Engineering Competition in Steam Team

The 2016-17 Different Directions STEAM Team had a great year examining Motion.

Our students harnessed the power of air and learned about lift and airfoils. They played with spinning motion and centripetal force. They found out about how their eyes react to spinning & motion & light and how mnemonics could capture memories in new ways. They explored ways of using engineering to find solutions for socially relevant challenges, especially those that focused on environmental concerns, and ways in which they could help the animals that bring them so much joy. They ended the term delving into chain reactions, using slope, runs, drops, levers and the collision of rapidly spinning spheres and they learned to look at the moments that did not work out as they had planned, not as taunts, but as happy guidance towards their ambitions.

 One subject that came up repeatedly was the conservation of freshwater supply and midway through the year they all participated in an international student competition run by the FLUOR Corporation which was open to K-12 students, that focused on just that.

 Using the idea of the 2,000 year-old Banaue Rice terraces in The Philippines, the competition architects asked students to design and build an elevated structure using limited household materials that would employ gravity to move water with numbered resources from level to level, simulating the irrigation system of the real rice terraces.

The FLUOR Competition positioned students to compete with classrooms around the world using a point system that awarded points based the movement of water carrying beads down successive levels while deducting points based on how much of the offered materials were used in the working model.

 STEAM Teamers were divided into four teams and each created different and successful models that moved beads swiftly from shelf to shelf. I saw that they relished the opportunity to compete with their unknown peers from other countries, as they enthusiastically sought to out-innovate, all while practicing the important lessons of teamwork and  good-sportsmanship which is the heart of STEAM Team.

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Finding our Greek and Latin Roots in the American Museum of Natural History

Language Arts Field Trip to the American Museum of Natural History / By Miranda Norris

 In my language arts class we play a game I developed for learning Greek and Latin roots. These roots form so many words in English, it’s a great way to give real kids ownership of the language. They get to truly shine, even in the world of adults.  All year we play the game, until we can pick apart words we know, and words we don’t, to see if we can find out what the roots in them tell us about their meanings.

 The game is really fun, and the kids enjoy it, regularly choosing to take a different card because the first was too easy, or to have the word in English and find the root in Greek or Latin. It starts slowly, but by the end of the year they can’t believe what they know. It’s a marvel to watch them grow in their knowledge and confidence. At the end of each term parents and siblings are invited to come play with us. It’s fun for everyone to take the challenge.

 It was an unschooling-inspired idea. I proposed we go to the Natural History to see all the writing underneath the main headlines, meaning the names of all of the displayed items, but in Latin. We also knew there would be many, many words in English the kids could pull apart.

 The rules were simple. When we walked in the door, the hunt began. The students could use any word they saw, and the points were based on which ones they saw, and knew, and could translate. All the words in the museum could be used. The prizes were small sillies. The real prize was the order in which the students got to choose from the dark and mysterious bag of dollar-store magic. And they had to keep the prizes still in there a secret from the others while they selected their item.

 We wandered grabbing roots from North American mammals, shells, early humans, gems, a few bugs and birds, and ended under the big whale hanging over the hall of marine life. They did an honor-system tally, some chose to team up and average their scores, and everyone won, big time. Each kid had 40-80+ roots, translated! It was really impressive.

 We all ran into the jellyfish hut, and oohed and ahhed at the projection of them above us as we lay there together, finally relaxing. Having started at the playground on a beautiful June day we ended there as well, enjoying the weather and the wonder of these very cool kids. It was so much fun!

 Miranda B. Norris has been teaching Language Arts in the homeschool communities of NYC and FL for 10 years. Mom to three free-range kids, she is a writer, artist and Brooklyn-dweller.

Summer Camp 2017

Adventure Summer camp 2017!  This is our third year of Adventure Summer Camp at Different Directions.  My daughter Lottie talks about the memories and moments of summer camp all year long.  Her favorite things last year were the field trip to the Highline, learning about native plants of New York State and sponge fights in the park. The memories of hours in the park, being able to take our time racing around the playground with our friends and taking field trip journeys to the amazing cultural experiences this city has to offer are the fuel of imaginative, curious and happy children.  Our summer camp is a time for children be creative, relax and be with friends.  We all know the benefit of spending time in the sun, keeping our minds engaged and healthy socialization. These are the foundation of our summer experience.    This year musician  Leslie Frost will be launching her Joy of Music program and Anthropologist Stephanie Campos will be leading the campers on cultural explorations of some of New York's wonderful museums.

Changing the Lights

Thanks to the dedicated parents in our community we have been able to create a safe space where we and our children can explore, experiment and thrive.  I am happy this year one of the many long term goals we have achieved is to have all of our lighting transitioned over from fluorescent to LED.   LED lights are more cost efficient, environmentally sound and better for all of us working in the space.  Thank you, Mehdi, for putting in hours of time to make our space healthier for everyone.