Phoenix students recently received a multifaceted lesson as artist and storyteller Christopher Agostino brought his StoryFaces performance to Emerson J. Dillon Middle School.
With a full color palette in front of him, Agostino told several stories with Chinese and Japanese cultural roots. As he told each story, he used paint to transform students’ faces into the various scenes and characters. His stories ranged from comics to the supernatural, with some tales even based on Greek mythology.
“Some of these are 2000-year-old stories,” Agostino said. “But it’s these 2000-year-old stories that are still relevant in today’s world. These are stories of heroism. Be the hero in your own life.”
In addition to the tales of heroism, Agostino provided students with a comprehensive lesson, said art teacher Beth Pritchard.
“His sixth-grade performance was great and connected perfectly to the mask-making unit that we teach in our art curriculum! He talked about the importance of colors and icons as a way to represent symbols and meaning in art,” Pritchard said. “His stories ranged from a variety of different cultures from around the world and really made that historical connection that we talk about in class while researching for our own mask-making projects. This was a great way to incorporate everything into one presentation.”
Music was in the air at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School recently as performer Biboti Ouikahilo presented an African drumming workshop.
The multitalented artist showed off his skills and taught seventh- and eighth-graders his trade. Wearing clothes representative of his native culture in the Ivory Coast, Ouikahilo introduced students to African drumming and dance. Armed with dozens of drums made of animal skins, Ouikahilo provided students with a hands-on music lesson, as he played a set and the students followed suit, staying true to the beat and rhythm.
In addition to the drumming demonstration, Ouikahilo showed off his dancing skills. Groups of students and teachers joined in the routine as well.
The arts-in-education offering was held in conjunction with Wacheva Cultural Arts, which creates unique learning opportunities for students.
“Our purpose as a multicultural arts organization is to create programs involving different cultures where the community is able to experience an expansive understanding of many cultures and ethnic artistic traditions,” according to Wacheva Cultural Arts. “Witnessing teachers sharing their knowledge with students is like watering the garden for its survival. It’s a way to immortalize these cultures because humanity can cease to exist, but the traditions remain alive through the voice of others.”
The Polar Express made its way into the Phoenix Central School District in the days before Christmas, leaving gifts and holiday cheer in its wake at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School.
For more than 15 years, teachers and community members have donated gifts ranging from jewelry to board games, and students then “shop” for their families. After perusing the hundreds of items, students bring the gifts to the library, where teachers and community volunteers help them wrap and label the presents.
According to EJD school psychologist Jill Lunn, who helps organize the event, Polar Express gets bigger every year. The far-reaching event impacts hundreds of students and families, with the givers often receiving the gift of giving and the holiday spirit.
Emerson J. Dillon Middle School classrooms transformed into a job fair during a career exploration event Nov. 16.
Phoenix students in fifth through eighth grades had the opportunity to attend three separate career day sessions where they met with employees and experts from a variety of fields. Representatives from healthcare, law enforcement, arts, business, architecture, technology, engineering, automotive and other job sectors were available to provide first-hand insight and advice to the students as they prepare for the future.
“We have more than 40 people representing as many career fields as we can,” said EJD counselor Andrew Quirk. “For our fifth- and sixth-graders, this serves as the foundation of their exploratory search, and our seventh and eighth-graders can build on their already established skills and interests.”
The event enabled students to ask questions about specific jobs and learn more about the education and skills required of certain positions. The format of the event also allowed students to gain a thorough understanding of their desired career paths, whether it be a blue-collar or white-collar position.
“We think outside of the box and really try to bring in as many CiTi BOCES programs and local connections as we can,” Quirk said. “It’s great having current and former students come in and talk about their own experiences.”
Eighth-grade studio art students from the Phoenix Central School District took their studies out of the classroom and into a museum during a recent field trip.
The Emerson J. Middle School students visited the Everson Museum of Art, where they viewed special exhibits, toured the museum's permanent collection and learned about architecture and ceramics. Students viewed famous works from a variety of artists and noted the architectural design of the museum itself, created by artist I.M. Pei. Using their sketchbooks throughout the tour, they recorded details and chose their favorite work of art to formally critique in class using their knowledge of the elements and principles of design.
The tour and transportation were possible thanks to The Richard S. Shineman Foundation Bus Fund, which was established in 2015 to subsidize bus transportation for Oswego County schools to engage in these types of art museum experiences.
