Home » fieldtrip

Tag: fieldtrip

A Day-Trip: Franklin Institute and Bresslergroup Debate

Last Thursday morning, most of the ALC-NYC crew headed towards East Harlem for a day of philosophy, visitors, Japanese, wrestling, music, and more.

Meanwhile, I texted with my co-conspiritors and packed a notebook into my field trip bag.

Learning is natural and happening all the time.

I’m generally a fan of our foundational principles at ALC, but the first one (above) is my favorite. As soon as we stop pretending that learning only happens through schooling, we get to start thinking about the kinds of experiences we want contributing to our education. Which means field trips. In this case, it meant a day trip to Philadelphia with Douglas, Javair, and Geva.

All three were still a bit tired after a long weekend in Boston for MIT Media Lab’s Virtual Reality Hack-a-thon (where they were finalists!), but Javair’s imminent departure made them all determined to pack as much as they could into their last few days collaborating in person. They’d met my friend Nick McGill over Maker Faire weekend, when he was trend-spotting and they (well…Douglas…) were talking game-design. They enjoyed picking his brain, and when I mentioned that the company he works for, Bresslergroup, was holding a debate on the nature of innovation, they made clear that both the content and the company interested them. So off we went.

Having two wonderful co-facilitators this year means I can do things like spend whole school days off-site with two kids and a parent. We got a decently early start, and managed to arrive in Philly just in time to have lunch with Nick. When he went back to work, we walked over to the Franklin Institute to check out their Robot Revolution exhibit. We compared robotic “hands,” played Tic-Tac-Toe, and scrambled a Rubix Cube. I particularly liked the wall-climbing robot that was designed to mimic a lizard. Douglas was more interested in the robotic baby seal, while Geva and Javair competed to catch the eye of a face-tracking Robotis. Then I listened while they discussed the wheels and programming of the soccer bots. I…couldn’t really follow. But I did get to share the pendulum and walk-through heart with them after we left the robots!


 The doors for the Bresslergroup event opened around 6. We headed over a little early, hoping to get a glimpse of Nick’s workspace. Can’t really write about what we saw, but our tour inspired lots of excitement and questions. Curious to see how long it takes before I’m handed a wishlist for our Makerspace 😉

After our tour, we headed to the lobby for the great debate. Douglas picked front-row seats for us, and I ended up sitting across the aisle from my crew. Watching their faces was as much fun as listening to the debate, but I was eager to hear their thoughts on our journey home…especially since they voted for different sides at the end.

 Innovation: driven by research or technology? Do you invest in seeking to understand your customer base’s wants and needs? Or do you presume they can’t know to ask for a tool they can’t imagine, so you invest in developing new technologies? The question got us talking about the nature of both creativity and of markets. Like a good debate question, it gave us lots to consider as we reflected on the evening.

Douglas voted for Team Research at the end of the evening. He made clear that his vote was not necessarily aligned with his personal opinion; rather, he explained that he heard Team Research make multiple sound arguments to support their side, where he heard Team Tech stick mostly to one argument. He really enjoyed the “quips” and pleasantly competitive banter from both teams, though he mentioned that he’d have preferred moderation that prioritized point-counterpoint discussion over polling of participants for each question.

Javair voted for Team Technology, in large part because he agreed that you have to create a product for people to interact with before you can research [using technology] how they receive it. He really appreciated the dynamic between the teams and the distinct contributions of each individual.

In the end, we agreed with the debaters that Research and Technology are interdependent. Since we play in alternative education, we touched on the evening’s assumption that we value innovation and have the courage to pursue it, one way or another. It’s an assumption that holds true for all of us, but we agreed it’d be interesting to discuss what it takes to get someone to that starting point. And what did we decide is necessary for those interested in innovation? Douglas said that a willingness to compromise and incorporate others’ ideas, without losing your vision, is invaluable in general and particularly helpful when collaborating on new projects. Javair advised that aspiring innovators choose questions and causes they feel passionately about so that they can stay motivated to persevere through challenges. He also cited the creation story of the video-game Prison Architect to support Douglas’ idea that willingness to adapt plans and change direction opens space for surprise successes.

Our verdict on the evening all in all? We arrived back in NYC happily exhausted and plotting our next Philly trip. Hopefully there’ll be more engineering adventures for us soon!


