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AP History Students Step in the Shoes of Renaissance Artists

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It’s not every day that high school students are out coloring the sidewalks with chalk, but at Amityville Memorial High School recently, it helped bring history alive. Students from the Advanced Placement European History participated in a hands-on Renaissance gallery art activity by recreating several famous works.   

Juniors and seniors have been studying the Renaissance time period, which spanned from the early 14th to the early 17th century. Students delved into the characteristics of both Italian and Northern Renaissance art by forming groups and conducting research on particular artists, the artwork they created and the techniques they used. 

After explaining the significance of each piece of artwork, students went outside to recreate it. Two groups focused on Leonardo Da Vinci, with one replicating “The Last Supper” and another drawing the “Mona Lisa.” A third group focused on the Northern Renaissance and depicted Jan van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait.” by Jan van Eyck. 

Teacher Matthew Tomasi said this is the third year students from the AP European History class have completed this project and they enjoy the experience of recreating famous artwork from centuries ago.

Chromebooks Create Modern Learning Community in Amityville

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More than 800 students in the district received Chromebooks for the first time, expanding the 1:1 initiative to ensure that everyone at Edmund W. Miles Middle School and Amityville Memorial High School have their own take-home devices.

Seventh graders at the middle school received their Chromebooks on Sept. 23, followed by the high school’s 11th and 12th graders the following evening. Eighth, ninth and 10th graders new to the district also were able to pick up their devices, which are available for use both in school and at home. Students and parents sat through a short presentation about the benefits of the 1:1 technology program, as well as computer care, student responsibility and digital citizenship. Each student then left with a Chromebook, a charger and a set of earbuds.

Amityville Memorial High School Principal Edward Plaia said that gone are the days of teachers writing notes on a chalkboard, and students copying them down in their notebooks. Schools must evolve to reflect the ever-changing world, he explained, to ensure that students are active participants in the educational process. 

“The research is very clear,” Mr. Plaia said. “Students are engaged when they’re using technology. That’s the world we live, so we have to adapt to it, and that’s why we are rolling out the Chromebooks.”

Dr. Thomas DeNicola, the assistant superintendent for technology and administrative services, said that Acer Chromebooks use the Google platform. With Google Classroom, teachers can post assignments and students can submit their completed work digitally. There are many useful applications such as Google Docs for text documents, Google Sheets for spreadsheets and Google Slides for interactive presentations.

Teachers have received training on how to incorporate this technology into their lessons, and will continue to receive professional development throughout the year. Dr. DeNicola said he is particularly excited about the increased collaboration among students, or between students and their teachers, provided by the Chromebooks. 

High School String Musician Adds Another Accolade

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Amityville Memorial High School junior Alex Diaz continues to add to his list of musical achievements. Alex will represent the district in the New York State School Music Association’s All-State Symphonic Orchestra, for which he will play the viola.

As a fifth grader, Alex began learning the violin, then added the viola to his repertoire in eighth grade. He plays the violin for the school orchestra, holding a leadership position as the ensemble’s concertmaster, and plays viola with the chamber orchestra. His musical talents have also been shared on stage, as he has performed in two musicals at Edmund W. Miles Middle School and two at the high school, including starring as the title role in last year’s production of “Shrek.”

Last year, Alex earned selection to the Long Island String Festival Association’s secondary school orchestra and the Suffolk County Music Educators Association’s All-County musical festival. He will now add All-State musician to his credentials. 

This past spring, thousands of students from across New York State, including Alex, auditioned for NYSSMA ensembles. The selection process was highly competitive and based upon evaluation scores and comments from the spring 2019 NYSSMA assessment, along with teacher recommendations. The Symphonic Orchestra will rehearse and perform at the All-State festival in Rochester from Dec. 5-8.

Outside of school, Alex plays viola for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and spends his Saturdays honing his music skills at Mannes Prep in New York City. This past summer, he participated in a six-week music camp through Kinhaven Music School in Vermont.

“I’m extremely proud of Alex and I look forward to all of the music that he’s going to continue to produce,” said his orchestra teacher, Bianca Ferrante. “He is a leader in our music program and sets an example for other students.”

Pinwheels and Performances in the Name of Peace

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A tranquil sunny morning invoked feelings of peace at Amityville Memorial High School on Sept. 20, as the school hosted its 10th annual World Peace Day celebration. More than 100 students gathered on the front lawn to pledge their commitments to peace, through the placing of colorful pinwheels in the ground.

Members of the National Art Honor Society, which organized the event, spoke about the meaning of World Peace Day, which is observed in many nations. Amityville joined two international organizations that advocate globally for ceasefire and nonviolence, Pinwheels for Peace and Peace One Day. Student Joshua Fernandez asked all of his peers to reflect on the question, “Who will you make peace with today?”

“The purpose of this day is for all walks of life, all over the planet, to set aside our differences and to promote a culture of peace and to improve humanity,” Principal Edward Plaia said. “After all, when people get together regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic status or age, we often find out that we have many more similarities than we do differences.”

The event was organized by Director of Fine Arts Dr. Fran Fernandez and art teacher Jayne Grasso. It featured several student performances including poetry readings and songs. Students from the Latino Club, advised by world language teacher Elisa Castro, shared messages of peace. The Warrior Awareness Club, commonly known as the WAC PAC, had its annual peace rock ceremony. Adviser Jason McGowan said it is a “pay it forward” initiative, in which the painted rocks are continually passed along. Several students presented peace rocks to others who have inspired them, including friends and teachers.    

Students formed a human peace sign on the front lawn of the school and created an art installation by putting their pinwheels in the ground, also in the shape of a peace sign. Three students were recognized for their pinwheel designs: Estephany Barrera, most colorful; Serraia Goodman, most creative; and Kevin Zelaya, most meaningful. National Art Honor Society members said the pinwheels placed in front of the school that morning would be among several million spinning around the world in the promotion of peace.

New Amityville Principals are Familiar Faces

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Two veteran administrators in the district have moved into new roles. Edward Plaia has been named the principal of Amityville Memorial High School and Earl Mitchell has assumed the role of principal at Edmund W. Miles Middle School.

Mr. Plaia taught social studies at Amityville Memorial High School from 2000 to 2007. After a stint as an assistant principal and principal in the William Floyd School District, he rejoined Amityville as middle school principal in 2014, serving in that role for five years. 

“The high school is where I spent half my career teaching, before going into the leadership ranks,” Mr. Plaia said. “It's where I learned about kids, community, teaching and learning. The high school shaped me as an educator, as a leader, as a human being. Aside from my family, I am who I am because of Amityville Memorial High School.”

Mr. Mitchell, an educator for 20 years, came to the district in 2015 after working as a social studies teacher and department chairman at Baldwin Middle School. He was the dean of students at Edmund W. Miles Middle School for three years and last year served as assistant principal.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the Edmund W. Miles Middle School and Amityville community,” Mr. Mitchell said. “To serve and to teach are gifts, and my challenge is to both with excellence and consistency every day.”
Thursday, October 17, 2019