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Middle Schoolers Discover the Secrets of DNA

Middle Schoolers Discover the Secrets of DNA
Middle Schoolers Discover the Secrets of DNA 2

As part of their affiliation with Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Open Space Stewardship Program, middle schoolers in Islip’s EXCEL program recently tackled DNA barcoding to identify organisms they found last fall with naturalist Brett Curlew in nearby Pardees Pond.

“We went out and did some collecting of invertebrates, plants, and abiotic components to find out what was going on,” said Curlew. “The students had a driving question: They wanted to see if the biodiversity changed from the north side of the pond to the south side, so they collected samples from both ends. Now what they are doing is extracting DNA from those samples to be able to identify the stuff they found.”

“Brett typically works with high school and college-level students,” said EXCEL coordinator Julia Johnson. “This is atypical for such young kids to have the opportunity to do real DNA barcoding.”


HS Scholars Run World Language Immersion Day at Middle School

HS Scholars Help Immerse Middle Schoolers in World Languages

World Language Honor Society members from the high school set up shop next door at the middle school lobby on March 8 for World Language Immersion Day, running 11 different learning centers for eventh-graders to visit. Activities such as Twister, Uno, Pictionary, bingo, paper flower making and “letter soup”, all undertaken solely in the Italian and Spanish languages, provided the middle schoolers with a chance to converse in a second language, learn the language’s vocabulary, engage in interactive activities to use this language in context and instill cultural awareness.

“I think it was a great experience for the seventh-graders,” said senior Dan Canales, who manned the Twister station.  “And for us, it was great to be able to teach them and instill in them the language they have chosen to learn.”

“The purpose of World Language Immersion Day is for our world language scholars to have the opportunity to give back to the program in which they started,” said Megan Schierhorst, one of the high school’s two World Language Honor Society advisers along with Sarah Ito. “It’s also a great opportunity for our seventh-grade middle schoolers to see where they can progress to in language studies in the future.”






MS EXCEL Team Wins Fifth at Regional Science Olympiad

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The EXCEL Science Olympiad team from the middle school competed in the regional competition on March 2 at Candlewood Middle School, placing fifth overall, which qualified them to compete at the state competition in April. They earned medals in the following 11 events:

Anatomy: seventh place; Christine Chen and Brielle Zink  
Boomilever: seventh place; Carly Herrington and Jean Johnson
Circuit Lab: sixth place; Lauren Limmer and Kacey Schassberger
Crime Busters: fourth place; Robert Belcher and Joyce Johnson
Disease Detectives: eighth place; Parker Barry and Eagan Biscari
Dynamic Planet: sixth place; Joyce Johnson and Robert Belcher
Game On: eighth place; Eagan Biscari and Katelyn Wallace
Road Scholar: fourth place; Robert Belcher and Joyce Johnson
Roller Coaster: second place; Parker Barry and Jean Johnson  
Solar System: fifth place; Mia Byrnes and Katelyn Wallace
Water Quality: seventh place; Parker Barry and Ryder Hansen  

“The team has been preparing since September, and all of the late nights and weekend work paid off,” said EXCEL coordinator Julia Johnson. “Islip competed with only 14 students – a full team is 15 – so this is quite an accomplishment.”




Dr. Smalley Talks Writing with EXCEL Sixth-Graders

Dr. Smalley Talks Writing with EXCEL Sixth-Graders

Middle schoolers in Islip’s EXCEL program for the academically gifted were treated to a visit this year from Dr. Christopher Smalley, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, as part of EXCEL’s ongoing “Inventing Self” series of inspirational guest lectures.

Smalley, who previously served as principal at Wing, is the author of the book “The Energy of Friends and Bullies,” illustrated by Alexandria Bouchard and independently published in December 2017. He spoke to the sixth-graders about being a writer.

“I’ve run Scholastic Book fairs and worked as a roofer, carpenter and ski facility manager, and a whole bunch of other things in between,” Smalley said. “With all those experiences, the one thing that’s remained consistent since I’ve been about 9 years old is being a writer.”

“Think about what a writer really is,” Smalley asked the students. “Writers write about an event so people know what happened. Over the majority of the course of history, there was no such thing as a camera. The only way people knew what had happened was either word of mouth over time, or if someone wrote something down.”

He also delved into neuroscience, noting that writing equals thinking, and discussed the differences between writing with a pen and a keyboard.

“I’m very interested in the way the brain works,” Smalley said. “Just the act of holding a pen makes your brain start thinking. When you are creating a thought in your head, the generation of the thought is different if you are typing or writing with a pen, because you can’t write as fast as you can type. What a pen does is two things: It takes longer to write something, and when you use two hands, you use two sides of your brain. When you use one hand, you use one.”

Before sitting down to a read-through of his book, the assistant superintendent told the sixth-graders that books start with ideas, as his own did. Over time, Smalley had noted his own observations, gathered ideas and wrote them down in notebooks, which led to penning “The Energy of Friends and Bullies.”

“I realized that I dealt a lot with bullying – where it comes from, where it starts, why it exists – and I learned a lot about friendship and what it means,” he said.

 




Artistic Creativity Recognized at Annual District Art Show

Artistic Creativity Recognized at Annual District Art Show

Welcoming an exceptional array of 66 student-artists from kindergarten through 12th grade, Islip presented its annual District Art Show on Feb. 13 at the high school’s auditorium lobby. The high school chamber orchestra, directed by Zachary Butterfield, provided lovely musical accompaniment for the event.

“Visual artists, unlike performance artists, don’t often get public recognition or applause,” said Vincent Green, Islip’s director of fine and performing arts. “The art show is a wonderful opportunity for the Islip community to recognize the creativity of these young artists. Let this night inspire them and others to continue learning, growing and creating.”

 






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