Connecting students with each other and the world around them

signExpressions of written word and art line the hallway and classroom walls throughout Menands Union Free School. They are samples from students in prekindergarten through eighth grade who are immersed in exciting projects to build, discover and dream of new ideas to positively impact the world. The children, who are our future, learn there is so much that can be done for our planet on an individual level. We all have something special to offer, and we are open to nurturing and promoting the good within us, for the greater good of society.  

You can do hard things! What are you going to try today?

“When I was getting ready for the school year, I wanted to have a message for the students that would encourage them to apply to themselves,” said Special Education Teacher Michele Ervin. “I came across the quote ‘You can do hard things! What are you going to try today?’ and it really resonated with me because that is an idea I have always tried to instill in my students. I want them to believe in themselves. In my time at Menands, I have seen the teachers here work with all their students to provide support and encouragement. I know that belief from us can only go so far, so an important part of learning is that students have belief in their own abilities that they can do it. So when they are faced with a challenge they do not just give up because that is a part of life and how you grow as a learner and a person,” she said.  

New ideas and experiences provide personal growth and progress 

woman wearing a hijab flashes a peace sign with her fingers as she stands behind a table of various exotic foods
Menands Multi­cultural Celebration

Culture shapes creativity and innovation.

The Menands Multi­cultural Celebration is an annual event to learn about different nationalities that make our school community extraordinary. With live performances and a very lively atmosphere, it melds the differences to create perspective that we all contribute to this world in our own unique way. 

students on stage holding flags of different countries
The parade of flags

This year, the festival was on May 11. Students participated in a beautiful parade of flags and toured various tables that were setup to represent many identities and traditions. This event helps students and the entire community understand and build relationships with people from other cultures. As students traveled around the different tables that represent cross-cultural identities, they learned, experienced, and got a stamp on a passport that was given to them at the beginning of the event. It’s experiences such as these that piques curiosity and exploration. It helps to prepare our students for the future and brings us all closer together. 

Life beyond the classroom 

Friday, June 2 is the middle school career fair which provides information about modern-day careers for students in grades five through eight. Guidance Counselor Cheri Vandenberg organizes this annual event. It gives students an understanding of the types of fields that could match their interests and skills. Local professionals talk to students about what their job looks like now and the outlook for the field ten years from now. Students also learn what educational path would be required for a career in a specific position.

The district brings in local industry specialists from the Humane Society, law enforcement, entrepreneurs, engineers, and the trades. This year’s representatives are: Troy City Police, Channel 13 News Reporter Tiffany Payton, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, a financial advisor, a representative from the United States Tennis Association, a fireman/EMT, someone who works in organ donation, and a welder.

Field trips extend the learning environment to real world interactions

Mrs. Longo's class enjoying the Van Gogh Immersive Experience
Mrs. Longo’s class enjoying the Van Gogh Immersive Experience

There are many incredible exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities around the Capital Region. Our classes from Pre-K to eighth grade took field trips to observe the arts and sciences and nature.

Students loved touring museums (Van Gogh Immersive Experience, and the New York State Museum), and visiting performance centers for shows (The Egg, and Cohoes Music Hall), and action-packed team building day camps and recreational facilities (Camp Chingachgook, Thacher Park, and Bring on the Spectrum). This year, we also provided an exciting virtual field trip to the parking lot, where students did science experiments and learned about impactful events happening in the world.

Current events and cutting-edge technology

students standing outside a bus equipped to do science experiments
BioBus scientists Marina Delgado (left) and Ashley Pirovano (right) speak with students about experimenting on the BioBus

When a science lab rolled onto Menands School property earlier this year, students marveled that they would be able to do experiments inside the bus with real scientists. 

The layout of the BioBus was set up for two self-contained lab spaces separated by a sliding door. The classes split into two groups led by BioBus scientists Ashley Pirovano and Marina Delgado. 

While on board, students in second through eighth grades were given an unforgettable experience and the freedom to explore their own curiosity in this virtual field trip. They examined biodiversity experiments and took a deeper look at themselves through high-powered microscopes.