*I intentionally tried not to mention people’s ages, to avoid inviting assumptions about their knowledge and capabilities. I also left out much of what Geva and I had to say about the debate…mostly because it’s much more fun and interesting focusing on young people’s voices.

Hip Hop Nutcracker

Two all-day field trips in a row! What an awesome week!

Yesterday, I spent the day roaming Central Park with @agilealfie @pigsfly @serenagermany and @xxxxpgainzxxx, in search of rocks to climb and some tasty Two Boots pizza.

Today, our trip involved less fields, more rain, and much more theater. We went to my neighborhood–to Washington Heights–to see the Hip Hop Nutcracker. I went with Alfie, Hannah, Eli, and @douglasawesome to United Palace…a huge building that I’ve walked by but never been inside before. We had some bus hiccups on the way there, and we ended up ditching the bus with 10 blocks and 5 minutes to showtime. We power-walked, then did a lap around the building because there was construction blocking the courtyard I’d been planning to cross. Fortunately, we didn’t miss any of the show (so so grateful they didn’t start without us!).

I mentioned that this was my first time inside that building. It was dizzying!

We had second row seats all the way on the right side, where the DJ table was. I’ve seen The Nutcracker before (and the kids mentioned that they had, too), and it’s honestly not my favorite fairytale. But when we walked in to a DJ and an electric violin, I became really excited to see what this adaptation would look and sound like.

It was really amazing. The kids were each either riveted or constantly turning to give me the “did you see that?!?” look. This Nutcracker featured more headstands, romance, and time travel than the ballet versions I’ve seen before, but it was close enough to the original that Alfie recognized certain scenes, and the story was enjoyable (I often end up feeling like the story of the original Nutcracker just barely works as a story…it feels to me as if it were contrived to be a vehicle for threading light narrative through the scenes of a dance showcase…though I could be totally wrong about that).

I would definitely recommend checking out the show.

And the adventure didn’t end there! After the show, we took the train down to 116 and Broadway. Walked through a farmers’ market. Discovered spinning chairs at Book Culture. Wondered at the sculpture outside Saint John the Divine. Then Douglas and Hannah headed home while Alfie, Eli, and I walked through the rain across the top of Central Park.

I’m so tired and so excited to have a cup of tea 🙂 What an amazing day.



The Week That Went To Saturday

It’s 11 pm Saturday, and I’m finally settling down to write my blog post for the week. It’ll probably sit in my draft pile overnight so I can polish it in the morning as a more alert being, but I want to get everything down before I forget.

Sunday night, I found out that my friends Marcus and Craig (who visited to do the theater workshop earlier in the year) were in the city to hear their relative’s string quartet play at Julliard. So on Monday night, the Aeolus Quartet premiered a piece called Alcyone (Douglas Boyce) then played Transfigured Night and Death and the Maiden (Schoenberg and Schubert, respectively) at the Lincoln Center. And I went. And then I kept Marcus for the week.

Monday: We had four visitors and gorgeous weather, so naturally @ryanshollenberger led a trip to Central Park. I stayed back but stayed productive. I had a pretty remarkable conversation with @shadowjack and @failspy…highlights of which included Jack saying he wants a relationship in which both partners have fulfilling lives/jobs/friendships rather than on in which they are each others’ entire lives, my explaining gentrification leading to us discussing the history of gentrification/red-lining/immigration changing different NYC neighborhoods, and our planning a trip to Arthur Avenue to get pizza. Social history gets me so excited!

Tuesday: I registered for my first MOOC! It’s about comics and heroes, and it’s offered by the Smithsonian in collaboration with EdX. I’ll let you know how it goes as it goes! I had planned to start it while Ryan had people at soccer, but the first week’s lesson doesn’t go up until next Tuesday. I read, cleaned, emailed, and did some swing dancing (Marcus volunteered to teach @lillaw and I some moves). After school, I wanted to take Marcus downtown for Ethiopian food and some games at The Uncommons. @failspy came along, tried some injera, taught us a game, and played Settlers of Catan for the first time. I haven’t played Settlers in seven years! It was so fun to re-learn and share!

