Archive for the ‘Claremont Elementary School’ Tag

Thruway, Bridge Authorities to remain Separate

Throwback Thursday: Last month I wrote an article about a controversial proposal in the state’s budget. As it was not published by the assigning editor, I’m posting it here. Thank you in appreciation to everyone who shared stories and submitted photos while hoping the proposal would be defeated. It was.

Anticipating higher tolls and the ensuing hardship to their communities, Hudson Valley lawmakers and officials are fighting a proposal in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $178 billion 2021 budget to merge the Bridge and Thruway Authorities.

With its 570 miles of roadways, 814 bridges, 118 interchanges, 11 toll barriers and 27 service areas, the New York State Thruway Authority collects approximately $800 million annually. In September 2018, the agency fully opened the $3.98 billion, twin-span Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (New NY Bridge project) that replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge between Westchester and Rockland Counties. The structure’s side path and six overlooks on its northern span, and landings in Tarrytown and South Nyack, will open this year.

Dissent and concern as deadline nears

“I strongly oppose this because it’s a solution in search of a problem,” Assemblymember Jonathan G. Jacobson (D-Newburgh) said. “There are no efficiencies to be gained as the New York State Bridge Authority is one of the most efficient agencies and has low tolls.”

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge/Photo credit Greg Herd

Worried eyes focus on the NYSBA’s Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, which subsidizes the other four — Rip Van Winkle, Kingston-Rhinecliff, Mid-Hudson and Bear Mountain Bridges — and carries I-84, taking in nearly half ($30 million) of NYSBA’s $62 million annual revenue.

“The governor can use it (Newburgh-Beacon) to get more money to pay for the Cuomo Bridge,” Jacobson said. Tolls on the other bridges would then increase, he said, “and that’s not fair. Around here, we cross the Hudson as often as some people travel Main Street. If you live in Highland you go to Poughkeepsie to shop, and if you live in Beacon and need a hospital, you go to St. Luke’s in Newburgh.”

Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge/Photo credit Greg Herd

NYSBA is responsible for Walkway Over The Hudson Historic State Park, the 1.28-mile span between Poughkeepsie and Highland. It will not be impacted as it has a 99-year operating agreement with the Bridge Authority that runs through 2109 and will remain in force, Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYC Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, said.

Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Castella, Jr. can pick up the phone and voice a concern or a need to the Bridge Authority. “This is how a business-community partnership works,” he said. “We fear that relationship will disappear with the Thruway Authority, and we’ll start paying taxes without seeing where they’re spent.”

Mid-Hudson Bridge/Photo credit Greg Herd

A few years ago, the Chamber asked if it could fly the Special Olympics flag from the Mid-Hudson Bridge to honor the games being held in Poughkeepsie. “They said ‘yes’ and told us the dimensions of the flag,” Castella said. “It’s the first time a flag other than the American flag hung from that bridge.”

Emphasizing its economic drawbacks, Greene County Chamber of Commerce President / Executive Director Jeff Friedman said the Chamber also strongly opposes the merger and called it unnecessary. “Affordable tolls on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge are important,” he said. “They’re a lifeline for students attending Columbia Greene Community College and necessary for people going to the train station. And Columbia Memorial Hospital is across the river.”

Rip Van Winkle Bridge/Photo credit Greg Herd

It’s a chance for the state to achieve some efficiency, Dave Friedfel at Citizens Budget Commission countered. “If something happens to one of those bridges, then traffic will shift to others within the system, and costs will be shared.”

“We already collaborate with the state to find savings on purchases,” Bridge Authority Chair Richard Gerentine said. “NYSBA is run by a Board of local volunteers who have always championed efficiency, maintenance, and safety.” None of the five bridges has ever been red-flagged during inspections.

Bear Mountain Bridge/Photo credit Greg Herd

Friedman noted the Bear Mountain Bridge is close to 100 years old yet the Tappan Zee was replaced after nearly 62 years. “We’re also concerned about safety and the fact that the Thruway Authority is deeply in debt due to (it) and needed DOT subsidizing.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston introduced Bill A190 directing the Authorities to study how they can share services, combine functions and to determine the feasibility of merging that is in Assembly Committee. The Town of Newburgh passed a resolution opposing the merger; Ulster County adopted a similar resolution March 17.

