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Libby Pataki visits APEC to read to Queens students

She was surrounded by the gurgle of fish tanks, cooing of birds and even the shrill of a rooster, but nothing could distract Libby Pataki Tuesday morning as she enthusiastically shared her new book on arts and culture with students at the Alley Pond Environmental Center.

About 30 students from PS 94 in Little Neck came to the Douglaston environmental center for Pataki’s visit, sitting entranced for more than an hour as the governor’s wife talked about everything from MoMA’s move to Queens to waffles, Greek history and animals.

Pataki’s book, called “NYC ABC: A Young People’s Guide to Art in New York City,” is arranged alphabetically with each letter getting a special poem and photo of a cultural artifact or place of interest in the five boroughs. This week’s stop at APEC marked her first in Queens as she travels to different classrooms to promote the work.

“In the aftermath of the tragic attack on the World Trade Center, it is even more important that we as a state encourage people of all ages to visit New York City’s cultural institutions,” Pataki said.

The state’s first lady chose APEC, an environmental center which houses a variety of animals and provides a range of educational classes for schoolchildren, after contacting the facility for information for her book, Dr. Aline Euler of APEC said. A picture of Alley Pond Park’s tidal creek is featured in the book’s index.

“I was really impressed with her rapport with the children,” Euler said after Pataki’s visit. “She had a lot of information at her fingertips.”

While autographing copies of the students’ books after more than an hour of reading and talking to them, Pataki praised APEC.

“I’m glad that you kids have access to an environmental center like this,” she said.

PS 94 science teacher Andrea Franke voiced her enthusiasm for Pataki’s visit.

“The kids really enjoyed her,” Franke said. “They learned so much.”

Pataki quizzed the PS 94 students on everything from geography and history to roses, religion and waffles.

The waffles came up, of course, as Pataki got to the letter W in her book, which features a photo of waffle irons from the 18th century.

When she arrived at the letter X, for which the entry in her book is a poem on a Persian King named Xerses, Pataki told the students all about Greek history and the ancient battle between Greece and Persia.

In trying to describe the historical battle, Pataki told the students about Greek warriors, or Spartans.

“The Spartans,” she said, “they were like the Marines.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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