Tag Archive | "Middle School"

Sag Harbor’s Eighth Graders Host Book Drive to Aid Middle School Affected by Hurricane Katrina

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Students in Christine Farrell's eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they're donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Students in Christine Farrell’s eighth grade English class at Pierson with books they’re donating to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, which lost all its supplies due to flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, it looked like the flooded Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana, would close its doors forever. Nine years later, the school has a brand new building, but its desks, bookshelves and supply cabinets remain empty.

Sag Harbor students are determined to help fill those shelves. Eighth graders in Christine Farrell’s English classes at Pierson Middle School are collecting books to send down to Kenner, a small city in the New Orleans suburbs.

“They are very happy to pay it forward,” Ms. Farrell said of her students, who have plastered posters around Pierson’s halls asking classmates for donations.

Superintendent Katy Graves connected the middle schools after hearing from a former student of hers, Katy Clayton. Ms. Clayton began teaching at Roosevelt Middle School this year, with six classes, including eighth grade English.

“She started the year with no paper for the copy machine, no books,” Ms. Graves explained. “Literally, the school was gutted. They built the school where the flood had come in, but they had no resources at all.”

Ms. Graves quickly got on the phone with John Olson, the principal at Roosevelt Middle School. Mr. Olson had worked in some of the highest performing schools in the south, but, rather than pursuing a lucrative interim job, after retirement he decided to return to work in his hometown. His hometown needed his experience: Before its doors opened for classes this fall, the middle school was already in the red, with no money for such basic supplies as pens and paper.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

Ms. Katy Clayton and her eighth grade English Language Arts students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Kenner, Louisiana.

“They have a brand new building and it’s all pretty, but they have literally next to nothing for the classroom, they don’t have even white Xerox paper,” explained Ms. Farrell.

“The kids,” she said of her eighth grade students in Sag Harbor, “ have an abundance of books and typically for eighth grade, I ask them to read independent books on their own and usually they read it once and then nothing happens—it gets lost under their beds.”

The eighth grade ran a “very successful” book drive for the Little Flower School in Shoreham several years ago, so Ms. Farrell said she knows “Pierson will definitely come through with this.”

Although the focus is on the eighth grade at Roosevelt Middle School, Sag Harbor students have been collecting non-fiction, fiction and picture books for all students in the school, which has students in grades six through eight. “They need really everything,” said Ms. Farrell.

The drive has only been running about three weeks, but Pierson students have seen ample donations from parents and community members since word got out.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Photo courtesy Christine Farrell.

Eighth grade students bringing donated books into Pierson. Courtesy Christine Farrell.

“We have all this stuff collecting in our house,” Ms. Farrell said, “but you don’t want to throw it out, it’s a book.” Families who may have overdone it on the school supplies shopping this fall can bring any extra items to the school. “Whatever they’re not using can be donated,” she said. They are still working out the logistics of how to transport boxes of heavy books to Louisiana.

Although Pierson students are starting with the book drive, they hope to continue working to support the southern school in various ways throughout the year.

“We want these kids to develop; we’re really working hard on character and empathy and thoughtfulness and really reaching outside yourself,” said Ms. Graves, adding, “I’m so proud of them.”

Ms. Farrell hopes to connect her eighth graders with their southern counterparts more directly by establishing literary pen pals; students would write letters to each other based on the books they’re reading in class.

When Ms. Carlson, the teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, accepted Pierson’s offer to help, Ms. Graves gave her one condition: The Yale graduate will be coming to Sag Harbor to speak with students about getting into a top school from a small town later in the year—and she’ll likely be returning south with plenty of boxes.

If you’d like to donate books or school supplies to the Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, please drop items off at the main office at Pierson Middle/High School, with an attention to detail for Christine Farrell.

Robots are Taking Over at the Bridgehampton School

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Monasia Street shows off her robot's skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School February 4 (Michael Heller photo).

Monasia Street shows off her robot’s skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School February 4 (Michael Heller photo).


By Tessa Raebeck 

Ask seventh grader Monasia Street what her favorite subject in school is and you may be surprised by the answer: sonar detection. Along with the rest of her class at the Bridgehampton School, Monasia has just finished designing, building and programming robots that can trace roads using light sensors, turn on at the sound of a clap and, Monasia’s favorite, spin around upon detecting an oncoming structure.

