Volume 4
Issue 1
In This Issue

Fire Safety at Walden
Thanks to Yorktown fire volunteer and BOCES teaching assistant Wesley Curtis, our students at Pines Bridge and Walden had a chance to check out a fire truck up close and learn about fire safety. Here, Arturo Cruz checks out the driver's seat.

Walden's New Librarian: Esmelinda Bucchignano
Esmelinda Bucchignano 

Esmelinda Bucchignano, t he new librarian at Walden School, is enthusiastic not just about the fabulous books she gets to share with the students but also about sharing with them the wonders of a library.
"I want to help the students know about libraries and all they offer in addition to appreciating great books and authors," she said gushing over "The Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss books and the ever-popular "Good Night Moon."
"I have the opportunity to make these children lifelong lovers of libraries, which are in every community and offer so much," she added.
The Walden library, which serves students in Walden and Pines Bridge schools, has some computers and iPods for students to share and is building up its supply of graphic novels and audiobooks so in its own way is trying to keep current with new technology and trends.
Bucchignano has continued the tradition of reading to the students, but has added the element of playing appropriate music to coordinate with the books. For example, when she read stories about rainforests she played music of the sounds of animals and birds.
"I love seeing their reactions," she explained.
With this new position Bucchignano is actually making a return to the BOCES campus. 
She was a classroom aide for four years at the Walden school leaving to take a position in the offices of the Peekskill school district and then stayed home with her children for some years.
"I'm back and I'm here to stay. I love this place - the students are eager to learn and the staff is so warm and dedicated," she said.
Bucchignano has introduced new initiatives to the library: monthly workshop concentrations to engage the students, who at Walden have a diverse set of skills and talents.
In October, Bucchignano focused on teaching students basic Spanish words such as numbers and colors.  In November, she focused on working with puzzles.
Children will just have stop by the library to find out what she has planned for the rest of the year.

Fine Art Meets Theater in 
'Where the Wild Things Are' 
Students took on the roles of wild things in the Walden and Pines Bridge rendition of Where the Wild Things Are

The gym at Walden was transformed into "Max's bedroom" recently for the art department's "Where the Wild Things Are" play, from the book of the same name by Maurice Sendak. Students from Walden, Pines Bridge, CLASS and Intensive Therapeutic Support Program (ITSP) acted out the play, with outstanding life-size paintings of the monsters, which students created. 

Art teacher Jesse Steiner and teaching assistant Debbie Canzio spearheaded the project, making it a collaboration of painting, design, music and theater.

"We wanted to jump right into the year with a production, so we started working on the play with the students on September 12,th which was only a couple of weeks into the school year," said Steiner. "Our students worked making characters, sets and props for six weeks. All of the students in our Pines Bridge, CLASS, Learning center and ITSP classes were involved in their own way. Every student had a hand in making our play come alive."

And come alive it did, as the stage was transformed into Max's bedroom, complete with life-sized trees, monsters, and all manner of wild things.

"The closer we got to the date of the play the more excited our students were about who was doing what and how it was all going to work," said Steiner. "I think part of what was magical for the kids was that week to week they saw what they were working on, but they didn't always see the work of students in other classes. So when it all came together on stage with music and a large audience, I think that it really became special for our students."

While the students were instrumental in making the play a success, it took a group effort to make it work. 

"They all helped, but none of them could have done it alone," said Steiner. "While the spectacle of the show was impressive, what lay underneath was a feeling of belonging and the feeling of community and the pride that comes from working together."

Steiner also credits the staff with making the show a success.
"The staff that works with our kids and comes to art every week is nothing short of extraordinary," he said. "They know their students so well and were invaluable in helping our students to participate to their fullest. I also have to credit several staff members who were invaluable with managing some of our sets and insuring that our play came together. A big thank you to: Bob Tapps, Mike Watson, Ann Moreno, Steve Feldman, Tom Oakes, Judy Gillet and Barbara Waldron."

Batmobile-like Vehicle Wows 
Walden Students
"Holy Hoodwink, Batman...It's a Polaris Slingshot"

The Walden School at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES had a special vehicle pull up to its front door one day this fall. It looked like a Batmobile but "Holy Hoodwink" ...  it was a Polaris Slingshot auto-cycle.

The three-wheeled auto-cycle angled around the circular driveway at the PNWBOCES campus to the absolute delight of students and staff.  Within seconds students began peppering the vehicle's owner Chris Antelo with questions and pleas to sit behind the wheel.

"Can I drive it," shouted out Ryan Bynes, 6. "I really want to drive the car."

He did get to sit in the driver's seat as did nearly 30 other Walden students and dream of what it might be like to drive a car that is a dead ringer to Batman's main transportation.

"All little boys - oh and some girls, too - love cars. And this one is quite special," Teacher Linda Batto said. 

Teacher Thomas Oakes, Jr., said he expects this will inspire some students to do some research on cars, motorcycles, movies and super heroes - and generate some interesting classroom discussions.

"It is unique and it gets you thinking, wondering," he said.

Student Chris Colmey, 18, was thrilled to take his place behind the wheel. 

"I like the seat and every part of the car," he announced. "It looks the real, actual Batmobile."

The owner Antelo,  a 2003 graduate from Somers High School, received training in auto mechanics from BOCES during high school so bringing his beloved new toy to BOCES is  like coming home.  He has been into motorcycles, quads, dirt bikes for years and his hobby remains auto mechanics. In fact, he says he is helping his 18-year-old brother build his own car.  This is not his vocation. He works for Home & Hearth in Cortlandt, but has passed the corrections officer exam and hopes to begin training shortly.

