Focused on learning: it’s a beautiful thing!

LAUNCH sail is a six-week summer learning program geared to improve reading, math, motivation and relationships with adults and peers. Children who spend six weeks in our classes are found to retain most of what they learned in school and are prepared to hit the ground running come fall.  With these new learning tools, you will watch your child “sail” through the school year!

Registration for sail 2018 will open up in the spring.

Details & Options


  • Classes offered include reading, math, written language/study strategies, social awareness, technology, art, and music.

  • Class periods are 45 minutes in length.

  • Each child has an individual schedule based on class selection.

  • Students are grouped according to age.

  • Class size is no more than eight students per teacher.

  • Classes are taught by highly-qualified teachers who work in local school districts during the school year.

  • The teachers are responsible for designing their own curriculum to address the needs of the students, with the exception of reading class, in which the teachers are required to use the Orton-Gillingham/Wilson method.

  • The program strives to achieve the following outcomes for each student: to be engaged in:

    • learning

    • experience success

    • have fun

    • experience no regression

    • maintain academic growth

    • develop strategies

    • learn new skills

    • develop social skills

    • develop new friendships.

  • Students of varying abilities participate in the program, including, but not limited to, typical learners, students diagnosed with a learning disability and/or ADHD, and higher functioning students on the autism spectrum.

Details & Options


  • Three or four classes in chosen subject areas

  • Either AM or PM


  • Seven classes

  • Lunch is from 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm. Students are responsible for providing their own lunch.


When: July 11 to August 17, 2017; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 9:00 am to 2:45 pm

Where: Pine Grove Middle School, 6318 Fremont Road, East Syracuse, NY 13057

Program Fees: three classes – $475.00; four classes – $575.00; seven classes – $855.00

  • Deposit of 50% due at registration, with remaining balance due Tuesday, July 11, 2017.

  • Partial scholarships are available. Deadline for applications is June 29, 2017.

  • 10% discount for each additional child in family.

  • 20% processing fee to withdraw.

  • Register Online Here


Dianne Pennings
Director of Children Services

Dianne Pennings

Director of Children Services

Dianne has over 25 years of experience in the field of special education.  She began her teaching experience in a self-contained classroom and within a year was visiting schools to implement inclusion programs.  Her passion for educating youth has never wavered, even as she has stepped into an administrative role.

Katie Cristaldi

Katie Cristaldi


Katie Cristaldi attended Le Moyne College for her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and Psychology. She also received her Master’s from Le Moyne in Literacy. Katie has been teaching for 8 years. She began her teaching career in the Liverpool Central School District. She just completed her 5th year working in the Homer Central School District as a Special Education Teacher. Katie has been teaching for SAIL for 8 years.

Rachel Dentinger
Social Awareness

Rachel Dentinger

Social Awareness

Rachel Dentinger has taught for two years as a music teacher, working with students in grades 5-12. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Master of Science degrees in Music Education and Literacy Education, all from Syracuse University. She currently works in the Weedsport Central School District. Rachel is incredibly excited to be teaching the social awareness classes. She believes that social awareness skills are such a valuable part of every person’s life. In her time outside of school, Rachel enjoys cooking, fitness, and spending time with friends and family, including her two cats Meeko & Bandit!

Katie Seeley

Katie Seeley


Katie Seeley attended LeMoyne College for both her undergraduate and graduate studies. She majored in English with a dual concentration/certification in Childhood Education (B-6) and Students with Disabilities (B-6). Her master’s degree is in Literacy for grades K-6.  Katie is in her 11th year of teaching and is currently a 4th grade teacher at Lyncourt School. She has over 7 years’ experience working in special education and inclusive settings. She also enjoys using American Sign Language in her classroom and passing the skill onto her students.

Khaya Palada

Khaya Palada


Khaya Palada is a 2016 graduate of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam with a bachelor’s degree in music education. Her concentration is in choral and general music education. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Vocal Pedagogy at Syracuse University. She also works as a collaborative pianist specializing in vocal and choral accompaniment. Along with accompanying, Khaya teaches the class “Singing for Non-Majors” at Syracuse University. Khaya maintains a voice and piano studio at the YMCA of Greater Syracuse. Outside of her studio, Khaya is a classically trained soprano and enjoys hiking and horseback riding. She is excited to join the wonderful SAIL team and to work with the students of SAIL!

