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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat


A look at activities in the Tri-Valley School District



This year, children in teacher Jamie Adams self-contained classroom at Tri-Valley Elementary can't wait for springtime.

Tri-Valley’s ‘Ag-Ed’ dept. links students with knowledge, research & jobs BY KATHY DALEY

“We'll have pretty flowers – pink, orange and white,” says Piper Davis. Classmate Nathan Babcock shouts out, “Colorful tulips and daffodils!” “It's going to be beautiful,” adds Trevor Osterhout. Along with classmates Isaiah Brown and Matthew Trojahn, the fourth graders have reason to feel hopeful. In October, they voted to tidy up two outdoor overgrown plant boxes near their classroom. Then on Dec. 1, they planted. “They learned how to use a hoe, trowel, rake and weeding tool,” said Adams. “They dug into soil, finding worms and spiders. They studied the life cycle of plants.” The class used math skills to meas-

ure out a foot-and-a-half so each tulip, daffodil and crocus bulb could be planted the right distance apart from another. “They showed a lot of effort and collaboration,” said their teacher. “They had to share tools and tasks. One dug a hole, another put the bulb in and covered it with soil.” “It was amazing – they worked collaboratively and I had their full attention, and these students have attention issues,” said Adams. They learned what flowers need in order to bloom: “Water, sun, soil and worms,” said Piper. Principal Andrea Williams said this is just the kind of project she welcomes.


“Especially at the elementary level,” Williams reflected, “we have the New York State requirements in reading and math and we're bound by the Common Core and the curriculum. But kids learn by doing and by engagement. Teaching math and science by getting their hands in dirt encourages them to think and answer questions. Any opportunity to get kids working together, problem-solving, creating something new together and bonding is something I want to fund.” Adams said she and her students couldn't be happier. “They have a sense of school pride,” the teacher said. “They know those boxes were overgrown and they know that in springtime, flowers will come up. We're helping the school look beautiful.”

BLOOMS, BLUE RIBBONS Older Tri-Valley students are also elbow-deep in plants. Agriculture Education teacher Tara Berescik reports that as of this year, the Ag Ed Department's student-run business entitled Tri-Valley Blooms arranged the flowers for its 120th wedding dur40845


ri-Valley Central School is closely bound to the natural landscape that surrounds the K-12 grade school: the deep, placid expanses of the Neversink and Rondout reservoirs, the forested Catskill Park threaded by streams and trails, the rich soil that supports life. In fact, Tri-Valley is the only school district in Sullivan County or nearby Ulster that boasts its own Agricultural Education program linked to Future Farmers of America (FFA) a nationwide student organization. (Sullivan BOCES in Ferndale does offer school districts the services of agriculture courses, but no FFA chapter, through Stonewall Farms in Jeffersonville). With two on-campus greenhouses, an orchard, a composting program and a garden that raises food for community food banks, Tri-Valley jump-starts its students early into a fascination with nature.







Eleventh grader Patrick Coombe uses a toy tractor as a centerpiece in Floral Design class, aptly reflecting the overall program: Agricultural Education.

ing 14 years of operation. Today, Ag Ed at Tri-Valley is a far cry from its beginnings in 1954. Then, it catered to male students who were likely to follow in the family farming footsteps. Today, Ag Ed is no longer just about cows, plows and sows, Berescik points out. Nationwide, Agricultural Education teaches students not only about the “A” in its name but about food and natural resources. Classroom and lab instruction include units on environmental science, agribusiness, natural resources, aquaculture, food science and safety, animal and plant sciences, entrepreneurship and more. Attracted to Ag Ed classes at TriValley are students who seek a job right out of high school, or who want to go on to a two-year college, or who plan to get their four-year college degrees. “In my 17 years here, 30 students have gone on to Cornell University,” noted Berescik. Job opportunities for Ag Ed graduates exist in international trade and policy development related to food products. And in veterinary science, or in marketing in general and agri-

cultural marketing specifically. One student might become a Farm Bureau representative, another might go into agricultural education teaching. Berescik adds that 21 percent of all U.S. jobs fall into the category of agriculture education: “When you see a commercial for food in TV – that's agricultural education.” Classes in the Tri-Valley program are geared for all learning levels, “and we often have classes with mixed abilities and mixed grades,” explained Berescik. “I teach anatomy and physiology, and this is the only science class where heavy-duty dissection is done. Kids interested in becoming doctors, nurses and physical therapists excel in the class, but those interested in other areas also take the class.” She also teaches Animal Science 1 and 2, Floral Design 1 and 2, and Environmental Science, along with CONTINUED ON 4T

