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Students Draw Inspiration From Each Other on Paint Night

Students Draw Inspiration From Each Other on Paint Night photo

Students and teachers from Rye Neck Middle School and Rye Neck High School worked together to create winter scene masterpieces during the middle school’s Paint Night event on Nov. 30, which served as a fundraiser for the junior class.

Using a white canvas, acrylic paint and brushes, sixth- through eighth-grade students followed step-by-step instructions from art teacher Dara Goodman to paint the winter scene, which included a moon and white conifer trees.

“The students successfully created a glowing, radiating moon in their sky using beautiful cool colors,” Goodman said. “They worked in layers, creating blended colors, winter trees and snow to complete their seasonal paintings. Each student created their own unique piece of artwork that they were proud of. It was so exciting to see how each person’s own interpretation and style was portrayed throughout the different details, colors and styles within each individual painting.”

Meanwhile, Rye Neck High School junior class officers and their adviser, Linette Milo, helped the students with their supplies and the overall organization of the event. Volunteers included freshmen Khaleema Bogan and Jake Diamond, and juniors Sonia Finkenberg, Grace Kujawski, Robert Miller, Lucas Pasquina, Juliana Silva, Maxwell Thurer and Lucas Vienne. 

“The students had a lot of fun while working and were very attentive to details and the techniques being presented to them,” said art teacher Trisha Appel, who, along with fellow teachers Jennifer Dallow and Karen Fontecchio, answered students’ questions about different art techniques. “You could see how proud they were of their paintings while they were working and at the end when they finished.” 

At the end of the night, event organizers raffled off prizes, which included a small canvas and paints for students to continue to paint at home. 

“The students were smiling, laughing and helping each other,” Appel said. “It was nice to see such a large group of students having fun, being creative and finding inspiration from each other’s work.” 

The art department’s Paint Night raised money for the high school junior class. The fundraiser is held twice a year to benefit students as they raise money for their respective classes.

Author to Creative Writing Students: ‘Make It Happen’

Author to Creative Writing Students: ‘Make It Happen’ photo

Sixth- and seventh-graders – who have been writing their own fictional stories in Jenny Theall’s Creative Writing classes – welcomed published author E.J. Flynn to their school to gain new skills and knowledge about the writing process.

During her visits on Nov 14, 27 and 30, Flynn – who is also a marketing and business professor at SUNY Purchase, founder of ILF Publishing and the parent of a middle school student – helped the students discover the power of their imagination. She also encouraged them to turn their own ideas into stories and empowered them with the confidence that they, too, can “make it happen” and get their stories published. 

“I love creative writing because it’s a safe place to express who you are through your writing,” said sixth-grader Willow Edwards, who has written descriptive poems, short snippets and fictional stories in her class. 

As part of the interactive workshops, Flynn challenged the students to keep organized, write down their ideas, start an outline, set goals and deadlines, do extensive research and partner with a friend or mentor who will keep them accountable. She demonstrated how a real-life experience or observation can be turned into a story and taught the students how to keep their readers invested by creating a believable world and robust characters, building suspense and writing a distinct beginning, middle and end to their stories. 

Sixth-grader Natalie Silva said she learned the importance of drawing inspiration from real-life experiences to develop a compelling story. 

“It’s such a creative and fun way to express yourself because you’re creating your own world, what happens in it and your own characters,” Silva said about the art of creative writing. “Obviously, life isn’t perfect, but this story is to you. And it becomes a reality to you and the readers who read it.”  

Theall said she invited Flynn to speak to her students because it was an opportunity for them to participate in a discussion with a published author, ask questions and envision the endless possibilities of creative writing. 

“Creative writing is student-generated and stems from their imagination,” Theall said. “Bringing in an author makes writing real. Hopefully, it also inspires them to continue writing, take it to the next step and have their work connect to art, current events and news. That’s the beauty of creative writing; it can connect all other topics.” 



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Snap Circuits Club Encourages Student Creativity

Snap Circuits Club Encourages Student Creativity photo

From light tunnels to sound boards, a remote-controlled vehicle that zips through the hallways and a helicopter that flies 10 feet up in the air, Rye Neck Middle School students have been channeling their inner electrical and mechanical engineers as part of the school’s newly founded Snap Circuits Club.

