South Orangetown Central School District

South Orangetown Middle School teachers are developing curriculum-based lessons and activities that connect with current events and character education.

“One of the first ELA assignments I gave my students was to write thank you cards for local healthcare workers,” says Special Education Teacher Emily McKay. “Students wrote letters using Google Docs and Google Drawing and incorporated quotes, inspirational words and words of thanks for healthcare professionals in our community who work at Montefiore (Nyack and the Bronx) and New York Presbyterian.”

McKay created a book of her students’ cards and dropped them off, with fresh batches of brownies, for the healthcare workers to share with their colleagues. “The project brought smiles to both the healthcare workers and students, helping us to all feel more connected to each other and our community.”

With “Operation Heroes,” a letter-writing and art-making project to thank essential workers, sixth-grade ELA and social studies co-teachers Jackie Nandlal and Sara Nybro looked to Ancient China. “We’re connecting this project specifically to Confucianism; this philosophy was centered on respecting others, with an emphasis on love for humanity, as a cornerstone for creating order in society,” Nandlal states. “In a pandemic, there is the potential for social disorder. As a society, it is our ‘duty’ to keep order. ‘Operation Heroes’ celebrates, respects and honors those essential workers who are helping to keep us safe.”

Sixth-grade social studies teachers Glenn Spiegelman and Luke Freeley partnered with retired SOMS art teacher Beth Dougherty on an outreach assignment that draws on the Confucian virtue of honoring elders, filial piety. Students, who have learned about Ancient China this year, were challenged to write and mail a friendly letter to the elderly residents of Dowling Gardens, where Dougherty is activity director. “Dowling Gardens residents cannot leave their complex or have visitors at this time,” explains Spiegelman. “Students are brightening seniors’ day by writing letters and practicing this virtue that we’ve learned about.”

Principal Chad Corey received a message from the family member of a Dowling Gardens resident this weekend: “I just got off the phone with my 95 year old grandmother who is a resident at Dowling Gardens. She said that she received two letters in the mail from 6th grade students who attend South Orangetown Middle School. She really got a kick out of the letters that she received. I figured I would let you know so that you can let the teachers and students know that these letters that they are sending made a positive impact on her, and I am sure the other residents who live there as well.”

More photos posted on the District Facebook feed.

Healthcare workers with brownies and thank-you note