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Mamaroneck Students' Online Trip Through History

MAMARONECK, N.Y. - As the final week of the new online architecture elective at Mamaroneck High School (MHS) approaches, its creator and teacher Nick Cucchiarella sought feedback from students like Gustavo Ochoa at a panel discussion Dec. 14 at the Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES in Tarrytown.

Ochoa, 17, is one of five Mamaroneck students and 15 all together enrolled in Architecture Through the Centuries and Now, which is one of four online courses offered at all participating BOCES schools. Students from any of those schools can enroll in any of the online courses, regardless of which school the instructor is from.

Cucchiarella, head of the APPLE Program at MHS, teaches students from six school districts using weekly webinars, videos and computer-aided software like Google SketchUp. "This is a way to broaden the opportunities for kids; to provide kids with greater choices, not limiting them to the teachers in the building," said Cucchiarella, who taught Architectural Drawing for 20 years at MHS.

Every student from all four classes attended the panel discussion - only the third time students came face-to-face with their classmates - and were asked how they would improve the course. Ochoa, who was also asked to write suggestions for the next semester on Google Docs, found the responsibility of managing his own time without supervision challenging at first.

"He tells us what to do, but sometimes people are confused on what they have to do," Ochoa said. "He should be more specific."

To that end, Cucchiarella may require in the next semester that students meet weekly with a site coordinator, who will go over the assignments with them in person to clear up any of that confusion.

While most students said they didn't like the team-building exercise at orientation, Ochoa's favorite part of the class was their Nov. 18 trip to New York City, in which they toured the Skyscraper Museum and got an inside look at Tour 7 and Tour 2 from Turner Construction Co., which sponsored the trip.

Although Ochoa said he won't pursue architecture past this course, he enjoyed it and learned a lot. "It's completely different," he said. "If you want, you can go online everyday. But if you get your work done early, you can take a break and not have to worry about it."

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