Each Friday after school, members of the club get to explore in a student-driven environment and strengthen their teamwork and critical thinking skills. Using snap circuit kits and 3D construction components, the students can choose from more than 150 different projects that incorporate sounds and light and build upon their own ideas to create an original project. 

“These are the students who are really dedicated to it, who just want to have fun for an hour,” said Jenny Theall, who founded the club at the beginning of the school year. “It has nothing to do with homework. The students love being independent and working hands-on, and the activities directly stimulate their creativity.” 

Ryan Varga, a sixth-grader and the club’s president, said his favorite part has been building the rover, or the remote-controlled vehicle, and figuring out ways he and his partner could attach a projector to it. 

“We have to connect all the wires and we have to take everything and snap it together,” Varga said. “You need the positive and negative currents to go the right way and everything to be hooked properly, otherwise it won’t work.” 

Meanwhile, sixth-graders Lucia Monreal and Sarah Spiral used laser pegs that light up to create their own project, which they interpreted as a winter wonderland, complete with Christmas trees and a village. 

“You can create anything with this,” Spiral said. “My favorite part was figuring out how to put it all together.” 

Theall said the Snap Circuits Club was created to provide students with a space where they can further explore their interests, learn how to be flexible, promote teamwork and build upon their strengths. 


Students Earn Awards at Model United Nations Conference

Students Earn Awards at Model United Nations Conference photo
Nine sophomores, juniors and seniors who are members of the Rye Neck High School Model United Nations Club recently assumed the roles of UN ambassadors to debate a variety of current issues. They participated in the BrewMUNC Model UN Conference, held at Brewster High School on Nov. 10, and the BardMUNC Model UN Conference, held at Bard College on Nov. 17.  

The student-delegates researched and prepared position papers for their assigned country or political person prior to attending the event. While at the conference, they discussed the compelling issues in their committee through the lens of their country, drafted resolutions and successfully collaborated with others to develop mutual understanding and strategies to resolve complex problems. 

“All of these activities required good debating and speaking skills,” said Thomas Graziano, a teacher and the club’s adviser. “Our students worked hard to make agreements and resolutions with representatives from countries who may be polar opposites. In participating in these conferences, our students demonstrated a desire and ability to work with others in a polarized world.”

For their outstanding performances in their respective committees at the BrewMUNC Model UN Conference, seniors Jose Latorre and Sandy Zhang received special commendations, while Maggie Victory received the Best Position Paper award, and Risa Liebmann and Guillermo Pons earned Outstanding Delegate awards. 

At the BardMUNC Model UN Conference, senior Dasha Boswell and sophomore Noah Thurer won Outstanding Delegate in their joint Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee (SOCHUM) General Assembly committee. Senior Risa Liebmann won Outstanding Delegate in the Nixon-Vietnam Committee, sophomore Ruby Liebmann won Outstanding Delegate in the Congress of Vienna Historical Committee and junior Anna Boswell won Outstanding Delegate in the Venezuela Crisis Committee.

Graziano said members of the Rye Neck High School Model United Nations Club possess exceptional writing and speaking skills and share an interest in politics and history. 

“The students who win the awards have a much better view of how current events and history interconnect,” he said. “Together, the desires to learn and be openminded are the most important aspects one can have for high achievement in a Model UN conference.” 

Seniors Launch Public Service Announcements

Seniors Launch Public Service Announcements photo
Over the course of several weeks, Rye Neck High School seniors worked to create public service announcements and raise awareness about a variety of issues. As part of an interdisciplinary project in Melinda Merkel’s and Karen Parisi’s classes, the students researched their chosen topics and learned how to become active participants in their community. 

“They thought about an issue that they cared about and wanted to see change in our school, community or world,” Merkel said. “Their topics could include a human rights issue, environmental concern, teen issue, medical advancement or any social issue that they felt passionate about.” 