Under the guidance of technology teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, Bridgehampton students are learning to write code and program computers, skills considered vital in the ever-expanding technology fields.

“The curriculum that goes with this is fabulous, ” Carmack-Fayyaz told the parents, students and administrators gathered at the school board meeting last Wednesday. “It really integrates science, math and technology.”

Carmack-Fayyaz showed a video to the board by the Hour of Code, an organization dedicated to ensuring every American student has the opportunity to try computer science.

In the video, a young Steve Jobs says everyone in the country should learn how to program a computer and President Barack Obama encourages students, “Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent, has committed to a five-year plan to improve the school’s technology curriculum and included a number of updates in a preliminary draft of the district’s 2014-2015 budget presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

The technology program is housed down a winding staircase in the basement of the school. The room has many purposes; students split their time between a laboratory shop area used for building and a computer room for design and programming. The seventh grade just finished its robotics course and now the eighth grade gets a turn in the lab.

Claudio Figueroa, a high school junior, assists Carmack-Fayyaz in the classroom. On Tuesday, the eighth graders received kits for a new electronic “Simon” project. Figueroa explained to the younger students that they would build a game sort of like Simon Says and helped them interpret the directions.

Class assistant Claudio Figueroa looks on as Johnny DeGroot demonstrates how his robot can draw a perfect circle.

Class assistant Claudio Figueroa looks on as Johnny DeGroot demonstrates how his robot can draw a perfect circle (Michael heller photo).

As the eighth graders unwrapped their next challenge, the seventh graders were busy playing around with their programs and assembling an obstacle course used to show off the robots’ skills.

After pushing some buttons on her robot, Paige Hoyt watched as it expertly wiggled along a U-shaped black road on the course. Also in the seventh grade, Paige explained how the robot uses its light sensor to differentiate between the black road and white surface and its “B and C motors” to move forward.

“Robotics is one of my favorite classes,” said Aziza Brunson. Her friend Jalisa Hopson agrees, “I like building the robots and programming [them] for swing turn and point turn.”

“I like how you get to teach robots to do their own thing,” said Autumn Coffey, a seventh grader who uses her robot to figure out the circumference of a circle.

Monasia Street, Paige Hoyt and Autumn Coffey with their robots.

Monasia Street, Paige Hoyt and Autumn Coffey with their robots (Michael Heller photo).

The kids understand the language used to code the robots; they align squares labeled only with pictures or letters in the computer program and know exactly what that will create on the obstacle course.

The technology classroom is loud with discussion and filled with energy as students move around sharing ideas, testing programs and showing off their designs.

Monasia patiently explained how setting the robot to 1,045 degrees would allow it to “do a little spin but not too long.”

After her robot moved forward, hit a house, detected the impact with its touch sensor and spun around, she said of the effort to design and build the machine, “It was kind of easy.”

Young Whalers Winners

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By Benito Vila

The Pierson seventh grade team came into this season both confident and uncertain. Several players had played together in the Police Athletic League the last few winters, twice playing for the championship and winning once. It was not clear how those players would gel with the others or how they might fare in the more structured state and county-regulated “junior high” program.

Coach Jonathan Tortorella took on a roster of 16 in November and demanded co-operation from the get go. Looking back this week, he said the most critical moment of the season came after an opening game loss to East Hampton. “We had set a team goal of going undefeated this year, a very tough task. After we lost the first,we were not really sure how good we were. Without a practice before our next game, we had a team discussion about our goals and what we are capable of doing. We came out the next day and played a near perfect game against Southampton, winning by 31 and getting contributions from everyone.”

That level of commitment to one another carried on after that first win, this youngest set of Whalers going on to win their last 11 games, including a 50-47 nail-biter over East Hampton in a January 8 re-match. Coach Tortorella said what he will remember most about this team is “their ability to deal with adversity. Due to either injury or illness, we only had a full team for 3 of our 12 games. No matter who was out, there were no excuses and it was barely even talked about. Other players stepped up and they all overcame everything they were confronted with. It was something that I hope they carry with them outside of basketball.”

