Kindergartners with police officer

District Practices Lockdown Drill

Kindergartners with police officer

We want to let our families know Gardner-Dickinson practiced a lockdown drill on May 16.

The drill was completely precautionary and provided us an opportunity to practice keeping our students safe in the event of an emergency.

We would like to thank the North Greenbush Police Department for their assistance with the drill.

School districts are required to practice four lockdown drills and eight fire drills each year.

Here is a parent letter with more info.

Author Dan Miyares visits with students

Author Dan Miyares Visits Gardner-Dickinson

Students with signed books

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Author and illustrator Dan Miyares visited Gardner-Dickinson School on May 10 to talk with students about writing and drawing books such as “Surf’s Up”.

Mr. Miyares also took time to sign students’ books. The author visit was organized by Library Media Specialist Linda Fecura.

Thank you Mr. Miyares for inspiring our students!

Student artwork

Student Artwork Featured at FDR Historic Site

Gardner-Dickinson students created artwork for the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site that will be on display in its Visitor Center through May 31.

Gardner-Dickinson was one of 17 schools to create art for an exhibit that challenged students to explore the National Park Service through art.

The art project is in partnership with the Dream Rocket project. Artwork will be collected after the exhibit is over and join thousands of pieces of student artwork from around the world to wrap the skeleton of a replica NASA rocket.

Students in Creative Writing class

Students Explore Creative Writing in New Class

Students write in library

A new Creative Writing class is offering 8th graders an opportunity this year to explore different writing styles.

Instead of spending time in study hall, students gather around a library table where they first read from a book and discuss the motivations of characters and how the author writes.

One week, the novel is “Skeleton Creek,” a story told from two different characters’ perspectives. Another week, students discuss “The Crossover,” the Newbery Award winning book written entirely in prose.

After the book discussion, students try their own hand at writing in different styles. Students write fiction, poems and even a graphic novel, with the help of art teacher Jeanine Mitchell.

“We read, we write, we discuss,” explained teacher Rebecca Delaney. “What I like best is they don’t think of it as work. It’s so much different from what they do in class because they have free reign to write what they want.”

Student Rayne Barnes noted she appreciates the opportunity to be creative with her writing and feels her writing has improved as a result of the class.

“I enjoy the freedom we have here,” explained Rayne. “If you give us an idea to write about, it’s easier for me than to be told exactly what to write.”

Ms. Delaney said other teachers have mentioned to her how they also notice improvement in students’ writing, something she credits with how the students help each other.

“They’re always willing to listen and accepting of each other’s work,” said Ms. Delaney. “They value the critique. They want to get better.”

Andrew Newmark reads with students

New Approach Improves Student Reading

Andrew Newmark reads with student

Gardner-Dickinson’s youngest learners are making huge strides in reading this year due to a new approach that places a reading specialist in kindergarten and first grade each day.

Spending at least an hour in each class, Andrew Newmark works with students in small groups, reading with them and assessing areas where they need help. The additional support also provides teachers the same opportunity to work more closely with students.

“Every student rotates through me then their regular teacher so they get a double dose of small group instruction,” explained Mr. Newmark. “Small group instruction is the most effective instruction. We try to do that as much as possible.”

Guided reading time typically starts with students rereading a book they are familiar with to build their confidence and fluency. It also gives educators an opportunity to evaluate how reading strategies are working for a student.

Students then move on to work with words, using magnetic letters or dry-erase boards to build words and make word analogies. “That gives students a better sense of language and how words fit together in different spelling patterns that create words,” explained Mr. Newmark.

A new book is then introduced to students. Teachers first review vocabulary that students may struggle with and make reading engaging by asking students their predictions about the book or how it may connect to their lives. As students read quietly, educators periodically check in with them to evaluate their reading accuracy and the strategies they use to guide them.

Outside of the classroom, teachers and Mr. Newmark discuss their teaching strategies. This helps educators learn from each other about what approaches are working best for students. Students who struggle receive additional reading support as needed.

“The more we can collaborate, the more we can talk about each student, the more we can know about each student, the better we can help each student. That’s been a huge part of their success,” said Mr. Newmark. “The best part of the job is seeing how well students are doing.”

Principal Mary Yodis explained the new teaching approach came out of discussions with teachers on how the district could improve students’ reading and writing skills. Instead of bringing an outside person to provide professional development, Dr. Yodis said teachers preferred to work with Mr. Newmark.

“Andrew’s knowledge on literacy, particularly on how children acquire reading and writing skills is phenomenal,” said Dr. Yodis. “He’s such a benefit to the children and also helping teachers become even stronger at their craft.”

The results have been impressive already, said Dr. Yodis. Almost every kindergartner and first grader is reading at or above their grade level.

“All the research shows that providing intervention in kindergarten and first grade really makes a substantial contribution to reading achievement in students,” said Dr. Yodis.