Nicole Backes
Assistant Program Director

Nicole Backes

Assistant Program Director

Nicole Backes has worked with the SAIL program for the past 3 years and is back this summer assisting with the Learning Without Borders and SAIL programs. She is a second year graduate student at Syracuse University pursuing a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. She plans to stay in the area following graduation and work as an early intervention Speech & Language Pathologist. Nicole shares, “I am so happy I am able to stay involved with the programs again this year! The staff and students are wonderful. I look forward to another great summer!”

Meghan Hallihan
Reading, Study Strategies / Writing & Math

Meghan Hallihan

Reading, Study Strategies / Writing & Math

Meghan Hallihan graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education and will be completing her master’s degree in Health Education at SUNY Cortland this December. She has been working with children since her undergraduate college days, spending summer breaks teaching for the Say Yes to Education program in the Syracuse City School District and volunteering for mentoring and homework help clubs in Oswego. She has been substitute teaching in the Baldwinsville and North Syracuse districts for the last four years, and cannot wait to have a permanent classroom of her own very soon!

Mara Yuzwak

Mara Yuzwak


Mara Yuzwak (pronounced Usewalk) has worked with several reading programs and was a pilot teacher for the Wilson Just Words program. Most recently, she supported middle school students via the Language Live! reading program. Currently, she works as a middle school consultant teacher within the Syracuse City School District. Prior to this, she worked within the district as a pilot teacher for students with autism and as a self-contained teacher for students with emotional disabilities. Mara states, “I am passionate about teaching students how to advocate for themselves in appropriate ways so that their needs can be better met socially, emotionally, and academically. I believe that while structure is a necessity in a classroom, flexibility is of equal value. It is important to teach in a manner that is meaningful to the students and to allow them, when appropriate, to make choices in the way they learn.”

Barb Cristaldi

Barb Cristaldi


Barb Cristaldi teaches in the Liverpool Central School district.  In her 22 years of teaching, she has taught every grade from Kindergarten through 6th grade. She currently teaches 2nd grade at Soule Road Elementary. Barb and her husband, Al, have been married for 34 years and have two adult daughters, Katie and Alyssa. Katie is a teacher and Alyssa is a teaching assistant. When she is not teaching, Barb enjoys decorative painting, gardening, swimming, camping, and spending time with family and friends. Barb’s goal is for her classroom to be a positive and safe environment where all students can learn and grow.

Janelle Jacobson

Janelle Jacobson


Janelle Jacobson recently graduated from SUNY Cortland this past May with a Master’s degree in Literacy. She also attended SUNY Cortland for her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She is currently a substitute teacher in the North Syracuse School District. Janelle is looking forward to teaching technology this summer. She believes technology can be beneficial to students’ learning when used appropriately. She also believes technology is an engaging way for students to learn any subject. Outside of school she loves to spend time with family and friends. She also has a huge passion for dance and has been a dancer since she was 3 years old.

Ondrea Clark
Study Strategies / Writing & Math

Ondrea Clark

Study Strategies / Writing & Math

Ondrea Clark has two children, a 19 year old son and a daughter going into 6th grade. They love to travel, go camping, horseback ride, and play volleyball and softball. She has been teaching for 9 years, currently in Liverpool School District. Ondrea graduated from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Education and Special Education along with a concentration in Psychology and Sociology. She obtained her Masters’ degree in Childhood Education and Special Education at Le Moyne College and graduated in 2008 with 6 professional certifications. It is her mission to instill a love for learning in her students. She attempts to teach with a passion for the topics at hand so that her students develop a desire to become life-long learners. Teaching is an absolute passion of Ondrea’s.