Although the team fell short of its goal to go undefeated, it did hit two other pre-season targets, allowing less than 35 points per game on defense (34.3) and scoring more than 55 points per game on offense (55.5).

On the seventh grade roster were Caleb Atkinson-Barnes, Ian Barrett, Jack Bori, C.P. Cook-Firquet, Charlie Dickstein, Patrick Ficorilli, Joe Gengarelly, Drew Harvey, Nick Kruel, Forrest Loesch, Cooper Marienfeld, Gavin O’Brien, Garrett Potter, Aaron Schiavoni, Tim Markowski and Max Snow.


One Step Up

This year’s eighth grade team will forever remind the seventh graders about their sole scrimmage, where the older boys used their height and quickness to make the outcome a one-sided affair. That intra-program match-up was a welcome change for the eighth graders after routinely facing opponents with six-footers inside and confident shooters outside.

Coach Hank Katz described his approach as going beyond the score of any single game and looking ahead to a higher level of play. “At this level I never really pay much attention to the win/loss record. We did however finish 4 and 7. This record was no reflection on our actual success this season. A middle school team’s responsibility is to one day get ready to contribute to the high school team’s success and I believe this group will do just that.”

He also added, “It was a privilege to have been with these kids for the past two years. They worked hard, were very coach-able, and I believe that not only will they contribute on the basketball court, but most importantly, they will contribute as good kids who will be a positive influence whatever their plans.”

Making up Coach Katz’ first unit, and playing quarters one and three, were Jake Bennett, Dillon Decker, Joe Faraguna, Dana Harvey, Aidan Kirrane, and Jackson Marienfeld. The second unit, playing quarters two and four, were Abu Brown, Joe Butts, Gabe Denon, Liam Doyle, Raleigh Gordley, Patrick Sloane and Colman Vila.


Pierson Middle Schoolers Learn Lessons

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By Benito Vila

 There was a time when middle school fall sports were the place many student athletes took the field for the first time. Over the past few years, youth programs in soccer, field hockey and running have provided those interested with an early exposure and a sense of what’s expected.

That bit of experience allowed this year’s Pierson coaches to utilize drills refining teamwork and field skills rather than those emphasizing game learning. It also gave the teams a confidence and a willingness to work that seemed to surprise Pierson opponents, the three field teams posting a collective 17-8-2 mark.


Seven Games Better

Boys’ soccer coach Gary Easlick saw the season start with a disappointing and one-sided 5-3 loss at Montauk. Six games later the season closed with convincing 4-1 win at home over the same Montauk team.

According to Coach Easlick, the difference between the two outcomes was “a massive improvement in all areas of the field. We showed determination and solidarity; most impressive was our defensive unit as a whole and our ability to pass the ball around the midfield, while moving forward, eventually creating scoring opportunities for our attack. It was a very pleasing to watch as a coach and spectator.”

The team finished with a 3-4 mark, a record that Coach Easlick felt did not adequately signal the maturity he saw develop. Citing a few key leaders, Coach Easlick said, “Gavin O’Brien really stepped up for the defense, helping several teammates adjust to the mentality of the position. Forrest Loesch, a seventh grader and one of the team’s three captains, took control of the midfield, battled for the ball against any opponent and was a big part of our scoring unit, especially in dead ball situations. He also worked very well and in-sync with fellow seventh-grade captain Ian Barrett, proving a well organized and effective partnership in the center of the field.”

Coach Easlick praised the play of eighth graders Christian Bautista (the third captain) and Joe Faraguna. He said their “versatility proved extremely valuable, protecting our goal in defense and pushing forward contributing to our attack. [Their classmate] Liam Doyle became a strong and reliable strike force, proving not only dangerous in front of goal but also establishing an intelligent relationship with the midfield, resulting in the majority of our goals.”

Also contributing to the team’s success was the play of goalie Caleb Atkinson-Barnes and the defensive effort of Pierson’s Garrett Potter, Christian Novak, Patrick Ficorilli, Charles Pierre-Firquet and Nicholas Kruel. Bridgehampton’s Nicholas Stevens, Samuel Vallejo, Jerome Walker, Bryan Minehala, Anajae Lamb and Christian Figueroa also filled key defensive roles.

