The Pine Plains Central School District offers an expansive list of extracurricular activities in both of the elementary schools, as well as in the junior/senior high school. Dr. Brian Timm, the superintendent for the Pine Plains Central School District told me that the school community recently defined their mission and vision statements. The mission statement reads, “We develop the whole child to be a lifelong learner and a productive member of the global community,” while the vision statement reads, “We are a district of choice offering exceptional opportunities to engage and excite our entire school community.”
In sharing these statements with me, Dr. Timm said, “We pride ourselves in offering exceptional opportunities for our students to learn through diverse extracurricular programs at all three of our schools.”
We’ve rounded up just a handful of the exciting extracurriculars offered at the different schools throughout the district.
Nature and Science Club (Cold Spring Early Learning Center)
The Nature Club at Cold Spring runs in the fall and the spring, focuses on the natural resources in the area. Some activities include taking students outside to collect leaves, twigs, etc. and bringing them back inside to evaluate them. Teaching assistant and advisor Jen McCord says, “It allows students to use deep thinking and critical development strategies to learn on a deeper level while still having fun.”
In the spring, the Nature Club focuses on plant growth, and during this time, students can grow their own plants and see the process firsthand. Then, students are able to use what they’ve observed about the plant to create a hypothesis for further research.
Jen also runs the Science Club, and for the first year, she wanted to focus completely on outer space. “I have a solar planetarium, which gives the kids an opportunity to explore all aspects of the solar system and individual planets,” she says. Jen also wants each student to create their own solar system to take home with them.
Jen says that offering both Nature Club and Science Club to young learners is important because they help to build STEM skills and teach students how to work together via scientific experiments and nature activities. “These clubs teach kids of all ages real-world scenarios.”
Fiber Arts Club (Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center)
The Fiber Arts Club at Seymour Smith offers students the opportunity to create art using different materials and techniques from the ones that are typically used in the art program during school. Fiber arts typically refers to art whose material consists of fibers and other components including fabric and yarn.
“I wanted to give students the opportunity to develop and explore different art-making techniques,” says Erin Essery, art teacher at Seymour Smith and advisor for the club. “There are many different ways to create art and I want to make sure that my students are given the opportunity to experience and create in as many diverse ways as possible. Providing my students with these diverse opportunities gives them many ways to express themselves and feel successful in the art-making world.”
Erin says that it’s important to expand access to art because the traditional way of creating art using paper and a pencil may not appeal to all students. “Giving them the opportunity to express themselves using different materials in art is essential,” she says.
The Fiber Arts Club is offered to students in second through sixth grade. This year, the students in fourth and fifth grade learned to create patterns, cut material, and use different threads and embellishments to sew their projects together. The students in second and third grade used different types of yarn and string to create their projects using various weaving and beading techniques.
Zero Waste/Compost Volunteer Program (Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center)
The Zero Waste/Compost Program operates on a volunteer basis during breakfast time in the cafeteria. Students who want to operate the station can volunteer to put on an apron and gloves. From there, their work consists of screening foods to collect liquids in one bucket and food and paper waste in another. Of course, there is also a bin for recyclable materials. Following breakfast, the students bring the recycle bin to the custodians, place food and paper waste in a three-bin compost area outside, and then cover the waste with shredded paper to encourage the breakdown process.
Once a week, elementary teacher and advisor Nelson Zayas calculates the totals and posts them on a board in the cafeteria for students to see. “It is important for students to recognize how much waste is generated with their meals – not just uneaten food/drink, but also packaging waste,” says Nelson. “It is a great visual reminder that all this waste has to go somewhere, usually a landfill.”
Nelson says that one of the important lessons students learn from this program is that individually, they can make a difference. “They also learn that they can take steps to help save Earth’s resources. Plus, they get to work together – with students from multiple grades – towards a common goal.”
Nelson says that many students have started going to the Rural Center Refillery in town in an attempt to reduce plastic waste. They’ve also started implementing some of the composting practices at home. “I have had students tell me they have started to do the same in their own home, which is great,” says Nelson.
Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School)
Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America is a national career and technical student-led organization that offers curricular resources and opportunities to support students on their journey to become leaders. The FCCLA also allows students to make a difference in their communities by addressing important personal, family, work, and societal issues through family and consumer sciences education. FCCLA currently has more than 235,000 student members active in over 4,900 chapters across the country.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to have an additional avenue for a leadership club through a different subject area,” says Jen Blackburn, home economics teacher and the advisor for FCCLA.
The chapter at Stissing Mountain currently has 15 affiliated members. “The students who are members are eager to participate and help their community in many different ways, so although we have a smaller size club, we have done a lot in our first year,” Jen says.
The club has held numerous projects and events that fulfilled the theme of “Focus on People, Focus on Animals, and Focus on Nature.” In an effort to recognize youth homelessness students held a “sleep out” at the high school, during which they baked cookies to donate to Willow Roots, a Pine Plains-based non-profit dedicated to eliminating hunger and providing resources to families in need. The club also ran two successful pet adoption events with Perfect Pets Rescue.
Additionally, this past July, Tessa Blackburn, Irene Lopez, Michell Baron, and Charlotte Phillips represented Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School at the FCCLA National Leadership Conference in Denver, CO. Both Tessa and Irene competed in the Promote and Publicize Students Taking Action with Recognition (STAR) Events, while Michell and Charlotte competed in the Interpersonal Communication STAR Event, and all were awarded silver medals for their performance.
“I am so proud of them!” says Jen. “All four chapter members who competed at States qualified to attend Nationals and I feel like this is such a great accomplishment for them in their first year!”
The National Future Farmers of America Organization (Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School)
The National FFA Organization is an intracurricular student organization for students interested in agriculture and leadership. The FFA consists of three parts: classroom education, career-based contests, and jobs. Students are able to learn about the agriculture industry and then apply those skills to their chosen career pathways.
The Pine Plains chapter of the FFA currently has 25 members and is growing. Some recent achievements of the Pine Plains chapter include winning second place in the Junior Quiz Bowl and fourth in the Senior Quiz Bowl at the state convention.
“Having FFA at our school is important because it allows students to build leadership and career skills that they will carry with them for life and are transferable to any career, not just agriculture careers,” says advisor and agriculture teacher Stephanie Rhoades.
Stephanie says that some of the skills students learn during their time as part of the club include public speaking, event planning, community development and service, and personal growth. “Members can also choose to develop specific career skills related to areas of agriculture, such as food science, veterinary science, meat science, etc,” she says.
The Stissing Theatre Guild (PPCSD)
The Stissing Theatre Guild is a volunteer theater organization that is a part of the Pine Plains Central School District. STG was started in 1989 and has produced a show every year since its inception, with the exception of a few years during the pandemic.
Since 1989, all of the production costs, with the exception of the director and music directors’ stipends, have come from ticket sales, program advertising, and fundraising. These funds go to set design and production, costumes, props, and more.
The STG advisory board is made up of volunteers in the form of parents, teachers, and community members, without whom the productions would not be possible. Additionally, at graduation, the STG presents awards to graduating students who have been active in many different aspects throughout the program.
Most recently, the Stissing Theatre Guild produced Mamma Mia! in March of 2023. •
Other extracurricular clubs offered at Cold Spring and Seymour Smith: Board Games, LEGO Club, Math Club, Mindfulness Club, Walking Club, Student Council, Yearbook Club, Brainstorms Club. Other extracurricular clubs offered at Stissing Mountain: Digital Photography Club, Fall Theatre Production, First Responders Club, Intramural Program, Key Club, LEGO Club, Math Honor Society, National Honor Society, Mindfulness Club, Mock Trial, Newspaper/Literary Magazine, SADD, Sci-Fi Club, S.T.O.P, Twirling Club, Varsity Club, Yearbook Club.