Kayla Gallipeau
Study Strategies / Writing & Social Awareness

Kayla Gallipeau

Study Strategies / Writing & Social Awareness

Kayla Gallipeau is currently a third grade teacher at Meachem Elementary School.  Kayla has been teaching for four years in the Syracuse City School District.  She acquired her Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education from SUNY Cortland in 2011 and her Master’s Degree in Literacy from SUNY Cortland in 2013. Outside of teaching, Kayla enjoys running, playing beach volleyball, and spending time with family and friends.  Kayla is extremely excited to explore new adventures with the students and teachers in SAIL!

Tamara Lavallee
Student Support

Tamara Lavallee

Student Support

Tamara Lavallee is currently a Special Education Teaching Assistant in the West Genesee School District. She has worked there for 12 years. Tamara has worked in an inclusion classroom setting for 9 years and has experience working with students of all abilities. She is excited to work in the SAIL program this summer.

Symone Campbell
SAIL Intern

Symone Campbell

SAIL Intern

Symone Campbell graduated from SUNY Buffalo State this past May with a BA in Sociology. She will be attending the University at Albany in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in Africana Studies. This is Symone’s first summer working as the SAIL intern.  Symone has had experience working with students in the past through the Upward Bound Program and a program in South Africa named Inkululeko. She is very excited to be working with the SAIL students and staff and hopes to make this a memorable summer for everyone.

Sail Curriculum

Social Awareness
Study Strategies & Writing


Teacher: Brandie Finger-Touron

This class serves to provide students with a self-directed creative outlet during the day. This course encourages the process of art, not the final product. Students will work cooperatively with peers to complete a variety of art projects. The students provide influence through suggestions, creativity, and personal interest.

These are the major goals of this course:

  • Communication:

    • Students will communicate needs and wants in relation to their own artwork.

    • Students will give compliments to artwork that they find interesting or intriguing.

    • Students will practice appropriate social skills and conversation skills with peers while working.

  • Exposure to art history and artists:

    • Students will discuss specific artists and view sample artwork.

  • Experience with a variety of mediums including:

    • Watercolor

    • Paints

    • Charcoal

    • Ink

    • Oil pastels

  • Introduction to a variety of art concepts and skills including:

    • Weaving

    • Sketching

    • Cartooning

    • Brush strokes

    • Shapes

    • Perspective

    • Photography

    • Art vocabulary: primary colors, perspective, etc.

    • Connections to literature


Teacher: Janelle Jacobson

In Technology class students will be learning a variety of new skills as well as developing skills they have previously learned. Students will start off by learning basic computer skills such as how to use the keyboard with their fingers on the home keys and how to click and drag the mouse. They will also be learning about internet/media safety. Students will learn about Microsoft word, where they will be taught how to use the tool bar and how to save their document. Along with Microsoft word, Google docs will be introduced. Google docs, Google slides, and Google drawing are all wonderful because assignments and projects are easy to share with their family and friends. iPads will also be incorporated into this summer’s program. Students will be able to use fun and engaging educational apps. Students will also create either a brochure, newspaper, or flyer/sign/poster. Students will have fun creating these while focusing on their writing. These sites and apps support student’s development of computer skills while being interactive, engaging, and fun!

Typing/Internet & Media Safety: Students will practice typing using their home keys on typing club, and a variety of typing games such as keyman, keyboard zoo, keyboard climber, dance mat typing, and nitro typing. Students will also learn about internet safety and some tips for when they use the computer at home or school.

Microsoft word/ Google docs: Students will create a document and practice their keyboarding skills. Using the toolbar to change font, make words bold, italic, or underlined, and add spacing between lines.

Google drawings: Students will use their creativity to create drawings using their mouse to change text and color.

iPads: Students will explore a variety of fun educational apps.

Printing Press: Students will design a newspaper, brochure, or flyer/sign/poster based on a topic of their interest.

Google slides: Students will create an “All about Me” presentation using creativity for their background and how they present information on each slide.

Book cover creator: Students will type and illustrate the front, back, and spine of a book. Using creativity students will use a variety of tools to format their titles and illustrations.

Google slides: Students will create an “All about Me” presentation using creativity for their background and how they present information on each slide.


