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Todd Takes a Journey with Sound

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Artist Darius Kauffman took Todd Elementary School students on a musical journey during a recent visit.

“You are going to be taken to places all around the world,” said Principal Nadine McDermott. “You can use your imagination and visualize.”

Thanks to the PTA Multicultural Awareness Committee, students were introduced to unique instruments from around the world and practiced a meditation during which they connected their thoughts with the music they heard.

“It’s important that the kids are aware of the variety of cultures that are around us and that are represented within our community,” said Maria Molnar, a committee co-chair.

Following the musical journeys, students shared what they envisioned with the guests and learned about the instruments showcased, including an Apache drum, deer foot rattle, loon flute and Aztec wind whistle, to name a few.

Shaulson Receives Youth Philanthropy Award

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Briarcliff High School senior Drew Shaulson’s passion for helping others was recognized at the 1st annual Red Shoe Awards to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley on April 20.

Shaulson received the Youth Philanthropy award for his work with the charity he founded, Discover Your Hero. Instead of focusing on monetary donations, Shaulson’s organization works to connect people. After volunteering at the Ossining Food Pantry and working as a “big buddy” to a child with Tourette’s Syndrome, he was inspired to create opportunities for others to make a difference in each other’s lives on a personal level.

The organization works with “Heroes in Need” who share their specific needs, such as health care or items that can improve someone’s quality of life. In return, “Heroes In-Deed” may offer aid.

Shaulson will attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in the fall.

Yearbook Club Offers Unique Opportunities

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Briarcliff Middle School students involved with the Yearbook Club are practicing skills ranging from photography to layout.

Club advisor Stephen Cook said photographing events can give incoming sixth-grade students a taste of the wealth of experiences offered at the middle school.

“They go to sporting events, theme days in school, field trips, holiday parties, class presentations, etc.,” he said. “Plus, when they see photos they took in the book itself, it’s exciting for them – they can see the proof of their contributions.”

Filling a yearbook with photos is a challenge in itself, Cook noted. “You find that you can never have enough pictures to choose from,” he said. “It requires 10 times as many pictures than you actually use.”

As the school year begins to wind down, club members are in the throes of editing and finishing up the layouts of the yearbook’s pages.

“I think the school will be very impressed with their efforts and enjoy the final product,” said Cook.

HS Students Inspired at MoMA

HS Students Inspired at MoMA Photo

High school students enrolled in college-level art classes drew inspiration from artwork on display at the Museum of Modern Art during a recent field trip.

“We had a great day at the Museum of Modern Art,” said K-12 visual arts coordinator Roxanne Ritacco. “We viewed a fantastic exhibition of 60s art, the permanent collection of modern art and the architecture and design [exhibit].”

Students drew comparisons between the work they observed and their current projects in painting and design.

A Taste of High School Music

A Taste of High School Music Photo

Todd Elementary School’s fifth-grade band and orchestra members were treated to a special performance featuring some of the high school’s musicians.

The March 31 visit marked the National Association for Music Education’s Music in Our Schools Month and gave the soon-to-be middle school students a preview of what music education in the middle and high school is like.

“This was a way for the Todd students to hear what they can possibly sound like if they stick with their chosen instrument through high school,” said middle and high school orchestra director Michael Fraioli.

Todd students were impressed with the high school musicians and were eager to ask them questions about their instruments, how often they practice and their favorite songs to perform.

Taking Inspiration from Hispanic Artists

Taking Inspiration from Hispanic Artists Photo

Eighth-grade students studied the styles of three well-known Hispanic artists – Salvador Dali, Frida Khalo and Pablo Picasso – as part of an interdisciplinary Spanish/art unit before creating their own self-portraits.

“Students worked in groups to learn about the artist's life and times,” said art teacher Jessica Dubin. “They looked at and recorded observations about paintings by each artist. They shared their research with one another via a web-based presentation device called ‘Sway.’”

Following the group research, students began drawing a self-portrait, beginning with a focus on proportion and facial features. As the portraits progressed from pencil drawings to painted pieces, students prepared to study each other’s work during a gallery walk.

