South Country Students Celebrate The Festival Of Lights 165

The delicious smell of latkes wafted through the halls of Verne W. Critz Elementary School in the South Country Central School District as students learned about and celebrated the traditions of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights.

Students in Heather Nolan’s and Jessica Richards’ kindergarten classes read Naomi Howland’s “Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat,” prior to pairing up to play a game of dreidel. They also sang the dreidel song and learned about the lighting of the candles on a menorah and the significance of the Jewish holiday, which was held this year from Dec. 2-10. The students also had the opportunity to taste latkes, some for the very first time.  

Ashley Sagistano’s third-graders also learned to play the dreidel game and taste latkes. They were asked to write down whether they preferred their potato pancakes with sour cream or apple sauce and then recorded their preferences on a graph.

Retired Verne W. Critz special education teacher Jackie Kramer visited first-graders in Shelley Tooker’s class where she read Sylvia A. Rouss’ “Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah.” She taught the students about the customs and traditions of this beloved holiday and made the students latkes from her favorite recipe.


Verne W. Critz Elementary School kindergarten students learned to play the dreidel game during a lesson on Hanukkah


Alex Canales, a third-grade student at Verne W. Critz Elementary School in the South Country School District, tried latkes for the first time during a lesson on Hannukkah


Retired South Country Central School District teacher Jackie Kramer, (back, left) is pictured with Verne W. Critz Elementary School teacher Shelley Tooker (back, right) and her first-grade class during a lesson about Hanukkah


Photos courtesy of the South Country School District


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Coding and Makerspace at South Country School 76

Coding and Makerspace at the Verne W. Critz Library

 South Country Central School District libraries are no longer a place to just hear a story and select a book. The district’s librarians have been teaching crucial technology skills that will help prepare students for the 21st Century workplace. Verne W. Critz librarian Lynn Cullen explained that in addition to lessons in research, students are now learning basic coding skills and are inventing and creating in Makerspace labs.

At Verne W. Critz Elementary School, students are afforded the opportunity for hands-on activities that require critical thinking skills, problem-solving and collaborative team work. Ms. Cullen, along with the support of Principal Mandy Mazziotti, have furnished the library with engaging products such as PowerClix, Brix, K’nex, Keva, Squigz and IO blocks. The library will soon introduce modular robotics called Cubelets.

During a recent trip to the library, second grade students collaborated to design an incline plane with Keva wood planks, which allowed a ball to travel without falling off-course. Not only did the students use teamwork to design their course, they utilized science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics principles to acquire their results.

Verne W. Critz Elementary School students worked in the school library with Keva wood planks and used STEAM principles


Photo courtesy of the South Country Central School District

Town Receives Tree City Growth Award 46

Brookhaven Town Receives Tree City Growth Award from Arbor Day Foundation

Town has earned Tree City Designation for Four Consecutive Years

Farmingville, NY – Brookhaven Town has for the fourth consecutive year been designated a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation, and in recognition of its ongoing successful tree programs, the Town has this year also earned the “Tree City Growth Award.” Brookhaven spends over $1.4 million per year on community forestry programs. Pictured left to right are New York State DEC Supervising Forester John D. Wernet; Councilman Kevin LaValle; Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright; Councilwoman Jane Bonner; Supervisor Ed Romaine; Councilman Dan Panico; Councilman Neil Foley; Councilman Michael Loguercio; and Town Clerk Donna Lent.

Supervisor Romaine said, “I am proud to have the Town recognized as a Tree City USA. We have given away and planted thousands of trees and strictly controlled the clearing of trees across Brookhaven to help protect and preserve the environment. I thank the Arbor Day Foundation for honoring the Town and all the residents who have followed our lead to make Brookhaven a greener place to live.”

Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro said, “The preservation of healthy trees is a priority of the Brookhaven Highway Department. In instances when trees were planted too close to the Town Right-Of-Way (ROW) and roots were growing into the roadway, we remove the trees and replace them with street-friendly trees, planted the appropriate distance from the road.”

Tree City USA is a nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, benefits of a Tree City USA program include:

  • Reduce costs for energy, stormwater management, and erosion control
  • Cut energy consumption by up to 25%
  • Boost property values across your community
  • Build stronger ties to your neighborhood and community

Growth Award

The Tree City USA Growth Award is awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation to recognize higher levels of tree care by participating Tree City USA communities. The Growth Award highlights innovative programs and projects as well as increased commitment of resources for urban forestry. It also provides an opportunity to share new ideas and successes across the country. More information about the Arbor Day Foundation can be found at

Growth Awards are given to communities that have earned the Tree City designation for at least two consecutive years and:

  • Engage in education and public relations programs on the importance of planting trees in their community, and
  • Create partnerships with utilities, Green Industry Partners or other organizations
 Photo Courtesy of Town of Brookhaven

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