School Districts Partner to Enrich their Communities during COVID-19 Pandemic

Ignayra Lopez, an Ossining Public Library librarian, read Toni Buzzeo’s “One Cool Friend” during the Peekskill-Ossining Virtual Saturday Academy May 16

Chinchillas can jump 6 feet high, kangaroos sleep 18 hours a day, and for the best sound, guitarists should place their fingers behind guitar frets – not on them. 

Those are some of the fun tips and facts children and families learned during the Peekskill/Ossining Virtual Saturday Academy May 16. 

Both northern Westchester County districts had to scrap their in-person Saturday enrichment programs this spring because of COVID-19. In early May, Ossining Superintendent Raymond Sanchez called David Mauricio, his Peekskill counterpart, to suggest collaborating. 

“It’s great for us to be working together,” Dr. Mauricio said in a video that kicked off the virtual program. 

More than 375 families tuned in for the two-hour production, which offered yoga, boxing and taekwondo sessions; a zoo tour; a library read-aloud; and a beginner guitar class. The classes were interspersed with public service announcements from community and school groups about unemployment, health care, resources and more. 

“We live in different places within Westchester County and this is an opportunity to share in some common experiences,” Dr. Sanchez said.  

Two by Two Zoo guide Jessica Santiago holds Spirit, a lionhead rabbit, during a virtual tour of the zoo for the Peekskill-Ossining Virtual Saturday Academy

Zookeepers gave a tour of the Two by Two traveling petting zoo’s home, introducing the virtual audience to the resident chinchilla, pigs, goats, tortoises, lemurs, kangaroos and other animals.    

Peekskill Be First Boxing demonstrated at-home exercises to stay fit, such as having a family member hold a pillow as a punching target. 

Instructor Matthew Tracy of United Martial Arts Centers in Briarcliff taught a few Korean words – like “cha rutt,” or attention – in addition to demonstrating taekwondo moves and teaching about self-confidence. 

“If you’ve ever watched Spiderman, Uncle Ben said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ Tracy said. “So I’m giving you a great power to kick and punch, but with that comes a responsibility to be a good person.” 

Ignayra Lopez, an Ossining Public Library librarian, read Toni Buzzeo’s “One Cool Friend” about a boy and a penguin. Afterward, she showed viewers how to make a penguin with paper, scissors, glue and crayons and encouraged naming them.  

“I’m going to name my little penguin over here Mr. Freeze, and I’m going to name this little penguin over here Ice Cube,” she said. 

Photos: Ignayra Lopez, an Ossining Public Library librarian, read Toni Buzzeo’s “One Cool Friend” during the Peekskill-Ossining Virtual Saturday Academy May 16 

Two by Two Zoo guide Jessica Santiago holds Spirit, a lionhead rabbit, during a virtual tour of the zoo for the Peekskill-Ossining Virtual Saturday Academy 

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