Area children, ages 18 and under, can eat free this summer at Harry Hoag Elementary

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All area children are invited to receive free meals this summer at Harry Hoag Elementary School every day until Aug. 4. Breakfast is served between 8:30-9:30 a.m. and lunch between 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Just stop in and get a free meal – open to all kids and teens ages 18 and under.

There is also an open meal site at East Hill Elementary in Canajoharie that runs from July 10 – Aug. 18.

Checkmate – The Harry Hoag Elementary Chess Club

Harry Hoag Chess Club had approximately 30 students in grades 3rd – 6th participate in Chess Club this year. They met on Tuesdays in the Elementary School library where they learned about the “Game of Kings” over the last three months. They were guided in their discovery by advisors Mr. and Mrs. Arndt. Several high school student volunteers, including Bradley Najdek (grade 10), Shawn Murphy, Chris Burgess and Cameron Tamsett (all grade 8) assisted the chess club.

Club members practiced fundamentals including board set-up and starting combinations and learned important skills. More advanced players studied beginning and intermediate level strategy.

According to, some benefits for elementary students who play chess are:

Chess playing improves concentration and memory. According to studies done at the University of Memphis, playing chess significantly improves children’s visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability.

Chess playing enhances reading and math skills. Researchers found that students who played chess showed more improvement in reading and/or math assessment scores than their non-chess-playing peers.

Chess playing fosters logic, critical thinking, and creativity. Chess favors the “if–then” thinker. “If I move here, then my opponent may move here, here, or even here.” That’s logic and critical thinking in action.

Playing chess also encourages and rewards hard work. Chess offers immediate feedback. Lose your focus, lose a piece.

Mosaic murals almost complete

Harry Hoag fourth-grade students are putting the finishing touches on mosaic murals they have been working on since September. This is the second year students have had the opportunity to work with visiting artist Linda Biggers, thanks to a $3,000 grant received from the Saratoga Arts Council. Saratoga Arts made this program possible with an Arts Education Grant funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

 In collaboration with their social studies unit, students are creating three murals (a triptych) of the Erie Canal. Historian Dave Brooks of Schoharie Crossing kicked off the unit in September with a presentation about the canal. Students then selected images from his presentation that they wanted to feature in their artwork.

Ms. Biggers visits the school a total of five times to instruct and guide students on working with glass to create the murals. She works alongside Fort Plain art teacher, Autumn Slawienski.

Last year’s classes created a mosaic mural featuring historical landmarks and architecture from around Fort Plain which now hangs outside the cafeteria at Harry Hoag. “This program has been so successful, we are hoping to continue next year with plans to depict the current and future projects along the river,” said art teacher Autumn Slawienski.

This year’s murals will be finished by the Christmas break and turned over to Ms. Biggers for grout and drying. They will then be returned to the school for display.

Harry Hoag receives 10 boxes of donated books

On Friday, Dec. 9, NYSUT LRS Kevin Grossman dropped off 10 boxes of books to SRP President Mark Hisert and FPTA President Pat Hanifin. NYSUT is putting first books in the hands of students with the help of the non-profit organization First Book Inc., and the American Federation of Teachers a NYSUT national affiliate. Books are made available at low to no cost to high-needs schools and nonprofit programs serving low-income families and kids in need.

Harry Hoag Elementary students overcoming obstacles

The elementary gymnasium is a busy place in these days leading up to Christmas break. Chants of “beat that wall” fill the halls as students encourage each other to strive to reach the top of the warped wall – just one of the many new obstacles students are overcoming through determination and creativity as part of an “American Ninja Warrior” unit in their Physical Education classes.

American Ninja Warrior is a television show where both male and female competitors go through a course of physical obstacles which challenge their strength, agility, balance, flexibility and stamina. Several students noted that they were intimidated when they first saw the challenges, but immediately excited once they got to try them and found that they had more “warrior” in them than they knew they had.

FP Jr./Sr. art teacher, Geoff Snyder is currently training and competing, hoping for a chance to appear on the show this spring. The application process includes the submission of a video, highlighting the candidate’s training routine and any other information that will help them to stand out as a “TV-worthy” contestant. Mr. Snyder applied last year and made it quite a way through the process, but just missed the final cut. He is preparing a new application video now, which will be submitted in January.

Knowing about Mr. Snyder’s experience, elementary P.E. teachers Casey Russom and Katie McCumber contacted him about helping them to create an American Ninja Warrior unit for the gym classes. The team got together with the district technology teacher Mr. Kreig Heroth. His engineering class students designed, developed and built several obstacles scaled for elementary students to compete on. The course was set up and unveiled to students on Dec. 19 during a special assembly.

“What’s great about an obstacle course,” said Mr. Snyder, “is that everyone can try and beat it in their own way. The same technique doesn’t work for everyone. There is a great sense of accomplishment each time that you complete an obstacle. It’s a fun and exciting way for our students to not just exercise, but also develop their problem-solving skills, too.”

“In our P.E. department, it is our mission to empower all students to sustain regular, lifelong physical activity as a foundation for high school experiences, and also to lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life,” said teacher Katie McCumber. “Incorporating the American Ninja Warrior unit allows the students to be active and have fun while doing it. So many of our students are familiar with ANW and love it! This gives the students a chance to be an American Ninja Warrior and gets them excited about exercising.”

As Mr. Snyder said, “Obstacles are a great metaphor for life. Lots of things stand in our way throughout our lives. We have to find ways to navigate the struggles, the setbacks, and the hurdles that life throws at us.”

Free Story hour for kindergarten and first grade

Thanks to a grant from the Yerdon Foundation, the Fort Plain Free Library will be teaming up with Harry Hoag Elementary to present a series of free story hours. Free Story Hour is open to all kindergarten and first grade students, parents or caregivers are more than welcome to join in. Each story hour will be held on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at Harry Hoag Library, and at the Fort Plain Library on the 4th or last Tuesday of the month. Program runs from November through the end of May.

This collaboration will help to get more great books in the hands of families, while encouraging every-day home reading time. The Story Hours will be facilitated by local artist Mrs. Joanne Resch. She will work with Harry Hoag Library Media Specialist Mrs. Terri Brown, to present unique themes and projects for each monthly session.

The program features a ‘whole book approach’ of sharing storybooks with children known as “READ”:
R: Read a story with the children
E: Exercise relating to the story
A: Art activity is enjoyed by all
D: Discover more books to enjoy at home.