Family Literacy Night sails back to Meneley

The crew of the good ship CC Meneley takes to the high seas to improve literacy. Photo special to The R-C

The crew of the good ship CC Meneley takes to the high seas to improve literacy. Photo special to The R-C

It was all hands on deck during Meneley’s Pirate Family Literacy Night, which took place Oct. 13 after a four-year hiatus. The event drew a robust crowd, with 160 students and their families climbing aboard to enjoy “an exciting evening filled with literacy centers, songs, and fun pirate-themed snacks,” said Meneley Literacy Specialist Noelle Menicucci.

Families and staff got into the spirit of the event, and many came dressed in costume. Classrooms were adorned with artwork that complemented the evening’s theme and a three-dimensional pirate ship greeted families as they entered the school.

Menicucci said an incredible amount of community support buoyed the literacy night and helped make it a huge success.

In the weeks leading up to the literacy night, Meneley music teacher Leslie Campbell incorporated pirate songs into her classroom lessons. Some tunes contained original lyrics penned by Menicucci and focused on reading vocabulary. On literacy night, pirates Cap’n Fromdahl, Cap’n Menicucci, and Crewmate Craig provided live, sea shanty entertainment and invited families to join in on the singing.

Attendees enjoyed a complimentary dinner of salad and pizza courtesy of the Tahoe-Douglas Elks Lodge, and Walmart and Costco helped provide themed snacks including Pirate Booty, Captain Crunch, peg-leg pretzels, goldfish crackers, and cheeseball cannonballs.

The Douglas County Public Library was on hand to share their programming information, give out library card applications, and answer general questions.

Douglas High School Leadership students volunteered to help teachers run a number of different literacy centers that included: a Shiver Me Timbers reader’s theater to promote fluency; Buccaneer Brainstorming, which utilized thinking maps to develop characters and settings that could be incorporated into stories at a later date; a Landlubber LEGO activity that challenged readers to follow specific instructions and build pirate-themed items; and Pirate Poetry to encourage family collaboration in composing a unique limerick, haiku, acrostic, or cinquain.

Second-grade student Macie Jansse and her family earned a family poetry prize for the limerick they wrote and won free bowling at Wink’s Silver Strike Lanes for their efforts:

“There once was a pirate from Jamaica,

His voice was so loud it would shake ya!

Even though he is old,

He has lots of gold!

If you try to take it, he’ll break ya!”

The United Way supplied the school with 1,000 books, and all students who came to the literacy night could turn in a completed treasure map in exchange for their choice of two books to take home and enjoy. Parents received resource strategies and information to help support reading efforts at home, and they also had an opportunity to complete an event survey for a chance to win one of two $25 gift certificates to Walmart.

Silver Bullet Photography provided a photo booth with a pirate backdrop and props, and attendees could choose to pose for a family photo or opt to have their picture taken with school mascot Monty and Captain Fromdahl.

Meneley Principal Blaine Spires said, “As a school, we have been working to better connect our parents with resources to support their child’s reading. We appreciate how many families came out to learn more about literacy strategies. It was a great success due to the hard work of staff and Mrs. Menicucci.”

Egg Drop challenge inspires innovation

The annual Egg Drop is a fifth grade tradition at Meneley. At the end of their “Defying Gravity Unit,” this STEM-based (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) assignment challenges students to create a device that will safely land an “Eggstronaut” from a 10-foot drop.

Specific materials must be used in their design, and students have just one day to build. Following the initial drop, students are then tasked with reconstructing their device using what they’ve learned. They again choose from a specific set of materials but are given more latitude in the design build parameters.

The ultimate challenge included drops of 20-, 40-, and 60-feet. Fifth-grade teacher Alicia Hill said this year’s competition included the consideration of wind gusts, which impacted several designs and blew cotton ball cushions out of several cups as they fell. Hill thanked Joe Benigno’s Tree Service for bringing in their large crane to drop the eggs in spite of the wind.

This year, two student groups (out of 27 total) successfully built devices that survived the 20-foot and 40-foot drops. The overall winning device was crafted by Jayce and Jayden, along with support from Prince and Eli, and successfully landed an egg from a height of 60-feet. Their design allowed a paper parachute to slow the descent of the egg while a double cup container filled with cotton balls helped to cushion the landing.

Congratulations to the winners on engineering such an eggs-traordinary build.

Amy Roby can be reached at


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