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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat

A look at activities in the Eldred Central School District






Congratulations & Best of Luck to all our Eldred Athletes & Cheerleaders for a successful season.


Artistic Director Tannis Kowalchuk of the NACL Theatre is helping students learn their school subjects through theatre.

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Using theatre as a tool to learn BY AUTUMN SCHANIL


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A Look at Activities in the Eldred School District SCHOOL SCENE Published by

Catskill-Delaware Publications, Inc. Publishers of the

(845) 887-5200 Callicoon, NY 12723 February 7, 2017 • Vol. CXXVI, No. 68

ather than learning the class curriculum at their desks, they’re pushing them aside and learning through theatre. Tannis Kowalchuk, Artistic Director at the NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, will be at both the High School and the Elementary School once a week to teach the subjects students are studying with movement, action and role play. “This is the second year that I’ve been working with the teachers and the administration to take whatever they are studying, which is mostly Humanities, English and Social Studies, and teach it with theatre,” said Kowalchuk. “It’s once a week for a sixweek residency. “So I come in, we push all the desks and chairs away, we do some physical exercises, we do fun theatre games and fun impulse games. The kids really love it because they’re not sitting at their desks and they get to think about their subjects, whether it’s history or poetry or mythology, and they get to act stuff out.” Publisher: Senior Editor: Editor: Sports Editor: Editorial Assistants: Advertising Director: Advertising Coordinator: Advertising Representatives: Special Sections Coordinator: Business Manager: Business Department: Telemarketing Coordinator: Classified Manager: Production Associates: Circulation & Distribution:

The students essentially learn about their studies in a structured, interesting way in which they also get to write their own pieces and skits. “It’s physical learning, it’s imagination and it’s connecting with each other,” Kowalchuk said excitedly. “It’s using theatre as a vehicle. The students have to work together, dealing with each other’s personalities, to build on their class topic and present it afterward.” This year she will be working with Vicky Casey’s 10th grade English class studying “Macbeth,” Mo Petkus’ 11th grade English poetry class, Josh Glantz’s English class and Maria Nealson’s fifth grade class at the Elementary School. The school was supported by both Sullivan County BOCES and the Sullivan County Youth Bureau in helping to fund the program. “What would you rather do? Sit at your desk and read the Greek myths or do you want to push your desks away and learn about it by acting it out,” added Kowalchuk. “Even if you are the shyest person you can still have a small role and have fun.”

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New year, new floor T

nasium that it is now.” With the help of people like local Mike Lepes, Rik Dilles Construction, Jim Jennings, Jason Clemmons and even Dave Long Flooring from Houston, Texas, the hard work began. “Some of the players from the basketball teams came back to help and my wife Audrey put in a lot of time as well,” said Binkowski. Completing the floor took nearly three months as there were plenty of

he gymnasium and basketball court at the Eldred Junior/Senior High School have been completely transformed with a new, supportive floor and refurbished bleachers, thanks to the hard-work of a dedicated few and Basketball Coach David Binkowski. “I formed the Eldred Basketball Booster Club, which is a non-profit, and our mission is to provide the kids with things they need to play basketball, whether its money for camps, or the floor, warm-ups, whatever they need,” said Binkowski. “So I started doing fundraising for that a few years ago and in the first year we raised about $20,000. Unfortunately a new floor costs a lot more than that. So we started looking for alternatives.” Basketball Coach David Binkowski stands on the new gymBinkowski went to dif- nasium floor that he and several others worked so hard to ferent schools to look at procure and install. their floors and get ideas, many of which were synthetic hiccups and bumps along the way and he wasn’t sold on them. That’s that set progress back more than a when he was told about reclaimed few times. floors. Despite the trials, Binkowski was “When March madness is over, you determined to finish by the start of have all of these schools that have the season. floors made specifically for those “The first layer of the floor is closed games and then they cut them up cell foam, which is essentially a and they’re gone,” he explained. “A shock-absorbing material that’s guy I was in touch with from one of resilient to water, then 3/4 inch plythe companies that obtain these wood,” he explained, “and then the floors called me one day and said that maplewood Penn State floor which is he had the Penn State floor.” about two inches thick.” Getting the ball rolling, Binkowski According to Binkowski, the plytook it upon himself to measure the wood when laid out over the closed Eldred High School gym and have cell foam must be laid at a diagonal someone come in to look at the so the foam doesn’t squeeze up bleachers and what it would cost to through the floor, causing it to buckle refurbish them. or warp. Binkowski reached out on social The bleachers were completely media to gather volunteers to help redone, being stripped, repainted, take on some of the work that would damaged areas replaced and finally, need to be done. motorized, to make moving them “The floor now is 3/8 inch wood much easier. parquet tiles that was installed “The school maintenance worked around 1986 on top of concrete,” he with us to help make sure everything explained. “The gym was originally went smoothly electric-wise in the part of the bus garage that was gym,” he went on to say, “and our expanded when it became the gym- principal Mr. Krebs had the idea of


Members of the Girls Varsity Basketball team (from the left) Hannah Jennings, Kassandra Weatherly, Hailee Kolvenbach, Morgan Kopf, Jordan Lepes, Alaina Gaughn, Jisella Labuda and Mickaela Gulla stand proudly on the new gym floor.

putting the honeycomb inside the three-point line. So they bought wood bleach to lighten the wood where the honeycomb would go. The floor was finished with a water-based polyurethane as opposed to oil, so it’s better for the kids and better for the environment. “It also makes it so the floor doesn’t have that yellow look. It seals as is, true to color. The floor just pops.”