Wednesday: FIELD TRIP! Read all about it 🙂 And then I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder after school. Marcus found the tickets through a youth rush program…which I’m really inspired to try to do with @lillaw so we can get more theater in our lives 🙂 Gentleman’s Guide was really funny and cleverly written. I also loved the costumes and the scenes featuring both of the two female leads.

Thursday: Was Werewolves and reading and Games Workshop and Lyrical Analysis and lots of other offerings I wasn’t part of but was privileged to observe. I did get to do a bunch of writing, and I did some swing dancing with @lillaw and Marcus. Lyla and I have a plan to learn enough moves to choreograph a dance where we switch off leading. We’ll wear gender-ambiguous costumes. We’ll wear top hats (or maybe I’ll wear a bowler hat…like Sabina from Unbearable Lightness of Being). This is quite exciting 🙂 After school, Marcus and I went to St. John the Divine to hear an organ recital. Did you know the organ there has over 8,000 pipes? And that each one had to be dissembled, shipped out-of-state, cleaned, then shipped back and reassembled after the church fire? Sometimes I think I learn more about my city when I have guests than when I explore on my own…

Friday: I ran out of school with @douglasawesome @lillaw and @failspy right after Change-Up to catch a bus to Philly. We took a Megabus to University City, then we walked to a rental car place and picked up a sweet red sedan with satellite radio to drive to Phoenixville, PA. We drove (with much traffic) out of the city, past one of the largest malls in the United States, through the park where Washington’s troops wintered in 1777-78, to a roaring-then-defunct-now-hip-and-gentrifying steel town. We pulled up to the high school and filed into the auditorium, where PAHS Theater Guild–run by my dear friends Craig and Tina Tavani–was meeting for a workshop on comedy. We were…a little intimidated at first, in spite of being very warmly welcomed. But after a couple of moments (in which I may have whispered “will you regret not doing it if you let the chance pass” and a very nervous someone whispered back “probably…”), we found our stage voices. Lyla and I both got on stage to tell jokes. @lillaw jumped up to join a group of theater guild kids in an improv’ed skit about the “rule of threes” (apparently, the third time is the performer’s magic chance to make things funny). Then a bar and a cart with water cups were wheeled onto the stage. Time for bar tricks and spit jokes. Douglas wanted to try, and Javair offered to get up with him. Lyla went up with Marcus. I stayed back to film both.

We ended with a game (Duck-Bang) and name-circle on stage. Then the Tavanis had to hurry to Delaware, so we thanked them and hugged them good-bye. Craig promised to come up to the city again soon; he wants to do another workshop at school before the end of the year. And so the main goal of our trip (to attend the theater workshop) was accomplished.

We piled back in the car and drove to Downingtown, where my parents live. There was the putting away of the dog. Introductions. Plant nerdiness in the back yard. Putting bags upstairs and flopping on the floor to read Calvin and Hobbes together.

We rested a bit, then my parents drove us into West Chester for dinner. We ate Mediterranean food (mostly kebabs) then walked around town for a bit. Then we drove back to my parents’ house, planning on a bonfire and ice cream. Instead, I was somehow convinced to hook up Guitar Hero, and so we became a band. We were awful at first! It was so funny 🙂 We just kept switching instruments and difficulty levels and playing Eye of the Tiger over and over again. Eventually we decided to take a break for ice cream and some hang-out time with my dad. Which is pretty much what we did until Douglas got sleepy and declared it to be bed time.

Saturday, we got up early-ish and had a slow morning. Pancakes were involved. I went upstairs to shower, and when I returned to the basement Douglas was playing piano, Javair was running on the treadmill next to him, Lyla was playing with the foosball table, and the jukebox was on. I burst out laughing at the sight of them, then mentioned that we needed to head out soon. They wanted to play one more round of Guitar Hero (Living on a Prayer  …and they sounded pretty good this time!), and then we went up to say good-bye to my parents. We drove back into Philly, playing the Broadway Hits radio station and singing along where we could. Returned the car in University City. And suddenly had the whole city and nearly five hours to play with.

So we walked. We crossed the Schuylkill River, passed City Hall and William Penn’s statue, turned down Avenue of the Arts, then zig-zagged towards 4th and South Street. I pointed out the Union League building, the Kimmel Center, and the Academy of the Arts. Lyla and I planned to return with theater tickets someday as we walked by masterpieces by the Philly Mural Arts program. We rested in front of the first hospital in the United States, discussing the insignias on houses indicating which fire company that house had paid for the service of (back when that was a private industry). About an hour later, we had tired out our feet, worked up decent appetites, and arrived at Jim’s.