Students chose to focus on a variety of topics, including organ donation, texting and driving, anti-Juul, gaming disorders, hunger, opioid crisis, DACA, cybersecurity and more. Having completed extensive research on their chosen topic, each student drafted an essay that explored the causes, effects and solutions to the issue. Then, they created a full-color poster and a 30-second video commercial for their advertising campaigns. 

“The variety of interests and the depth of investigation made each day of watching films an adventure,” Parisi said. 

Merkel said that despite the challenging assignment, the students mastered their topics and demonstrated their skills as filmmakers. 

“It was a good way to learn and establish our independence as thinkers, and it got a message out,” senior Magdalena Zarate-Rangel said. 

Watch Nina Sullivan's PSA on the effects of balloons on sea life, here

Young Writers Complete Personal Narrative Stories

Young Writers Complete Personal Narrative Stories photo
Young Writers Complete Personal Narrative Stories photo 2
Young Writers Complete Personal Narrative Stories photo 3
Third-graders, who have been studying about personal narratives, recently wrote stories from their own life experiences. The young writers drafted their personal narratives and brought their characters to life through actions, internal and external dialogue, and vivid descriptions. 

“We took the time and care to help our students discover and develop their writing identities and becoming familiar with the routines through their personal narrative pieces,” third-grade teacher Ann Cullagh said. 

The students first drafted their stories in a notebook as a way to explore different strategies before typing out their stories on a computer. They also learned about the efforts that go into the process of planning, writing and revising their stories. 

“The most important aspect of this unit has been helping students understand that writing is a recursive process and that their voice is important and needs to be heard,” Cullagh said. 

Fourth-Graders Master Circus Tricks

Fourth-Graders Master Circus Tricks photo
F.E. Bellows Elementary School fourth-graders learned to balance on stilts and juggle various objects when the O-Town Circus Academy visited their school from Nov. 13-16. 

Throughout the week, performers provided the students with a variety of engaging activities and helped them master their circus skills, which included juggling, plate spinning, diabolo manipulation, devil sticks, Chinese yo-yo, clowning and stilt walking. 

“Besides having fun, the students were learning through play and discovering on their own how to perform,” said physical education teacher Kristin Desio, who oversaw the program along with fellow teacher Bryan Iacovelli. 

The activities were designed to support the students’ physical fitness, balance and coordination and strengthen their gross and fine motor skills. In addition, the learning experience helped enhance their ability to collaborate with peers. 

At the end of the week, the students will demonstrate their newly acquired skills to parents, teachers and peers during a special circus performance, to be held on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at the middle and high school campus. 

The interactive workshops, which all students in third- through fifth-grade had the opportunity to participate in, were made possible thanks to the generous support of the PTSA. 

High School Students Design Original Board Games

High School Students Design Original Board Games photo
High School Students Design Original Board Games photo 2
High School Students Design Original Board Games photo 3
Rye Neck High School freshmen – who have been studying about the different world religions in their Global History classes – recently worked together to design their own board games as a way to expand their knowledge. 

The innovative project, which spanned a couple of weeks in Robert Brevetti’s, Andrea Katz’s and Marcella Scalise’s classes, allowed the students to be creative, think critically and collaborate with their classmates. The process began with the ninth-graders completing several activities to compare and contrast the ideas behind the major world religions that influenced the world. Then, drawing inspiration from their favorite board games, they created new rules and incorporated elements of one of the major world religions into their projects, decorated their game boards and created tokens or game pieces.

“They worked hard to use the main ideas and beliefs of their religion to make a fun and interesting board game,” Scalise said.

One group collaborated on reinventing Candyland by incorporating facts about the different Christian beliefs. Other student-created games included Buddhism Candyland, Buddhism Trouble, Christianity Monopoly, Christianity Trouble, Hinduism Candyland, Hinduism Chutes and Ladders, Hinduism Game of Life, Hinduism Sorry, Judaism Chutes and Ladders and Life of a Christian.

Freshman Danielle Lindo said creating a board game with her friends allowed her to learn new facts about the different religions. Cora Radulovic, a freshman, said she enjoyed the creative aspect of the project, which allowed her and her classmates to express their ideas and apply their knowledge in a fun way. 

