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Getting to Know the People in Our Neighborhood

"They're the people that you meet when you're walking down the street. They're the people that you meet each day!" Just like when Elmo and his Sesame Street friends sang about the importance of community connection, first graders experienced that sense of belonging while learning about civics on a sunny Friday last week. On the 2023 Trip Around the Community, smiling students learned valuable lessons about the dynamic Village of Sleepy Hollow, along with how all community members - young and old - benefit from working together. 

"For the kids to get an early social studies lesson while interacting in the community is fantastic. They encounter so many people daily; it is wonderful that they're getting a lesson on how to be a good community member," said Lily, Ethan's mother.  

The annual Trip Around the Community is held the first Friday in May and began in 2010 when the first grade moved to WL Morse from John Paulding. Over the years, the event has evolved to fit within the BOCES first-grade social studies curriculum, where students study communities and community helpers. First-grade teacher Mrs. Salazar summed it up by saying, "This is the best day of the year for the students, teachers, and the community!"

Beaming faces visited locations on Beekman Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, and even back at Morse. Touring, asking questions, and thanking community members, students visited the Police and Fire departments, Village Hall, The Life Center, and Sleepy Hollow Bookstore. Morse was turned into its own 'village' as The Sleepy Hollow EMT visited the parking lot. Patty from the Warner Children's Library spoke about getting a Warner Library card. She talked about the library's activities for children and their families and then read two books to the students. Boosting the physical and mental connection, kids got their groove on with hip-hop moves provided by YMCA dance instructors Cindy and Simon. At the 'yoga studio,' Physical Education and Health Department Chair Taun Turnesa led a guided meditation. 

Of course, no stroll would be complete without a treat. Ice cream hit the sweet spot as students watched a video about how ice cream is made at Main Street Sweets. Ensuring all the students could have a safe treat, Morse's 'La Famosa Bodega' was open for children unable to eat ice cream.

Sleepy Hollow Bookstore owner Leah Bloom welcomed the first graders to chat about books and what it's like to own a small business. Mrs. Bloom, who also lives in the community with her husband and boys (students in the school district), jumped at the chance to participate in the day's events.

 "When I opened the shop, I wished to create a place where the community could gather and share a love of books. By hosting our community's youngest readers and sharing my passion for reading, I hope to foster their love of reading as they grow," said Leah. "The school and shop are neighbors. Please come back with your families to visit," she called as the first graders departed. 

At the Bookstore, through a generous donation from Kendal-on-Hudson Foundation, each student received a brand new National Geographic animal book which will be used to support the science unit. Holding his new book about Ocean Predators and wearing a sweater with a hammerhead shark on the front, first grader Angus said, "We got a cool book." When asked if he loves sharks, Angus's friend Justin responded, "No, he loves the police, and we're going there next!"

The Horseman PTA provided the student's Horseman red "Community Walk" string bags to hold the books, a snack, and postcards. Created in school in anticipation of the walk, each first grader designed, added postage, and wrote a note to one of their classmates. While walking through the village, first-grade classes stopped at the mailbox outside the post office, where each student mailed the postcards. 

Across the street at the RSHM Life Center, Mr. Ryan explained with the help of some of the after-school program students just how the Life Center supports local families. Providing homework help, and activities in a safe environment, ENL teacher Mrs. Seguinot explained to the first graders that the Life Center is a perfect example of a place that gives back to the community.

In the Village Hall, students got to gavel an imaginative or silly "new" law into action, while other students got to put Teaching Assistant Caitlyn Miles in a holding cell. Outside, Police Officer Dan let each of the first graders sit in the backseat of his squad car with flashing lights and whaling sirens. At Rescue Hose, home to Engine 85, Fire Chief John Korzelius explained how the fire calls work and discussed fire safety. 

EMT and Police Officer Martello explained to transfixed students when and when not to call 911. "Who is in the community and how we all work together to keep everyone safe is a critical lesson at this age," said Martello, who has volunteered for the event for the past seven years. "They are young, but by interacting with the police, firemen, and EMT in a non-emergency situation, they learn that we're approachable and ready to help them in any situation they might find themselves in."

"Field trip days are always excellent, but the Trip Around the Community is a special day the students remember long after their school years," said first-grade teacher and organizer Tonya Richardson. "And, when the students get to visit and greet all these incredible people that make the community what it is, it is not just a social studies lesson, but is also an opportunity to teach the students how to give back to the community themselves."