Because…cheese steaks. Because Pat’s and Geno’s are both too far south for us to have ventured to without a car. Because Reading Terminal Market has DiNic’s, but that’s not a Philly Cheese Steak. Because we weren’t going to make it to the art museum to run up the steps like Rocky, so we had to do one classic Philly thing. So we got steaks. @failspy was even brave enough to order his own (and he didn’t get sent to the back of the line!). Everyone was satisfied, and I offered to do another trip where we keep the car to try Pat’s and Geno’s, so the kids can make informed declarations about their loyalties 😉 Personally, I’m a Pat’s cheese, wit, and Provolone (yes, whizz is classic, but I can’t stomach the sight of it being ladled out of a paint can…).

We walked west on South Street, talking a little about the street and gentrification, until we arrived at the Magic Garden. A very tired Douglas sunk into a chair, and an also tired Javair perked up a little when I started recounting the story of the artists’ life and suggesting hidden symbols in the artwork (his son made a documentary that I watched last year…). Lyla, however, immediately took off exploring. I had wanted to stop at the garden–a labyrinth of mosaic that incorporates mirrors, glass, wheels, bottles, and other recycled objects–to show Lyla both the scale and style of another artist’s work. Isaiah Zagar, the artist, covers buildings inside and out with fantastic, colorful, and immersive mosaics that often tell rather personal stories from his life. His style is so different from mine, but I’ve always wondered at it. I was hoping Lyla would, too, and I think she did.

Our route back to 30th Street Station, where we’d catch our Megabus to NYC, went back along Avenue of the Arts, through City Hall, across the Board Game Art Park, past the Love statue and fountain of John F. Kennedy Plaza, to our final destination: Wawa. Oh, Wawa. Douglas asked what the big deal was. Javair answered that it’s a convenience store that’s always open and has sandwiches and gas and everything else you could need. Which was better than my answer that it’s a cult and it’s better than Sheets. We were too full to get hoagies, but the heat had us craving smoothies, slushies, and water. So we picked some up (first cheese steaks and first Wawa in one day!!!) and strolled to our bus.

The bus ride from NYC, we had played continue-the-story games and sang and talked (and I napped). This time, we were all pretty tired. Lyla read. Douglas, Javair, and I talked a bit and then played contact. We got back to the city early, looked at some art about GPS/Mental Mapping outside FIT, then said goodbye.

I’m really tired, but I couldn’t be happier. This was a trip where everyone got out of his or her comfort zone at least once, where we had time to relax and play together, and where all of our hosts (the Tavanis, the Theater Guild, my parents) were delighted by our company and invited us (YOU @douglasawesome @lillaw @failspy! Any time. Even without me.) to come back.

I am so so so grateful. For a busy week and guests and thoughtful, compassionate community. For our hosts. For my fellow adventurers. For the parents who trust me to take their young people on trips. And for @ryanshollenberger for running the school by himself sometimes to support these trips happening.

Brooklyn Museum Trip!

Last weekend, I had a very art-and-music-filled Saturday. The Whitney was throwing a block party for the grand opening of their new building in the Meatpacking district and it was the first Saturday of the month, which means free admission and lots of music/lectures/workshops at the Brooklyn Museum through the evening.

I had a blast at both (and I learned what Vogue dancing is!), but I was particularly excited by two special exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum. So, of course, I came back to school Monday and proposed a trip 🙂 To my delight, there were seven people who wanted to come!

The Brooklyn Museum is one of my favorite museums in the city. Their walk-through storage area opens conversations about working in collections management and how exhibits/collections are assembled; their frequently colored walls raise questions about why white walls are more normal in other museums. They have a wing of feminist art. They consistently and prominently exhibit works by artists who are people of color. They have shown work by local, lesser-known artists. And they aren’t afraid of politically charged works…their Ai Wei Wei exhibit was remarkable, and they presently have a Zanele Muholi exhibit with a piece about the murders of LGBTQ* South Africans which left me a bit shaken (not from surprise or shock so much as sadness). It’s a museum I can visit over and over again and still find new inspiration in each time.

