Written by Matthew Ern Thursday, 22 May 2014 00:00
Students from the Odyssey and Math Enrichment programs in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District presented projects they’ve been working on this year at the May 12 board of education meeting.
“We’ve asked some of our students here this evening so you could see some of the outstanding work that’s cultivated by the young men and young women in our district,” Superintendent Robert Katulak said.
Students in fourth through sixth grades from New Hyde Park’s four elementary schools took turns presenting their projects, which covered a variety of subjects from Homer’s Odyssey to cricket to Internet search speeds.
Victoria McGuigan, a sixth grader from Hillside Grade School, introduced the Odyssey program and gave a brief summary of the work the class has done this year, before reading a selection from an illustrated book of her own design called “Sybil Ludington, the Fearless Fighter.”
Fifth graders Kaitlyn Thitibordin, Navdeep Kaur, and Megan Muntzenberger presented a model of an Odyssey themed amusement park. Preesha Mody played Elizabethan music on her flute and Christian Zamora unveiled his Shakespearean puppet show.
Dario Gimenez created his own Benjamin Franklin board game. Fourth grader Max O’Connor also tried his hand at inventing.
Entry into the programs is based on three criteria: IQ, New York State test results, and teacher recommendation. Students meet for 90 minutes a week for each program during regular classroom hours. They’re responsible for any work missed. Most students are in both the
Odyssey and Math Enrichment programs, but it is possible to be in one without the other.
Sheila Bet heads the Odyssey program, which offers students in-depth humanities studies. Fourth-graders explore literacy through the Junior Great Books program and learn critical thinking skills used to interpret classic works of literature.
In fifth grade, they tackle Greek mythology and the works of Shakespeare. In sixth grade, students participate in a program called “The Constitution Works” to learn how a bill becomes a law.
Every year culminates in a trip to New Hyde Park Village Hall for a mock debate where the class attempts to amend and pass a new bill. This year, students analyzed a 14th Amendment right and debated whether boys and girls should be allowed to play on the same sports teams.
“The purpose of the Odyssey program is to provide a challenging, differentiated educational environment, beyond the regular school program. Enhanced decision-making, problem solving, creative, critical and divergent thinking are developed through activities that are designed to challenge our young students’ intellects and talents,” explains Bet.
The Math Enrichment program is taught by Tammie Svendsen and allows students to pursue projects based on whatever interests them amount the world of mathematics. The class also participates in the National Math Olympiads, an ongoing competition from November to March.
Several students presented their projects at the Board of education meeting. Fourth grader Rahi Bhatia gave a detailed account of Math in Cricket that focused on different players’ batting averages. Vanessa DiNardo and Ava Giangrande teamed up to determine whether or not it was more cost-effective to buy bows for their hair or to make them themselves. Julia Si did her project on Math in Architecture and studied different types of bridges.
The final presentation came from a pair of sixth graders, Mithul George and Abaan Khalid, who compared Internet search speeds on Google and Bing as well as service providers Verizon FiOs and Optimum Online.
The annual Math and Odyssey fairs offer the students a chance to show off their hard work to parents and peers alike.
The board of education meeting wrapped up with comments from the community. Ralph Ratto, president of the teachers union for the district, spoke out against stalled contract renewals.
“Our negotiations have been at a painfully slow pace, often waiting weeks for an answer or another meeting by your side,” Ratto said. “There is no logical excuse for this.”
The teachers contract expired two years ago at the end of the school year. Under the Triborough amendment to the Taylor Law, they continue to work under the terms of the old contract until a new one is ratified.
Because negotiations are ongoing, Ratto declined to discuss what offers are being made by both sides. While addressing the board, he stressed that the teachers are simply after a “fair and just contract” and reminded them that teachers “are taxpayers and parents too.”