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STEAM Day Makes Math and Science Fun for 700 Participants

DSC00333The Scarsdale Middle School was awhirl in activity on STEAM Day on Saturday November 19 when the PT Council in collaboration with the school PTA's, teachers, district administrators and the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation produced an ambitious day of STEAM activities and workshops for kids of all ages.

The program was expanded this year to include workshops for 4th through 8th graders, as well as engaging activities for the younger set, and whole families spent an entertaining day learning about robotics, genetics, circuits, 3D printing, coding and building a giant contraption to create a chain reaction. Kids were on the floor building and even de-constructing complex machines. Over 700 kids and parents attended.

The Discovery Room in Gyms A and B and the Makerspace in Gyms C and D offered opportunities for all students, while older students attended a series of workshops that turned science and math into fun. Fox Meadow Principal Duncan Wilson presented his own version of "Escape the Room," challenging students to use logic and math to piece together clues to open locks and solve a crime. Other workshops involved building a model of a skyscraper, building a model airplane that actually flies and creating color-changing chemical reactions. There was more on coding, probability and even relative time travel.steam1

In the Great Hall at the upper entrance to the school, Nerdy Derby constructed a fifty foot race track, where kids raced cars they built by themselves. RFID chips were attached to each car so that the owner knew when it crossed the finish line. This activity was funded by a grant from the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation.

The day concluded with Jeff Boyer's Bubble Trouble show which combined creative and crazy bubble feats with a lesson in the science behind bubbles. The SMS auditorium was filled with kids, parents and teachers.

Everywhere you looked, kids were engaged and excited, demonstrating how making and doing creates memorable educational experiences.

Commenting on the day, Event Co-Chairs Kathleen Campbell and Seema Jaggi said, "The attendance exceeded our expectations. The feedback has been very positive, and we were so pleased that the community responded to the opportunity to attend the event as a family. We were fortunate to have an excellent and dedicated corps of parent volunteers on the planning committee, working together with the support of faculty, administration and staff on every level. We also had the very generous financial support of the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation and many donations-in-kind from workshop leaders and presenters, enabling the PT Council STEAM Committee to bring quality programming and activities to the event."

DSC00313They thanked everyone, saying, "We had an amazing committee of women working on this. We cannot say enough about the dedication of these women to bringing a quality program to the entire community. I think that is something that people don't necessarily appreciate - that this event was staffed, planned, and executed almost entirely by volunteers. The District was also very generous in its permissive use of the Middle School, its Technology Team and the outstanding and professional help of the SMS custodians led by Rob Schweit. Those SMS custodians are absolutely THE BEST!! They make it happen with a smile."

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Scarsdale Schools: Student Testing, Water Safety and New Health Policies

liceThough dominated by construction and finance issues, the November 14 Scarsdale School Board meeting also included important information about student test results plus a report on water safety and new policies on head lice and concussions.

Student Testing

Superintendent Thomas Hagerman turned the meeting back to "our core mission of teaching and learning" by introducing the "Student Assessment in Scarsdale Schools" report from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lynn Shain. In Ms. Shain's clear and thoughtful report (available for reading in full on the District website), she first placed Assessment in context as "one of the three, integral facets of the teaching and learning cycle along with curriculum and instruction," playing an essential role in allowing teachers to pinpoint students' needs, improve their instruction, and even adjust the curriculum to ensure the best learning outcomes.

ELANext, Ms. Shain addressed a point of annual concern to parents: standardized testing. She emphasized that standardized testing is only one small piece of the broader, continuous assessment that occurs throughout the school year. It is the view of the district that "the best assessment of a student's achievement is still classroom performance as judged by a teacher who sees the student's work in a variety of situations over the course of a school year." As a "snapshot in time," standardized testing provides limited information which is less useful in terms of gauging individual students, although it can be of use for viewing District achievement over time.