“I’m hoping our students now have a better understanding of the religion they did their projects on and how important these world religions are still today,” Scalise said. “The board games project was an interactive way for them to review the major ideas and beliefs of the world religions.” 

Scalise said the students will play their board games in class as a way to prepare for their midterm and final exams.

Bellows Students Share a Piece of Home With Troops

Bellows Students Share a Piece of Home With Troops photo

In honor of Veteran’s Day, all students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School participated in a service project to thank our troops overseas for their service and sacrifice to our country. The students crafted handmade cards and wrote letters as a way to express their appreciation and gratitude.

“It is the perfect way to kick off the upcoming holiday season by being kind,” Principal Michael Scarantino said.  

In addition to making the cards, the students filled and attached small bags of soil to the cards to make the soldiers feel close to home. Susan Combs, a fifth-grade teacher and team leader who spearheaded the project, said some soldiers carry them in their pockets and others keep them in their bunks. 

The letters and bags of soil were delivered to United for the Troops, a nonprofit organization that works to share acts of kindness and generosity to our armed forces, that will then distribute them to the brave men and women overseas. 

“It is a wonderful organization that helps so many soldiers who cannot be home during the holidays,” Combs said.  


RNHS Students Earn OCA-WHV Scholarships

RNHS Students Earn OCA-WHV Scholarships photo
Rye Neck High School students Audrey Elise Young and Sandy Zhang have each earned a scholarship from the Organization of Chinese Americans’ Westchester and Hudson Valley chapter. 

Young received the Jean Wood Chang Award, which is given to a student who has displayed strong academic and extracurricular achievements. Zhang received the Avon Xiaochun Luo Award, which recognizes a student who has demonstrated significant achievements in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). 

The mission of OCA-WHV, which was established in 1980 by Frances Chu, is to promote and protect the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans in the local community.

For more information on the awards, visit

Three Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month

Three Middle Schoolers Honored as Students of the Month photo
Rye Neck Middle School students Lara Auffarth, Nathaniel Findlay and Josef Zyngier were recognized for their accomplishments and honored with Student of the Month awards. 

Auffarth, a sixth-grader, is a conscientious, kind, respectful and courteous student. According to her teachers, she puts her best effort into all assignments, participates in class discussions daily and is always willing to help her classmates. Her hobbies include playing soccer, basketball and reading.

Findlay, an eighth-grader, is a motivated, responsible and hardworking student. According to his teacher, he has shown excellent academic success. Outside of school, he plays the piano, sings and runs triathlons.
Zyngier, a seventh-grader, is a kind, hardworking and responsible student. According to his teachers, he earned the recognition due to his strong work ethic and great personal traits.  

‘Kindness Matters’ for Rye Neck Middle School Students

‘Kindness Matters’ for Rye Neck Middle School Students photo

Rye Neck Middle School seventh-grader Dylan White has won the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Lions Club’s Peace Poster Contest for expressing her vision for this year’s theme of “Kindness Matters.”

“I drew a girl holding the earth with doves next to her,” White said about her peace poster project. “There were flags spiraling around her and a story of kindness on each side of the page. The message was that everyone, the whole world, has to be kind to stay together.”

White’s art teacher Trisha Appel praised her student’s understanding of the theme and artistic skill of adding realistic details in her work, as well as simplified and stylized figures to tell two different stories that show different acts of kindness. 

“Her work can reach all different types of people and connect to everyone from children to adults,” Appel said. “I love how she used different materials in a way to help emphasize different areas of her work. I think she truly showcased the message that kindness is important all around the world and even simple acts of kindness can go a long way for lasting peace in the future.”

A total of 71 seventh-graders from the middle school submitted their artwork for the schoolwide competition. They used a variety of materials – from markers to colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolor paints and tempera paint – to express their ideas. As part of the project, they also discussed what peace means to them, and many of them depicted flags from around the world as ways to express their messages. 