Teachers: Barb Cristaldi, Katie Cristaldi, Kayla Gallipeau

Grades K – 4

This class is designed to help maintain and develop math skills as well as use math vocabulary. A variety of approaches, techniques, and strategies will be utilized in order to meet individual student needs and learning styles. All of the activities are hands-on and engaging for the students. Many activities will be game-based to increase student engagement.

Skills Developed:

Time: Reading a calendar, identifying/writing time, drawing/reading a clock.

Place Value: reading and writing numbers up to the millions, standard, expanded, and word form.

Addition: procedure and sequence of steps with and without carrying.

Subtraction: procedure and sequence of steps, borrowing.

Money: identifying coins and their values, counting change using like coins, counting change using coins of different values, adding and subtracting amounts written in dollars and cents notation, writing amounts of money using dollars and cents notation, making change.

Multiplication: multiplying by a single-digit by multi-digit number up to the hundreds, 2 digit by 2 digit.

Division: making equal groups, finding remainders.

Fractions: Parts of a whole, represent fractions using pictures.

Measurement: use various objects such as links to measure objects, use of rulers to accurately measure objects in centimeters, inches, and feet.

Grades 5 – 8

This class was designed to help maintain and develop math skills as well as use math vocabulary. A variety of approaches, techniques, and strategies will be utilized in order to meet individual student needs and learning styles. All of the activities are hands-on and engaging for the students.

Skills Developed:

Place Value: reading and writing numbers up to the billions place, standard, expanded, and word form.

Addition: procedure and sequence of steps with and without carrying using large numbers.

Subtraction: procedure and sequence of steps, borrowing using large numbers.

Multiplication: multiplying single-digit numbers up to thousands.

Division: long division, steps and procedures, finding remainders.

Perimeter, Area, Volume: formulas and procedures, finding perimeter, area, and volume for various shapes.

Fractions/Ratios/Probability: vocabulary, equivalent fractions, identifying fractions, shading, naming, reducing/simplifying, adding, subtracting, comparing, multiplying & dividing.

Angles/Measurement: use of rulers to accurately measure objects in centimeters, inches, and feet, length, weight, and capacity conversions, use of a protractor to measure/draw an angle, finding the measure of missing angles.

Decimals/Money/Percent: identifying place value, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, adding and subtracting amounts written in dollars and cents notation, writing amounts of money using dollars and cents notation, making change, converting decimals to a percent.


Teachers: Meghan Hallihan, Katie Seeley, Mara Yuzwak


The Orton Gillingham/Wilson Reading Program utilizes a multi-sensory, phonetically based, structured and sequential language approach to the process of reading. The program emphasizes decoding and encoding (spelling) skills. This approach is very direct and gives the student the opportunity to become fluent and an independent reader.

  • Steps 1 and 2: Strong emphasis on phonological awareness and segmenting and blending phonemes up to six sounds. Closed Syllables (up to 4-6 sounds in a word). In closed syllables, the vowel sound is short where the vowel is "closed in" by a consonant. (ie: slump)

  • Step 3: Closed Syllables in multisyllabic words (example: insult)

  • Step 4: Vowel-Consonant-e Syllables (example: make)

  • Step 5: Open Syllables, the vowel sound is long and can "walk right out." Nothing is closing in the vowel. (example: cry)

  • Step 6: Base words, suffixes, and consonant le syllables (example: effectively)

  • Step 7: Addresses Sound Options (example: /j/ for g and /s/ for c.)

  • Step 8: R-Controlled Syllables (example: ar, or, er, ir, and ur)

  • Step 9: Diphthong Syllables - sounds for the following vowel combinations are: ai, ay, ee, ey, oa, oe, ue, ow, ou, oo, igh, eigh, eu, ew, ui, and ea (example: cow)

  • Step 10: Adding suffixes to change Base words (example: silent e is dropped when a vowel suffix is added as in the word, as in, likable)

  • Step 11: Contractions, Advanced Suffixes, and Y Rules (example: won't, betrayal, and babied.)

