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posted: Thu, Oct 18th, 2018

Learning the science behind the magic

Eighth-graders in the gifted and talented program recently took a peek behind the curtain to see the science behind Disney magic. The 45 students spent four days in Florida at Walt Disney World Resort learning how science is used to enhance the visitor experience and keep people coming back again and again.

The trip centered on the use of light and sound in the exhibits and rides, and also the complex knowledge of marine biology needed to keep the sea creatures healthy in the resort’s huge aquarium.

The highlight for most students was the up close and personal visit to the famous Haunted Mansion. With a Disney educational guide, they examined how the many effects and illusions are created. One particularly complex ghostly effect fused animatronics, movement, light, smoke, and reflection to create apparitions.

“For a park, Disney is quite a technological marvel,” said student Bryan Thomas. “There are so many uses of physics and magic tricks to create illusions that envelop you.”

In Mickey's PhilharMagic – a 4-D experience that combines a 3-D film with smell cannons, water spray effects, and smoke – the focus was on surround sound. Students were impressed to discover out how much thought was put into the attraction’s audio, including compensating for the way the carpet absorbs sound.

“Everything in the theater is placed so strategically,” said Emma Khan. “Even the garbage cans are put into certain spots to reflect sound in a certain way.”

The students also listened to a presentation on the internship opportunities available at the resort. Susan Breton, the middle school’s former principal who now serves as the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, was once an intern. 

To prepare for the visit, the eighth-graders spent several weeks working on research projects. Each team of three or four investigated light waves, sound waves, the electromagnetic spectrum, or marine biology. The projects provided the kids with an understanding of the science they’d see at Disney, deepening the experience for them.

Students attend football camp with New York Giants

A group of students with special needs recently attended a training camp at MetLife Stadium and played with New York Giants football players.  

The MOMS students joined students from half a dozen other schools for the workshop. Stations were set up on the MetLife field and students alternated between them. Each station focused on a specific football discipline. There was a passing and catching station, a kicking station, and a rushing stadium in which students had to navigate a small obstacle course.

“They loved it,” said teacher Michelle Corazza, who arranged the visit with teacher Michelle Rennalls. “One of the players went up to one of our kids to give a high five and then the student instead gave him a hug.”

The event was co-sponsored by Special Olympics Unified Sports,a group that works to support training and sports competitions that combine an approximately equal number of Special Olympics athletes and partners (individuals without disabilities). 

Special Olympics provided a grant to MOMS to encourage unified events. MOMS special education teachers are now working with physical education teachers to research the best ways to start a unified sports club at the school. The type of adaptive athletic equipment that would be needed and the curriculum are some of issues to be addressed.

“A middle school club that promotes youth ambassadors and inclusive leadership would be wonderful,” Ms. Corazza said. “We’d like to expand the students’ experiences.”

Mount Olive High School received a Special Olympics grant last year and in the spring, MOHS hosted a unified sports event. The school also established a unified sports team that visited other districts for competitions.

The football workshop at MetLife Stadium was offered in partnership with NFL Play 60. NFL Play 60 is a program that works to inspire physical fitness and healthy living in a number of ways such as encouraging children to get 60 minutes of exercise per day.

Brandon Blazier with a turkey leg snack suitable for the king's table 

Living history

The year is 1520. Henry VIII is on the English throne, an outbreak of plague in France is just beginning, and a great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe brews.

Welcome to the Renaissance. A group of 41 seventh-grader and eighth-graders recently experienced the time period they learned about in school by visiting the Renaissance Faire in Manheim, Pennsylvania (15 miles north of Lancaster). The students, members of the gifted and talented program and Aspire afterschool enrichment program, spent five hours exploring the 35-acre theme park and learning first-hand about life five centuries ago.  

With costumed characters and entertainment such as glass-blowing demonstrations, jousting, and human chess, the trip back in time provided a fun, immersive educational experience. Students saw the ingenuity and people-power required to do the simplest things we take for granted in the 21st century. They had to walk on a wheel to crush the ice for snow cones, for example, and used ropes to operate amusement park-type rides. 

“It was an eye-opening experience for the kids,” said David Eisenberg, MOMS’ library/media specialist who guides the Aspire program. “They learned so much about the culture and how different it was from today. They loved interacting with the actors in costume and learning about the artwork of the period.”

The fair also provided a glimpse the disparate worlds of the wealthy and the poor. 

“The life styles were so different,” said Jenna Alessandrini. “Rich people had so much better lives.” 

For seventh-graders in the G&T program, the field trip was a culmination of three weeks of intensive research and project development. Under the direction of teacher Ann Greszczak, the students worked in small teams to explore every aspect of the Renaissance including art, scientific advances, government, and living conditions. The groups then created projects of their own choosing to summarize their learning for each other and their Aspire peers. 

The field trip took place during the fair’s special junior high day and a variety of competitions were held for on-site events and for previously developed projects. Jenna, Natalie Algeri, and Jillian Penczak won a special award of merit for their Renaissance trivia game.

Jenna Alessandrini makes a very tall friend

Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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