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Writing Rocks—June 2018 Calendar


posted: Tue, Dec 11th, 2018

Sensory wall coming to MOMS

Melissa Silvestri knows how to work on a grand scale. Last year, she coordinated the creation of an 80-foot-long mural in the art department hallway that celebrated the greatest artworks and art movements in history. That mural, designed by students in the school’s gifted and talented art program, took six months to complete.

This year, Ms. Silvestri is teaming up with the special education department for a new project of epic scale, one that adds a totally new dimension: touch.

She and special education teacher Michelle Corazza are planning a therapeutic sensory wall that will provide students with special needs an opportunity to touch and play. Sensory walls can include materials meant to be touched such as cotton and tree bark, lights, games with moving parts, and even items that make sounds such as xylophone keys and bells.

Students with learning, vision, and physical difficulties often have a distorted sense of their surroundings which can interrupt their learning and exploration of the world. The kind of interactive sensory input found on a sensory wall allows these students to explore in a safe environment, focus, and relieve anxiety.

The seventh- and eighth-grade G&T art students are again taking an active role. They are researching components of sensory walls and will come up with their own ideas after meeting with Mrs. Corazza. Ms. Silvestri will combine the ideas into a finished design and then it's on to production.

“Beyond the obvious benefit to our special education students, the wall teaches all students the importance of acceptance, equality, kindness, understanding, and compassion,” Ms. Silvestri said. 

The project is still in its developmental phase and may include the contributions from students in other classes. The goal is to complete the sensory wall by the end of the school year.

Floating their ideas

MOMS students recently used their ingenuity and science knowledge to design and construct boats that could to carry the most weight without sinking. The special hands-on lesson was conducted by Gabrielle Czernik, a civil engineer with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Ms. Czernik presented several examples of boat design and discussed terminology such as buoyancy, density and displacement. Working together in small groups, students sketched their boats then fabricated them from aluminum foil. Each group launched its boat in a pan of water and placed pennies inside to test its maximum load capacity. The strongest and best crafted boat held 220 pennies – that’s more than 19 ounces.

"Students learned firsthand about the exciting and practical field of applied science, in a fun and memorable way," said David Eisenberg, MOMS' library media specialist who organized Ms. Czernik's visit. "Gabrielle showed them how the science that they're learning in school is used in real life. She made engineering and the sciences seem like viable career paths to every student."

The STEM activity was held in the cafeteria and in individual science rooms when the cafeteria was used for lunch.

Before the hands-on science, Ms. Czernik discussed civil engineering careers and the most common specializations (transportation, geotechnical, environmental, coastal, water resources, and construction). She also discussed the role of the Parks Department in managing New York City’s 5,000 parks and 160 miles of waterfront.

This is the fifth year in which Ms. Czernik has brought engineering challenges to MOMS students.

Seoyoung Chun, Kaitlyn Lowy, Dr. Rebecca Kreider, and Priyal Kumar work in the thinker room of MOMS' maker space

Inside the middle school's maker space

Mount Olive High School’s high-tech learning lab devoted to STEAM (the fusion of science, technology, engineering, art, and math) opened in 2016. Its little sister opened this fall at Mount Olive Middle School after a summer 2018 renovation of the building’s former wood shop. And MOHS big brother would absolutely approve.

Modest improvements and equipment additions were made to the space in 2017. This summer, though, the ultimate plan was fully realized and the MOMS maker space was renovated top to bottom with new floors, walls, ceilings, and lighting.

Space was divided to create special instructional areas. There’s a media lab with virtual reality capabilities for audio and video production, a thinker space with whiteboard walls, a work room/fabrication area for crafting projects in wood and other materials, and a digital design lab with new laptops and a bank of eight MakerBot 3-D printers (the same type used at MOHS).

While it’s easy to talk about the lab’s state-of-the-art gear and how great the space looks, it’s important to look beyond the sizzle. The MOMS’ maker space provides students with opportunities to explore cutting-edge technologies and to plan, prototype, and manufacture products.

The goal of the district’s commitment to STEAM education is to empower students with hands-on tech abilities as well as with the critical thinking and collaboration skills that are essential for success. No one knows what the world will be like when these students exit the Mount Olive School District, but making kids future-ready, prepared for the challenges of college and the technology-driven workplace, is key to their success in life. At the elementary level, library/media specialists and classroom teachers regularly engage students with STEAM activities; when students reach the middle school level, they’re ready to dive into a more intense and fulfilling STEAM experience.

“The maker space provides students with a place to put it all together,” said Dr. Rebecca Kreider, who in addition to Beth Cohen, teaches the innovation and design courses. “It allows students to be creative, take risks, manage projects, and apply what they have learned in other classes.”

During the year, students will develop robots that create art autonomously, design and construct hydraulic arms that tackle specific industry needs (such as moving hydraulic waste), and work on circuits that teach them how to apply the principles of electricity.

A recent project of an eighth-grade innovation and design class taught students how to use professional, industry-standard 3-D printing software to create products that solve problems or make life better, such as an iPhone stand with a built-in speaker. The students’ projects were then made in plastic via the lab’s MakerBot 3-D printers. The final end products, though, are less important that the process, planning, and creativity behind them. Those are next-generation skills that will stay will students for a lifetime.

Stay up to date with MOMS maker space activities by following on social media:

Instagram: @moms_maker_space

Twitter: @maker_moms

Facebook: MOMS Maker Space

Nico D'Amico, Emily Rose Murray, and Ryan Kennedy

The escape room without an escape 

Edgar Allen Poe, master of the macabre, would have been proud of the eighth-grade literary escape room that was based on "The Masque of the Red Death." Much like the castle in which the short story is set, there was no escape.  

Seven stations were set up in a classroom representing the seven castle rooms where the story’s action, a masquerade ball, takes place. In each "room," students wearing masks were tasked with completing a specific literary challenge before being allowed to move on to the next room. There were stations designed to test comprehension and understanding of the short story’s literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, alliteration, simile, etc.), symbolism, allegory, and theme, among others.

“The kids loved it,” said teacher Jenna Barstow of the escape room. “We’re going to try to do more later in the year.”

The students competed against each other to be the first to solve all seven challenges which included sets of multiple choice questions, a short essay, riddles, and cryptograms. At the end of the seventh challenge, the eight-graders pretended to do what the characters did in the story’s seventh room: die. Not really an escape at all.

“Things like this make you really comprehend things,” said student Nico D’Amico. “And it made you work.”

“It adds a spin,” said student Nate Miller. “By making it a game, it made you want to do. If someone said ‘Do you want to take a test?’ you’d say no. But if they asked if you want to do an escape room, you’d be in.” 

In addition to “The Masque of the Red Death,” eighth-grade classes also read other Poe classics including “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Raven.”

Matthew Barrino
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Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

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