Tag Archives: M.S. 74

Bayside brothers look to ‘bee’ a spelling dynasty


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel / File photo

Being a spelling master seems to be hereditary for Srinath Mahankali of Bayside.

Mahankali, a sixth-grader at Bayside’s Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74, is one of 285 spellers set to compete in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Although this is his first year qualifying for the bee, the 11-year-old Mahankali has already seen what it takes to be a winner. His older brother, Arvind, gained national attention after winning the championship in his third time competing in 2013, and Srinath was part of the process by helping him study.

In person, the younger Mahankali radiates a maturity far beyond his age. He thanks the principal, assistant principal and students at his school for supporting him throughout the regional spelling bee process and the newfound attention he has been getting from the outside world, which he tries not to let get to his head.

“I just want to feel normal,” Srinath said. “I’m not feeling shy, but I am proud of winning the regional spelling bee.”

And he doesn’t compare himself to his brother Arvind, now a 10th-grader at Stuyvesant High School. “I’m not looking at this as a competitive thing,” Srinath said. “He did inspire me to do this.”

The parents of the boys are both employed in professions involving science and technology —mother Bhavani Mahankali is a physician and father Srinivas Mahankali is in the software industry. Srinivas said that his sons are self-motivated to pursue academic prestige even outside of high-profile competitions.

“Both the children made us really proud but the spelling bee is not an end in itself,” Srinivas Mahankali said. “It’s a lifelong thing. It’s a part of the biggest picture.”

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Photo courtesy of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Srinath Mahankali is not the only Queens student gearing up to take part in the bee. Sai Chandrasekhar, a Flushing teenager and an eighth-grader at Hunter College High School in Manhattan, will also be competing for the second time. She said that even though this is her last chance to take home the trophy, she is much more calm this year and feels proud of how much she has already accomplished at the young age of 13.

“It is my last chance but I’m not really that nervous,” Chandrasekhar said. “I’ve done a lot over the past few years, and I’m just going to do my best, and give it my best shot.”

In describing her pre-competition process, Chandrasekhar said that she does not try to cram more words into her head, but instead focuses on relaxing activities to stay stress-free.

The Championship Finals of the Scripps Spelling Bee will air on on May 28 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

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Bayside kids to tell senior citizens’ stories through documentaries


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The art of filmmaking is bridging the gap between the generations, as students at one Bayside middle school prepare to tell the real life stories of a group of local senior citizens.

Eighth-graders in Jason Spagnuoli’s Moving Image class at Nathaniel Hawthorne M.S. 74 have begun working with members of the CCNS Bayside Senior Center to reenact stories told to them by the senior citizens through documentaries.

This is the first time students are taking on such a task as the Moving Image class is currently in its first year at the school.

“[The seniors] have lived such a long and valuable life,” Spagnuoli said. “To me we’re empowering these seniors to say, ‘Look, your life does matter.’”

Spagnuoli also added that the experience allows the students, who were at first very skeptical about the project, to step away from their everyday mindset and for a moment take the time to listen.

The creative process started on Thursday morning when the seniors visited the students at the school located at 61-15 Oceania St., and began the conversation.

Throughout the morning the seven seniors, who were divided into groups with students, shared their stories, and then narrowed down what they would like their documentaries to focus on.

Story topics included finding a second love after the passing of a husband, traveling abroad, family history, and in one case the dramatic story of making it out of a concentration camp.

“It was pretty interesting. I heard a lot of facts and stories from their life and it opened my mind to do things and try new stuff,” said 13-year-old Myles Robinson.

For 14-year-old Luljete “Lulu” Mujaj, meeting the seniors opened the door to a new experience. She was paired off with a senior citizen who decided to focus her documentary on the moment she was set free from a concentration camp she was put in for three years during the Holocaust.

“It was really touching because all I’ve really known of concentration camps was from a textbook, videos and museums, but when you actually hear someone who lived during that it was really hard,” Mujaj said.