  • Step 12: Advanced Concepts (example: 2 sounds for diphthongs ie and ei, rh, wr, kn, and mb sounds)

The step numbers do not correspond or translate to a particular grade level. They are utilized to organize the specific skills taught and practiced within the Wilson program. The Wilson Program is very systematic and goes through sequential steps as students demonstrate an understanding of the content in which they are being taught. Student progress is closely monitored through daily observations and informal assessments to allow for success and the need for supplemental or differentiated instruction, should a student have difficulty grasping a certain concept. Students are provided with a multisensory learning approach that is structured and predictable; students learn through repetition of taught skills. In addition to phonics instruction, fluency (reading at a natural, smooth rate), vocabulary, and comprehension are reinforced. Students are provided with chapter books, at their level, and practice generalizing learned skills taught. While reading, students receive scaffolding with decoding skills, modeling of fluency, and practice with building comprehension skills.

Students are assessed during the first class session. Students new to the Wilson program are placed in Step 1 initially to set a firm foundation of the program. Students are then moved through each sub-step when they are able to read 95% of the real and nonsense words fluently and without prompting. The pace of the program is individualized to each student’s performance.


During the first week of the program, SAIL students and their teacher worked together to compile a list of various novels they were interested in reading.  After voting on book choices and placing students into classes based on reading level, the students will dive into their book clubs! While reading together in class, each student will be assigned a certain job to complete which will focus on a specific area of reading comprehension.  This will ensure a deeper student understanding of their chosen novel.  The jobs and their responsibilities (which will change daily so all students receive practice in all skill areas) are:

  • Cool Connector

    • Make 2-4 connections to that day’s reading

    • Think of text-to-self/text/world connections

    • Describe the connections in detail

  • Dynamite Discussion Director

    • Create 3-5 questions about that day’s reading

    • Use creative, open-ended questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer

  • Vocabulary Victor

    • Keep track of new and interesting words (at least 3) as we are reading

    • Determine the unknown meaning using various resources (dictionary/computer)

  • Savvy Summarizer

    • Write a summary about that day’s reading

    • Include important details in sequence

    • Use complete sentences

Other reading comprehension strategies we will cover include:

  • Character Examination:  Students will describe character traits of the various characters in their books/companion texts.

  • Making Predictions: Readers will be encouraged to constantly make predictions while reading their novel based on context clues.

  • Inferencing:  Students will draw conclusions based on text evidence and prior experiences.

  • Summarizing/Finding main idea & details:  Students will find the main idea and supporting details in various texts and will use that information to create a summary of what they have read.

Social Awareness

Teachers: Joanne Almanzi, Ondrea Clark, Rachel Dentinger

This summer in social awareness class, students will develop and improve their social skills in a variety of ways tailored to their age and interests. This will be done through role-play, cooperative games, discussion, read alouds, hands-on activities, and video clips. Throughout the course of the six weeks, the students will make connections to the skills that we are learning and they will practice those skills in various ways daily. Each day, we will begin with a few minutes of quiet meditation to refocus the students and help them to practice releasing anxiety and stress. Then, we will go through several age-appropriate activities to reinforce the new skill of the day, which will tie in back to the main topic of the week. We will end each class with some kid yoga and repeating positive affirmations (ex. “I am going to have a great day!”).

Week 1: Verbal Communication

  • Introducing yourself

  • Finding similarities/differences

  • Sharing things in common

  • Giving compliments

Week 2: Nonverbal Communication

  • Facial expressions

  • Tone and volume of voice

  • Eye contact

  • Gestures and postures

  • Personal space

Week 3: Being Part of a Group

  • How to join a group

  • Sharing and cooperating

  • Following group rules

  • Being a good sport

Week 4: Expressing Your Feelings

  • Identifying feelings

  • Talking about our feelings

  • I-messages

  • Self-control

  • Dealing with our emotions

Week 5: Problem Solving

  • Identifying problem behavior

  • Brainstorming solutions

  • Learning from mistakes

  • Thinking before acting

  • Accepting consequences

Week 6: Listening

  • Hearing versus listening

  • Listening for information

  • Following instructions

  • Reflective listening

  • Positive feedback

Study Strategies & Writing

Teachers: Joanne Almanzi, Ondrea Clark, Kayla Gallipeau, Meghan Hallihan

This summer in study skills and writing class, students will develop skills to expand into a more developed writer. Students will be introduced to various writing strategies that can be utilized in everyday writing in school and in real life. The skills are modeled and then practiced through independent writing in personal journals, creative activities, and technology. Students will be encouraged to explore new ideas and expand their descriptive writing skills through the five senses in the revision stage of writing. Depending on the needs of the students various topics and skills will be addressed.

