SENECA FALLS — Students at St. Patrick’s School recently were able to do what many students can only dream about — they sent their principal to the moon. And in return, they were rewarded with a whole week full of special activities.
It’s doubtful that the students would have been rewarded if they had physically launched Principal Diana Oravec into outer space. In April, however, Oravec challenged her students to read enough books to virtually allow her to travel to the moon, assuming each minute of time spent reading would equal 10 kilometers traveled. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Web page, the moon is 384,400 kilometers away from the earth, which means St. Patrick’s students needed to spend more than 640 hours reading to accomplish their task.
The students were successful, reading a combined total of nearly 650 hours during the month of April, Oravec said. Some of this reading was done during class time, but some was completed at home, she added.
Students at the school have traditionally participated in Reading Week, during which emphasis is placed on reading and an author visits the school. This year, the staff decided to concentrate on nonfiction literature, so the theme of this year’s week was “Reach for the Stars — Read!” St. Patrick’s students kicked off Reading Week by visiting the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium in late March. First- and second-grade teacher Cathy DeBellis organized the trip with the help of a grant from the Wayne-Finger Lakes Teacher Center.
“After the visit, each class wrote and illustrated a nonfiction book based on what they learned,” Oravec said, and afterwards students were told about the proposed reading challenge.
Oravec and the rest of the staff were so proud of the students’ response to the challenge that they decided the students deserved more than the typical special day of activities they usually earned after Reading Week. This year, the staff put together an entire week of special activities, many of which related to animals, since May is often known as National Pet Month, Oravec said.
Throughout the week of May 16, students brought in towels, blankets, pet food, treats and toys for the local animal shelter and participated in animal-related games and coloring contests, she said. On May 16 a meteorologist from a local television station talked to the students about weather. The next day Father William Laird, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, conducted a pet blessing at the school, blessing pictures and stuffed animals for those who didn’t have pets or weren’t able to bring them to school.
On May 18 the students in kindergarten through sixth grade visited All Creatures Veterinary Hospital, where they listened to the heartbeats of dogs, dressed in scrubs and “operated” on a teddy bear. This was fourth-grader Vito Sinicropi’s favorite part of the week.
“We operated on a stuffed animal and we got to bandage him all up,” he said excitedly.
Fellow fourth-graders Connor Miller, Mike Wood and Jake DeBellis said they enjoyed the pet blessing the most.
On May 19 the students watched a video about animal safety, and the next day a fleet of large trucks and construction equipment took over the school parking lot. Third- and fourth-grade students from St. Mary’s School in Waterloo joined the fun that day, and the students were able to climb into the driver’s seats, where many of them enjoyed honking the horns, Oravec said. After they’d had their fill of trucks and equipment, the students went inside and decorated cookies to look like pets.
This was first-grader Hannah Miller’s favorite day, because she enjoyed “meeting all my new friends” from St. Mary’s. Fellow first-grader Victoria Lutz said she enjoyed the field trips to the veterinary hospital and the planetarium the most. She also enjoyed watching the 11 baby chicks who’d hatched in her classroom, she said, pointing out the one who’d hatched first, which some students call Big Fluff. There had been 15 chicks originally, but two had died shortly after hatching, one because it had a bad leg and the other after another chick hopped on it, DeBellis said.
Sixth-graders Erin Goodall, Bethany DeStefano and Kellie Granger thought the big trucks were “cool,” and said they enjoyed climbing up in the trucks and shifting the gears. Bethany said the pet blessing was also fun, because students usually aren’t allowed to bring their pets to school.
The week of special activities concluded May 23 with a visit from the Wegmans ZooMobile. Kate Cassim and Katherine Steen from the Seneca Park Zoo Society helped students learn about animals that have fur, feathers and scales. They brought several animals, including Bouncer, a ball python.
Bouncer was a bit hit with the first-grade boys. Eighth-grader Aubrey DeMillo said she enjoyed the presentation because she now knows the difference between an alligator and a crocodile.