During the walk, students observed and noted styles used by their peers, including which artists they were inspired by. They were evaluated on their Sway presentation, group discussion, sketch, painting design, painting craftsmanship, self-reflection and gallery walk.

Young Scientists Shine at WESEF

Young Scientists Shine at WESEF Photo
Young Scientists Shine at WESEF

Briarcliff High School’s science research students boasted a strong showing at the annual Westchester Science & Engineering Fair, held at Sleepy Hollow High School.

Briarcliff students were among the more than 550 participants who presented to 300 plus judges throughout the day.

Science research teachers Melissa Carnahan, Kim Dyer, Michael Inglis and Annemarie O’Brien offered their congratulations to the day’s award-winners, including the following students who received special awards:
American Meteorological Society Award: Kaveri Gowda
American Psychological Association Award: Kieran Roth
Association for Women Geoscientists Award: Kaveri Gowda
Stockholm Junior Water Prize: Kaveri Goda
Walter Kass Memorial Award: Maria Capasso
Yale Science & Engineering Association Award: Farhannah Mohideen

Special congratulations to the following best in category award winners:

1st Place in Behavioral Science: Ava Goldwyn
2nd Place in Cellular and Molecular Biology: Jacqueline Contento, Samantha Manimala
3rd Place in Behavioral Science: Grace Boyar, Georgia Minkoff
3rd Place in Environmental Science: Kaveri Gowda
3rd Place in Medicine and Health: Lauren Ballini
3rd Place in Microbiology: Lin Xie
4th Place in Animal Sciences: Lindsay Shapiro
4th Place in Astronomy and Physics: Benjamin Shi
4th Place in Cellular and Molecular Biology: Lucas Benson
4th Place in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics: Aidan Bohan
4th Place in Environmental Science: Joseph Raphael
4th Place in Medicine and Health: Hannah Gelfand, Edison Ho
4th Place in Microbiology: Steven Orientale

“The science research team and Briarcliff High School community are so proud of our students and their achievements,” the science research teachers said in a joint statement.

Pictured from left to right: Science research teacher Kimberly Dyer, Kaveri Gowda, science research teacher Michael Inglis, Joseph Raphael, Jacqueline Contento and science research teachers Melissa Carnahan and Annmarie O'Brien.

Destination Imagination Team Headed to States

Destination Imagination Team Headed to States Photo

The middle school’s Destination Imagination team impressed judges at the NYDI Eastern Regional Tournament on March 18 and earned a trip to the state competition.

“We received second place honors and won the Renaissance Award for excellence in engineering,” said club advisor Jodi Shearer. “We are going on to the state challenge in Binghamton in April.”

Students were challenged to design a structure that could hold a significant amount of weight.

“The structure judge met with us afterward and said ours was one of the strongest designs he has ever seen,” said Shearer, noting that it held 95 pounds before time ran out. “The kids are psyched for states now.”

Gowda Earns Bronze at JSHS

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Briarcliff High School student Kaveri Gowda has received recognition at the Upstate New York Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, held in Albany.

“This competition brings all of eastern and western New York science research students into state competition,” said science research teacher Melissa Carnahan. “Kaveri was one of five winners in the third place category of the state competition. We are very proud of her.”

The JSHS competition brings together approximately 800 elite science research competitors from around the state. Gowda’s third place finish came in the poster competition. Her classmates Jackie Contento and Joe Raphael also made an appearance at JSHS, participating in the PowerPoint competition.

Prolific Author Visits Todd

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Author of 90 books for children and teenagers, Gordon Korman has been a writer since he was very young.

Korman visited Todd Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-grade students on March 24 to speak about his long writing career and offer some inspiration for budding writers in Briarcliff.

Korman wrote his first novel as a seventh-grade student, “This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall,” which was published by Scholastic by the time he reached high school.

“You never know where the next idea is going to come from,” he said. “You’re a better writer when you write about what you love.”

For example, Korman noted that his “Swindle” series came out of his love for old films and movie plots that feature exciting action such as robberies, prison breaks and fugitives. He translated this passion to books about boys whose valuable baseball card is swindled away from them.

