January 05, 2008


Groton first-graders learning yoga

Teacher spends 15 minutes a day teaching her 22 first-graders the basics


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Groton Elementary School first-grader Pepper Burda, 6, follows the yoga moves of her teacher Cindy Viscotha during a yoga class Friday morning. Viscotha has been teaching the exercise to her students since the beginning of the school year. “The kids are able to focus, able to listen and it also helps them regulate their own behavior. It cuts down on a lot of the impulsiveness we see in first-graders,” Viscotha said.

Staff Reporter

With a larger class than normal and her students wound up after lunch, first-grade teacher Cindy Viscotha is using yoga as a transition from lunch to math.
“I have been doing yoga myself for a couple years. I do what I do and adapt it for the kids,” she said. “I try to tune them into the moment, to sense what their body feels like before and after to make that connection of how yoga makes them feel.”
Viscotha spends 15 minutes a day to teach her 22 first-graders the basics of yoga, an increasingly popular activity that aims to connect the mind and the body.
“I like it because it is nice and relaxing and calms our bodies down,” said Pepper Burda, 6. “When we can’t do it we aren’t relaxed and all excited because we didn’t do it … I developed a love for it.”
An estimated 13.4 million Americans practice yoga or other mind-body exercises such as tai chi, according to a 2003 survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers _Association.
Viscotha began teaching yoga to her students the second week of the school year, but was recently awarded funding for mats. She has ordered 25 mats, totaling $213 that came from the Groton Education Fund.
Using breathing exercises combined with actual yoga poses, Viscotha said she has seen a noticeable difference in her students, especially after transitioning from a lunch period into academics.
“It’s a valuable investment in time. The kids are able to focus, able to listen and it also helps them regulate their own behavior,” she said. “It cuts down on a lot of the impulsiveness we see in first-graders. The kids get upset if there is a day we don’t do yoga. The days we’re not able to get the gym, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
She added that parents have even told her they have seen a difference in their children’s behavior since she began the 15-minute daily yoga lesson.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said.
Groton Elementary School Principal Tim Heller said Viscotha approached him with the idea in the beginning of the school year.
“It’s great,” Heller said. “We realize that a lot of days in the school year the kids aren’t able to have outdoor recreation because of the weather. And with the rigors of school, students are doing more paper, pencil type tasks.”
After reviewing the benefits yoga has had on her students, Viscotha said she plans to continue the _practice.
“Even though I am taking away from academic time, it’s an investment. They weren’t ready to learn without it,” she said. “I have seen such a change in the class. It’s a nice break and I personally find myself looking forward to it.
“It’s a break to calm and recenter yourself. It also increases the students’ learning potential.”
According to the American Yoga Association, a nonprofit educational organization that aims to provide yoga instruction and educational resources, the classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5,000 years.




Virus found in Cortland County crows

No risk to humans known from strain of avian reovirus that is deadly to birds

Staff Reporter

Four of the five dead crows tested in Cortland County in December had a strain of an avian virus that has killed crows in at least six counties statewide, the state’s wildlife pathologist said Friday.
Ward Stone of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said the five crows were sent to him from the Cortland County Health Department to be tested for West Nile virus.
West Nile virus was not detected, but four of the crows, which were found on or around Union Street, Owego Street and Clayton Avenue in the city of Cortland, had a strain of avian reovirus.
The strain of reovirus is not likely to be contracted by humans, Ward said, but it is important for people to know what is contributing toward crow deaths. Also, the virus strain may kill other types of birds, he said, which the DEC is researching.
It is the first time the virus has been detected in Cortland County, Stone said, though the virus has been detected in crows in the Poughkeepsie area in recent years.
Stone said so far this year the virus has also been found in at least six counties besides Cortland County, most of them in the Hudson Valley.
It is likely crows in counties surrounding Cortland County, including Onondaga, Tompkins, Broome, Madison and Cayuga, have the virus as well, Stone said, but health departments in those counties have not sent in crows for testing.
“We have every reason to believe it could be anywhere in New York state,” Stone said. “And not just New York City … it could be in cities in Massachusetts and in Connecticut. I don’t think it’ll stop in New York state.”
This particular strain of avian reovirus attacks crows’ intestinal system and is spread through bird fecal matter.
Stone said the virus spread easily in the winter, with crows concentrating in large roosts during the cold weather.
The incidents of the virus were not a result of the West Nile virus, Stone said.
The West Nile virus can be contracted by humans through mosquito bites.
Audrey Lewis, director of the Environmental Health Division of the county Health Department, said each year the Health Department sends crows to Stone for West Nile virus testing.




