District News

Global Scholars Students Take Action

The Global Scholars Program is a three-year interdisciplinary course that focuses on global awareness, critical thinking, and leadership skills for the 21st century. Each year centers around project-based learning with relevant topics drawn from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students develop global competency skills and work toward understanding growth mindsets, dispositions, and design thinking skills by investigating the world and taking action through research and authentic tasks.

The requirements to enter the program are an interest in global issues, a desire to engage in authentic learning, and a willingness to take action to make a difference. Year 1 of the program focuses on an introduction to the most significant issues facing our world today including poverty, human rights, and the environment. This seminar-style class, taught by an interdisciplinary team of teachers, helps students recognize multiple perspectives on both local and global issues, and helps develop skills needed to take action.

During Year 2, students continue to expand their global understanding through group and independent projects and develop an individual learning plan to investigate a global issue of their choosing. Through the utilization of design thinking, they cultivate empathy, conduct in-depth research, and take action to address their chosen universal challenge.

The 2019-2020 school year included three projects for Year 2 students.  The first was to study Hurricane Dorian's effect on the Bahamas and was used primarily to practice empathy interviews.  “Although students could not conduct interviews themselves, they viewed interviews conducted by others. They began to understand that if you want to help people, you first must learn from the people you are looking to help,” said Ms. Jen Laden, Byram Hills Social Studies Chair.  “They researched charities and made a recommendation of an appropriate one to raise donations for.”

For their second project, students had to develop a plan to encourage Westchester residents to complete the 2020 Census. They were required to conduct research, interview stakeholders, collect data, identify problem areas, and develop a realistic action plan.

Student groups wrote emails, made calls, and scheduled appointments for interviews with various local organizations. “This was one of the best elements of the process,” said Mr. Duane Smith, Byram Hills English Chair.  “Rather than viewing their teachers as the sole purveyors of knowledge, the students used interviews to learn from various individuals in the field.”

One successful outcome of the project came from a student group that created a public service announcement video targeting an immigrant community in Mount Kisco. The five group members collaborated with the Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) class at Fox Lane High School to identify and reach out to trusted community members. Neighbors Link, an organization that provides services and education for the immigrant community, helped make the decision to produce the video in Spanish with English subtitles to effectively reach their intended market.

“What I got most out of this project was how impactful design thinking can be. This is a fool-proof way to be successful,” said Lindsey Noel, a Global Scholars student. “I will take these skills with me through the rest of my education and into the workforce.”

Students chose their own topics for the third project. “They started with research on their problem, conducted empathy interviews, developed action plans, and right in the middle of that great work, the pandemic hit,” Ms. Laden said.  “Students then altered their ideas and many developed social media campaigns to raise awareness about their issue.

Skylar Silverstein, Byram Hills senior, focused on the increase of current adolescent mental health issues. “The most important thing I learned was how to be flexible and professional while working virtually,” expressed Skylar. She is currently creating activities and workshops about youth mental health and socialization.

Alexa Tusiani, Byram Hills senior, chose the topic of how factory farming impacts various systems within our society and government.  “Many people are not aware that this system involves raising livestock under harsh and confining conditions or the negative stigma surrounding becoming vegan,” said Alexa. “I wanted to change that perception and demonstrate the many positive aspects of a plant-based lifestyle.”  Alexa learned the importance of researching various perspectives of an issue, and how valuable it is to listen to others.

“Seniors explore their leadership abilities and hone their skills using the leadership practices of Kouzes and Posner as a framework,” said Ms. Melissa Stahl, World Languages Chair. “Year 3 students culminate the year by synthesizing all of their learned mindsets, design thinking, and leadership skills and develop a global summit for the freshmen class.”  

The Global Scholars Program has just completed its first three-year cycle and continues to draw approximately 50 new students each year with over 100 students in the program.

Byram Hills High School Presents - “A Night On Broadway” - From Your Home

On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, The Varley Players of Byram Hills High School will be debuting “A Night On Broadway” in a truly unique way - Virtually. No stage. No sets. No costumes. No lighting. No cast party. But these talented students are counting on a vast audience - online.