Digging deeper into a topic raised earliermath this fall with the release of the 2015-2016 State Test results, Ms. Shain flagged a concern with those results. She explained that standardized tests fall into one of two categories: Norm-referenced Tests (e.g., SATs), and Criterion-referenced Tests (e.g. NYS Regents exams). The first type provides a score that compares a student's performance to that of students in a sample of peers. The second compares a student's performance to specific standards regardless of other examinees' scores. Parents should be aware that the current state tests "create a hybrid of these types causing major concerns about the accuracy and value of this data." In essence, they treat a Criterion test as if it were a Norm-Referenced test - a "mixed metaphor" - which is why this year's test results were issued with a letter from Ms. Shain urging parents not to place too much emphasis on the "ranking" shown on the results page. She noted that, fortunately, "most of our community understands the shortcomings of standardized tests."

SATScoresNonetheless, standardized test results and other data do bring good news for Scarsdale students and the families who are investing in their educations here.

Despite the shortcomings of the NY State Tests, and the "dips" in scores that occurred statewide as the tests were adjusted and the bar raised in both 2009 and 2012, the charts above show Scarsdale 3rd-8th grade students performing consistently ahead of students in comparable districts, the lower Hudson region, and the state overall.

The news is equally good looking at high school level results. One example among many are Scarsdale's SAT scores, which have been the highest among comparable districts in the region for the last four years.

AP TestsAnd despite Scarsdale's move to an AT rather than AP curriculum, Scarsdale students perform exceptionally well on AP tests. In fact, 98% of Scarsdale students received scores of 3,4,5 for the 2015-16 school year.

Looking ahead to students' senior year and beyond, Ms. Shain points out that Scarsdale's College Data continues to be excellent, with 63% of graduates accepted to the most selective colleges. She says, "Many selective private institutions tell us they are nowhere close.... You cannot have such outcomes without a strong K-12 system."

Water Safetyhandwash only

District water is not testing as well as district students. Lead levels in 19% of 368 district school sinks are higher than acceptable. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Facilities Stuart Mattey outlined results of water testing that was communicated via email to distract families last week. Continuing the work of last spring which saw the testing of all water fountains, Scarsdale Schools has completed a second round of testing which targeted 368 sinks and other water outlets. Of that number, 69 (19%) came in above the recommended threshold.

According to the CDC, "Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply."

Filters will be put in place, and in the meantime signs at each affected outlet warn "Handwashing Only."

Mr. Mattey reported that the total cost of filters and maintenance going forward will add about $32,000 annually to the budget. But in Dr. Hagerman's words, "The dollars are minimal compared to the other impact; we're committed to getting this taken care of as quickly as possible."

Head Lice

Eric Rauschenbach, Director of Special Education and Student Services, updated the Board on the latest policy updates, beginning with the issue with the "ick factor: lice! Fortunately, although there are always occasional incidents, the district has had no major outbreaks for some time. Still they are a nuisance, so the latest policy identifies three goals in dealing with this issue: 1) decrease absenteeism, 2) support families in their efforts to control and eliminate lice, and 3) maintain student privacy.

The main adjustment in the policy comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics which rejects the exclusion of students infested with lice from school. Mr. Rauschenbach explained that requiring a child to leave class is stigmatizing, and incidence of lice transference is fairly low in a classroom setting. Furthermore, it qualifies as a child civil right to have access to education when there is no public health risk.

Therefore, although a student's parents will be notified of any finding of lice, and may be required to begin treatment before returning the student to school, there will generally be no need to remove the student immediately. School nurses will offer guidance, information and resources to support parents in managing the situation.

The AAP also discourages the practice of widespread lice screenings, preferring parental observation instead. However, as there is support in the community for PTA-sponsored checks, this practice will be allowed to continue subject to regulations ensuring confidentiality, parent notification, and the opportunity for parent opt-out.


The more serious issue of Concussion Management has also been under review and updated to reflect current best practices. This involved adding an additional day of recovery tfootballhelmeto the Return to Play protocol, and clarifying that the District Physician is the only authority who can clear students to return to physical activity. Additionally, there will be a higher level of caution exercised in the case of multiple concussion, which is in line with the latest research.

School Board Member Nina asked, "What is the administration doing to educate our parents and students that this is the procedure we will all follow without exception?" Mr. Rauschenbach replied that all coaches and teams go through the policy before each season and it is part of the health curriculum as well. In addition, every athlete must have a baseline neurologic function test done at the beginning of the season for use as a comparison after any possible concussion.