Personal Story: Narrative writing will be explored by the writers as they visualize various events pertaining to important individuals and/or places in their lives. Students will begin to use their five senses to include vivid and descriptive details to their narratives.

Fractured Fairy Tales: Writers will express the fantasy world of fairy tales re-written in their own words. Students will organize, write a rough draft, revise, edit, and ultimately complete their own polished piece of work based on a well-known fairy tale. This creative writing piece allows for students to highlight their imagination in a new and enlightening way.

Comic Strip: Comic strips are a final piece of writing that will lead to be a clear avenue for those writers who enjoy the simple pleasure of illustrating drawings displaying humor in a different form of a narrative writing piece.

Opinion Writing: Opinion writing allows the student to have their own opinion on a topic of their choice and try to convince their peers and myself to agree with what they are feeling or thinking about a specific topic. Students will learn different skills to get their thoughts out correctly. We will meet your student at their level in order to have them participate fully either verbally and scribing their response and then they can trace it or written/with a picture by it.

Informative/Explanatory: The students will work with a partner and pick one topic to write some specific facts, either known or researched. This allows the student to bring in any prior knowledge that they may have on a topic. The students will have time to look up or ask for a few specifics.

Narratives: Students will be given prompts in which they recount two or more appropriate sequenced events and be able to provide at least one detail regarding what happened, using the words First, Next, Then, Finally. They will use real life experiences in order to tell the sequence such as “How to build a sand castle.”

In addition to the various writing pieces, students will learn writing techniques and strategies to help them further their writing skills in the writing process of prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. They will work through organizing their writing pieces in pictorial representations, graphic organizers, and oral retell to a partner. Also, students will use the idea of incorporating their five senses into every writing piece to enhance the quality of the details associated with the stories to intrigue the reader.

Further students will complete creative writing projects as well as enhance and develop their research skills. Students will work their way through the writing process, including brainstorming, writing, editing and revision. To reinforce study skills, research projects will include instruction on how to find reputable information on the internet and how to disregard any fallacies that may turn up in a google search. Other study skills we will focus on this summer include note taking, focusing on the task at hand without getting distracted, memory and time management.

Figurative Language: Similes, metaphors, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification, alliteration.

Descriptive Language: Using adjectives, adverbs, and imagery to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader’s mind.

Poetry: Haikus, diamantes, limericks.

Research Project: Researching a famous/influential person of each student’s choice and writing a summary on what makes that person so important.

Persuasive Letter: Students will research facts on the health benefits/negative effects of drinking chocolate milk. Then, they will write a persuasive letter to the principal of their school describing why they should/should not serve chocolate milk in the school cafeteria based on the opinion they have formed through their research.


Teacher: Khaya Palada

Music education allows students to make empathetic and emotional bonds with each other through fun activities that promote self-discipline, teamwork, problem solving, and a myriad of other effects. The main objectives are to instill a lifelong love of music and music making, while also exploring the different roles music plays within our lives. Students will explore the music of other cultures, composition, music genres, and music within our lives. Based on the individual needs and ages of the students a variety of topics will be addressed.

Six musical concepts will be addressed: aural skills, rhythmic notation, melodic contour, dynamics and tempo, solfege, and the diatonic scale.

Specific activities include: musical games, movement activities, singing games, vocal and instrumental exploration, drum circles, soundscapes to literature and silent movies, vocal and instrumental exploration, and drama activities.

In addition, for the older students the course is driven by student interest and explores the foundations of music as well as music technology. Individual and group projects will feature heavily in this course. Students will create their own instruments and compositions, explore the concept of music, create a class music video, create sound effect tracks for short silent videos, explore multicultural music, and learn the mechanics of certain instruments.

Summer Adventures In Learning

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