigorous math and trigonometry concepts."

Which is just the way these students like it. "He chooses really cool projects - it's a totally different way of doing science," says Cynthia Mickenberg.

Another project involves students building a crash test vehicle, with a raw egg serving as the test dummy. Using soda cans, scrap metal, and a plastic water bottle on a wood frame, James Dong's egg survived a 60 mph crash into a cinder block. "The unit was about the physics of collision and how auto designs minimize the danger of collision," explains Mr. Savino.

This year, students have built amplifiers for their iPods; rockets, which they launched outside; and wind turbines with a generator in the context of renewable energy sources -- the latter coming from Doug Kelsey's interest in environmental science.

In a civil engineering unit in which students learned about load-bearing forces and Newton's Three Laws, Andre Calvi built a structure, using just 15 popsicle sticks, that withstood 240 lbs -- more than 1,800 times its own weight.

"Physics is all around us; in this class students learn how to see it, so it is more meaningful," Mr. Savino explains. The students agree: "It's good stuff to know," says Amanda Massoni, adding, "he's a really good teacher." What's interesting about that comment is that this is Mr. Savino's first year of teaching. Although he studied engineering in college, he spent the past 15 years in finance. It's been a good move. "I love it," he says.

More photos.

Our Mission
In an environment of mutual respect, the Byram Hills School District and its community will provide students with the means, the knowledge, and the opportunity to excel in order to become productive and responsible citizens of the 21st century.
Byram Hills School District Board of Education: Mr. Brett Summers, President; Dr. Ann Tedesco, Vice President;
 Dr. Leslie Blum (Cziner); Dr. Alban Burke; Ms. Robin Glat; Ms. Joyce Meiklejohn; Mr. Ira Schulman

Dr. Jacquelyn Taylor, Superintendent
   Classroom Connection is published by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES