29 Sep

Message From the Principal

Welcome to LS Notes, the e-newsletter for D-E Lower School! Here you will find messages from me about the Lower School (LS), including the latest in LS news, photos of LS events, links to events information and more.

Reports are that last night’s Fall Reception in the Hajjar STEM Center was a great success, highlighted by participation from Upper School student guides (who were eager to show off this beautiful new facility) and Head of School Dr. De Jarnett, who always has insightful, inspiring remarks to share.  Our community is strengthened by the camaraderie and kindness extended in events such as these.  I would like to thank the Parents Association (PA) for promoting and supporting this event.  For families that were not able to attend last night, please know that you were missed.  We look forward to seeing you at other events throughout the school year.

Looking forward, we will be able to gather again during the October Parent Forums. The PA  and the Lower School Faculty present these October forums which provide an opportunity for families to learn a bit more from the faculty about an academic approach or content topic that will be covered during the first semester.  Please refer to the dates listed in the weekly backpack handout “Just the Facts” for each grade-level forum. You can also always find “Just the Facts” online here in LS Notes – click here.

28 Sep

Bringing the River to Life!

Submitted by Beth Lemire, Lower School Science Teacher

On Wednesday, September 21st, the fourth-grade classes took a trip on the Clearwater Sloop.  The sloop, a replica of those that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, was the work of (the late) Pete Seeger, musician and activist and his friends.

As we embarked on our Clearwater Sloop adventure, the excitement of the children was contagious!  We sailed from the dock in Cold Spring, New York, and slid quietly up the river a bit before starting the many lessons that were planned for us.  The children learned about turbidity of the water, fish species, art, and yes, they even learned some sea shanties!  They helped hoist the large sail and learned about living on the sloop from the onboard educators.

The purpose of this trip was not only to gain information about the Hudson River but also to allow students to experience the beauty and majesty of the river – to deepen their ecological consciousness.  It is hoped that this personal experience will eventually translate and transform them into adults with a profound understanding and connection to the river and the environment, being both skill-ready and heart-ready to be stewards of the earth.

According to the Children and Nature Network, A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World,  (Charles, Lou, Bordner, Guns 2008),

Studies show that, almost to a person, conservationists or any adults with environmental awareness had some transcendent experience in nature when they were children. For some, the epiphanies took place in a national park; for others, in the clump of trees at the end of the cul-de-sac. But if experiences in nature are radically reduced for future generations, where will stewards of the Earth come from?

Perhaps for some the transcendent experience was our trip out on the Clearwater Sloop on a beautiful fall day!  Thank you, Pete Seeger, for having the forethought to look after our children and our planet.

Here’s what some of our 4th graders had to say about this experience:

“The first thing we did was pull up a 3,000 pound sail! I didn’t expect it to be that heavy!” – Lisa

“I’m glad I got to go to the Hudson River. I loved how free and adventurous we got to be and the view was divine! I got to see the beautiful mountains. It looked like they were in the clouds. Just to top it off the sun was so bright that it reflected on the river, and the river shimmered with joy!”  – Nikka

“I really feel very different about the Hudson River. I used to think the river was a trashy and dirty river, but now after the trip I think that the river is a beauty to see.” – Brandon

“My favorite part of the trip was when we tested the water for turbidity.” – Rik

“I think everybody should care about how clean the Hudson River is.” – Alia

28 Sep

Frost Valley

Submitted by the 5th grade teachers

From September 20th – 22nd, the fifth grade visited Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, NY.  Frost Valley is a value-driven organization that promotes social responsibility, youth development and healthy living.  The core values of Frost Valley, many of which are also D-E core values, include caring, community, diversity, honesty, inclusiveness, respect, responsibility and stewardship.  These values were encouraged throughout the 5th grade’s stay at Frost Valley, and the students had an exciting and educational trip.

While at Frost Valley, students participated in activities such as hiking, canoeing and teambuilding.  During the teambuilding activities, Frost Valley staff members presented the students with challenges to accomplish.  To achieve the goal of the challenges, students had to communicate and collaborate with each other, thus building a sense of community among the students.


Our students also took part in environmental activities. Water ecology was a major focus.  Frost Valley staff members taught the students to use nets to capture living organisms from ponds and streams and accurately identify them.

