Class Spotlight: Lab / Garden

At Village School, we have a lot of different and interesting electives. One in particular is Megan’s sixth period class, “Lab and Garden.” Lab and Garden serves as the required lab period for students in Common Core Biology and also offers science elective credit for students not in the CC Bio. Though this class has gained reputation for being one of the loudest classes in the school (!), the class has does some excellent work. Gardening is caring for plants is an interest of mine– plants can’t run away and you don’t need to take them to the vet annually. It’s a win-win situation – the plant stays happy and healthy, while it’s caregiver only has to water it once or twice a day!

This is one of the mushrooms that the Lab / Garden class grew.

A student enrolled in the class, Lucas, gave me some insight as to what the class is all about, “We go outside for half the period and tend to the crops and then the class comes back in to work [on corresponding labs]” says Lucas. Another student, Brian, says that the class is currently growing cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, and corn. It’s great to give students a very good opportunity to be able to grow fruits and vegetables in the school’s backyard so they can learn about different types of foods and maybe become inspired to grow some of their own.

One type of labs the class does are dissection labs. This is Margaret dissecting an organism.

I went in to see the class in action this past week. Students were learning about bear adaptations, and how environments can affect how organism live. For example, Megan taught about peppered verses non-peppered moths. Another example she discussed was green versus brown grasshoppers and how a green grasshopper is better for a spring environment.

Megan seamlessly wove traditional Bio topics with information that is relvant to gardening. She continued to explain that there many types of adaptations, such as camouflage and mimicry. For example, a tiger benefits from camouflage as the tiger can capture prey much easier. Megan also showed videos to reinforce concepts. One video showed an adaptation that zebras have, which is herding. The zebras run together in a herd so that it is much harder for a predator to catch them. I also learned something new as well– countershading.

This is an example of an organism that countershades.

Countershading is when an organism has protective coloration in parts where there are shadows or light. The areas exposed to light are lighter than the areas exposed to shadow.

The following day, I visited again as the class heading out to garden. On this particular day, they were cleaning the pergola.After a long winter, there was a lot of work to do! Fio and Bella were cleaning the dirt out from the corners and Natanel did some tasks requiring heavy lifting such as moving the the peat moss.  Bella and Natanel worked together to move a heavy board and clear out more areas for gardening tools and supplies. 

After speaking to members of the Lab/Garden class, I wanted to find out if the different foods harvested from this class is used by our Cooking class. This semester, the Cooking class has been experimenting with recipes using all vegetarian ingredients, and according to students, they have thus far used herbs and mushrooms from the Gardening class, and as spring continues, they plan to use more.

It’s great to see two classes working together to create awesome things!

Class Spotlight: Village School’s Cooking Class

Village School’s kitchen since 2015

At Village School, there are a wide array of electives offered that are usually intensive studies of a specific topic.  Some are serious and others are a little more fun, as is the case with this semester’s offering, Cooking, which is taught by Ronni.  The combination of her cooking and math skills lead to some very fun food ideas and precise techniques that students would probably not have tried on their own.

The class, in different variations, has been offered at Village for many years and was always a fun one, but it lacked kitchen space to efficiently teach and experiment.  Therefore, in 2015, Village School’s kitchen space was expanded and outfitted with state- of- the art equipment, which improved the class experience. 

Students Ben and Margaret cleaning kitchen items

“Cooking class has been around for many years,” stated Ronni. “The only difference now is that we have gotten a better kitchen to work in. It really has made a huge difference for the class.”

According to Ronni, the point of the class is simple. “Getting students to try out healthier new things and opening them up to a less meat and dairy-based diet is what we’re striving for here. And most importantly, not using meat and dairy will give ingredients a longer shelf life.”

Teacher Spotlight: Cindy Pavlic

Cindy is Village School’s Resource Room teacher.  She helps us with homework, manage our assignments, and achieve our academic goals. I sat down with her Monday and asked her about her time here at Village and what her interests are outside of school.  

How did you hear about Village School?

I heard about Village School from my law professor in graduate school, who happens to be Jeff’s [Bernstein, a social studies teacher] wife. She told our class about a vacancy for a special education teacher and I gave her my resume.

Cindy Pavlic, a very important part of Village School.

What do you love most about working here?

I love everything about it. I love the environment – the fact that the teachers have so much creative freedom to develop their elective classes and teach how they want. I love that we have a true sense of community and family here. I love that it is different and  we can help students be successful with all aspects of their lives. I love that we actually make a difference.