Watch the meeting online here.

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Announcing the Winners of the 2016 Halloween Window Painting Contest

PaintingV-31The Scarsdale Recreation Department announced the winners of the 2016 Halloween Window Painting Contest. Kids of all ages, siblings and parents participated on a balmy October Sunday and created colorful and comical works. For the second year in a row, the Grand Prize went to Lucy Du whoh painted the skeleton shown here on the Chase Bank window on East Parkway.

See the results below and the first place paintings. The award ceremony will take place on Thursday November 10 at 7:30 pm at  the Quaker Ridge Auditorium.







Grease on Stage at SHS November 18-20

grease1The Scarsdale High School Drama Club will present Grease on November 18, 19 and 20 in the high school auditorium. The musical features a large cast and is directed by Barbara Malecki.

The play if appropriate for everyone in the family and takes place in 1959, when Rydell High School's senior class is in rare form. The too-cool-for-school "Burger Palace Boys" are stealing hub-caps and acting tough and their gum-snapping, chain-smoking "Pink Ladies" are looking hot in bobby sox and pedal pushers.

The 1950s high school dream is about to explode in this rollicking musical that is both an homage to the idealism of the fifties and a satire of high schoolers' age-old desire to be provocative and rebellious. At the heart of the story is the romance between hot-rodding gangster Danny Zuko and the sweet new girl in town, Sandy Dumbrowski. They had a secret romance in summer, but now back in the context of school, peer-pressure and cliques make their love a bit more complicated. Can Danny maintain his cool dude status and still get make demure Sandy his girl? The whole gang sings and dances around Danny and Sandy's romance, through such hit songs as "Greased Lightnin'", "We Go Together", and "Mooning", recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. Starting off with an eight-year Broadway run, Grease is among the world's most popular musicals and has a cult-like following, especially among teens!

The performances will be in the Scarsdale High School auditorium on November 18th and 19th at 7:30 and November 20th at 2:00.

Tickets are available at or at the door.

Grease Cast Listgrease3
Danny- Robby Chappell
Sandy- Sophia Roth
Rizzo- Alexa Trujillo
Kenickie- Matt Kutzin
Frenchy- Jenna Orrico
Doody- Sofus Rose
Marty- Morgan Cochrane
Jan- Camila Tardif
Roger- Craig Carroll
Vince- David D'Silva
Sonny- Gabriel Lesser
Patty- Gabby Kauffman
Eugene- Jacob Binyaminov
Cha-Cha- Lena Proctor
Miss Lynch- Dahlia Gopstein
Blanche- Talli Lesser
Jazzy- Gracey Jones
Dance Captains- Perri Thaler, Ava Kashar

Featured Dancers- Margaret Kantor, Catherine Zhao, Daniella Ashman, Anaya Barmecha

Featured Singers- Jessica Byers, Hannah Lewis, Cassie Davis, Izzy Bailey

Voices- Daniella Ashman (Sheila), David D'Silva (Hero), Hudson Jakubowicz (Scientist)

Zoya Binyaminov
Lucy Cecil
Kelsy Hogan
Samantha Lawless
Jamie Robelon
Katie Nova
Amelia Horney
Hannah Glickenhaus
Lexy Feldschuh
Hudson Jakubowicz
Mariana Vieira
Rose Hanish
Aimee Azambuia-Skoupy
Gabriella Rub
Julia Halligan
Melissa Cohen
Lisa Thurman
Aisling Doherty
Miku Morikuni

Photos by Jon Thaler - see more here:

Helping your Sixth Grader Navigate the Social Scene: Through Halloween and Beyond...

batmanThis column was written by Clinical Social Worker and Scarsdale resident Julie Stonberg:
Am I supposed to wear a costume to school? Am I too old to go trick or treating? Does everyone have a plan for Halloweekend but me? If you have a sixth grader, chances are you've been stumped by one or more of these questions in recent days. Halloween stress is just one of the many social transitions your new middle-schooler will face. As kids mature physically and emotionally at vastly different rates, the middle school years can be some of the most difficult socially, and you won't be able to neatly fix everything. But there are ways you can help support their entry into this brave new world.

