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Students Send Love Across the Globe

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Shaw Avenue Elementary School students in Paul Farinacci’s art classes recently embraced Valley Stream District 30’s “Lift Every Voice” theme by participating in creative projects to support the Only Love Foundation. The Only Love Foundation is a non-profit organization that builds schools in underdeveloped countries and provides programs to help communities in impoverished areas around the world.
The students were inspired to help after a visit with Craig Taylor Jr., founder of the Only Love Foundation. Taylor, a native Valley Stream resident and Valley Stream Central High School graduate, visited the school to speak about the work he facilitates across the world. This sparked the idea to raise money and provide gifts to students in need.

With the guidance of Mr. Farinacci, fifth grade students in Allison Hammond’s class handcrafted worry dolls and wrote letters of encouragement to send as gifts to students in Guatemala, where the Only Love Foundation is currently serving. Mr. Farinacci also worked with other classes to design greeting cards as part of a fundraiser and donated the money to the Only Love Foundation. The students drew, painted and used their iPads to create their own unique designs. Once completed, the designs were professionally printed and boxed with envelopes. The cards were sold to families, friends and district staff members. 

“When I learned about the non-profit Only Love Foundation and the amazing work it does with building schools in underdeveloped countries, I knew I wanted to do my part and expand my education focus more globally,” said Mr. Farinacci. “We have been seeking new ways to give back and this seemed like a great way.” 

Author Provides Students with a Glimpse of the Past

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Students at Shaw Avenue Elementary School kicked off their Pick a Reading Partner program with a visit from “Gas Money” author and inspirational speaker Troy Lewis on March 4. The special visit also coincided with Black History Month as Lewis shared his personal story of growing up in a small town in Virginia in the 1960s, during the time of segregation.

Shaw Avenue students in grades 3-6 gathered in the auditorium to hear Mr. Lewis’ life story, including economic struggles, public education and societal norms of the time. Through a slideshow presentation which featured old photographs, the students received a glimpse into Mr. Lewis’ past. He spoke about his grandparents who had a limited education and how he never attended kindergarten due to limited funding for black schools. The students also learned about Mr. Lewis’ first experience being in an integrated classroom and how some public places, like restrooms, were segregated when he was a child. 

Mr. Lewis’ book, “Gas Money,” features true stories of those who have impacted his life. Students learned about some of these individuals during his presentation.

“I want everyone who reads my book to think about similar people who have impacted their lives, be it good or bad, and what they learned from all of those experiences,” Mr. Lewis told students.

Many were surprised to learn that one of Lewis’ family members were friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. King’s wife. Students asked questions about his book and more about his life. Throughout the school day, Mr. Lewis also visited kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms to read his favorite book to students. 

Shaw Avenue Students Receive History Lesson with Museum Workshop

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In honor of Black History Month, Shaw Avenue Elementary School fourth graders recently participated in a Freedom Quilts workshop with Tiffany Carcamo, outreach coordinator from the Long Island Children’s Museum.

Ms. Carcamo educated the students on freedom quilts, which were used during the Underground Railroad to help enslaved Africans escape to freedom. Students read old newspaper advertisements from the time period and learned about how enslaved Africans were sold. The fourth graders were then introduced to different quilt patterns that represented directions to help enslaved Africans reach freedom.

With the help of Ms. Carcamo, each student created their own quilt patterns. Using a template of the North Star and Flying Geese, two quilt patterns from that time in history, students selected their favorite fabrics and glued pieces onto their template. At the end of the activity, Ms. Carcamo provided each student with a free pass to the Long Island Children’s Museum. 

Shaw Avenue’s Capital Project is Moving Forward

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During the district’s board of education meeting on Feb. 10, Assistant Superintendent for Business Brian Phillips, presented a capital projects update for the community. Construction is currently taking place at Shaw Avenue Elementary School to expand the building. In May 2017, voters approved the project to be funded by the district’s capital reserve with no cost to taxpayers. The addition will feature three new classrooms, one resource room and storage. According to Mr. Phillips, the project is moving along nicely and is expected to be completed in the spring with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on June 15. 

The Power of Positivity

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Shaw Avenue Elementary School students are sharing words of encouragement through the school’s new Positivity Wall. The wall was inspired by research around neuroplasticity, the changes that occur in an individual’s brain throughout their life.

The wall is featured outside of Assistant Principal Andrew Canlé’s office. Students in grades 3-6 have their own section of the wall to write inspirational and uplifting messages. There is also a “Take What You Need and Pass It On” spot where students can fill out a Post-it with words of encouragement for others to take when they need a pick-me-up.

“This is where students write encouraging words for others to take and pass on in an attempt to create student-led unity and cultivate empathetic values such as citizenship and civility,” said Mr. Canlé. “It is also a great mindfulness tool for our Safety Patrol members to refer to when mentoring younger children as a way to further develop social and emotional competencies within our student population and build a strong sense of community!”

The Positivity Wall has been a great success so far. Students are eager to make their mark in the building and help others while practicing social-emotional learning. Many students have already added to or taken a Post-it from the Positivity Wall and have brought it into their classroom as a source of inspiration and motivation.

“It helps me to try my best so that I can do a good job in math, reading or science,” said Shaw Avenue third grader Kyle Lynch.

Kyle's classmate, Chelsea James, said the Positivity Wall has made her feel better and comfortable, adding that the words of encouragement from other students have helped bring the school together.

“It shows that we can work together to make this a nice school,” she said.