Students perform musical

Drama Club Performs Musical

Months of rehearsing afterschool paid off for the Gardner-Dickinson Drama Club who presented the musical “The Little Mermaid Jr.” on Mar. 31 and Apr. 1.

Performing the musical’s signature songs such as “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl”, the 24 students in Drama Club drew standing ovations from a packed gymnasium for each show.

This was the first year the Drama Club performed the school musical twice. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reardon said the change worked out well, particularly because the musical typically takes place the day before graduation.

“The Drama Club really had a chance to stand on their own without so much of the focus on graduation,” said Dr. Reardon. “I’m so proud of our students. It was awesome to see such a wide range of students working so hard behind the scenes and then taking a risk by putting themselves in the public eye. That takes courage.”

Library Media Specialist Linda Fecura works with student

Library Research Project Engages Students

Students research in library

Ask a Gardner-Dickinson 6th grader about their Demigods research project and you’ll get an earful.

“I was really excited to research as much Greek mythology as I could,” said student Isabella Marte. “We had to research the god’s appearance, their personality, and their image on a notecard. I chose Paen, he is a satyr, which is a half-goat, half-man. He created the pan flute and the word panic actually came from him because he liked to jump out and scare people sometimes.”

What made the library project particularly engaging for students was the opportunity to create their own demigod, particularly after having just read “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” in their English Language Arts class.

“That’s why this demigod project wasn’t like any other project. I really liked how you got to pick one god and just with the evidence and the information you found out about her or him you got to make your own new character,” explained Lauren Czubek, who created a demigod named Pearl. “I gave her a seashell that she clipped onto her belt that would call all of her dolphins, which Poseidon used to get her mother Amphitrite.”

Theresa Crawford was so excited about the project she created twin demigods and had a hard time stopping. While most students wrote a page about their demigod, Theresa kept writing.

“I kind of took part of my story from ‘Percy Jackson’ because there’s a centaur in the book so I put a centaur in my story so it really blended together,” said Theresa. “My goddess was Hera, and I really liked her because she was beautiful. My two kids were Victoria and Rosealina. When I was little, they were my favorite names because I thought they were beautiful so those names came just right to me.”

Library Media Specialist Linda Fecura was amazed at the stories students came up with. She said that part of the project engaged students and aligned with their English Language Arts class.

“The project was all about connections. It enhanced their reading and understanding of ‘The Lightning Thief’,” explained Ms. Fecura. “They totally loved it on their end because there was a creative component. I wanted them to internalize the knowledge and produce something unique on their own.”

That point was not lost on Ryan Strong, who noted he’s read about mythology for years and was excited to research Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmithing and fire.

“When I heard we were doing this I got real super excited,” said Ryan. “It was kind of like a new boundary for me because it’s something I don’t usually get to do. When I read my books I’m always the one reading the connections, I’m not the one making the connections. That why it wasn’t like any average paper that you sit down and write. This was all out of your brain, but like an exciting part of your brain.”

The excitement students had for the project and the researching skills they gained impressed Principal Mary Yodis, who noted students learned to use technology effectively, find reliable sources of information, and the proper way to cite those sources.

“I find it remarkable. They’re using technology and research tools because they’re creating their own demigod that was based on their ELA and Social Studies content,” said Dr. Yodis. “Our kids are like ‘Oh my God, Mrs. Yodis. Please come and look at my Demigod. Do you want to see what I’m writing about?’ They loved it. They were so engaged.”

Odyssey of the Mind team

Odyssey of the Mind Team Honored

Odyssey of the Mind team

A Gardner-Dickinson team was honored at this year’s regional Odyssey of the Mind regional competition for serving as a role model of exemplary behavior.

Students earned the OMER’s Award during the competition held on March 25 at the Coxsackie-Athens Central School District.

“I’m proud of all three Gardner-Dickinson teams who spent months working afterschool to prepare for the competition,” said Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reardon. “It was great to see our students honored for their team spirit.”

Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that challenges students to use their creativity to solve problems. The event builds teamwork and self-confidence in students as they work together to create sets and perform their solution before judges.

Student shares book they wrote

Gr. 1 Shares Books They Wrote

Students read together

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First graders shared the non-fiction books they wrote in March with classmates from other grades.

Students first borrowed books on animals from the library then filled in a graphic organizer, a visual map that helped students organize what they learned. First graders then wrote their books, complete with a Table of Contents, and shared it with other students.

“You can ask any 1st grader what the best part of the project was and they will reply ‘sharing it with other students at GD’,” said Teacher Jennifer Kelleher. Great job!

Students in Washington, DC

Gr. 8 Enjoys Trip to Washington, D.C.

Eighth graders has a busy class trip this year with visits to the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, Mount Vernon, National Archives and numerous other sites.