The Pied Piper, aka Patrick Mullooly, hit town last week to mesmerize a class of Shelter Island fifth graders.
The Island was just one of many stops on Mr. Mullooly’s circuit of schools. As the “Kidsday” editor, he travels from classroom to classroom, charming and challenging young minds.
It’s all part of the program sponsored by Newsday to teach writing and reporting skills to youngsters. But another, just as important goal, is helping students truly discover the special places they live in and share that knowledge with one another and students from other areas.
Mr. Mullooly settled in at Shelter Island School on the final day before the winter vacation. It was only his second visit, but the way the students responded, you would have sworn they’d known him for years.
Some were excited to tell Mr. Mullooly about the assignments they had already completed, while others stepped up quickly to volunteer for more projects. Much of their research is done by visiting places in the community and asking questions. Students are involved in projects ranging from a decorated headband to the 2Rs4Fun writing program at Shelter Island Library.
When he returns in a few weeks, the 5th graders will have researched and written about other subjects including:
• 10 great reasons to visit Shelter Island
• How the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens House headquarters came into being
• What’s special about the Whale’s Tail, home to the Island’s miniature golf course and an ice cream parlor
• How Shelter Island’s 10K Run/Walk supports community organizations
• How Maria’s Kitchen became a thriving business on the Island and why there aren’t fast food restaurants here
• What’s doing at Camp Quinipet
• What activities are happening at the Shelter Island Yacht Club
• What goes on at Sylvester Manor
In addition to focusing on projects, the program allows time to help others and get help themselves with problems. The 5th graders read a written report of a student from another school who wanted advice on how to get his parents to listen to him.
Another sought advice on dealing with the anxiety of leaving home to attend a pajama party at a friend’s house.
Then Mr. Mullooly asked the Island students to write their questions to put to students at some other school he will visit in his travels. Among the concerns listed were problems with siblings, at home or at school.
The Island 5th graders are involved in a Kidsday competition for an opportunity to visit Radio City Music Hall and to meet Henry Winkler.
They may be too young to remember when Mr. Winkler played the all-too-smooth Fonz on TV in “Happy Days” from 1974 to 1984. But they know him from his “Hank Zipper” series — children’s books Mr. Winkler created about an elementary school student’s celebrating the joy and enduring the pain of growing up.
If the Island students are among those chosen to make the trip — and it’s likely some will — they’ll travel to Rockefeller Center and have a conversation with Mr. Winkler about his acting and writing careers.
But first they are busy in the series of exercises requiring research and writing about the community they call home.