Jacobson is confident the legislature will remove the proposal from the budget as “it will change everything in the Hudson Valley.”

Seeing educational opportunities

NYSBA partnership’s with Historic Bridges of the Hudson Valley was initiated in 2014 by former Authority Executive Director Joseph Ruggiero. This “small yet far-reaching not-for-profit educates the Hudson Valley and beyond about its amazing structures,” HBHV Executive Director Kathryn Burke said.

Master Teacher class at Bear Mountain Bridge

While the state and the governor talk about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, Burke said, “HBHV makes a connection between STEM education and careers for educators and their students, and that is the missing piece in education today. Skills are taught, yet very few schools and educators are able to direct students to the vast variety of STEM careers.”

Arlington High School science teacher Steve Hertzog attended two HBHV-facilitated workshops for teachers last year that “provided a wonderful, panoramic view of the historical, technological, and socioeconomic impacts of the Hudson river bridges on the development of the Hudson Valley and its communities,” he said.

At Bear Mountain Bridge, NYSBA engineer explains tools

Hearing historical stories and feats of engineering, Hertzog said, “helps educators gain a better perspective on the impacts and opportunities that these bridges have provided and continue to provide for the Hudson Valley. When politicians cry out for rebuilding our nation’s ‘crumbling infrastructure,’ it doesn’t seem to apply to bridges north of the Cuomo Bridge.”

New York State Master Teacher Sunitha Howard brought her science classes at Yonkers Public Schools to the Bear Mountain Bridge to learn about STEAM.

NYSBA engineering intern Juan Cardenas with students

“Many of them have never been there before, and they’re fascinated by it,” Howard said. “We took them on a hike, and then went to the museum near the toll house,” where they heard from an engineering student, saw a 3D digital computer-aided design printing of the Bear Mountain Bridge, touched materials that were part of the bridge and saw where it was connected to the ground.

“It was a thrill for them,” she said. “These programs inspire the next generation of leaders in engineering and technology.”

Howard and Burke fear HBHV programs will be discontinued if the merger happens. The Thruway Authority declined to comment about the educational component.

* * * * *

When replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge became a reality, the NNYB project team saw building its replacement as an opportunity. Since 2013, more than 70,000 students learned about the project through an educational outreach program tailored to their grades and ages. Each year of the program correlated to each stage of building and construction.

Rebar sample is heavier than it looks/Photo credit NYSTA

They learned about the oyster relocation program and protecting endangered sturgeon and other aquatic life, and how the eight main span towers were built using jump forms. Kids touched samples of sheaths within the stay cables supporting the main span, held a piece of 18-gauge rebar (reinforcing steel bar) like that of the bridge’s invisible, interwoven support network and learned how engineers used building information modeling (BIM), a 3D model-based process.

“For four years we have worked with Andy O’Rourke, who has come to visit with our classes to discuss the STREAM (STEM plus research and art) ideas behind bridge-building,” Micki Lockwood, a 4th grade teacher at Claremont Elementary School in Ossining, said. “Students read about bridges, watched videos, designed bridges and had fun collaborating on low tech and high tech activities.”

Claremont School 4th grade/Photo credit Micki Lockwood

Lockwood described it as “an amazing opportunity to integrate our learning with a project that is happening right along our beautiful Hudson River.” When the pair of Peregrine falcons returned to the nest box atop one of the bridge’s towers each spring, there was a naming contest for the young hatchlings. Her students were excited the names they submitted — Puente and Rio — were chosen for two years.

“The NNYB project was an amazing resource for our studies,” she said. “My hope is that hearing the stories of the people who worked on the bridge will motivate our students to seek out careers in STREAM.”

Incremental toll hikes

The decade-long $5 cash ride from Rockland to Westchester ends this year. Cash tolls rise 30 percent to $6.83 in 2021 and $7.48 in 2022, plus a $2 monthly surcharge; E-ZPass® will be $5.25 in 2021 and $5.75 in 2022. The Board proposed a 40 percent commuter discount at the New York E-ZPass® rate and no increases for Westchester and Rockland residents through 2022. Changes await public comment.