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an eighth grade module called Introduction to Agricultural Technology. Berescik's cohort, teacher Robert Hayes, teaches a sixth grade10-week module where students learn about growing food, gardens, composting, green streaming, recycling and sustainable agriculture. They learn how food is grown and where it is grown, and they enjoy a partnership with an elementary school in Kenya, said Hayes. For high school students, Hayes instructs classes in Sports Field Operations, Greenhouse and Nursery Management – along with other courses depending on the year and student interest. His after-school programs include equipment operation and safety, campus and community projects and field maintenance on local and Tri-Valley ballfields. Hands-on is the norm in Agricultural Education. In anatomy and physiology, for example, students “break” synthetic bones and learn pinning methods to make the repairs. They give and take IV injections. In animal science they practice psychological training meth-

This spring, tulips, daffodils and crocuses will flower in an outdoor garden thanks to fourth graders Nathan Babcock, Piper Davis, Isaiah Brown, Matthew Trojahn and Trevor Osterhout and, at back, their teacher Jamie Adams.

ods and Pavlovian conditioning by working with real mice in mazes. The internship program entitled Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) rounds up the experience, affording students paying jobs. Berescik and Hayes also co-advise their FFA chapter, which offers students pathways to achievement in leadership, personal growth and career success through Ag Ed. On Jan. 5, the Tri-Valley chapter was selected


as the New York Agricultural Society's Chapter of the Year. “[Ag Ed]'s hands-on experiences afford students the opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to realword situations,” said Hayes, “as we partner with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Soil and Water Conservation District, Catskill Watershed, Sullivan Renaissance, the Town of Neversink and other agencies.

Learning about food, plants and conservation is critically important today, adds Berescik. To meet the challenges of the future, she said,“we need to increase food production, protect and maintain our environments including water sources, protect wildlife, develop new energy technologies to reduce needs for fossil fuels and still be community servants. Ag Ed teaches all of these components.”




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Slammin’ life at poetry performances “Students in eighth grade can have a hard time,” he noted. “They are becoming teenagers, trying to find themselves. A lot of different groups form, but on stage in Poetry Slam, there are no cliques. They are all in it together.” Historically speaking, the phenomenon of Poetry Slams began in 1986 as part of a reading series in a Chicago jazz club. Slams and their love of often edgy original poetry spread across the country, reaching into high schools and junior highs. They revitalized a love of poetry and celebrated poetry reading as theater. Slam “artists” are judged for their work and their performance. In the case of Tri-Valley, last year's winning students become judges this year at the 2017 Poetry Slam to kick off Wednesday, February 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the high school theater. In his eighth grade English classroom, Haynes acquaints students with poetry making. He shows past performances on the screen and videos of famous Slam artists. Students learn not only to write but


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Celebrating 30 Years!

For seven years, students at Tri-Valley Central School have performed animated reading of their original poems before an audience gathered in the school's theater. This year's Poetry Slam will take place on Wednesday, February 15. Last year's winners from the left included Kira Ambrosi (third place), Kyle Giminiani (performance award, for students who work particularly hard), Andrea Decker (performance award), Jordan Rider (performance award), Amaya Rupprecht (third place), and Juliette Eddings (first place).

to grow their public speaking skills. “Eighth grade is the time when you can turn kids on to learning or turn them off,” the teacher said. “Then there is the concentration today on reading and writing, which is important, but speaking gets lost.” Last year, over 90 percent of eighth grade students read their original poems at the Slam, said Haynes. Those 65 kids took to the stage before a crowd of several hundred, reading

and emoting their odes to human experience with its struggles and joys. Packing the theater are not only parents and school staff but older TriValley students as well. “A lot of older kids come to Poetry Slam to see who's performing,” said Hayes. “I teach a class for eleventh grade, and they still reference the Poetry Slam when it comes to public speaking and the confidence the Slam instilled in them.”