Last time I led an ALC trip to the Brooklyn Museum, two kids went and I let them lead us wandering around the museum. This time, though, there were seven kids and we were on a mission. I’d learned on Saturday that the museum’s current special exhibits included a gallery exploring Jean-Michelle Basquiat’s notebooks (with two videos and a couple of canvases) and the striking portrait work of Khinde Wiley. During a conversation on Monday about human bodies being awe-some and so different from each other, a certain artwork came up  as exploring the intersection of body image and genitalia…but it’s in Europe…so I promised to show Thanos The Dinner Party.

We started with the Khinde Wiley exhibit. Wiley was classically trained in portraiture…he learned to paint by copying the works of the Western old masters. He has some smaller works–icons, stained glass, and sculpture–but most of his works are giant oil paintings on canvas. He adapts old works in which the settings, poses, and props give the subject a sense of power, majesty, or holiness. He replaces the European, white, male subjects with models he found and photographed, first in Harlem and then around the world. Most of his models are men of color, and his website mentions that this is because he wanted to be able to see himself reflected in his works (and to see men of color shown as regal and beautiful). He later started playing with portrayals of gender, and he eventually did a series of portraits featuring strong, gorgeous women of color. They’re in the same style–the subjects of an updated version of Judith and Holofernes, for example (which meant I got to tell that story in the middle of the gallery…)–except that some are in costumes created by Givenchy (the men he painted in their own clothes).

We then went downstairs into the Basquiat exhibit. I had been excited to show @thewitchqueen908 and @lillaw the Wiley exhibit because of Wiley’s technical talent and challenge to the whiteness of art history // museum art. I was excited to share Basquiat with @kingthanos, because of his interest in graffiti culture, and with @failspy, because of the symbolism, evocative wordplay, and language deconstruction that sometimes make Basquiat’s canvases feel (to me) like puzzles. I had watched the Basquiat bio-pic with @shadowjack on Wednesday and done some reading in preparation for the trip, so I was able to give a little context regarding Basquiat’s youth, reception in the art world, friendship with Andy Warhol, battle to be recognized as an artist (rather than always as a “black artist” or “street artist”), and unfortunately his drug use and early death. I wasn’t sure how the kids would feel about the exhibit; they didn’t have too much to say (other than lots of questions about the significance of his work), but they surprised me with the thoroughness they showed reading so many of the pages from his notebooks.

The Basquiat exhibit leads out into the Elizabeth Sackler gallery, of the wing for feminist art. An NYU professor once explained that the artist Judy Chicago got frustrated with art being by men, about men, and exhibited in museums/galleries run by men. She created a piece which imagined a giant dinner party, in which powerful and important women who history textbooks (like the art world, being by men, about men, and published by men) ignored were gathered around a single table. They have their own custom place-setting, with symbols of their legacies on each. And all of the plates are colorfully designed, inspired by each woman’s achievements, and evocative of…vulvas. The piece is called The Dinner Party, and the Chicago had a tough time finding a museum which would agree to show it. When the Brooklyn Museum finally agreed, the prominent Elizabeth Sackler was so pleased that she donated money for the museum to build a feminist wing that would permanently house the piece and showcase works by women (usually about gender and/or sexuality, though not always) around it. Of course, I didn’t say any of this walking into the gallery. Usually with young people and this gallery, I let them explore, ask them what they notice and think the piece is about, then explain what they were just looking at. The kids on this trip seemed to appreciate the message of the piece and to be completely comfortable talking about it. They were more disturbed by the one plate–Ethel Smyth’s–which looked like a piano. Vulva-plates, fine. Piano-vulva-plate, too weird.

When we finished in that gallery, we went to rest by the reconstructions of historic houses. We decided that instead of exploring the rest of the museum we wanted to go outside to eat and run around a bit. So we did.

Grateful to @kingthanos @thewitchqueen908 @lillaw @failspy @douglasawesome and @agilealfie for coming all the way to Brooklyn, for playing so the train ride felt short, for asking thoughtful questions, and for knowing how to adjust your ways of being inside and outside of museums (I know it can be hard! And all those other kids were failing at it! I’m so glad I can trust you to speak up when you need a sunshine-break!). Thanks for art nerding with me; thanks for making Solomon feel welcome; and thanks for playing so sweetly with the toddlers on the playground who obviously thought you were Super Heroes.