And to make it more complete, a dedication plaque will soon be presented and placed inside the gymnasium with the names of Binkowski, his wife Audrey, and many others. “The floor is amazing. It looks like a college floor and the kids feel good playing on it,” added Binkowski. “They’re supported and that makes me feel good, because the players ... they’re the ones who are important.”







‘A community effort’ BY AUTUMN SCHANIL


he students, staff and members of the surrounding community of the Eldred Central School District are working hard to help their fellow students one drive at a time.


Currently in its sixth year, George Ross Mackenzie (GRM) Elementary’s Backpack Program helps to feed children in the district who might otherwise go without meals on the weekends. “The program started through an initiative with the United Way of Sullivan County at the Monticello Office,” explained School Nurse Tracy Whitney. “At that time they had gotten a grant for several districts within the county to fund what they called a Snackpack Program. Now each school can tweak it and call it what

they want, so we call it the Backpack Program. “So we get a small amount of grant funds via the United Way to help support it, with the addition of food donations, etc,” she continued. “Over the course of a few years, the grant funding unfortunately is getting harder to renew but luckily our program has been so successful here that we have actually gotten more donations via the community and even the Elementary staff. It really is a community effort. Everyone comes together on this, especially the parents.” So what exactly is the Backpack Program? Kids that are signed up with the program receive a backpack, in discretion, every two weeks before the weekend, with enough non-perishable food items to provide them with breakfast and lunch. “When the kids are in school they get breakfast and lunch, so that’s why AUTUMN SCHANIL | DEMOCRAT

From the left Kassandra Weatherly and Alaina Gaughan wash the donated coats from the coat drive at the local laundromat, not only so they can be distributed to students in need but to fulfill community service hours for class.

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its those two meals that we provide them food for,” said Whitney, “because otherwise maybe their families need help providing them those meals when they aren’t in school.” According to Whitney, you often see parents walking their children into school carrying grocery bags full of canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, fruit cups, cereal and other healthy items, to donate and help keep the shelves in the nurses office full. The Lumberland Lions Club, the PTA, the Barryville United Methodist Church and other local churches often make donations. “I attend the Barryville United Methodist Church,” said Sheridan Counts, a teacher at the GRM school. “They love to give back to the community and one of the programs that they really love to give to, because it’s our local school, is the Backpack Program.” “At one of the weekly meetings they were saying that they had some extra

funds available and were curious if the Backpack Program needed anything. When I talked to Tracy, she said that the church is really the reason why the Backpack Program was able to get the winter break bags.” Over the week-long winter break, the students that are part of the program got larger backpacks, because it’s not just a weekend of meals that they have to get through. “Some of the kids couldn’t even get on the bus with their donations,” GRM Elementary Principal Virginia Keegan added smiling. “We had to call some of the parents to pick the students up.” “So I went back to the church and said that the program could really use it, so the church gave a $500 check,” said Counts. “This was the second time so far this year that they’ve given a donation.” Shaking her head in agreement Whitney said, “I actually believe we’ve received over $2,000 from the Barryville Methodist Church over the



last two years for the Backpack Program. They really are just so generous, it’s really wonderful how they’ve supported the program.” Currently there are 24 families that are signed up – discretely via a form sent home – for the program. Which when considering how many kids are part of each family, means that about 80 children in the school receive a backpack, and according to Whitney, they really love it and get excited on the days they know they will be receiving a bag. “It really is a community effort. This is just my opinion,” said Whitney, “but I get the feeling that when people see that their donations are going to their own community and their own children ... it’s incredibly rewarding. I think that’s why our Backpack Program is so successful. “It’s one thing to send a check and help an organization but when you see a little girl in church that you know ate this weekend because you gave a box of spaghetti, it’s really heartwarming.”

‘THE SOUPER BOWL’ “So amongst other things that the

community and the school does to help support the Backpack Program,” said Whitney, “a couple of years ago the Elementary School started the “Souper Bowl” to coincide with the excitement of the actual Super Bowl in February.” The idea was to create a contest among the kids of who could bring in the most soup cans to donate toward the Backpack Program before the Super Bowl weekend. Whichever student brought in the most soup got to have a pizza party for their classroom. This year, according to Whitney, each classroom has a tally sheet and as the children bring in non-perishable items to donate (not just soup this year!) they mark the tally sheet. One classroom in the primary wing, pre-kindergarten through second grade, and one classroom in the secondary wing, third grade through sixth grade, will get to have a “Chef in the Classroom.” Chef in the Classroom, part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, means a chef will come in to make a healthy meal with the students and then they get to eat it!





School Nurse Tracy Whitney shows the backpacks that are filled and sent home with students that participate in the Backpack Program.

