#InsidePublicEd 2019-20

WestPut Wellness

  • Students Learn Masonry Field Is Rock Solid

    Masonry at PNW BOCES

    Masonry students at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES don’t have to worry much about the job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 11 percent through 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Because population growth will result in the construction of more schools, hospitals, homes, and other buildings, workers with experience in the construction trades, and masonry in particular, have excellent job prospects.

    None of this is news to Erik Cantamessa, the Masonry teacher at the Career and Technical Education Center at BOCES. Cantamessa, who has been at BOCES for close to 30 years, said that there is such a shortage of bricklayers and masons that “we have open application enrollment in our union now to try to attract people.”

    The two-year Preservation/Restoration/Commercial Masonry program at BOCES provides students with comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience with materials such as brick, block, stone, tile, concrete and plaster. They can earn OSHA certification as well as NCCER (National Center for Construction and Education Research) certification, all of which make them extremely marketable.

    Cantamessa, who is also an instructor for the Bricklayers Allied Craftsmen Local 1 union, often recommends his students for apprenticeship in the union upon completion of the program at BOCES. Union jobs, he said, not only pay better than non-union, but the benefits can’t be beat.

    “The hourly wages are higher, they provide two pensions, vacation pay and annuities,” he said, “plus a 5% pay raise every six months during their apprenticeship.”

    Because the Masonry program at BOCES is the only one in the area, enrollment is steadily increasing. “We even have college graduates trying to get into the union,” he said, “because Masonry pays well and has great benefits.”

    Cantamessa — whose son, aptly named Mason, graduated from the program in 2012 and has been working and upwardly mobile in the field ever since — said that there is definite growth potential for people who stay in the field long-term. “Eventually, you can work your way up to foreman or go into management,” he said.  

  • Wellness Day Prepares Fifth Grade Students to Handle Pressures of Middle School

    Hastings Yoga

    Stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, these are words that you might feel are only associated with being an adult, but these are also words that are on the lips of children.  They feel pressure from school, society, friends, and family. To help the fifth grade students who have just entered Farragut Middle School in the Hastings-on-Hudson UFSD, the fifth grade teachers and support team decided to hold a Wellness Day for the children.

    Spearheaded by Kyle Case, Danielle LaBella and Shannon Mulholland, the teachers approached FMS Principal Gail Kipper with their idea of a Wellness Day. “We wanted to give the students a way to become acclimated to the middle school, meet all the fifth grade teachers and team members, and begin learning coping strategies,” explained Shannon Mulholland. When Principal Gail Kipper heard their plan, her response was an energetic yes, saying, “The idea of a wellness day embodies everything FMS stands for: how students can keep their minds and bodies healthy and stay centered on the present. We have been doing a great deal of work around social emotional learning and wellness, working with such institutions as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. So, this was a perfect plan.”

    After an assembly on safety in the morning by former FMS student and current Hastings Police Patrolman Sam Brecker, the students rotated through workshops on stress/coping, hygiene, mindfulness, healthy snacks, acceptance/kindness, and yoga. Throughout the day, the students kept notes in a journal and ended the school day by creating posters on what they had learned.

    Thoughts included answering questions such as how am I unlike anyone else; what acts of kindness can I do; how do I accept others and how do they accept me; what do I eat and what should I eat to be healthy; creating mood meters based on levels of pleasantness and
    unpleasantness; and healthy coping options so you don’t feel despair.

    Hollis Sklaw, a fifth grade student said her favorite workshop was mindfulness because she felt so relaxed she felt like she was going to fall asleep and, “It was a good activity to calm down and get rid of stress.” Along a similar note, student Samantha Coletti said the yoga workshop reminded her of mindfulness and, “The breathing helps you forget about worries.”

    In reaction to the day, statements by students in the hallways included: the day was awesome; and, we love Wellness Day.

    Farragut Middle School is sure to now make this an annual event. Those involved in the event included the school psychologist, guidance counselor, special education team, teachers, and administrators.

    At the conclusion of the event, Principal Kipper thanked all the teachers and team members who made the day possible, and the cheerleading efforts of Assistant Principal Christopher Keogh.

  • Brewster High School’s Math in Carpentry and Construction Allows Students to See Math Through a Whole New Lens

    Brewster's Math in Carpentry and Construction Class


    A group of students gathered around a class-made saw horse. Heads bent, they studied angles, carefully marking a piece of wood. Once satisfied, one of the students donned a pair of clear safety goggles and sliced through the wood with a saw while his classmates watched on. One thing was clear: this was not a typical math class.

    Math in Carpentry and Construction (or MC2), a new math class offered this year, is the brainchild of Brewster High School teacher Michael Honey. 

    “I do this mostly as a hobby,” Honey said of construction. “I build a ton of projects. As I’ve been doing them over the last couple of years, I’ve realized how much math I use.” 

    Having taught geometry almost exclusively for twenty years, Honey realized more specifically that geometry is an essential part of building anything.

    Tired of hearing the age-old question “When am I ever going to use this again?”, Honey thought to create a course where geometry lessons are directly applied to carpentry. The result is an engaging, hands-on class that students seem to love.

    At the beginning of a recent class, students gathered around a table to discuss a project they’re working on: a bench with a ninety degree angle that can fit in a corner.

    Honey guided students in using trigonometry to figure out the angles each of the bench’s slats need to be in order for the project to come together successfully. Once the math was figured out, the class headed outside into the cool September sunshine.

    After helping Honey set up, students gathered around to work on the next phase of their bench. Taking turns, they measured, cut, and drilled new pieces onto the frame they had already made.

    “The nice thing about carpentry,” Honey told them, “is that there’s always a finished product. Sometimes in math, you’ll learn a theory and say ‘Alright, that’s fine,’ and then walk out the door. But when you can apply that to carpentry and make a finished piece, that’s satisfying.”

    Throughout the entire lesson, Honey’s enthusiasm was contagious. As students lined up pieces of wood and started to see their project take shape, he couldn’t help but exclaim “How good does that feel?!” 

    “It’s a really fun class,” said student Matthew Clark. “I like it a lot.” Clark, who hopes to become a welder, was looking to the future when he enrolled in MC2. “I’ve always been involved in carpentry and building things. I like to know the math behind construction and I think this class will help in my career.”

    The class will help students become career-ready in many ways. Students are not only learning how to build things, but how to apply knowledge to real-world problems. Critical thinking, collaboration, and perseverance — some of the essential skills of a Brewster graduate laid out in the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan — are all crucial pieces of the course. In addition, Honey plans to give students a little business experience as well.

    “For the first half of the year,” Honey said, “we’re going to make a bunch of small projects. We’ll try to sell them around Christmas time to raise money for material for the second half of the year.”

    In the spring, he hopes to have them building house-type structures with walls, siding and roofing that can be taken apart so that materials can be reused.

    Combining life skills and hands-on experience with lessons in math, MC2 truly prepares students for success in a changing world.

  • Somers Sensory Initiative

    Somers Sensory Path

    Students in kindergarten through second grade at the Primrose Elementary School in Somers have four new ways to get their sillies out or turn their frowns upside down. The talented team at Primrose Elementary School has created four sensory paths in the hallways to help the children regulate their emotions so they can do their best learning. Specifically created to help students improve their social, emotional and physical wellness, the project was funded by the Primrose Parent Teacher Association and Special Education Parent Teacher Association.