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A Look at Activities in the

Roscoe Central School

A Special Section of the

Section R â–  March 18, 2014 Callicoon, New York


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ROSCOE SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

MARCH, 2014

How students profit when school invites community in

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ike all school districts, Roscoe focuses each day on the issues making national headlines – the Common Core’s shift on what and how teachers teach and students learn, and the use of data to improve student success. But Roscoe’s educational leaders emphasize that another important pillar of this year’s educational plan is linking students, parents and the entire community in meaningful ways. “Roscoe parents and community members have always been very supportive of the school in general,” explained Assistant Principal Robin Francisco. “This year, we set a goal of moving from just involvement to engagement. We wanted our parents and community members to play a more integral role, to actually see and be a part of the learning that happens in RCS on a daily basis.” At the September opening of school, Superintendent of Schools

Students gain 21st century skills from parent and community engagement, points out Assistant Principal Robin Francisco. They learn from “primary sources,” experience more variety in presentation formats and enjoy hands-on learning.

John Evans suggested that each teacher invite at least one parent or community member into the classroom in order to contribute to a specific lesson taking place. So the 270 students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade are now gaining from the fascinating lives and expertise of adults who care. A Vietnam veteran presents a lesson on his wartime experiences and shares photos. An additional 14 other veterans gladly report to the school’s Veteran’s Day observance in November. The Russian-born parent of an elementary student works with the school chorus by translating a Russian song and helping with pronunciation. In another classroom, students study the effects of Hurricane Sandy by hearing about a family’s personal experiences and viewing powerful photos of devastation. In the classroom of the eighth


SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

MARCH, 2014

grade, where students study 1960s music, one of Roscoe’s own custodians volunteers to perform on guitar to a Led Zeppelin song, as the teacher sings. This year, too, Roscoe Central School hosted a series of sessions on rearing adolescents presented by experts from Sullivan County Cares. Francisco recounted how the District is also attempting more schoolwide activities outside the building itself. “The third grade visited the O&W Railroad Museum (in Roscoe),” she said. “We also went to the firehouse on fire prevention day.” Further, a new club called Readers’ Theatre encourages parents to report to the school to help student actors work on their lines, create scenery and actually mount school musicals. That club is along the lines of a parent-student science club held in the evenings, in which the group works on studying biology through dissection. “In tough financial times like these, and with a lot of talk of merging and countywide schools, we want to show parents and the community why Roscoe is so awesome,” said Francisco. “When parents and community members are a part of the great things happening in our school, they are more supportive of the school. As a small school, RCS needs this kind of commitment.” To that end, the school also widened the reach of its the annual Open House Block Party held in June. Typically, the popular event was held totally outdoors. But that changed this past June when, along with grilled hot dogs, music and fun on the playground and basketball court, “We opened the door to every room in the building,” recalled Francisco. “We put community (groups) at tables throughout the building. We had a true open building for students, parents and community members.” Another outreach effort continues to be the District’s Facebook page, which features daily photos of school events and happenings. “We want to share with parents and the community the great things that happen every day,” said Francisco. “We want to give hem little glimpses of what happens daily within our walls.”

ROSCOE SCHOOL SCENE

Science students research DNA, plan new composting system W

here is science education headed in Roscoe? Towards SUNY New Paltz and research in DNA. Towards student scientific research. Towards a student-run composting and food growing project. The Roscoe School’s emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – has spawned a number of new projects, fueled by special grants. One of them, a STEM grant from the State Education Department, took students to the world-class science labs at SUNY New Paltz, where they were able to study DNA up close along with Roscoe teachers Michael Hill and Taso Pantilieris. “Our students did ‘gel electrophoresis,’ ” which is a procedure that separates charged molecules, said Hill. “Using a saline mouthwash, they took DNA from their cheeks to look for certain genes and to compare genes. They were able to cut the DNA into fragments and to look for certain chromoScience instructor Mike Hill works with senior Ryan Wood. This is veteran teacher Hill’s somes.” first year back at his alma mater. Another grant, this time through the office of State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, enabled the school Further, Hill noted, Superintendent of Schools John to begin the process of purchasing a state-of-the-art Evans is pushing for a Science, Technology, EngineerRocket Composter. Built to look like a rocket, the con- ing and Math club for students. tinual flow recycling system allows waste to be added “It’s an exciting time,” Hill said. daily and compost to leave daily. Although he’s a veteran teacher, this school year is “Unused space in our school will turn into a green Hill’s first at teaching in his own hometown. After room, or a growing room, to grow plants and vegeta- graduating from Roscoe in 1982 and then college, he bles,” said Hill. “Kids will be involved every day in taught for 11 years at Livingston Manor Central composting and growing, and then eating what they School. All the while, he coached for both the Livgrow in the cafeteria. This is absolutely new territory ingston Manor and Roscoe districts. for us.” His wife, Amy, teaches at the nearby Downsville Currently Hill teaches eleventh and twelfth grade School District, and their children all attend Roscoe. Scientific Research, in which students interested in a This year, Hill accepted the position offered to him topic get to experiment with the subject. One student locally to teach eighth grade science, tenth grade is researching how to increase his jump height in bas- earth science, and physics to seniors ketball. Another is studying the vitamin C content in “I’m homegrown talent,” he said, “that got to come different foods. home again.”

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ROSCOE SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

MARCH, 2014

Reading goes rigorous in Roscoe’s classrooms W

hen teachers like Luke Scott escort students away from the simplistic and literal study of literature into more complex terrain, it’s all about creating good minds. “We’re exposing kids to more complex text (reading) and vocabulary,” said Scott, who teaches Roscoe’s 20 fourth graders. “It’s a huge jump from the old standard, from literal meaning. Students are looking deeper into the texts, they are doing close reading, and they are investigating.” After New York State adopted the Common Core learning standards, the focus and direction in English Language Arts – reading, writing, listening and speaking – turned toward more rigor, particularly in reading. In Roscoe, students are engaged in this deeper thinking and analyzing, as well as in “academic conversations” with their teacher and with classmates. Students delve into novels and non-fiction works such as magazines, research reports and newspapers. They analyze and draw conclusions. “It’s all about creating kids who are

college and career ready,” said Scott. “Students are exposed to more complex text qualitatively – in word length and sentence length and structure – and qualitatively, in terms of levels of meaning and purpose.” In the past, one answer to a question posed by the teacher was the only correct response. Not so now. Students are learning the art of making inferences, that is, “using what’s in the text to make an educated guess – for example, if they have read that one character gives something to someone else, they can infer that that person is generous,” said Scott. “Or, if in the text I read that tears are coming down someone’s face, I can infer they are sad.” In testing students for what they know about a certain text, said Scott, “the state allows for different answers or claims, as long as your answer or claim can be supported. For one question, there could be four or five answers as long as they can be supported in the text.” This up-close investigation of what they read gets students’ brains working. They can then practice “Turn

and Talk,” in which they discuss with one another what they are uncovering. Another Common Core emphasis is building student vocabulary, phonetic awareness and reading comprehension through “Sustained Reading” – students pulling a book off the shelf and reading quietly to themselves in the classroom for 20 minutes or Teacher Luke Scott has stocked his classroom with longer. “Most kids do not get sus- 2,000 books so that fourth grader Benjamin tained reading at home,” noted Ackerly and his classmates can fine-tune their love of literature. Scott. He’s got a classroom library of 2,000 books on various student read- reading, students are beginning to ing levels, and he’s purchased them gravitate towards books about sciall himself, 50 or 60 books at a time, ence topics like electricity or storms, from stores and from libraries’ dis- and about early exploration, or the card shelves. lives of Native Americans. Fourth grader Annabelle Creamer A second year teacher, Scott gradusaid she loves the time in classroom ated from college in 2010 and therededicated to delving silently into a fore has only taught with the good book. Common Core changes as the rule. “It makes me feel like I’m kind of in “It’s not a huge jump for me – it another world,” she said. “There’s no kind of goes without saying,” he one else around me to bother me.” offered. “It’s a little tougher for the Scott said he is noticing that, with kids, but they’re doing it. You can see the exposure to more non-fiction they are up for the challenge.”

Food for thought: Studying world cultures through cooking

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he aroma of chicken cordon bleu from France wafts through the hallways. The smell of warm baklava from Greece, with its honey and nuts wrapped in dough, scents the air. Just an ordinary cooking class at Roscoe Central School? Think again. High school students are exploring in depth the variety of world cultures and pairing their knowledge with the joy of cooking in Mary Margaret Green’s Food & Cultures Class. “They research a country, studying its land, government, traditions, foods,” said Green, who is both teacher and school librarian. Individually, students investigate Africa, Japan or Italy on line and in books. Then they collaborate with each other in groups, discussing what they found fascinating during

chemistry of ingredients reacting to one another. For example, said Green, “One day when they were cooking caramel (carmelizing sugar) for the top of their flan from Puerto Rico, their plastic stirring spoon melted. They had learned that sugar boils at a higher temperature than does water.” After their meal is finished – complete with a new topping Teacher Mary Margaret Green’s Food & Cultures for flan – students set tables Class for high school students helps prepare them for and serve their recipes from life in today’s melting-pot society. other lands to each other, their teacher and a guest or the course of their research. two, such as Principal Janice Phillips. Finally they roll up their sleeves for Preparing students for life and the actual cooking process, which work in a global society that’s interinvolves math and science as they connected by TV, technology and measure and time and watch the trade is the task of today’s schools.

Students are likely to meet and then seek to find understanding with people from other countries. To that end, Green’s class frequently hosts visits from community residents with insights to share. Spiro Mantzouratos, owner of Spiro’s Countryside Restaurant in Roscoe, arrived and told his own story – how at the age of only 14 he accepted a job on a cruise ship and came to the U.S. “The students hung on his every word,” said Green. Another visitor, Cheryl Parks, spoke about life in Japan when her husband accepted a position there. “These people actually lived the experience, which was so helpful to the students,” said Green. “It put a personal face on what they are learning, making it all come alive.


Roscoe School Scene 2014