Six Phoenix Central School District student musicians recently demonstrated their talents during the annual Junior High Area All-State Music Festival.
Held in Cortland, students from 46 school districts statewide participated in either treble choir, mixed chorus, orchestra or concert band. The 93-member concert band was comprised, in part, of Emerson J. Dillon Middle School students Virginia Bednarski, Chloe Calkins, Lily Roberts, Alex Olschewski, Aidan Trumble and Sarah Andrews. They performed “Symphonic Overture” by Charles Carter; “Into The Raging River” by Steven Reineke; “Songs from the Heartland” by Russel Mikkelson, Lisa Galvin and Zachary Roberts; and “Musical Haiku #14 Never Forgotten” by Stephen Melillo.
“Phoenix is very proud to be the third largest district represented in this year’s band,” said EJD band teacher David Frateschi. “The Phoenix Central School Music Department is also very proud to be included in the National Association for Music Education’s top 100 schools in America for Music Education for the 2016-17 school year. Special thanks go out to the Phoenix administration team and the board of education for their continued support of our students here in Phoenix.”
With a focus on making positive choices, students in the Phoenix Central School District recently wrapped up Red Ribbon Week with a guest speaker whose inspirational message left a powerful impact.
Jeff Yalden, a nationally renowned speaker, met with students at the middle school and high school to share his uplifting message and encourage positive life choices. He told his story as someone who battles mental illness and has overcome many obstacles on his road to self-discovery. That road, Yalden said, was paved with self-esteem, ownership and perseverance.
“I am a man with a mental illness, but I’m not a victim,” Yalden said. “Don’t ever play that card. Every single day you’re responsible for your attitude and your choices.”
Yalden shared personal stories of his family and his experiences as a father, a coach and motivational speaker. He focused on his journey to achieve happiness.
“Life is not about perfection; it’s about progress,” Yalden said. “Happiness comes from you. Stop waiting to be validated by your parents, teachers or coaches. Whatever you do in life, it starts with you.”
Principal Thomas Bailer noted that Yalden’s no-nonsense, “tell it like it is” presentation seemed to resonate with the John C. Birdlebough High School students. He encouraged the students to absorb Yalden’s message.
“There’s always an opportunity to make a positive change,” Bailer said.
School spirit erupted in the Phoenix middle school recently as students, teachers and staff members embraced the Dillon Way.
Each year, students in fifth through eighth grades at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School participate in a variety of activities promoting teamwork, friendship, character education and school spirit. Principal Sue Anderson kicked off the 2017-2018 celebration by lighting the Firebird torch and welcoming the students to a day of team-building exercises and challenges.
Throughout the school year, grade-level teams that embody the Dillon Way will earn points that accumulate with each recognition of exemplary behavior. The team with the most points at the end of the year will be honored with a celebration in the spring.
Phoenix Central School District teachers opened their classroom doors and welcomed families and students during recent open houses.
Emerson J. Dillon Middle School kicked off the open house events Sept. 13 as teachers and faculty members met with families and answered questions. Students showcased their work and gave their parents a tour of the building as well.
Following a successful open house at EJD, pre-K through fourth-grade students had a chance to show off their class projects at Michael A. Maroun Elementary on Sept. 20.
Hundreds of students and their parents and siblings gathered at the elementary school for the event. The hallways featured artwork, poetry, mathematics problems and other student projects. As students eagerly displayed their work, teachers noted they were looking forward to seeing the students’ progress throughout the year.
At the high school, open house was held Oct. 5, and students took their parents from classroom to classroom following their daily bell schedule. Guidance counselors, building administrators and teachers were on hand to answer questions and provide information regarding the extracurricular activities available to students.
Following an administrative internship that was completed last April, Jessica Ariola dove right in to her duties as assistant principal at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School. She said she is approaching the 2017-2018 school year with the same excitement and enthusiasm.
“It’s been welcoming and so rewarding to work with the great staff in this school district,” Ariola said. “It is also wonderful to see all of the opportunities and supports students have for their education.”
During Ariola’s 10 years in education she has served as assistant principal intern in the Hannibal Central School District and as a teacher, department coordinator and blended learning leader at Mexico Academy and Central Schools. She said those experiences have been invaluable in her career.
As for the 2017-2018 school year, Ariola said she hopes to continue to build relationships with the greater school community. “I want to support and collaborate with staff, students and the community to see continued growth and student achievement,” she said.