In addition to White, judges selected seventh-graders Blathnaid Grenouillon, Monica Kosakowski, Mana Newman, Megan Ronan and Sarah Sandberg as finalists to represent Rye Neck Middle School. Their posters were submitted to judges at the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Lions Club, who selected White as the winner of the local branch contest, while Kosakowski and Sandberg were named runners-up. White’s poster will now be submitted to the district-level competition for further judging.

For her poster, Kosakowski’s drew two hands coming together to form a heart over the earth and a white dove with flags from different countries in the background. 

“The flags represent different regions of the world and are spread out to show that kindness is everywhere,” she said. “The hands forming a heart are different races to show everyone is involved, the hands are forming the heart in the earth because kindness is important everywhere and the dove is in the heart because kindness can help create peace around the world.”

Sandberg’s poster is made up of many hearts that encompass different scenes, animals and people that are surrounded by different flags from around the world. 

“I mainly used hearts because they represent love and peace,” she said. “I thought a lot about how people and animals can positively connect with one another. I chose to use animals because they are all so different from one another.”

The Lions Club International Peace Poster Contest has been in existence for more than 30 years and provides children with the opportunity to express their creativity and visions of peace. As part of the contest, students’ posters advance through several rounds of competition before an international winner is declared on or before Feb. 1.


Fifth-Graders Create Sugar Skulls

Fifth-Graders Create Sugar Skulls photo

F.E. Bellows Elementary School fifth-graders – who have been studying Latin American culture – recently completed their sugar skull art projects, which were inspired by the traditional Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos).

As part of the multicultural lesson in teachers Trisha Appel’s and Dara Goodman’s art classes, the students created sculptural relief works using proportion, design and decoration. They learned how to sculpt proportional sugar skulls out of clay, create drawings of a skeleton in motion and complete their works of art with decorative details and a colorful border.

“The students thought about the layout of their composition and tried to create a sense of movement within their work,” Appel said. “Some students even created a story about their skeleton figures. They had a lot of fun learning about Mexican art and culture while working on this project.”

The art project was designed to further enhance the fifth-graders’ understanding of the content. 


Senior Awarded Scholarship for Excellence in Italian

Senior Awarded Scholarship for Excellence in Italian photo
Charlotte Murphy, a senior at Rye Neck High School, has earned special recognition for her accomplishments in the Italian language. During an awards ceremony at the Westchester County Board of Legislators headquarters in White Plains on Oct. 1, she received a merit certificate and scholarship for her excellence in and appreciation of the Italian language.  

Murphy, a student in Rosina Martinelli’s Advanced Placement Italian language class, was presented with the award by County Legislator Catherine Parker. 

“The world language department of Rye Neck is extremely proud of this outstanding accomplishment and recognition of Charlotte Murphy, as October is Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month,” Martinelli said.

The Power of Positive Words at Rye Neck Schools

The Power of Positive Words at Rye Neck Schools photo

Kindergarten through 12th-grade students across the Rye Neck Schools participated in a variety of activities and engaged in meaningful conversations about cyberbullying, online communication, internet community and respect during Digital Citizenship Week from Oct. 15-19.

Having implemented a districtwide digital literacy curriculum this year, teachers and administrators used the platform to jumpstart their lessons and empower their students as the next generation of responsible digital citizens. In partnership with Common Sense Education, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children thrive in a world of media and technology, the lessons focused on the power of positive words. 

“As a Google Reference District, we have chosen to incorporate technology into our classes and with that comes the responsibility to teach our students how to use it responsibly, as well,” Instructional Technology Coordinator Mary Lanza said. “We chose to focus on the power of positive words because the basis of our participation online, regardless of age, should revolve around respect and compassionate communication. What it takes to be a good citizen in real life are the same skills needed to be a good citizen online.” 

At Daniel Warren Elementary School, Principal Tara Goldberg introduced the idea of an internet community to all students during her morning announcement on Oct. 15. Throughout the week, librarian and media teacher Leigh Ann Kowalchick-Porphy and teacher Dara Goodman continued the conversation with students during their library and computer classes. Kindergartners and first-graders discussed what an internet community is and how we connect with people online, while second-graders discussed cyberbullying and how to be kind online. 