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uliette Eddings writes about the conflict between being a strong woman and the annoying expectation that she must hook up with a male person romantically. “My name is Juliette - and before you ask - there is no Romeo Whenever people meet me, they just have to know: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ ‘Where is your boyfriend?’ And it frustrates me until I am about to blow, because I am taunted with this prospect of love wherever I go.” Last year, Juliette, then an eighth grader, took first place for her poem and her performance at what has become a yearly entertainment fixture: Tri-Valley's annual Poetry Slam. “It's not a poetry reading but a performance,” explains eighth grade English teacher Matt Haynes, who runs the Poetry Slam. “A slam involves a student in movement, changes in tone of voice, in volume. It's a theatrical performance.” Seven years ago, Haynes began the Poetry Slams for his eighth graders.





Brewing up a project that prepares students for food-service jobs BY KATHY DALEY

Three students with the high school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter, volunteered to help with the cafe organization and with lessons in work and communication skills. From left, Shauna Bellacicco, Heather Winters and Victoria Swett.


offeehouse icon Starbucks has nothing on the Barista Bears Cafe at Tri-Valley High School. Starbucks doesn't brew fresh java during the first 10 minutes of every period, or deliver to classrooms even at the elementary school, or welcome as its workers seven Tri-Valley students who take their jobs seriously. Special Education teacher Tanya Huggler came up with the cafe concept as a way to develop in her students work readiness for the future. “This is a Life Skills class,” she explained, speaking from the cafe, which is held in her classroom. “We


created a sixth, seventh and eighth grade Life Skills Academy to teach work readiness, to offer clubs and to do fundraising. The cafe is part of that.” Teaching her students communication skills is vitally important. “If they are going to work someday in Dunkin' Donuts, for example, they must be able to communicate with adults using eye contact, saying good morning and afternoon, having basic manners.” The Barista Bears Cafe is so-named for the word that means a coffee brewer and server and for Tri-Valley4


Showcase Night at Tri-Valley Elementary on February 23 48361


GRAHAMSVILLE — Tri-Valley Elementary School will hold Showcase Night on Thursday, February 23 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the school. On display will be the work of grades

kindergarten through sixth grade, excluding fourth grade, which will mount a live wax museum at its own Showcase Night in June.




Students Arrianna Hatt, Jordan Rivera, Isaiah Whitney, Trevor Mears, Mathew Flores, Justyn Rivera and John Taurino all work at the cafe in their classroom. At rear, far right, is their teacher Tanja Huggler, along with her aides, Katie Grey and Jerry Stevens.

Central School's mascot. In October, the cafe opened, inviting teachers (but not students) to frequent the place or have coffee delivered to their own classrooms. Each of the students rotates

through a “job” at the Barista: one who greets customers, a cashier who accepts the pre-paid or “go green” cards for payment, a student who takes orders, a server who pours, an “exiter” who says thank you, and a

delivery person who ferries coffee throughout Tri-Valley Central School. The workers are students Arrianna Hatt, Jordan Rivera, Isaiah Whitney, Trevor Mears, Mathew Flores, Justyn Rivera and John Taurino. Helping out


are Huggler's teacher aides Katie Grey and Jerry Stevens. Also offering assistance are three students with the high school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter. Shauna Bellacicco, Victoria Swett and Heather Winters spearheaded the effort as part of an FBLA nationwide initiative called the American Enterprise Project, which challenges students to help start a business. The three students took a poll to see what would be the best time for the cafe to open, and they worked on orderings sheets. They also taught lessons to the cafe students on personal hygiene and communication. Huggler praised the work of the FBLA. “And,” she added, “I've had awesome support from my own administrators,” including her boss, Robert Martinelli, Director of Pupil Personnel Services. Cafe funds will help support field trips for Huggler's students, including, they hope, an upcoming journey to the Bronx Zoo. “Teachers are so excited to come and support the kids,” said Huggler. “We've been busy and making quite a bit of money.”


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Tri-Valley School Scene 2017