Health officials urge vigilance against rabies

Health officials in Cortland and Tompkins counties are cautioning the public about rabies after recent confirmed cases of the disease, including one in Dryden.
In Cortland County, six bats and two raccoons tested positive for rabies in 2007, according to the Cortland County Department of Environmental Health.
Fourteen animals from Tompkins County tested positive for the rabies virus last year, including six bats, six raccoons and two skunks.
A Dryden family had to euthanize their new dog on Christmas Eve after it got into a fight with an infected raccoon on their porch Dec. 21.
The family owned two dogs, and while one had been vaccinated, their new pet had not, which forced the Tompkins County Health Department to kill it.
In Cortland County, there were 269 incidences of possible rabies exposure, and a total of 28 people were required to go through post-exposure treatment after possible contact with rabid animals.
Bats cause the majority of rabies exposures in the United States, according to the Tompkins County Health Department.
While most bats migrate during the winter, some do not, and will often seek shelter inside homes.
Bats found in homes should not be released or discarded, said Phyllis Guest, director of Cortland County’s Environmental Health Department.
Instead, try to capture the bat and confine it under a coffee can. County health officials will collect the animal at their earliest opportunity, Guest said.
Guest also stressed the importance of vaccinating all pets against rabies, including housecats.




Infant death suspect assaulted stepsister

24-year-old Cincy man accused of killing 16-month-old convicted of crime in Louisiana

Staff Reporter

NORWICH — Testimony Friday at a hearing for a Cincinnatus man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 16-month-old son revealed the man had been previously convicted for sexually assaulting and nearly beating to death his then 3-year-old stepsister.
The incident occurred in Louisiana, where police said Jason Allen Sherman, now 24 and of 5223 Piety Hill Road, served time in a juvenile detention facility for the crime. The date of the incident was not discussed in open court.
The testimony came from Lt. James Lloyd of the Chenango County Sheriff’s Department who led the investigation into the Nov. 10 death of an infant, Marshall Lee Barber Jr., who was found unresponsive at his home in the town of Pitcher.
This was the fourth pretrial hearing for Sherman, who was arrested on March 22 in connection with the child’s death. Sherman faces two counts of first-degree manslaughter and one count of second-degree assault, all felonies.
Lloyd testified that the unresponsive infant was brought to Chenango Memorial Hospital on the morning of Nov. 10 with suspicious injuries to his head, forearm, abdomen and groin area, which led investigators to seek an autopsy.
“We were trying to explain the injury to the side of the child’s head, which would be inconsistent with a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) death,” Lloyd testified.
Marshall was pronounced dead at Chenango Memorial Hospital. Investigators determined the cause of death to be blunt-force trauma to the head and asphyxiation.
The Binghamton coroner found a hemorrhage on the left side of the baby’s head, as well as an unexplained blood clot in his abdomen. Additionally, the infant’s right forearm had been fractured four or five weeks before his death, and bruises were found on his genitalia, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said the nature of the injuries led police to suspect both Sherman and the infant’s mother, Bobby Jo Hromada.
Hromada has not been charged.





Dryden town supervisor sworn in

Mary Ann Sumner will be town’s first woman supervisor

DRYDEN —Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner was sworn in Wednesday as the first female town supervisor in Dryden during the annual organizational meeting.
Incumbent Councilman Democrat David Makar took the oath for his first full term in office and Democratic newcomers Joseph Solomon and Jason Leifer were also sworn in as councilmen.
They all join Republican Councilman Steve Stelick Jr.
Sumner said Leifer was selected to fill her vacated council seat because he expressed interest in the position. Leifer lost the race for town justice in November.
She said as he campaigned for justice he got to know the people and issues, adding that in the justice election he received more votes than either of the other two board members.
He ran against incumbent Republican Justice Christopher Clauson.
“He came to us. That was a big factor,” Sumner said.