Byram Hills did not miss a beat in keeping these students engaged during the pandemic. Sophomore Matthew Giovannetti said, “I miss the camaraderie we normally share when rehearsing a show, but it was great that we could perform songs from a wider range of musical styles and periods.” Matthew has previously appeared on the Byram Hills stage in Peter and the Starcatcher and Guys and Dolls.

“We had to do a show, both for ourselves and the community,” said Theatre Director John Lopez.  “What could be possible to produce even if we were unable to attend school for the semester?”  He told students to focus on learning to connect to a song’s text, perform it in their living room with heart, and record on a phone if needed. 

Auditions were remote, and students chose songs to fit the general theme of their journeys, remembrances, and new beginnings - the result - a highly entertaining and memorable mix of Broadway songs. A stunning musical cabaret!
“A virtual performance can be just as fun and exciting as a live show,” said Christine Parisi, a Byram Hills junior. “We worked so hard, practicing every day until it was time to film our songs, and it all paid off.”  Christine will be performing in four pieces for this production, including a solo of  “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music.

Students did the bulk of the work during virtual meetings and even some carefully distanced ensemble rehearsals. Each performer, wearing an earbud to hear an accompaniment track, recorded practice versions and ultimately final recordings of all the songs from a quiet location in their own homes.

“The students have made us all proud,” said Mr. Lopez. “They managed to balance their stressful lives with the demands and responsibilities of rehearsing and recording their performances and pouring passion and joy into the entire process.”

Mr. Melso and Ms. Medrano from the Byram Hills Media Center (Producer & Editors), Mr. Gulick (Assistant Director), Mrs. Pieratti (Production Assistant), Mrs. Smith (Music Director), and Mrs. Brooks (Scenic Designer) all played a significant role in this production.


The Byram Hills Media Center - One Year Anniversary

Whether it be producing District content, posting on social media, administrating the website, or writing for publications, the Media Center at Byram Hills is strategizing how information is being communicated internally and to the community. “We like to think of ourselves as the communications hub,“ said Elise Trainor, District Communications & Production Specialist. “We feel we are creating a window into the schools so the community can share the compelling and inspiring achievements of our students.”

Dr. Jen Lamia, Byram Hills Superintendent, spearheaded the concept of integrating all communications and developing an internal Media Center. The mission is to showcase student accomplishments, District initiatives, and events through digital and social media, web content, and print publications. The District is committed to educating students, engaging volunteers, creating interpersonal communication, and sharing information with the Byram Hills community.  

In addition to bTV programming and social media, the Media Center publishes Spectrum, the District’s newsletter, and the bi-monthly BHHS digital newsletter, The Focus. The designs and user experience were updated, which provide a more interactive and aesthetic read.

bTV has an active video presence as the production arm of the Media Center. The Department hired Ms. Gabriella Medrano, Media Associate, who assists in all aspects of production and is a tremendous asset to the team. Besides producing student award ceremonies and curricular programming, the Media Center also helps the schools with more significant communication projects, such as the virtual Back-to-School Nights at BHHS/HCC and remodeling department sites.

The Media Center also offers two extracurricular clubs for students, run by Brian Melso, District Communications Strategist.  “When we officially changed from Bobcat TV to the Media Center, the HCC and BHHS clubs also changed,” Mr. Melso said. “Instead of focusing on video production, we now include digital marketing and media as they are common practices in the industry.  Website design, photography, videotaping and distribution, social media, and cross-platform digital marketing all go hand-in-hand.” 

During the first year of operation, the Media Center faced a unique set of challenges that resulted in producing all spring events virtually during the pandemic.  “At the start of remote learning in March, I came up with a technical plan to hold virtual Board of Education Meetings,” said Mr. Melso. The plan allowed all Board members to be present and for community members to ask questions. “Working with administration and staff,  we produced and live-streamed most calendared events, and made sure families had the closest representation of live in-house ceremonies. All had outstanding viewership.”  The Media Center had over 200,000 cross-platform views, 175% growth from the previous year, and helped distribute over 250 videos during the pandemic.

“The feedback has been extremely positive and gratifying from the administration, our colleagues, and community members,” said Ms. Trainor.  “The Media Center’s goal is to enhance communication by effectively reaching our community, and while our first year has been unpredictable, we are delighted about the beneficial impact we are making in the Byram Hills School District.”