He also pulls from real life to shape his books. Said Korman, “My teenage son is the inspiration for the main character in ‘Slacker.’”

Korman’s next book, “Restart,” will hit bookshelves in May. He gave Todd students a sneak preview and told them the plot involves a bully who falls off his roof and gets total amnesia.

Students participated in a poster-design contest leading up to Korman’s visit. Gordon Beckler, Emilio Abud Chalita and Toby Young were selected by the author as the winners, earning gift certificates to the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville and iTunes.

Todd’s author visits are generously supported by the PTA.

HS Artists Earn Scholastic Recognition

Five high school students have earned regional awards in the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Congratulations to:

Farhaanah Mohideen

•    Gold Key (Painting) for “Portuguese Road”
•    Silver Key (Painting) for “lake scene”
•    Honorable Mention (Drawing and Illustration) for “fright”

Devon Litchfield
•    Silver Key (Drawing and Illustration) for “The Attic”
•    Honorable Mention (Drawing and Illustration) for “Helen”
•    Honorable Mention (Drawing and Illustration) for “Industrial Revolution”
•    Honorable Mention (Painting) for “Deep in Thought”
•    Honorable Mention (Painting) for “Takeout”

Julia Orientale
•    Silver Key (Printmaking) for “Back in Time”

John Gross
•    Honorable Mention (Design) for “Mondrian’s Puzzle”

Hannah Siesel
•    Honorable Mention (Drawing and Illustration) for “Stranger”

Students Share Passion for STEM

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Small groups of students shared their enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the Lower Hudson Valley’s first regional STEM Festival for middle schoolers at Blind Brook Middle/High School on March 18.

The STEMfest was a noncompetitive gathering of students who are passionate about STEM that challenged them to build, invent, research or code and present their work in a supportive environment.

Seventh-graders Kabir Gowda, Neel Menon and Ben Young worked on creating a hologram using three-dimensional objects for STEMfest.

“It looks really cool and the science behind it is interesting,” Menon said.

Other students who participated in the event included Annika Bruinings, Theo Racz, Coby Rinke, Kornel Smith and Daniel Sugrue.

“STEMfest was great,” said science teacher Jodi Shearer. “The kids all had wonderful experiences.”


MS Students Lauded for Creative Spark

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A group of Briarcliff Middle School students put their (machine’s) best foot forward at a live Rube Goldberg contest at Mineola Middle School on March 11.

 “Our machine had a carnival theme,” said science teacher Jodi Shearer. “We came in second place and earned the ‘Best Step’ and ‘Creative Spark’ awards.”

The group of seventh-graders who created the machine “did a fabulous job,” said Shearer.

View a video of the machine in action below.


Bending Over Backward for Theatre

Bending Over Backward for Theatre Photo
Fifteen theater enthusiasts from Briarcliff High School recently participated in the New York State Theatre Association’s 20th annual student conference in Callicoon, New York.

“This conference creates an opportunity for approximately 800 high school students from all over New York State to come together for a full weekend of learning and peer interaction,” said Jamie Mandel, Briarcliff High School’s English Department coordinator. “These students attend workshops given by colleges, universities and other theater professionals, as well as network and experience a variety of performances.”

Mandel, along with Todd Elementary School music teacher Wilma Messenger, attended the conference with the students. 2017 marked the 18th year that BHS has sent representatives to the event.

Throughout the conference, students received expert instruction in technical theater, acting, dance and voice. They enjoyed these workshops while interacting with students with similar interests from across the state.
“Studying theater and attending the conference develops abilities needed for the 21st century including critical thinking, problem solving skills, applications of technology, social responsibility and creativity,” said Mandel. “This conference is a testament to how theater transforms students’ lives.”

MS Students Explore Cyber Safety

MS Students Explore Cyber Safety
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“Would this please my grandmother?”

That’s the question Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Susan Brownbill-Vega said she asks herself before posting anything online. She encouraged Briarcliff Middle School students to also think of a “favorite person” in their lives who they can use as a litmus test before posting content on social media and beyond.