Interactive lab sessions with BioBus scientists 

students looking at what's under the microscope on a large screen
Second grade students looking at what’s under the microscope on a large screen

Students learned about different microscopes and current events that helped them connect to the world around them and discovered things about themselves and the world that they never knew existed.  

Ecosystem Exploration

one student puts a microscope against another student's hair to see what it looks like on a large screen
Eighth grade students test out microscope on themselves and each other

“Can I be a test subject,” one eighth grader eagerly asked. The BioBus scientists encouraged the students to ask questions and explore with high powered microscopes. “Have you ever heard of microplastics? There are so many things made with plastics,” the scientists asked.   

The scientists further explained, plastic waste is infiltrating our ecosystems. Microplastics are harmful to every living thing. Particles are being ingested many ways: through inhalation, consumption of food or water, and products we use. Eighth grade MUFSD students learned where the microplastics came from and how they are polluting the environment. Students broke into teams using microscopes to inspect their clothing, skin and hair to discover that the threads of microplastics can be found everywhere. Watch the video below of the ecosystem exploration with eighth grade classes.

Invertebrate Investigation

Fifth grade students got an up close and personal look at various invertebrates, and investigated the adaptations that have allowed these animals to thrive in their environment.

Watch the video below for the fifth graders’ full experience.

Microscopes & Me

Second graders had the opportunity to look at familiar living and nonliving things through a new lens, and noticed details that weren’t so familiar to them.

Watch the video below of second grade students discovering the wonder of microscopes.  

student holds out his hands for his turn as other students watch around him
Fifth grade students on the BioBus

This two day BioBus opportunity was possible through a grant from Regeneron. “We are grateful for Regeneron’s support to make this tremendous investment in our kids. This type of hands-on learning empowers our students to understand how science impacts our lives and how we can impact science. We were very excited to give them this virtual experience,” said Superintendent Long. 

“Bringing our mobile lab programs to Menands School means connecting with a whole new community of kids around science,” said BioBus Founder and Executive Director, Ben Dubin-Thaler. “The goal of a BioBus visit is for students to leave the bus thinking about their world in a very different way and feeling excited about the power of science,” Mr. Dubin-Thaler said. He continued, ““Working with Regeneron for over a decade, we’ve reached about 20,000 students. When Regeneron scientists volunteer with BioBus, students and scientists who don’t normally interact have an extra special opportunity to discover together.”

Field Day – fun competition, cooperation, and physical activity 

Every year, our Physical Education teachers organize a Field Day for our students to compete in games over the course of the afternoon. On Friday June 9, PE teachers – Mr. Ahl and Mrs. Bettinger planned activities for K-6 classes that will include water games, obstacle courses, and potato sack races. Students in grades 7-8 will separate into mixed-grade teams to compete in Color Wars, activities designed for middle school students. 

Children’s literacy development – fun for the whole family 

Literacy Night followed by visiting author 

“We were excited to host our annual literacy night event to foster a love of reading and improve literacy skills among our students and their families. It was a fun and engaging way for families to come together, share stories, and learn about the importance of literacy in their lives.” —Principal Jennifer Cannavo

two students reading inside a tent with a glow light
Students reading a book in a tent with a glow light

On May 25, Menands School hosted a Glow in the Dark themed Family Literacy Night! The gymnasium was transformed into various literacy stations that were both engaging and educational. There was also a “camp out” with tents where students read a book with a parent, friend or teacher.

Aside from our glow in the dark theme, there was a large book swap happening as well as a station to make bookmarks. The Menands Public Library was on hand for families to sign up for library cards. It was a fun and creative night for all.

man stands near StoryWalk sign out in a wooded area
Author James Preller at the Menands StoryWalk®

The next day, Author James Preller came to visit Menands School and met with every grade level. James Preller has penned the popular Jigsaw Jones book series, as well as various novels and texts.

Mr. Preller’s book, All Welcome Here, is out on the Menands StoryWalk®. Please take some time to follow the path of the Purple Trail to enjoy the outdoors while reading, All Welcome Here.