ViewSonic Optimizes Hybrid Learning for Byram Hills

Dr. Andrew Taylor, Director of Technology and Professional Development, introduced teachers and staff to the ViewSonic platform, a technological system established to help with synchronous and blended learning throughout the District. The technology enables teachers to develop interactive lessons with students in the room, in another room, or at home (for secondary students).

Mr. Andriello teaches his students in the classroom and at home.

Mr. Andriello teaches his students in the classroom and at home simultaneously.

“There was a need for a ‘command center’ where a teacher could reach students remotely from their homes or down the hall,” said Dr. Taylor.  “ViewSonic incorporates a document camera and a laptop to provide a productive teaching environment.”  The set-up becomes an interactive display, so students can follow along on their computer screens and listen to real-time audio. They can see everything in the classroom, hear what their teacher and classmates say, and actively participate and collaborate from different locations.

“I have found the ViewSonic to be extremely helpful with my management of the hybrid synchronous teaching model, said Steve Borneman, Byram Hills High School science teacher.  “It allows me to see my students at home and in class and simultaneously engage in a lesson.”  In chemistry classrooms, cameras can be pointed downward, directly into beakers and test tubes, providing incredibly close views of experiments. “In one class, the camera showed that when baking soda and vinegar combine, bonds are broken, and new bonds are formed,” said Mr. Borneman.  “This was apparent in the visible carbon dioxide which created a white bubbling foam that all students viewed up close, thanks to ViewSonic.” 

The Technology Department trained teachers to become proficient with this new technology tool.  It allows elementary teachers to maximize their time with students.  Teachers can facilitate art projects, read poems, and even solve math problems all from a desktop in one room, while students in a different classroom participate concurrently.

“Using a Google Meet and ViewSonic, we can observe the students in another room while manipulating the digital presentation in real-time,” said Mary Beth Devery, Coman Hill kindergarten teacher. “Through Wonders lessons, we can read interactive stories, use the drawing tools to highlight, circle, or find words, and model letter formations.”  The system can simply display their daily schedule or play a video so the integrated class can view and respond to the material together.

“ViewSonic started as an idea, and just one unit was purchased to pilot internally,” Dr. Taylor explained. “We realized that this was a unique tool but were not sure how to get it in every teacher’s hands.”  The Byram Hills Education Foundation saw the value and fully supported a grant for which the District is grateful.

“Our goal for technology is to provide teachers and students the tools they need to grasp content and support student learning,” said Andrew Taylor.  “Teachers are masters at what they do, and technology can and should support the master teachers.” Dr. Taylor continued,  “Technology and distance became an obstacle, and as a technology director, I wanted to remove those obstacles for teachers.”  ViewSonic is an excellent teaching tool in the current learning environment and will help transition to fully remote learning if that should become necessary in the future.  

Designing for Change

On November 12th, The Manhattanville College Center for Design Thinking will be hosting an online discussion to highlight how high schools use design thinking in their programs.  Two Byram Hills seniors, Lindsey Noel and Ariel Sheinberg, will be participating on the panel along with our three Global Scholars Teachers, Jennifer Laden, Byram Hills Social Studies Chairperson, Duane Smith, Byram Hills English Chairperson, and Melissa Stahl, Byram Hills World Languages Chairperson. 
In addition to Global Scholars, the STEAM program from Scarsdale High School will be sharing how their programs are utilizing design thinking as a process for students to research and take action on local and global issues.  Hear how they integrate design thinking to understand multiple perspectives, collaboration, problem definition, problem-solving, and leadership.

Past design thinking challenges for Global Scholars students have included: increasing the participation rate in the 2020 Census in Westchester County, increasing voter turnout in the 2020 Election, fostering BHHS community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many individual action plans related to the environment, poverty, hunger, and other social issues.

Design thinking programs develop students who can make a difference in the world.

Support our Byram Hills students and teachers, and join them in this upcoming event: 

Designing For Change
Date: Thursday November 12th, 2020
Time: 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Zoom Meeting Link: https://mville-edu.zoom.us/j/97114676494