In a presentation titled “Internet Safety,” Brownbill-Vega discussed topics ranging from the legality of sharing certain types of content online to material topical to pop culture like “catfishing” during her March 13 visit.

Brownbill-Vega engaged with students by asking them to review material and determine whether it would be appropriate to post online. Students raised concerns relating to privacy, bullying and legality as they discussed the photos and videos.

In addition to facing legal consequences for posting content such as inappropriately-themed photos, content that depicts underage students engaged in criminal activities like drinking alcohol or content that threatens violence, removing regrettable content from the internet is nearly impossible.

“All of the information about what you are doing online is collected by your computer [or device],” said Brownbill-Vega.

She encouraged students to “use your gut” when navigating the web.

The presentation was made possible through the support of the PTA.

Track Standouts Perform at States

Track Standouts Head to States
Three varsity track and field athletes represented the Briarcliff High School Bears at the New York State Track and Field Championship in Ocean Breeze, Staten Island, on  March 4.

Congratulations to Ryan Gallagher for earning second place in the 3200-meter run and Jack Zimmerman for placing second in the shot put competition. Dmytri Cafri also represented the Bears with a strong showing in the triple jump.

HS Hosts Columbia Super Saturday

Briarcliff High School and the Westchester Columbia University alumni group recently hosted a “Columbia University Super Saturday” event.

Fifteen local Columbia alumni interviewed 88 prospective Columbia freshmen from around Westchester County, including several current BHS seniors.

Nihara Choudhri, the alumni group co-chair and a Briarcliff parent of three, organized the event with the help of Principal Debora French and Counseling Coordinator Meredith Safer.

National Recognition for Student Magazine

Briarcliff High Schools student-run magazine, “Briars & Ivy,” has earned national accolades for its 2016 volume, led by editor-in-chief and alumna Erynn Altabef.

The magazine features student artwork and writing in its annual issues with several  pieces earning individual recognition.

Publication awards include:

•    National Scholastic Press Association: First Class with Two Marks of Distinction
•    American Scholastic Press Association: First Place Overall
•    National Council of Teachers of English Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines: Recommended for Highest Award
•    Columbia Scholastic Press Association: Silver Medalist
•    Empire State Scholastic Press Association: Gold Overall

The following students also won individual awards in the following categories:

•    Artwork/Illustration: Maya Ponzini, "Eurasian" – Gold
•    Artwork/Illustration: Devon Litchfield, "Free Spirit" – Gold
•    Artwork/Illustration: Harrison Isaac, "Night Walk" – Honorable Mention
•    Artwork/Illustration: Victoria Garito, "Self-Portrait - Victoria" – Honorable Mention
•    Fiction: Jillian Agona: "Broken Telephone" – Gold
•    Fiction: Alex Schoepke:"Prance Like a Horse" – Bronze
•    Non-Fiction: Feroze Mohideen "I Believe in the Beard" – Silver
•    Photograph: Harrison Isaac, "Pyromania" – Silver
•    Photograph: Sam Simpson, "Terminate" – Honorable Mention
•    Poetry (Division B): Sophie Underwood, "Things My Mother Said to Me" – Silver
•    Poetry (Division B): Matt Murray, "Book Covers" – Honorable Mention

Limited copies of the 2017 edition of Briars & Ivy will be available for purchase for $20 each. If you would like to purchase a copy, please email Karen McCarthy at

Todd Promotes Heart Health

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Todd Elementary School students shared their big hearts as they helped spread awareness about heart health during the annual Jump Rope for Heart program.

Each student contributed a heart to the gymnasium’s wall of honor, which recognized family members who have been affected by heart health issues. This year, the wall was made up of blue hearts to celebrate Todd’s 2016 National Blue Ribbon School recognition.

In addition, third- through fifth-grade students created posters to raise awareness for the American Heart Association’s role in fighting heart disease and stroke.

“I am really impressed,” said Principal Nadine McDermott. “The posters are really thoughtful.”

The Jump Rope for Heart initiative allowed students to get their heart rates up by participating in a number of jump rope activities during their physical education classes – partner jumps, backward jumping and more – as well as rest stations that involved healthy heart activities such as naming activities and foods that are good for the heart, heart-healthy word searches and more.