What do you do outside of school?

Outside of school, I read a lot. I love to read whenever I can. I enjoy the movies and cooking.

If you could go to any country where would you go?

I would like to travel to places that I haven’t been before. Some include Hawaii (I know it’s not a country but I have never been there), Tahiti, Bora Bora, the Maldives (all French Polynesian islands known for clear turquoise waters and overwater bungalows.) I would also like to go back and visit Croatia some day. My family is from Croatia. I’ve been there once and it is beautiful. I would definitely like to return one day.


Class Spotlight: Big Issues

Picture of the map found in the classroom where the Big Issues class is held.

Picture of the map found in the classroom where the Big Issues class is held.

Out of the ever changing list of Village School electives, 2016’s spring semester features a Village favorite: Big Issues. Taught by Jeff Bernstein, students learn about some (big) issues happening in the world. This year, we started by learning LD (Lincoln Douglas Debate), a technique that helps us argue our points of view with supporting facts. The topics we discuss in class are chosen by students. For each topic, we are introduced to several examples, hold class discussions, and then complete writing assignments. The class is purposely set up in a way that forces students to depend entirely on the facts, rather than our opinions or personal biases.

A Village school senior, Jared Gomberg, who is currently enrolled in this class and has taken it before, says it is his favorite social studies elective. So far, his favorite part of class was an LD debate about whether or not violent crime against an oppressive government is okay. Other topics he is looking forward to exploring in debates are controversial issues such as abortion, gun control, the criminal justice system, the death penalty, and police brutality.

The New Superintendent (according to Steve..)

I recently interviewed Steven Goldberg, principal of Great Neck Village School, about our district’s new superintendent, Dr. Teresa Prendergast.


Dr. Teresa Prendergast

My first question was about the history of superintendents. He mentioned sadness to see Tom Dolan leave, which all of you probably know. He’s soon-to-be former superintendent. From Steve’s knowledge, Dr. William A. Shine was superintendent for 24 years, followed by Dr. Ronald Friedman, and most recently, Dr. Tom Dolan.

And if you’re wondering why you should continue reading this article, it’s actually really important when a new superintendent is chosen because it actually is an extremely big deal. Steve used words like “educational leader” and “top-notch”. Not only that, Steve went on to say that the board of education has an exceptional skill set to be able to fill the positions of Great Neck educators. The superintendent is the go-to person for school principals and anyone in between. Aimagend Dr. Prendergast now has the power to make the majority, if not all, of the educational decisions. So, it’s a big deal.

There is no question about the qualifications of the superintendent because the job requires a bunch of degrees. Starting with an SDA, which stands for School District Administrative Degree, next is an SBA, (School Building Administrative degree), and with some other credits you’re qualified to be a superintendent. (If you didn’t know, Steve actually is qualified to be a superintendent too!), but he’s fully satisfied as principal.

After acquiring those degrees, it takes a while to climb to the top. You can jump from position to position very fast either, because you want word to get out that you’ve been good at each and every position. It takes a while. Steve said he’s never met a superintendent under 45.

Steve continued on to say that Dr. Prendergast was very kind, competent, and eager to teach, as well as learn. She is probably going to come to our Village School graduation as well.

Wrapping up the interview, he wanted to thank the board of education for having a talent for finding amazing people to keep Great Neck, well… Great.

Student Profile: Ben Varughese

I recently interviewed Ben, who joined the Village community this January, and asked him a few questions about himself. He was born in Jamaica, Queens and moved around a lot through the city for years at a time. After 2011, he moved to New Hyde, where he lives today. He was traveling a lot and subsequently missed a lot of school, even up to six weeks at one point. Village has helped him attend school much more often than he did at South.

Ben is extremely passionate music, writing poetry and his own lyrics. He’s actually going to be working at his friend’s studio soon. Moving around a lot and struggling with personal problems, Ben has developed the music taste he’s into today, anything he can relate to and has relatable meaning.

Below are some other questions I asked Ben, directly quotes from our interview:

What do you do in the studio?
“I mean I kinda just play around with everything. Like it’s no problem, and we have an ill time. I’m a poet, a lyricist, and a storyteller.”

Why were you missing so much school?
“I mean I was busy with my own hustle, traveling and all that. Also, I just couldn’t focus for my life so class had me like: what’s the point?”

