Mcdon­ald stu­dents learn spirit of New Or­leans

The Willow Grove Guide - - FRONT PAGE - By Caitlin Burns

cburns@jour­nalregis­ter.com Cen­ten­nial School District McDon­ald Ele­men­tary School fifth­graders cel­e­brated Mardi Gras with some south­ern cook­ing and mu­sic. Teacher Joe Pisacano in­tro­duced stu­dents to food tra­di­tion­ally served in New Or­leans, such as beignets, and fa­mous jazz mu­si­cians, like Louis Arm­strong, dur­ing his 12th an­nual Books for Beignets Mardi Gras class ac­tiv­ity Feb. 12.

“For me it’s not about us­ing money to solve some­one’s prob­lem,” Pisacano said. “It’s about teach­ing chil­dren com­pas­sion and to help oth­ers no mat­ter what they can give. It’s be­ing a re­spon­si­ble per­son.”

Stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in work­shops to learn about jazz mu­sic and mu­si­cians; tra­di­tional jazz in­stru­ments; and dec­o­ra­tive Mardi Gras masks. One of the main high­lights for stu­dents is mak­ing their own beignets. At this sta­tion, stu­dents do­nate change to help buy books for a school rav­aged by a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Pisacano said usu­ally the books go to a school in New Or­leans that is still re­cov­er­ing from Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, but this year the books will go to a school in Sea­side Heights, N. J.

“We’re do­ing it a lit­tle more lo­cal,” Pisacano said. “With Hur­ri­cane Sandy, I thought it would be a lit­tle more ap­pro­pri­ate to send [the books] to a school there.”

He said stu­dents can bet­ter un­der­stand the need to help an ele­men­tary school in Sea­side Heights be­cause their own lives were also ef­fected by Hur­ri­cane Sandy, although not as ex­treme.

“They, too, were ef­fected by the hur­ri­cane,” Pisacano said. “I thing they might take it to heart more this year.”

Pisacano said he hopes to do­nate ap­prox­i­mately 40 books to the unde- ter­mined ele­men­tary school. How­ever, he just hopes to in­spire a car­ing and giv­ing spirit in his stu­dents by hav­ing them do­nate their change.

“Chil­dren are nat­u­rally com­pas­sion­ate. I think if you don’t ex­er­cise that com­pas­sion, you don’t [fol­low it as an adult],” Pisacano said. “By al­low­ing chil­dren to help oth­ers makes them a bet­ter per­son.”

Once stu­dents have made their beignets, Pisacano fries the beignets in class and coats them in pow­dered sugar. Stu­dents then get to try their home­made New Or­leans clas­sic pas­try.

“It’s kind of feels like we’re part of the [New Or­leans Mardi Gras cel­e­bra­tions],” fifth-grade stu­dent Chloe Vella said. She looked for­ward to mak­ing her own beignets. “It’s hands-on [learn­ing].”

“It’s a more fun ex­pe­ri­ence when we’re do­ing many things,” fifth-grader Court­ney Chap­man said. She has no­ticed that par­tic­i­pat­ing in hands-on work­shops in Pisacano’s class has helped her learn bet­ter. Vella agreed with her state­ment.

“It’s multi-dis­ci­plinary. It ap­peals to all stu­dents,” Pisacano said. “It gives them a life­long me­mory.”

Danny Sheller models his Mardi Gras mask.

Joshua Tapia, left, and Chris­tian Parra string beads for a Mardi Gras neck­lace.

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