Physical education teacher Michelle Hiltsley said that Todd students have been especially enthusiastic this year about participating in the efforts. She encourages community members to continue to spread awareness and to learn more by visiting through March 3.


Science Research Students Impress at Regional Symposium

Briarcliff High School’s budding scientists stood out among their peers at the annual   Westchester-Rockland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, held at John Jay High School in Cross River on Feb. 4.

“Briarcliff did exceptionally well and we could not be more excited for our students and program” said Melissa Carnahan, who along with Kim Dyer, Michael Inglis and Annmarie O’Brien, are the school’s science research teachers.

Congratulations to the award winners:

•    Overall 1st Place Poster – Elizabeth Kreppel
•    1st Place – Ava Goldwyn (biology)
•    1st Place – Elizabeth Kreppel (behavior)
•    2nd Place – Aidan Bohan (biology III)
•    2nd Place – Julia Duffy (neuroscience)
•    2nd Place – Julia Goodkin and Liza Pacchiana (medicine and health)

PowerPoint Presentations
•    2nd Place – Jackie Contento (cellular and molecular biology)
•    2nd Place – Joseph Raphael (chemistry and materials science)
•    3rd Place – Kaveri Gowda (environment)
•    5th Place – Lin Xie (medicine and health)

In addition, the presentations from Contento, Gowda and Raphael earned them a spot as presenters at the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, which will be held in Albany.

HS to Present Hit Broadway Musical “The Boys from Syracuse”


Students from Briarcliff High School are preparing for a lively performance of “The Boys from Syracuse,” a madcap musical with music by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and a book by George Abbott, based on William Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors.” The fast-paced comic plot will keep audience members of all ages entertained, amused and engaged.

A zany take on one of the oldest stories in the book, “The Boys from Syracuse” is an archetypal 1930s musical – a hilarious frolic through a small town where two pairs of separated-at-birth identical twins seem destined never to find each other, causing mayhem along the way. Throw in a magician, a Chihuahua in sunglasses, infectious tap routines and the classic songs of Rodgers and Hart (including “Sing for Your Supper” and “This Can’t Be Love”), and you have a treat for the whole family!

“Legend has it that Rodgers and Hart came up with the idea of creating a musical based on Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” initially as a joke, but their creative juices were so stirred that an all-time classic musical comedy was born,” said director Ian Driver of Briarcliff High School.

Told in modern language but with a story that remains true to the original plot, “The Boys from Syracuse” is a link between Broadway tradition and classic literature. A gift for a school program combining fun with educational resonances, Briarcliff students have created their own modern version of this classic comedy.

Driver was given special permission by R&H Theatricals to update the musical to Fellini’s Italy of the early 1960s. “The themes and styles of the Fellini genre mirror the themes in the show and allow us to throw in added flavor,” he said.

“Vespas and gelato” is Driver’s shorthand description – and to add to the atmosphere, the Briarcliff Friends of the Arts will serve traditional Italian gelato in the lobby before and after each performance.

The performances will take place in the Frances G. Wills Auditorium at Briarcliff High School on:

Friday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m.

All tickets are $15 and can be purchased at For questions about tickets, contact

Sharing Technology with Seniors

A number of senior citizens now have a grasp on technological functions and applications, including Skype, FaceTime and social media, thanks to Briarcliff High School senior Jenna Whalen.

Whalen, a dedicated Girl Scout, recently earned her Gold Award by devoting more than 100 hours to fundraising and teaching residents at Atria on the Hudson, an assisted living facility in Ossining.

After raising more than $2,000, Whalen purchased four iPad Air 2s to donate to the facility. She then worked with Apple staff to prepare lessons and exercises that she could deliver to the Atria’s residents. Through her efforts, the seniors learned how to use the iPads, download applications and use them to communicate with family members and friends.

The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, as it recognizes a positive and sustainable difference in one’s community.

Whalen will be officially recognized for the completion of her Gold Award project at a ceremony in Poughkeepsie in March.

Friday, April 28, 2017