“Having these conversations now is sort of laying the foundation, the building blocks of what we want them to think and understand in the future,” Goldberg said. “We’re embedding the idea of being kind, thoughtful and intentional with what they’re putting out there, via texting or emails. They still want to be a good person and be kind.”

At F.E. Bellows Elementary School, all lessons connected to the schools’ theme of being a superhero as the students discussed the impact of positive words and what it means to be a good digital citizen. In addition, fourth-graders drew comic strips to illustrate how to stand up for someone who is being cyberbullied. 

At the middle school, students participated in mixed grade-level conversations with their English teachers and guidance counselors about being an upstander online. They linked their discussions to their summer reading book, “Bystander” by James Preller. Meanwhile, at the high school, freshmen and sophomores discussed the effect of their comments and relationships online, while juniors and seniors reflected on how online behavior can affect relationships and reputations. 

Lanza said the conversations during Digital Citizenship Week served as a great opportunity to encourage positive online behaviors.

“We believe this is a responsibility that falls on our entire community,” said Lanza, who added that parents received family resources to support what was being taught in the classroom, so they can continue the conversations at home. “How often do students in our high school discuss the same topic as children in Daniel Warren? We loved the idea of this being a conversation an entire family could have at home.”

For more information, visit

Rye Neck HS to Premiere Stage Adaptation of ‘Clue’ as Fall Play

Fall Play
The murder mystery-comedy “Clue” – adopted from a board game to a movie in 1985, and now into a play – will come to life on stage at the Rye Neck High School Performing Arts Center from Oct. 26-27. Having acquired the rights to it, Rye Neck will be the first high school in the country to perform the play. 

“The show features a wonderful cast and crew of Rye Neck students,” theater director Scott Harris said. “It’s a wonderful exercise for the students to hone both their comedic timing and their ability to convey mood and fear. We have a lot of new actors in the cast this year, so they’re getting a crash course in handling this kind of challenging, fun material.”

In “Clue,” which is based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn, a group of strangers has been summoned to a mysterious mansion where a certain Mr. Boddy is threatening to reveal their darkest secrets. But when Mr. Boddy ends up dead, the race is on to figure out who killed him, in which room and with what weapon. 

“This hilarious murder mystery-comedy will leave you guessing and laughing all along,” said Harris, who grew up as a huge fan of the original film and admittedly could recite much of the dialogue by heart. “When I became a theater teacher, I always thought ‘Clue’ would make a great play, but there wasn’t an adaptation of the film available. I was patient, and eventually they got around to creating it [last year]. I jumped on it the second it was announced, and I am proud to be presenting the nationwide high school premiere of this new stage adaptation of one of my favorite movies.” 

Rye Neck’s production features a beautiful mansion set and a great crew of students, who have been diligently working on the costumes, artwork, hair and makeup. Head of costumes is senior Olivia Allison, while senior Risa Liebmann is stage manager. Sophomore Ethan Chin, one of the assistant stage managers, has been instrumental in working the stage lighting and sound. 

“These shows exist because of the passion and interest of students who give up hours and hours of their free time to work on this huge project,” Harris said. “I love doing it because it gives so many students a chance to be part of a project where their own particular talents can take root and blossom.”

Performances are on Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rye Neck High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children. They will be available at the door on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

For more information and a list of the cast, visit

Third-Graders Discover ‘The Pathway to Peace’

Third-Graders Discover ‘The Pathway to Peace’ photo

F.E. Bellows Elementary School third-graders, who have been learning about surrealism, recently drew inspiration from their music classes and the works of Belgian artist René Magritte to create their own images of peace.

“Often, you can find similarities throughout Magritte’s work, such as using the sky in different parts of his paintings,” art teacher Trisha Appel said. “He also was known for including a dove in his work, which is the international symbol of peace.”

Their artworks were also inspired by a song, “The Pathway to Peace,” which the students wrote with music teacher Thomas Galgano. Besides painting, they collaged different papers to their work, including the sheet music of “The Pathway to Peace.”

“Our students were able to connect what they were learning about in music to their own works of art,” Appel added. 

Every third-graders’ work will be displayed in the auditorium for the winter music concert at F.E. Bellows in December.