Suggested adventures for while school’s closed this week!

Check out the NYCxDESIGN festival (*cough* @shadowjack *cough*)!

Dig through this hard-to-read website to find cool events for Bronx Week!

We saw Basquiat’s work last week and talked about his friendship with Andy Warhol. Now you can go see Warhol’s work at MoMA…

…or Frida Kahlo’s work at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden!

Another Botanical Garden that’s an adventure to get to and explore is the Snug Harbor Botanical Garden on Staten Island. I haven’t been in the science museum there, but the garden grounds are a great place for thinking, making art, picnicking, and taking silly photos.

There are also the usual all ages shows at Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Thursday and Friday. And all of Central (and Prospect and Van Cortlandt) Park. @likeaboss and @agilealfie may want to go to Sean Casey (with a grown-up…sorry, friends) and sign out a dog to walk for a bit. There’s the pyramid playground by the MET, looking for Morse and Basquiat and Bernstein in Greenwood Cemetery, dancing with @abram on Wednesday night in East Harlem, walking the High Line, or heading to any skate park that @ryanshollenberger took trips to last year…though if you do that maybe bring your school ID in case the police get confused about your not having school 😉

Whatever you do, I’d love to read about it when I get back from wedding+graduation celebrations!

Whirlwind and Peace


I’m curled up, warm in a sunny window, a little bit amazed at how much organized chaos filled the beginning of the week.

This weekend, I had a guest and a staff working day (in which @ryanshollenberger and @tomis gave the bathroom an amazing make-over!).

We rolled into the week Tuesday morning with the arrival of Cloudhouse at ALC-NYC! We packed that day so full of plans that I barely could fit everything on the weekly schedule board. I finished discussing The Alchemist with @failspy, watched @ryanshollenberger @kingthanos @failspy and @bear eat Ghost Peppers, documented an improv game @abram led called “Yes, Let’s” and a collaborative Blocks-Versus-Zombies minecraft mission and @failspy ‘s product development and @themadhatter DMing Werewolves and a new board game from @douglasawesome and lots of discussion of @timotree ‘s SkyRim game and and and and and…

Wednesday was less scheduled but equally magical (and less Ghost-pepper-sickness filled). I actually left early with the Cloudhouse crew, but during the day there was a discussion which turned into a Rubik’s cube tossing game. Which turned into monkey-in-the-middle. Which at some point turned into an Olympic-style competition. The teenagers’ laughter poured out of the library, where this all was happening, much to my delight.

Thursday I woke up in Chatham! *sigh*bliss*gratitude*smile* I’ve never visited Cloudhouse before, and I was excited to see the whiteboard walls in use. Even before morning meeting, I had committed to playing Go with Lily, playing MM, and taking a trip to No Bottom Pond. Bear’s friend Raine was visiting, too, so there were six of us to have a quick morning meeting and then disperse. Lily and I played Go twice, with Charlotte watching and making Go stone art beside us. Then we headed up to the farmhouse, where @themadhatter DM’ed MM for all of us. It was a pretty exciting game: Raine’s character found a treasury, @hatninja ‘s character had really useful and adaptable weapons, and @bear ‘s character could make trash tornadoes. My character was a huge bear, with shamanic powers 🙂

We left around noon for the pond. Milo and Jesse had commitments at Cloudhouse, so they didn’t come. Lily, Charlotte, Raine, Bear and I climbed into a car for a short ride…during which we spend a lot of time discussing the radio. When we arrived, it was a nice mini-hike through the snowy trees to get to our destination. Even though some of the smaller-legged folks got tired, they persevered, and we made it down to the very very frozen pond. As if sharing the calm, snowy nature with friends wasn’t delightful enough, I then got to watch both Lily and Charlotte overcome their fears of falling through the ice. By the time we had crossed the lake, they were jumping and sliding on their bellies like penguins. By the time we were headed back, they had made art, done spins, slid a lot, raced, made a human train, located underground springs by patterns in the ice, and laughed a lot. We trekked back to the car, then drove back to Cloudhouse just in time for afternoon meeting.

