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School Libraries Becomes Spaces to Create

School Libraries Becomes Spaces to Create
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Libraries are being reimagined in the district with the adoption of the Makerspace movement to provide students with new opportunities for hands-on discovery.

Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School library Timothy Quinn has introduced a variety of high-tech and low-tech resources that stimulate creativity and support the development of problem-solving abilities. Fiddlestix is a 104-piece building kit of wooden sticks and circular connectors. Little Bits allow students to explore circuitry by putting different elements together to produce light and sound.

Mr. Quinn said that one popular resource is Makey Makey, in which students connect wires between a computer and ordinary objects to make music. They played the piano from scallions and the bongo drums using bananas. 

Makerspace at Park Avenue is based on the UTEC model — using, tinkering, experimenting and creating. Mr. Quinn said his STREAM team, a group of fifth and sixth grade students, used the resources first to help him identify ways to best incorporate them into the library curriculum.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “The Makerspace program is only going to get better because the possibilities are endless. We’re trying to build this space to so students can create something from nothing.”

Northeast Elementary School librarian Tina Smith recently debuted the Makerspace program for kindergartners. She has dedicated a corner of the library to the initiative and filled it with different building materials.

Ms. Smith’s approach to Makerspace is to have students participate in literacy-based, team-building challenges. Recently, kindergartners used recycled materials to build boats that could float in a tub of water. Before constructing, they explored scientific concepts including buoyancy and gravity. 

The idea came from a page that features a beach scene in the Debbie Clement book, “Red, White and Blue.” Although the book features illustrations representing locations all over America, Ms. Smith that page stood out to her because of Amityville’s proximity to the water. 

At Northeast, the Makerspace philosophy is “try and try again,” and Ms. Smith said that mistakes are just a normal part of the learning process. While she has facilitated the first few projects, students will have more independence in completing the challenges once they become familiar with the Makerspace expectations and materials.  

“I would like students to experience their learning, to ask questions, to try,” she said. “I want to encourage them to think, play and create and come up with a lot of different solutions to solve problems.”

Park Avenue Displays Appeal to the Senses

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To mark Autism Awareness Month, students at Park Avenue Elementary School created sensory walls throughout the first floor.

Park Avenue houses the district’s TEACCH program, which serves about 25 students with autism from kindergarten through sixth grade. Principal Robyn Santiago said that the school fosters an inclusive environment for the children, who take part in all school activities and programs. Several students from fourth through sixth grade classes serves as buddies for the TEACCH students by reading with them or playing together during recess. 

The sensory walls were created by students in the afterschool art and gaming clubs. They decorated several bulletin boards with spring-themed displays and objects that students and staff were encouraged to touch. 

On one board, children made clouds from cups, foam balls, paper plates and string. Another featured butterflies with colorful textured paint designs. There were sunflowers with gems and cut-up tissue on paper plates underneath a paper chain rainbow. A paper-plate caterpillar stretched across one bulletin board with a different texture on each circle. 

Ms. Santiago noted that while the puzzle piece is the traditional symbol for autism, the school created a different display. Every child at Park Avenue traced his or her hand on construction paper. The cut-out hands were put together on a wall to form a pair of wings, with just the right sized gap in between so students could take photos in front of it.

“We’re all individual pieces, we’re all unique,” she said, “but put us together and we create these beautiful wings.”

Chromebooks Engage Learners at Park Avenue

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The addition of hundreds of Chromebooks at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School is opening up new doors for digital learning. Every fourth- through sixth-grade classroom is equipped with a Chromebook cart with enough devices for every student.

Sixth-grade teacher Steve Gafarian uses the Chromebooks extensively to give students access to assignments on Google Classroom. He provides reading passages, and students can answer questions digitally, providing him with instant feedback on their understanding of the material. Recently, he had students compare two artists, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, by giving them articles and examples of their work.   

For students who are hesitant to answer a question out loud, Mr. Gafarian said that the Chromebooks provide them with an outlet to respond. When they aren’t in school, they can still use Google Classroom to access their assignments from a home computer or personal device. 

Teacher Howard Reiner likes to use the Chromebooks to review and reinforce material. Nearpod and Prodigy are an interactive tools that have become popular in his classroom. Nearpod includes review questions in any subject area along with tutorials that help students better understand a concept. Prodigy features math games which engages students because of the competition format. 

“Students love working on the Chromebooks,” Mr. Reiner said, “and it’s great for me to be able to assess them individually. These programs are a great tool to further my instruction.”

Park Avenue Students are Reading Champions

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March was a celebration of reading at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School in the Amityville Union Free School District. This year’s month-long Parents as Reading Partners program featured a variety of activities to encourage students to spend more time with books.

It kicked off with classroom read alouds as teachers shared their favorite books with their students. Each week there was a mystery reader over the school intercom, and students guessed who the reader was and what book he or she was reading. 

Volunteer readers visited classrooms throughout the school, including parents, teachers and administrators. On March 20, guests in sixth-grade classes included Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly, Assistant Superintendents Andrea Pekar and Dr. Thomas DeNicola, and Principal Robyn Santiago. 

Students kept track of their minutes read at home, with rewards for the top readers in each grade level, as well as the top class. Prizes included books, pencils and bookmarks that related to the PARP theme, “Reading Like a Champion.”

Spirit days encouraged students to wear jerseys, dress like their favorite athletes and come clad in school colors. A bulletin board featured pictures of teachers as youngsters along with their favorite childhood books. Art teacher Susan Zaratin hosted a bookmark design contest. The winning entry from each grade level would be reproduced for every student in that grade. 

PARP culminated with an evening celebration for students and parents on March 28. In addition to literacy activities, the school welcomed author Lysa Mullady to talk about two of her books, “Bye Bye Pesky Fly” and “Three Little Birds.”

Thursday, May 23, 2019