Antelo purchased the vehicle 2 ½ months ago and has already put on 1,000 miles.  "Everywhere I go people ask me about it. It is a lot of fun, especially when the people are driving much more expensive cars," he said. 

The car cost $24,500 fills up with 9.6 gallons of premium gasoline.  It lacks a roof, but has plenty of charm.  The large bucket style are very low to the ground just like a European sports car.  Strings of red lights in the rear flash when brakes are applied.  Triangular panels jut out in the front and back giving the vehicle a sporty, but super hero, vibe.  

Lightweight at about 1,600 pounds, the vehicle has 175 horsepower and a Chevrolet engine.  It is registered as a motorcycle and helmets are required. The vehicle can traverse roadways just as a car or motorcycle. 

Antelo has been delighting children for weeks by bringing his car on special visits for no charge. 

"I am happy to help people dream," he said as the children anxiously waited for a chance to take a closer look. "They are having a blast. It expands what is possible and real."

And Kimari Foster, 6 of North Salem agreed: "It is a dream come true. I never saw a Batmobile before."

Making Music at Walden and 
Pines Bridge

Kathhleen Pemble strums guitar while students play the electric keyboard and tambourine

There is nothing quiet about the weekly sessions taught by Kathleen Pemble at Pines Bridge School. 

Students in her music classes shake tambourines, tap on a xylophone and pound on steel drums.   And these student musicians beam with smiles as Pemble leads them with her guitar and melodic voice.

The goal, says Pemble, is to "get students and staff to work together to engage in a musical activity -- to keep a steady beat and stay in the right key.  And it is not always so easy."

"Music, like a lot activities, has a beginning, middle and end," she says. "I want the sstudents to learn to follow a pattern and just do their best and try something they haven't done before."

Arturo Cruz Avellan of Mt. Vernon raised his hand quickly when Pemble called for a volunteer to play the electronic keyboard.  He wanted a jazz sound, and with help, tapped forcefully on C, D and G keys. 

The students were playing the tuneful song, "Put the Lime in the Coconut" that made both students and teachers sway to the beat.

"Good job," said Pemble, bringing a big smile to Arturo's face and getting him to press those keys with a little more confidence.

Holding a tambourine Shannel Lewis of Yonkers took a few tries to realize that she could both tap on the drum part and shake the instrument to make the cymbals jingle.   And it took restraint on her part to hold still until the sound was needed.

When done with the class, Pemble said. "May I have that back?"

"Uh- Uh," Shannel said clutching it. But then she followed instructions and gently handed it back.

Pemble, a singer-songwriter who has a degree in industrial design, has always been drawn to music.  Her mother was a piano teacher and she plays the guitar, piano, bass and ukulele.

But working with students from Walden and Pines Bridge is a special passion for Pemble.

"It takes a bit longer to get to know these children and help them to understand that making noise is a good goal.  When there is improvement and they like the sound, it is a great experience for all of us," she said. "They are making intentional choices about what they are playing."

Her class is certainly fast-paced as she moves from classroom to classroom in the building.  Each session is 30 minutes long with five minutes in between.  She rolls into each room pushing a three-tiered cart filled with instruments, tools, pitch pipes and various shaped mallets.

"The students are working on many different skills while engaged in an enjoyable activity. The music program addresses listening and comprehension skills, waiting and turn taking," said special education teacher Judy Gillet. 

"The music program," she added, "offers a multisensory learning experience that is so important for students with disabilities.  It addresses the tactile, kinesthetic, auditory and visual systems in the brain.  It offers a way of communicating for students who are nonverbal."

A school-based fund-raising effort helps maintain this music program.

Educating Tomorrow's Voters

A student votes behind the privacy barrier while another signs
in to vote. Teaching Assistant Ana Pascarelli and BOCES Superintendent
Dr. James Ryan look on.

There's no question this year's presidential election was one for the history books. That's why Debra Haggerty, a teacher at the Walden School at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES, spent the last few weeks teaching her students about electoral process, culminating in a mock election held on November 7th.

Students in Haggerty's class not only learned about the three branches of government, they had the opportunity to learn about the two major parties, heard from elected officials from both parties, registered to vote in Walden's mock election, and cast their vote on Monday, November 7th. 

"I wanted them to understand the responsibility of being a U.S. citizen and the privilege of being a citizen," Haggerty said, adding that the class stayed away from discussing specifics about either presidential candidate. Instead, the class focused on civic responsibility and discussed respecting different points of view.

Along the way, the students learned about women's suffrage and about the15th amendment granting African American men the right to vote. "The kids were surprised that there was a time when women and African Americans could not vote," Haggerty said.

"We got to learn about politics and ask questions," said Jaden McCrae, adding that he liked getting his picture taken with state Sen. Terrence Murphy and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, each of whom visited the class.

Every step in the electoral process was played out as realistically as possible, with students registering to vote in advance and signing in to vote on "election day" just as adult voters do on the real election day. Monday's polling place featured a table where voters looked up their names and signed in to vote, a paper ballot and a privacy screen for voting. 

Fiona O'Hare-Brini, a seventh grader, said it was exciting to vote. "I think it is a close election," Fiona said. "My family has always been interested in the election and they are constantly talking about it."

Brandon Iscoa said it was his "first time voting," adding that before learning about the electoral process he wasn't really interested in the presidential election. "Now, I am much more interested. People are worried about who will win this election." 

For those who are interested, the winner of Walden's election was Hillary Clinton.

Ellen Lane, Editor
Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES

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