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Accepting Differences and Showing Kindness

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Washington Drive Primary School and Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School in the Harborfields Central School District celebrated Autism Awareness Month with a variety of educational and interactive activities on April 9.

            Students in Kelly Lewis and Michelle Kasin’s classes at Washington Drive gathered together to read “Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book” by Celeste Shally. Then, they used brightly colored pieces of paper to create a puzzle piece, representing the complexity of autism and the diversity of those living with the disorder.

            At Thomas J. Lehay, speech-language pathologist Gina Holm led in organizing the autism awareness activities. For example, she put together slides for teachers with information about autism and kindness-focused activities to incorporate throughout the week, such as students reaching out to new friends to join them during recess.

            Additionally, health teacher Sue Crispino incorporated an autism-related lesson and activity during each of her classes. First, students watched a video about what autism is and stressed the importance of accepting others even if they may be different. Then, students were put in pairs and tasked with asking each other questions about themselves. The goal of the activity was to find and appreciate differences with one another, while incorporating an overall theme of kindness. 

            “While autism awareness is a goal of our efforts, we also strive to keep kindness at the center of all of our lessons,” Ms. Holm said. “An overarching message of autism awareness is embracing that we are all different and everyone always deserves kindness.”

            Washington Drive and Thomas J. Lahey students also decorated puzzle pieces to create one cohesive mural with the theme “We All Fit Together.” Each mural is displayed in the front hallways of the school buildings. In addition to decorating the puzzle pieces, students and families were invited to donate to Autism Speaks, the largest autism research organization in the United States. In total, over $200 was raised for the organization.

 

Harborfields Recognized for Commitment to Music Education

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For the second year in a row, the Harborfields Central School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  The Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

“Year in and year out, the board of education, administration, staff, students, parents and community here in Harborfields show a steadfast commitment to supporting music education,” Music Department Coordinator Dan Bilawsky said. “Their commitment is steadfast in the best of times, and it has been magnified to an incredible degree in this most difficult and unique year.”

The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,400 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org

Students Celebrate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at WDPS

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Kindergartners in Emily Gutheil’s class at Washington Drive Primary School shared their diversity, equity and inclusion portfolios with their classmates and a special visitor, Principal Kathryn McNally, on March 24. 

Harborfields’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force had been working to develop a variety of programs and events to support diversity, equity and inclusivity across all grade levels. One such initiative, “DEI Booklists,” populates classrooms with collections and texts to support students from different cultures and backgrounds. 

Ms. Gutheil’s class recently read books, including “The Skin You Live In” by Michael Tyler, “Layla’s Happiness” by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold. These stories inspired her students to write about and celebrate their differences and unique characteristics. 

 

Harborfields HS Students Attend Virtual College Fair

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More than 150 Harborfields High School students looking to get a head start on college planning attended the school’s first-ever virtual college fair on March 22. The event offered students and their families a chance to personally connect with representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities across the country.  Scheduled time slots, allowed students the unique opportunity to participate in live one-on-one conversations with representatives from their preferred college or university

Students were also encouraged to attend workshops, covering important topics such as the college search process, admissions, financial aid, including grants and scholarships and standardized testing. 

“This was such a wonderful opportunity for our students to ask questions and learn more about colleges from all around the country,” according to Harborfields High School counselor Jaclyn Best.

 

Students Attend Dance Workshop At Harborfields HS

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On March 24, Harborfields High School’s dance club hosted a master class with guest choreographer Katie Taylor, a former New York City Knicks dancer. She spoke with members about her career as a professional dancer and taught them a fun dance routine.  Students had the option to attend the workshop either in-person or virtually.  

“It was so nice hearing the students chat and giggle in real life,” dance club and kickline advisor Jaclyn Best said. “A true feeling of normalcy.”