My evening continued by the fire with cooking, drawing, Bear singing, some acrobatics, and lots of tea. It ended with a decision to stay an extra day, which is why I’m writing from where I am now rather than a bus or a train 🙂

Today has been very quiet and reflective. It’s been the perfect contrast to the beginning of the week, and I’m enjoying it just as much. So far I’ve read and written and watched @hatninja begin a series of ten ranked battles in League of Legends. I just finished a game of Go with Lily and am watching her make art with the Go stones. Feeling grateful and grounded and at peace.


Of course you won’t be bored over the break, but just in case…

Mostly thinking of @failspy @kingthanos @jacobcb as I write this, but here are a bunch of resources for anyone in NYC over the break and unsure of how to keep adventuring while school is closed 🙂

Free museums! Don’t be shy about taking advantage of “suggested/donation-based admission” 😉 Also, I would highly recommend taking a friend and checking out the First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum. The music, stories, free art, and people watching have never disappointed me yet!

Free weekly events from NYCgo and TimeOutNYC, some happening now and some happening all the time. I’ve found some unexpected adventures using these sites.

MUSIC! Free and classical here. Potentially free and all ages rock/pop/hip-hop/etc. here and here.

Comedy sketches and musical improv! Shows I’ve been to cost $5-$7. In my experience, the comedy sketches are edgier than the musical improv (which astounds me more because it’s improv…), but if you’re comfortable with swearing and adult humor, these shows can be really fun.

Free movies @MoMA! Often strange and old and interesting.

Free lectures, films, art shows, food @NYU!

Weird and wonderful Brooklyn things via this email newsletter! Some are 21+, but most art events are all ages.

And of course, you can also ice skate, explore a park, play GO on Tuesday night, ride the ferry to Staten Island then bus to Snug Harbor, walk across a bridge, eat in Jackson Heights//Brighton Beach//Arthur Ave, or any of a bunch of other things I’m probably forgetting 🙂 Happy exploring!

Body Worlds!!!

Thanks to curiosity of students, generosity of parents, and agility of facilitators, I had the opportunity to support a really interesting field trip this week. @RyanShollenberger , @douglasawesome , @likeaboss , @kingthanos , @FailSpy, Elijah, and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at Discovery Times Square. It was so exciting to get to go on a field trip with so many kids AND Ryan!!! It was an especially exciting trip for me both because of a personal fascination with anatomy as well as a memory of my mother pulling my sisters and I out of school when a Body Worlds exhibit first came to Philadelphia years ago.

@KingThanos led us through the subways and the crowds of Times Square. We arrived at the discovery building and together descended into the exhibit space. I had been expecting the focus of the exhibit to be on explaining the process of plastination and exploring how cool our bodies are, so I was intrigued by the introductory video, an RSA animated short pointing out that our heartbeat stays consistent even as stress, technology, and expectations speed up the pace we try to live our lives at. From the video, we moved into the exhibit to look at brain slices, artificial joints, smokers’ lungs, alcoholics’ livers, reproductive organs, spines, muscles in different positions, nerve networks, and many other reflections of own bodies.

The kids had lots to say; they seemed particularly interested in discussing fetuses, where the bodies came from, the impact of smoking cigarettes on the body, and a photo gallery comparing diets from around the world.

They were also interested in a video that was part of the exhibit, because it mentioned that conventional schooling fails to teach young people to navigate the decisions and influences that bombard them daily. While looking at brains, we heard the video’s narrator talking about education that gives people creativity and power to choose how to use each of their irreplaceable heartbeats. The video came up in discussion as we were leaving the exhibit, and I looked for it online when we returned to school (after group pizza time!). I couldn’t find it, so I emailed the Body Worlds organizers. They called back less than an hour later, and the very helpful Georgina Gomez emailed me the link to The Secret Powers of Time, which I now get to share with you 🙂 Enjoy!


Wednesday Wanderings

Since @pinkpanda moves to Virginia soon, I asked her Monday if there was a last field trip she wanted to take, a part of the city she wanted to see before leaving. After some thinking, she declared that she wanted to take a field trip to a comic book store. While looking at a map of options, we noticed a cluster of comic book stores surrounding the giant library at Bryant Park. Taina commented that she would like to go in the library as well, since she had never been, so we decided our field trip would be a general one to that area.

