South Orangetown Central School District

Amplifying student voice has been a shared priority among South Orangetown schools for some time. Throughout this school year, District communications are highlighting the various avenues through which our students are taking on leadership roles to enhance programming, operations and school culture.

Fifth-graders in Jessica Seminelli and Megan Osso’s class worked closely with Elementary School Counselor Stephanie Mueller over the past few weeks to plan Cottage Lane Elementary School’s grade-wide assemblies for November, themed “Communities Create Traditions,” which they led last Friday.

Students collaborated on developing a comprehensive event script which covered a discussion of traditions, including observances of Diwali, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, and previewed the school’s activity and book of the month, “Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez.”

In designing the assembly, students decided to share a few personal traditions, but focus on class traditions and the importance of celebrating them together. They also chose a song with lyrics that echoed the monthly theme for everyone to enjoy.

“We have class traditions because we looped (had the same teacher for two consecutive years) and really know each other, which makes us stand out,” explained Ella K. “My favorite part is sharing ‘Fireball, C rane, Snake’ with our school.”

In addition to engaging audience members in a few rounds of “Fireball, Crane, Snake”–the go-to game Seminelli and Osso’s class play during morning meetings or brain breaks–students talked about their classroom Wall of Fame and end-of-the-day Shout Outs and Shine tradition to recognize those who worked particularly hard or demonstrated kindness.

“Engaging classes in the process of creating our monthly assemblies provides our students with an opportunity to interpret our character education program from their perspectives,” Mueller noted. “We start with a standard framework of components–theme, book of the month, activity, song–but each class makes the event their own. Along the way, they are developing their collaboration, public speaking and leadership skills and we’ve found that students are attentive and responsive to these peer-led events.”

Fifth-graders consulting on character ed assembly