Dennis Creedon
Dear Parents and Community Members,

It is hard to believe that the school year is quickly coming to an end. This year has been exceptional in many ways, and we have much of which to be proud. Our Mahopac High School students are graduating and going on to prestigious colleges and universities. I am sure you all join me in congratulating them.

Students at all levels in our schools have achieved academic honors. Our athletic teams continue to make us proud, and our arts and music programs are thriving. Every school in our district is excellent and is staffed with highly skilled and dedicated teachers, administrators, and support personnel. 

As the summer approaches, we must turn our attention to keeping our children and youth safe from harm.  While out on our playing fields, we must be mindful of any large predators in the area. Young people out on Lake Mahopac need to be mindful of all safety rules and wear sun block and life jackets. Anyone who is riding a bike or skateboarding needs to wear protective gear and helmets for protection. Those who go hiking need to be mindful of ticks and should wear repellent. 

I look forward to welcoming our children and youth back to school come September.

I wish you and yours a wonderful and safe summer!
Dennis W. Creedon, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Mahopac Central School District

Mahopac Central School District
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Middle School Goes Full STEAM Ahead with Science Fair

Solar-powered kites, Rube Goldberg experiments, and bridge designing were just a few of the many elaborate experiments students presented at the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) Fair held at Mahopac Middle School in May.

"STEAM really embraces 21st century learning," said Middle School Principal Vincent DiGrandi, "which is why this fair was so exciting!" 

The fair, organized by Middle School teacher Beth Hicks and library media specialist JoAnn Bronschidle as well as High School teacher Elizabeth Stephens, was successful thanks to financial donations by both school PTOs and the Mahopac Teachers Association. Many of the presentations, from students in grades six through 12, involved hands-on learning for student visitors of all ages.

"Three years ago we held a science fair for the sixth grade only, said DiGrandi, "but we've expanded it each year to include more grades." 

Because of the STEAM nature of the fair, students were limited only by their imaginations. They presented projects involving levitating rocks, testing the strength of electromagnetic forces, and a Rube Goldberg-type experiment that ended with a candle being blown out, among other innovative projects.

Mahopac resident and Middle School parent Dr. Alan Rabinowitz discussed his work as a big-cat expert and educated students on protecting wild-cat species.

Principal DiGrandi with big-cat expert 
Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
In art, students created 3-D stars, which adorned the school during the fair. The students reflected on how math played a role in the paper-construction process of their creations.

"This was not the science fair from when we were kids," DiGrandi said. "I was blown away by what these students were doing." Though the fair was held on a Saturday, "we actually had to usher the students out when it was time to leave," DiGrandi said. "They wanted to stay!"

Imaginative projects were the norm in the STEAM fair.

Students take advantage of one of the Book Nooks at the high school
At Mahopac High School, a 'Novel' Approach to Reading  

Students who want a comfortable place to sit, read, think, learn, work, chat quietly, or do homework (or all of those things) can visit the newly installed Book Nooks at Mahopac High School.

Located in cozy corners throughout the school, the nooks were installed in response to students' request to have a middle ground between the cafeteria, which can be loud; and the quiet, more serious tone of the school's library.  

The nooks consist of clusters of comfortable furniture that have been placed in common areas around the building.  Said Principal Adam Pease, "We didn't have space for a student lounge, so we had to think creatively about what space we do have to meet this student need."  

Several of the book nook spaces are equipped with outlets, and one has a charging station, where students can charge their devices.  "It is our hope that these new nooks will support our mission to make sure that every student is socially, emotionally and academically successful," said Pease.

To promote literacy and the love of reading, free book exchanges accompany many of the book nooks. Inspired by the Little Free Libraries that are springing up in neighborhoods across the country, two of the nooks are equipped with small wooden bookcases with transparent doors.

April Ljumic, MHS House Principal and leader of the School Climate Committee, said, "Students are free to leave a book and/or take a book whenever they'd like. This free and easy access to books encourages a culture of literacy in our teens."

Donations of books are graciously accepted by Mahopac High School. The book exchanges are open, thanks to the generous donations of several MHS parents and the Mahopac Public Library.

Pease has good reason to be optimistic about this creative use of space. "These book nooks support many of our core values, including the education of the whole child, social and emotional health, literacy, and flexibility in learning. The schools of tomorrow will not look like the schools of today.  One of the biggest differences will be the flexibility in how we use space and time. We look forward to expanding and developing this idea."  

Lakeview Students Discover the World Through Technology
Lakeview Elementary School students do research, write papers, take tests and more on their Chromebooks as part of a pilot program.
"Who can tell me something about Michelangelo?" Lakeview Elementary School teacher Mary Kurtz asked her fifth grade class. Within seconds, one student had found the statue of David. Another chimed in,  "Here's a picture of the Sistine Chapel. Wow-look at the ceiling!" 

The students were not leafing through textbooks, but rather using their Chromebooks to discover facts and photos about the Great Master with the click of a button. Part of the Mahopac School District's continuing mission to foster 21st century learning through the use of technology, 30 Chromebooks were purchased as a pilot program for Mary Kurtz's fifth grade class and Helen Leibell's fourth grade class.

The two classes share the Chromebooks, which are laptops that store data on a cloud-based server on the Internet, between their classes.

"The students love them, and we love them!" said Kurtz. Each class is able to use the Chromebooks for  two-and-a-half days per week. "It works out great, and we're very flexible if someone needs more time," Kurtz said.

Students can do research, take tests, write assignments, and do reports and practice tests, at home or at school, all on their Chromebooks.

Leibell says she loves the fact that she can get instant feedback on assignments she gives her students. "I can immediately see what a student's progress is," she said, "and I can give them feedback right away as well, which is useful to them."