On Wednesday, we took the train with @jacobcb to Grand Central and walked to a comic book store. I’m more of a graphic novel reader than a comic book reader (unless we’re talking about Calvin and Hobbes, of course), so I didn’t recognize most of the series they carried at JHU Comic Books. Jacob and Taina did, though, and we had a good time looking around.

The we walked west on 41st street towards the library, because that route took us past “library way” sidewalk art. As we drew nearer, Jacob commented that the architecture of the library facade resembles that of the Natural History Museum. This got us talking about the use of Greek and Roman style architecture to denote buildings as temples (of knowledge in the case of the library, and of science in the case of the museum). We sustained that conversation inside, up the stairs, and into the second floor foyer, under the various ceiling murals. Then Taina asked “Where are the books?”

The branch of the NYPL at Bryant Park serves as a research library. There are archives and restricted access research rooms housing special collections (one on Shelley and his circle, for example). There is a glass case housing one of the original 48 Gutenberg bibles. There are exhibits of art, like the present ones on romantic landscapes and WWI US propaganda. There are rooms of tables for reading and writing, stages for presentations, a learning center with a theater for film screenings…but a room with open shelves of books accessible to lay bookworms there didn’t seem to be. We did finally find one room where we could play with books: the children’s wing downstairs. It was empty other than us, a few young mothers speaking foreign languages to their babies, and two rather serious librarians. We looked at books for a few minutes, then we turned to leave, library’d out for the day. A glass case with the original Winnie the Pooh and friends stuffed animals caught our interest briefly, but then we headed outside.

I checked the time–it was still early. I offered a few thoughts for destinations in the area, which were politely declined, and I resigned myself to heading back to school early. Not so bad…it was an interesting trip, however short.

Then Taina brought up that she wanted to go to Kleindeutschland (yes, it’s one word) aka the Lower East Side. I’ve gone to school in the LES, worked in the LES, taken a class on LES history…in short, it’s a neighborhood I’m excited to explore with anyone who feels like walking around. We had time, so down we went to Delancy Street. We started in the back of the Tenement Museum gift shop, watching their free mini-documentary about the history of the neighborhood. It explains both why the area became known as Kleindeutschland–it was the third largest German-speaking city in the world at one point–and why we would then have a hard time finding pretzels or bratwurst there in 2014.

After the film, we walked around a bit, looking for traces of Kleindeutschland. We did find pretzels and egg creams and Lenin waving at Wall Street. Then we hopped the subway back uptown and got back to school just in time for clean-up.

Unexpected, but exactly the kind of trip I enjoy most 🙂

Muse Field Trip (from earlier in October)

In one of my many past lives, I spent most of my time near, on, or thinking about how to be better at being on horses. My teacher and mentor once suggested taking gymnastics classes to improve my balance. What she actually said was, “It will teach you to fall safely, and that’s important since you’ll have to do a lot of falling to become a true horsewoman,” and though I never got around to taking the classes, I also never forgot that she said I should.

A decade later, I found myself leading a field trip to a circus gym (Muse) in Williamsburg, thanks to the generous invitation of Yoni and Angela. I’ve always liked climbing things and always been a bit of a klutz, so I was both excited and nervous. It was exciting to be nervous! That’s usually a sign that there’s a chance to grow in the impending something…

IT WAS INCREDIBLE! We did some independent body awareness exercises, cooperative balancing and listening exercises, climbing on silks, hanging from lyra, and generally playing with our bodies in new ways.

Happily exhausted after an hour and a half, we said thanks and bye to our hosts and headed out into sunny Williamsburg. @likeaboss knew the area and led us to a park for lunch and tree-climbing. It had taken us an hour to get to this part of Brooklyn, and we decided to hang out as long as we had time and energy to before trekking back to East Harlem. So we walked to Mast Brothers factory to smell the air and taste their chocolate. Then we stopped at the Art House Co-Op Sketchbook library to look through some books. Finally, we went hunting for a Geo-Cache the clue for which was “under the sliding and across from the spinning.” We found it! Even though it was super tiny 🙂

Having explored the neighborhood and photographed lots of graffiti, we headed back to the train with exactly enough time to make it back to school for clean-up. I was delighted by how open to and excited about neighborhood exploring everyone was after the trip, and I can’t wait to go back!


Pictures here!