Class Profile: AP Environmental Science

Most of the AP Environmental Science class on a field trip to a sewage treatment plant.

Most of the AP Environmental Science class on a field trip to a sewage treatment plant.

By Jonah Wolmark

This year, Tobias Hatten has had the honour of teaching the first AP class to ever be offered at the Village School, and he’s done an amazing job at it so far. The AP Environmental Science class is an extremely difficult, yet extremely fun and interesting 2-semester course on anything anyone could want to know about the environment, and some more! Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview Toby about the class and his thoughts on it.

Jonah: What gave you the idea to teach AP Environmental Science?

Toby: The students. They needed a challenge. They needed to have a taste of college classes.

J: Why Environmental Science instead of any other AP?

T: It allows students to see the impact we can have in a negative and positive way to sustain the future.

J: What was the reaction from the rest of the staff when they heard that you are teaching an AP course?

T: Curiosity. (After asked to elaborate, Toby kindly declined.)

J: How difficult was it for you to prepare to teach the class?

T: Difficult. It took a lot of summer time. I’d say it was about 10 hours a week.

J: What topics have been covered in the class so far?

T: Ecology, water resources and pollution, economics, geologic hazards.

J: What has been your favourite topic to teach in the class?

T: I liked energy. I like to see the environmental impact that all our small actions make and I love to quantify it.

J: Do you think the students are well prepared to take the AP exam?

T: Yeah. I’m not too worried about that.

J: Do you have plans to teach any other AP courses in the future?

T: I think I’d need to discuss it with the faculty, but yeah.

Student Profile: Ezra Hyman

Interview by Peter Leonardo

Recently, I was able to sit down and talk to Ezra, a senior at Village, about his future plans for college as well as other random topics!


Ezra, just sitting around…

I was accepted into Vassar College in Poughkeepsie in NY, SUNY Geneseo, and Binghamton University, also in NY.  I would like to major in Word History and Philosophy at Vassar Collage.

What do you want your career to be?

I don’t know for sure what I want to do yet, but I’m thinking about being a professor at a college or an author.

What does Village School mean to you?

It’s a great school for kids who need to learn differently and need extra help.

Are you excited to leave or sad to go?

I know Village was a good trip for me, but I don’t know what college is going to be for me. I know college is going to have a lot more freedom, but less supervision; I know I’m going to be able to make mistakes and I’m going to have to figure out how to get through them.

What are some of your hobbies and passions?

I don’t do much outside of school, and I know my social skills are lacking outside of school, so I greatly enjoy my video games… my hobbies are basically school, video games, and eating and sleeping.

Whats the craziest thing you have done in your life so far?

I met a girl online that lives in Connecticut and I actually got my family to go there on a trip just to meet her… I kept it PG-13!

What kind of music do you like?

Post Grunge and Rock — I listen to Three Days Grace, Rise Against, Breaking Benjamin, and Billy Joel and I like some songs from Five Finger Death Punch but they’re a little too heavy for me.

Have you ever been to a concert? If so, who did you see?

I’ve seen a couple American Idols live….Against my will!! (he laughs). But for my birthday, I saw Nickleback.

Where do you go to lunch during the school week?

I bring lunch from home and usually do my work during lunch.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Telekinesis (a type of paranormal ability that allows you move objects with your mind),  so I can use my mind as a physical force.

Student Profile: Jonah Wolmark

By Elliot Esterman

Jonah: Computer Guru

Jonah: Computer Guru

Recently, I was able to sit down with Jonah Wolmark, a freshman at Village who actually enrolled in our school during the spring semester of his 8th grade school year!  Jonah is known for being very fluent in the topic of computers and video games, as well as various different programming languages, so I got to pick his game about all things ‘tech’.

What got you into programming?

I’ve been using computers basically all my life, so I’ve  been interested in computers and wanted to know how they work.

What are your hobbies?

I play a lot of video games and watch YouTube videos and i talk with my friends over Skype.

What kind of programming languages do you know and what was the first one that you learned how to use?

The first language i learned was Java and since then i learned C, C++, Python, Perl, and small amounts of other languages like PHP and HTML.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?

Some job involving writing code or IT work.

What kind of video games do you like to play and why?

I mainly play indie games and roguelikes. Some examples of games that I play are Super Meat Boy, FTL and Papers, Please.

So, if you’re ever in need of tech help or want suggestions about new video games to play, you know the man to see!