Do you know which zodiac signs are depicted on Grand Central Terminal’s ceiling? Or what a New York Times food critic described as the best dessert at the famed Grand Central Oyster Bar? How about where to find a hall named after a wealthy railroad tycoon?
Teams of UFT members, along with their families and friends, raced against the clock on the coldest day of the year to find the answers to these questions and others at the first-ever UFT Middle School Division’s Secrets of Grand Central Scavenger Hunt on Feb. 4.
“Working together for a common goal or cause is the whole idea of a union,” said Richard Mantell, the UFT’s vice president for middle schools, who organized the event. “Instead of a traditional middle school conference this year, we thought, ‘Why not try something different?’ ”
Educators prepared for the event with a virtual CTLE session led by instructors from the UFT Teacher Center.
“They say that two heads are better than one,” said Jonathan Lustberg, a science teacher at IS 259 in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. “Working with a team has broadened my horizons and my thinking.”
Lustberg and his wife, Melissa — a teacher at PS 102 in Elmhurst, Queens — took their infant daughter to the scavenger hunt, where they formed a team with other middle school teachers they fittingly dubbed Team Cute Baby.
“It was nice to meet people from different schools, and my daughter and I really enjoyed it,” said Kathryn Carpenter, an ELA teacher at IS 145 in Jackson Heights, Queens, and another member of Team Cute Baby. “One of my own goals has been to increase community involvement with my students, and this is something I could see myself doing with them as a field trip.”
The winning team was led by Viviana Fitzgerald, a Spanish teacher at MS 105 in Far Rockaway, Queens, who was accompanied by her husband, a first-time visitor to Grand Central, and friends. “There’s no one else at my school who teaches Spanish, so I like to come to conferences to connect with others,” she said. “We can do conferences virtually now, so this scavenger hunt was a completely different way to get people together, see things we didn’t know existed and have fun.”