Midfielders Marcos Perez, Kyle Sturmann, Jimmy Haynal, Addison Cook, Christian Bautista Alex Gurvich and Henry Kotz learned to how to better control the flow of the game. Working hard up front were Oliver Betts, Tim Megna, Brian Pina and Micah Hemby.


Cooperation, A Key

Asked to describe the key contributors on his team this fall, girls’ soccer coach Peter Solow said, “I don’t want to single out any individual players. Instead, I would say we had a very successful season. We had 26 seventh and eighth grade girls participating, a much larger number than last year. All the girls showed tremendous improvement during the course of the season in skills and fitness and in an understanding of team play.”

The young Lady Whalers finished the season with a record of 6-3-1, playing a schedule that had them match up against East Hampton, Springs, Southampton, Hampton Bays and Ross.

In considering highlights to the girls’ season, Coach Solow cited the finale as well as their ability to work with one another. “Our last game of the season against East Hampton ended in a 0-0 tie after five periods; earlier in the season we lost to them 4-0. But most importantly, the kids on our team, both from Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, were tremendously supportive of each other and without a doubt [this was] the nicest group of kids I’ve ever coached.”


Nearly Undefeated

The field hockey team went into its last match looking to complete an undefeated campaign. Facing a solid Southampton squad it had beaten 1-0 earlier on the road, the girls were hoping to have an advantage at home. But that was not to be, the Lady Mariners getting away with a 1-0 win to leave the team’s mark at 8-1-1.

These Lady Whalers had two coaches, former Pierson stand out Kate Berkoski (née Lowe) and Yanina Cuesta. Both praised the team and its development and knew they had a lot to work with from the beginning.

Coach Berkoski admitted, “This was by far the strongest team I have coached compared to past teams. I think this is due to the many intramurals and clinics set up by varsity coach Shannon Judge. She has done a great job introducing field hockey to the girls before they step out on the field in seventh grade. In previous years, it used to take me weeks to explain drills, warm-ups and techniques for playing the game.”

Coach Cuesta had the same experience, adding, “The girls did a great job and built a great camaraderie that I haven’t seen in past teams. We had a young group with only six eighth graders who played last year. It was phenomenal to see these athletes develop into stronger, smarter players.”

Hope Denon led the team in scoring with five goals. Sophie Gianis had four, Emma Romeo and Rachel Saidman two apiece, and Gabby Gardiner, Emme Luck and India Hemby one each.

Holding down the mid-field were Katherine Matthers, Kristian Washburn, Saidman, Gardiner and Hemby. Sweeper Nell Dobbs and center back Tatyana Dawson led the defense, while backs Karina Bravo, Alyssa Clermont, Jenna Hochstedler, Kim Carlozzi and Kirra McGowin kept the opposition from getting too close. The trio of Kaylee Denny, Holly Zappola and Rose Bishop capably shared time in goal.


Times Improve

Cross-country coach Christine Farrell was also happy with the students she had to work with and their ability to work as a team.

 “Last year there were only two female runners on the team and this year we went up to six new runners, all female. Most disliked running so it was a matter of showing them that they could have fun [doing it].”

Using a workout program built on interval training at variable speeds over variable distances, Coach Farrell saw her runners improve their times and build their endurance. That work built confidence all around as did meets with Southampton, East Hampton, East Moriches, Montauk and Westhampton.

Coach Farrell called the Middle School Invitational in Sunken Meadow the highlight of the season, as the team matched up with their peers across Suffolk County. 225 runners turned out for the October 16 race over a 1.5-mile course, the team’s longest race of the season. “This was a chance for them to run a real cross-country-like course. It wasn’t like the flatter one-mile road-surface races at East Hampton High School and Indian Island. They had to work harder than they had and most of them came way happy with what they were able to do.”. 

Seventh grader Mahalia Nathaniel set the pace for the team and may move up to the varsity level as soon as next year. Coach Farrell praised the effort, sportsmanship and dedication shown by eighth grader Hannah Kaminski and saw seventh graders Naomi Pawlik, Madeleine Haring, Lexi Fedi and eighth grader Francis Padilla finish the season with personal bests.