Now that the students have their story ideas for the films, they will work with the drama class at the middle school to cast the characters in the documentaries. The senior citizens will then return to the school in a week and be filmed telling their stories.

The overall process of creating the documentary, which includes editing the interviews into the reenactments and featuring music picked by the seniors, is expected to take about three to four weeks.

According to Spagnuoli, the documentaries are expected to be completed by the end of May with the hope of screening a few of them during the school’s film festival on June 3.

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Bayside students put their creative problem-solving skills to the test


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo Anthony Giudice

Two Bayside schools are each sending two teams to the New York State Odyssey of the Mind Association State Tournament for a chance to advance to the world finals in Michigan later this year.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Students use their creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competitions on local, state and world levels. Thousands of teams from all around the U.S. and from 25 countries participate in the program.

The teams vying for a spot in the finals are the fourth- and fifth-grade teams from P.S. 203 Oakland Gardens and the sixth- and seventh-grade teams from Nathaniel Hawthorne M.S. 74. All four teams finished in either first or second place in their divisions during the Regional Tournament, which was held on March 7 in Wantagh, Long Island, to make it to the state level.

On Thursday, the students showed their creative problem-solving skills in front of faculty, family members and classmates in P.S. 203’s auditorium ahead of the state tournament.

The fourth- and seventh-grade teams took on the challenge of “Pandora’s Box,” where they had to put a “video game spin” on the Greek myth. Students were required to include a prologue that depicts the original story of Pandora’s Box; three characters that represent different evils that escaped the box; and a power meter representing the gamer’s health bar.

The fifth- and sixth-grade teams each chose the “Silent Movie” problem. In this scenario, the students had to create and present their very own silent film. There had to be a director character, a film critic and a humorous villain character that commits three silly acts of villainy. The characters in the film were not allowed to speak; instead, they used creatively displayed subtitles, much like classic silent movies.

Each team came up with their original idea, created the sets and costumes for the performance and put on the show all on their own, as per the rules of the competition.

“We are not allowed to help them at all, we just guide them,” said Katerina Stravropoulos, a teacher for the fifth-grade team at P.S. 203. “Through probing we get them to solve the problems.”

This year’s state tournament will be held on April 11 at Binghamton University.

“I’m very optimistic for my team,” Stravropoulos said of her team’s chances in the state tournament. “The competition is tough, but we will do our best.”

Jarett Glickman, a member of the M.S. 74 seventh-grade team, and former member of P.S. 203’s team that went to the World Finals in 2013, said, “The world finals was really fun. I hope we can make it again this year.”

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Bayside deli holds knaidel contest in honor of spelling champ


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Congressmember Grace Meng

Spelling whizzes or news junkies could land themselves a free matzo ball.

Ben’s Kosher Deli of Bayside is offering a free knaidel to any customer who buys a quart of chicken soup and can spell the word that sealed a local teen’s recent victory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Correctly spelling knaidel — a Yiddish word of German origin that means “dumpling” — sealed Arvind Mahankali’s victory on May 23.

It was the M.S. 74 eight grader’s fourth and final showing at the competition after finishing third the last two years.

“Knaidel may be hard to spell, but it is definitely delicious,” said Ronnie Dragoon, founder and owner of Ben’s Deli.

Keen customers can save about $1.50 if they nail the spelling. A quart of chicken soup costs $7.99 on its own.

The promotion runs until June 30 at the participating Ben’s in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center. It is located at 211-37 26th Avenue.

The restaurant has given away more than 50 knaidels since the promotion began on June 6, managers said.

Another Ben’s location in Rego Park recently announced a new dish named after the local spelling whiz.

Arvind dined on his “mini knaidels” with Congressmember Grace Meng on June 9.

The lawmaker also gave the spelling champ an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.

“Only in Queens, the most diverse county in America, can an Indian-American kid win a national contest for correctly spelling the Yiddish word for matzo ball,” Meng said. “It is a tremendous honor to congratulate him on his outstanding achievement. He has made our borough and our city and state proud.

 

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