The fifth graders also learned about the history of Frost Valley YMCA through a tour of Julius Forstmann’s home.  Julius Forstmann originally owned the 2,200 acre area, which was sold to Frost Valley in 1956, and his house is full of historical artifacts.  Evening programs included presentations from a herpetologist (snake and reptile specialist) and an ornithologist (bird specialist).

Norah, a current 5th grader, said the most challenging part of the trip was crossing a cable bridge during the hike.

 “I walked up to the cable bridge and thought I was going to fall.  I finally went on, and it did shake but I kept my balance.  My last step on the bridge before stepping off felt amazing.  I had a fear of heights, and I overcame it by crossing the cable bridge.”

Elliot said, “I thought going to Frost Valley was a good experience for me and the whole 5th grade because the new children got to know everyone in the grade.”

Alice said, “Frost Valley was fun because we learned new things about each other and worked on teamwork.”

We really lucked out this year with beautiful, warm weather.  The Frost Valley trip is sure to be, for many students, one of the highlights of the year.

19 Sep

Introducing New Faculty


Dr. Penina Bukiet

Dr. Penina Bukiet, an NYC resident and native Canadian, is thrilled to be joining the D-E community as the Lower School Psychologist.  Through her doctoral training at Yeshiva University, Penina has had the opportunity to work with children and adolescents across a variety of settings, including public and private schools, as well as mental health clinics.  Prior to joining D-E, she worked as a school psychologist in a private school in Brooklyn, New York.  Penina is particularly excited about the opportunity to get to know and work with D-E’s students and families, in a supportive and collaborative manner.  “One thing that’s really special about the Lower School at D-E, is that, in one building, it spans the ages of 3 to 11.  I’m really looking forward to watching our students grow and progress over time, using previous accomplishments as stepping stones for new ones.”  Penina’s favorite book from her childhood is Harold and the Purple Crayon – a book that speaks to the power of creativity and imagination.


Erica Butler

Erica Butler, a Dwight-Englewood alumna from the class of 2011, has rejoined our community as one of two new Lower School Recess Coaches. Erica first came to D-E as a fourth grader. As a student in Mrs. Sienicki’s homeroom, she reflects on the time spent reading one of her favorite childhood books, Roald Dahl’s The BFG. She remembers how great of an experience she had in the Lower School, making her eager to have a hand in giving our current students an experience that they, too, will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.


Kristina Gomez

Kristina Gomez has been coaching at Dwight-Englewood for three years as an assistant softball coach in the Upper School. Kristina also was a substitute for the 2015-2016 school year here at D-E and she is very excited about officially being a Bulldog! “This school is a wonderful place and I am very ecstatic to be a part of such a great and welcoming community.” As a child, Kristina loved to read and Amelia Bedelia was always one of her favorites because it was comical, and it really allowed her imagination to roam. “I think being an assistant teacher will really help me with my thesis statement on the Responsive Classroom for my master’s program.”


Vanessa Gomez

With a background in an assortment of sports, Vanessa Gomez is ecstatic to be part of the Lower School recess team. “Growing up, I loved to read the Junie B Jones books, but softball was always my passion.” Vanessa attended the University of Maryland Eastern where she received her bachelor’s in Exercise Science and fulfilled her dream of playing division 1 softball.” Vanessa is very excited about working with the students on improving their game, teaching them something new, and finding out what they like to do for fun even it has nothing to do with recreational sports. As a fitness coach outside of the school, Vanessa hopes to inspire students to enjoy and participate in some sort of physical activity. Vanessa is so happy to be here at D-E, especially because she has a chance to work alongside her older sister, Kristina who is working with the second-grade class.


Ashley Gray

This is Ashley Gray’s 17th year teaching!  Ashley started her career teaching in private schools in Chicago, then Milwaukee, then NYC and now NJ.  Ashley is trained as a special education teacher and a reading specialist. She has spent the past several years working as a learning specialist in schools and as a reading specialist in private practice. “When I was younger, I loved the book Charlotte’s Web.  I enjoyed going into the world of animals who were friends and co-conspirators. I liked the way they took care of each other.”  In the past, Ashley spent a lot of time teaching children how to read in the younger grades.  This year, she is excited to help 3rd-5th grade readers and writers to develop their skills and discover who they are as literate young people.