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The gift of knowledge

In an age of technology, the item causing the biggest stir at State Street School is a dictionary - the old fashioned kind that can be held, leafed through, puzzled over and explored.

The Skaneateles Rotary Club recently placed a dictionary into the hands of every third and fourth grader as part of the Dictionary Project.

"We call it a gift of knowledge," Superintendent Philip D'Angelo said as he told the students about the dictionaries containing their individual names.

The students, who were called up onto the stage in the cafeteria one-by-one to receive the personalized books, began delving into them the minute they left the stage. They buried their heads, they found words and tidbits, and they shared discoveries with friends.

"Their interest was priceless," said Suzanne Dmochowski, a fourth grade teacher, after all 219 copies had been handed out.

"The children were as excited as on Christmas morning!" said fourth grade teacher Irene Manna. She said the most common comment she heard was, "Mrs. Manna, let me show you the longest word in the dictionary!"

The immediate buzz was all about the last page where they discovered the longest word in the English language had 1,909 letters.

Back in their own classrooms, the students were torn as they waited for the bus bell to ring. Their teachers said they couldn't decide whether to keep their dictionaries at home or at school. Many of them decided to keep the dictionaries in their backpacks so they would have easy access anywhere.

Handing out the dictionaries with D'Angelo were Principal Stephen Widrick, Rotary Club President Roberta Williams and Rotarian Ward Vuillemot. Vuillemot, who brought the project to Skaneateles, told the students that he hopes they will use and keep their dictionaries for many years.

"I have a dictionary that was given to me by my teacher ... and I have had it and carried it with me for more than 55 years," he said. He said the Dictionary Project "has been around the world. I ran into it in Montreal and decided to bring it here to Skaneateles."

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