Skywalk Arts Festival near Rip Van Winkle Bridge toll plaza

NYSTA’s 2020 budget of $1.3 billion is $33 million or 2.4 percent less than 2019 and includes $72.4 million for the NNYB project, $371.7 million for operating expenses and $533.7 million for system-wide capital projects. Sections of roadway and a majority of its bridges date back to when the system opened in the 1950s, and need continual and significant repair and rebuilding.

NYSBA cash tolls become $1.75 in May, $2 in May 2022, and $2.15 in May 2023. E-ZPass® tolls, currently $1.25, incrementally increase $.10 annually from May 2020 to May 2023, when the rate will be $1.65. A public hearing was held March 9.

The Authority is proceeding to bid out for the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge’s north span redecking project, which is the largest project that will be funded through the toll revision, NYSBA spokesman Chris Steber said.

Heading eastbound on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge/Creative Commons photo credit April 2009 RF Bailey

“Tolls are used for maintenance of spans, operations and debt service,” Steber said. “About 97% of the Authority’s revenue comes from tolls; the other 3 percent is from investment income, ad revenue on toll arms, and leasing dark fiber that goes over the bridge. This amounts to about $52.9 million in funds as of January 31, 2020.”

“The Authority believes strongly in preventive maintenance, and we do the best we can with the lowest possible toll rate,” he added. “Passenger cars pay less today than in the 1930s during the Depression, when drivers paid $1.60 roundtrip, plus an additional $.20 per passenger. That would be over $30 today with inflation.”

The NYSTA responded in a statement, “Both the Bridge and Thruway authorities operate with some of the lowest tolls in the nation, and that will remain unchanged with a merger as their revenue and how it is utilized will — and must be — invested to support their operations and capital programs.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2020

Claremont Elementary names One Baby Falcon

Katherine Castrillo’s class at Claremont Elementary School was all smiles and cheers this week after one of the four baby falcons was named Rio, the kids’ choice for this year’s naming contest. More than 1,500 people picked the winning names from 10 entries.

The project team will also visit Concord Road Elementary School in Ardsley and Washington Irving Intermediate School in Tarrytown, whose classes submitted the other winning names: Talon-ted, Cardi Beak and Speedy.

Following an award ceremony, nearly 400 students were eager to learn about the new bridge’s technology, environmental precautions, oyster relocation and falcon nest. And the Tappan Zee Bridge got their attention: they all wanted to see part of the old bridge blown up in the river. Your description may vary.

That’s for another blog post.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

Guest Blog: Classroom Lessons related to NNYB Educational Outreach enhance Understanding

Andy O’Rourke with 400 students at Ossining school/NYSTA

By Micki Lockwood

The educational outreach piece is our three-year-long relationship between Public Outreach Coordinator Andy O’Rourke and the Ossining School District. The importance of this work is looking at curriculum through a new lens, for example, you are going to study New York in 4th Grade in Social Studies, Simple Machines in Science and Geometry in math, hmmm… then why not study one of the most important projects happening in our backyard?

This becomes not only understanding the bridge that being built; it brings us back to the history of bridges and architecture — and leads us back to literacy and reading fiction and non-fiction books on engineers, architects, which in turn brings in our science, math, ELA.

We then, of course, want hands-on experiences, and these lend themselves to STEAM, where you can do low-tech to high-tech activities and use technology. You then can use Virtual Reality to travel the world and see architecture and building and even see people within their careers.

This leads us back to The New NY Bridge. We can have meaningful conversations about the falcons and the sturgeon, and the importance of the bridge and the balance in nature. Last year a student here at Claremont School selected one of the winning names — Puente (bridge in Spanish) — for one of the falcon’s new babies. The inquiry and hands-on pieces are what bring about engagement.

I use the New NY Bridge group for my research, but my favorite part is that they are the culmination of all the research we have done here in our STEM Lab at Claremont School. As an educator, I am always revisiting and crafting my lessons to integrate as many subjects into what I am teaching. There are only so many minutes in the day, so the idea is how can I get the most in and have a meaningful impact.

The final outcome from this work is that you can be any of these occupations if you choose. If we didn’t study the bridge, then we wouldn’t know about these careers.

Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood shares her enthusiasm for learning with her third- and fourth-grade students. Lockwood’s classes used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge.

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at andrew.orourke@newnybridge.com or 845-918-2516 or visit newnybridge.com.

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

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