Thanks to the collaborations of various companies and for-profits like EPIC and Fidelis Community Relations, GRM was invited to be a part of a coat drive that was sponsored by many agencies throughout the Hudson Valley. School Nurse Tracy Whitney traveled to Poughkeepsie to pick up 40 coats at Mid Hudson Subaru. The coats that were picked up needed to be laundered before they were distributed to students who were in need of a warm jacket, so again, Whitney got involved. “The High School students that take Health class, are in Honor Society or are in the student government class have to do a certain amount of community service hours,” she said. “I have a daughter in 11th grade, so after getting the okay from the Superintendent, I asked her and her friends to fulfill community service by taking the coats to the laundromat to wash them.” Once the coats were ready, they would be brought to the school and given out to students in need.

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Selfless Kindergarteners raising money for the hungry BY AUTUMN SCHANIL

hat does it mean to be selfless? This is a question that the kindergarteners of the George Ross Mackenzie (GRM) Elementary School in Eldred are working on figuring out this year. “Self and others is the curriculum for kindergarten social studies, so we talk about the difference between selfish and selflessness,� explained Kindergarten teacher June Lombardi. “We talk about what the children think they may feel if they give up their ice cream money for example to give to charity instead. Would it feel good? Would you feel sad that you gave up your money? So they come to their own conclusions over the course of the year.� The program, known as “Selfless Kindergarteners,� will be raising money and food this year for the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless as well as GRM’s Backpack



Program. “Last year we focused on animals and this year we are doing humans,� chuckled Lombardi. “This year the beneficiaries are the SC Federation for the Homeless and the Backpack Program. We thought that since it’s all intertwined in some ways, because it’s the county helping the hungry, that we would just promote both.� And how can the children practice selflessness? By donating cans of food that they bring to school from home; by donating their ice cream money or their left over change from lunch; by practicing selfless acts in school by helping a fellow student or by simply being nice. “It’s an ongoing conversation with the children. There are some great YouTube videos on selflessness. Some of them are actors, some of them are just random acts of kindness,� said Lombardi. “We like to show them selfless examples quite a bit. Whoever we study in class, we talk about how they


Isabella Giglio and Nathan Besimer, now both in first grade, hug the Elementary’s therapy dog, and friend, River, who inspired the “Selfless Kindergarteners� program to benefit animals last year. This year the children will donate to the Federation for the Homeless food pantries.

were selfless, like Martin Luther King for example. The word selfless comes

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up a lot. “When there is poor behavior in the classroom we talk about how that isn’t a selfless act. We talk about kindness, selflessness thinking of others instead of thinking of yourself. So it’s an ongoing process, just a lot of work and conversations with the kids.� And according to Lombardi, the kids are figuring it all out with excited smiles on their faces. “We have about $ far that the kids themselves have donated for this. They find a penny on the floor, sometimes their parents send them in with a donation, some keep the change from their lunch money to donate,� she explained. “So we’ll partner with Shop Rite, who last year gave us a sizeable donation. The kids will be able to shop at Shop Rite, with the help of their parents to pick out the food, and then all of the goods will be taken to the facility. “We figured seeing as we’re all about human consumption this year that it would be a good project for the kids to participate in,� Lombardi added. “The kids hope that everyone in the county will help them to make this the largest food drive ever!�





‘Hour of Code’




n December, students in the third to sixth grades at George Ross Mackenzie Elementary participated in another “Hour of Code” to learn more about coding and how computers function. Coding is essentially a set of instructions or rules that computers understand. Think of it like a recipe that someone follows to create a healthy dinner or a delicious pie. Just like people can understand different languages, computers can understand different sets of codes. Hence GRM’s Hour of Code where students can learn how to not only collaborate with one another but discover what it takes to create games, programs, graphics, software and more on the computer. “It was a good experience overall,” said fifth grader Tori Kaiser when asked about last year’s Hour of Code. “The videos were very helpful and I learned a lot about coding.”

And it’s not just the “big” kids who get to have fun coding. According to Technology Teaching Assistant Linda Lee, as the older students worked on the computers, the pre-kindergarten classes up to second grade learned about “unplugged” coding activities. She called it unplugged as the kids didn’t use computers to learn coding but learned strategies for coding through other activities like reading the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. The book allowed the students to learn the coding term “if/then.” And after reading, they created another if/then scenario while discussing the importance of directions. “All Mackenzie students agree it’s a fun time and they look forward to the Hour of Code every December,” said Lee. “Presently the students are working on the coding program called “Tynker” and various unplugged activities that involved robotic cars, cups and cards.”


Students concentrate on learning the skills of computer coding during December’s Hour of Code.





From school pictures to hund dreds of family photos and thousands of selfies, children’s smiles brighten our lives. Let’s give them healthy smile es that will shine for a lifetime. Good dental habits start at a young age and continue as children grow with: ( a year) • Regular dental checkups (2x • Brushing and flossing (at least 2x a day) • A healthy diet with fruits a and vegetables

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Eldred School Scene 2017  

Find out how hard students and staff work – and get an engrossing behind-the-scenes look – at the Eldred Central School District!

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