For starters, you can help and guide them as they begin to make their own social plans. In elementary school you probably arranged after school and weekend activities for your child, including "play dates." They may have let you know who they wanted to spend time with, but you were instrumental in making it happen. As this begins to shift (for some kids earlier than others), help them plan ahead by thinking about a time they are free, for example a Friday afternoon or an upcoming half-day of school and suggest ways to approach friends, old or new. You don't have to completely step out of making plans for them but try to mix it up so they get used to doing it on their own.

Always be curious. Ask open ended questions about what their day is like. What does the cafeteria feel like? Who do you sit with usually? Do they go outside after lunch? If so what do you usually do? Ask them about the social scene in their House and in the school as a whole. Some will talk more than others, but if you know what they are struggling with you can best help them come up with solutions. I know one kid who used to head into the bathroom at lunch in 6th grade to play a game on his phone when the cafeteria felt too overwhelming. Eventually he stopped and joined the crowds, but in the beginning he needed the downtime. Lunch can also be a good time to meet with teachers for extra help, or look for a club or activity that meets during that time.

Continue to encourage new social outlets, clubs and other activities outside of school as well as inside, and model openness and inclusion. For example, if your child says "there is no one I like in my house" instead of agreeing (or worst thing: trying to change houses!) encourage them to look around and make an effort to get to know someone new.

Try not to overreact to social shifts or slowdowns. While there are a few kids who seem socially adept, the vast majority are just trying to figure it all out. Switching groups of friends is a natural occurrence throughout the teen years. In fact, if you ask most seniors at Scarsdale High School who their closest friends are, most likely they are kids from other schools who they didn't know until middle school or later, which means they all switched friends at some point!

But, if your middle schooler is your oldest, and you're coming from a tight group in elementary school (that involved your social life as well) it's natural to panic a little if it feels the winds are shifting.

If you do feel your child is being eased out of a group of friends, try not to jump to conclusions, or give in to impulses to call parents or try to force the tides to turn back. It could be that her old group is ready to participate socially in ways she is not, whether that means hanging out with the opposite sex, walking to town by themselves, or engaging with social media. It may also mean that your child is exploring a different sense of who she is, and she will need your support and positive guidance along the way. You can explain to your child that everyone goes through this type of thing, and if her social life feels slow, you can slow yours down a bit too. It doesn't mean that you can't have adult-only plans ever, but it doesn't hurt to be around a little more often on a Friday or Saturday night.

Sixth graders are still happy to watch a movie and eat dinner with their parents or play a video or board game together. If you act like it's perfectly fine to be hanging with your folks on a Friday night, they will believe that it is. If you pressure them to make plans when they may not be ready or know quite who to make them with or how to make them, they will feel like something is wrong with them. This moment between childhood and adolescence is precious and fleeting. Don't waste it worrying if they are popular!

If your child is the one moving on, talk to them about your values, which hopefully include kindness and empathy. You can validate that they may have outgrown some friendships and want to spend time with new people, but make it clear that it is not acceptable ever to be mean. Encourage them to see the old friend from time to time, and remind them that everyone is looking at everyone else for cues on how to behave. If they include people and act kind, other kids will follow their lead.

Regarding Halloween, if they seem to be struggling, ask them what they are thinking. Tell them that they certainly do not have to wear a costume to school on Monday, although many kids will, and they also don't have to dress up with a group of friends, although many will do that too. They should make a decision based on what feels comfortable to them. And if they don't have plans to trick or treat – they are definitely old enough to stay home and hand out candy - maybe they want to invite a new friend over for pizza and a scary movie. (This plan will probably cause a sigh of relief in someone else's house!)

Most likely these weekend nights with your middle-schooler at home will soon feel like a distant memory, as they head off into the land of cars and curfews and choices faced in high school social life. When you give them the space to step back and figure it out without judgement or pressure, they head into that land secure that they are loved and supported for exactly who they are by the people that matter most, and they will be comfortable in their ability to decide what is right for them.

stonbergJulie Stonberg is a clinical social worker at Westchester Family Counseling in Hartsdale,