Today Kurtz's students are studying the Renaissance. "They can do the research, collect information, and write papers using the Chromebooks," Kurtz said. She also likes the way the devices can facilitate peer editing. "Students can edit each other's work even while they are at home," Kurtz said, adding that she decides who can share files with whom. "And I can write comments and edit their work, and they can immediately respond," she said.

In addition to the instant learning and feedback the Chromebooks provide students and teachers, there is an environmental component as well. "Instead of having 25 piles of paper for each assignment, now we do everything on the Chromebooks," Leibell said. "It really cuts down on paper waste."

As for program glitches, Leibell and Kurtz have found that students are the experts. "They often help us out with troubleshooting any issues and can resolve them before we do," Leibell said, with a laugh.

"Yes," agreed Kurtz, "the children were experts with the technology right from the start!"

Since children have grown up with technology, they are naturals with the Chromebooks. "They take good care of them and are more engaged in learning now than ever," Leibell said.

Teachers Helen Leibell, left, and Mary Kurtz are piloting the use of Chromebooks in their classrooms at Lakeview Elementary School.
Fifth grader Megan said she likes the active learning the Chromebooks provide. "We're not just working out of textbooks, and the Chromebooks are much more fun to use," she said. "Plus, we can work on our own with them."

Fourth grader Cameron said she likes the typing programs and lessons she can do on the Chromebook. "We do a lot of typing, so it's really good to learn how to do it the right way," she said.

While Kurtz no longer writes handwritten assignments and information on the white board in her classroom (she uses her SMART Board and Chromebook for those things now), it still has a function.

"We use it to post the names of websites!" Kurtz said.

Trout Make It to Stream, Thanks to Fulmar Road Students    

It was a beautiful day for a homecoming, as Fulmar Road Elementary School fifth graders released the trout they had raised from eggs into a stream at the sunlit Ward Pound Ridge Reservation recently. 

While it wasn't their original home, the trout had outgrown their tanks and will certainly be happier in their new environment, which is all part of the plan. 

Trout in the Classroom is an environmental education program in which students in grades k-12 raise trout from eggs, monitor tank water quality, and study stream habitat before releasing the trout into a state-approved stream. The program is part of an effort to conserve, protect and restore North America's cold-water fisheries and their watershed.

Fulmar Road fifth graders release the trout they have raised since they were eggs into a river at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.
"Fulmar Road has participated in Trout in the Classroom for 17 years," said fifth grade teacher Tom Jordan. "For seven months each year, our students engage in raising, caring for and studying the trout from the time they are eggs, until we release them." In addition to the hands-on learning it provides, "the program really helps students to learn responsibility," Jordan said.

The students clearly were enthralled. "It is so cool that we have raised them from the time they were eggs, and now we get to let them go free!" said fifth grader Patrick.

Echoed fifth grader Jamie, "We have been taking care of them since October. I'm going to miss them!"

'Iditaread' Encourages Reading and Adventure at Austin Road          
Students at Austin Road make "huskies" like the ones racing in the Iditarod.

Students at Austin Road Elementary School may not have had to race through blizzards and icy winds on sleds pulled by huskies like the mushers in the Iditarod Race do--but they were still competitive about the event. For the fourth year in a row, the students competed in "Iditaread," a national program that encourages children to compete with each other during the Iditarod race to see which grade can do the most after-school reading. 

The school's site-based team came up with the idea to do an Iditaread four years ago, according to Amy Morrison, building coordinator and Academic Intervention Services teacher at Austin Road. The program has taken off to the point where virtually every hallway and classroom was decorated with huskies, trails maps and photos of Alaska during the race, which began in March and lasts for weeks. Morrison, who has five huskies of her own, filled a giant display case in the hall of the school with her own considerable husky memorabilia, including a dogsled, snow shoes and many other artifacts. 

Students in Danielle Fearns' first-grade class made their own stuffed baby huskies in preparation for the Iditaread. They had been studying huskies in class. The students put a pound of rice to fill in the body, which is made from a sock.

"We stuffed them with a pound of rice because that's how much huskies weigh when they are born," said one first grader.

First grader Aidan added, "We learned that huskies are born blind, but that they can see later on." 

Added fellow student Joey, "We also learned that the baby huskies race to see who gets fed first." 

"There are lesson plans online, but our teachers really came up with their own great ideas based on what interests them and their students," said Morrison, who has been an avid fan of the Iditarod race for years.

Amy Morrison in front of the display of Iditarod memorabilia at Austin Road.
Students grade-wide tracked their reading minutes, and their teachers added up the minutes per grade. Each grade had a representative husky icon on a large chart of the Iditarod racecourse, which was placed in the hallway of the school. Every three days, teachers moved the huskies for their grade forward the appropriate amount for the minutes read. The class that read the most at each grade level got ice cream. The winning grade got a party as a prize, all donated by the Austin Road PTO. 

In Lisa Coen's fifth grade class, students created an Iditarod "museum," which was open to kindergartners to visit and included interactive displays and a student-made yurt (circular tent).

"Iditaread is really designed to get students excited about reading and help them learn about a part of our American history," said Morrison. "Every year the students look forward to it more and more!" 

Mahopac Mission  
  The mission of the Mahopac Central School District is to ensure that every student acquires  
the skills,  knowledge, attitudes and interpersonal skills prerequisite to operate effectively   
in the broader community and lead a successful, productive life in a changing world. 

Board of Education 
Michael J. Sclafani, President; Marc Pekowsky, Vice President
Roger Bell; Daniel Hunter; Carolann Lacoparra;    
 Dr. Brian Mahoney; Leslie Mancuso; Lucy Massafra; Tilde Zimmerman    

 Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Dennis W. Creedon

District Clerk
Jennifer Bisaccia   

Published by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES: 
Karen Thornton, Editor; Maria Ilardi, Art Director