It’s all about the build

By Phil Liebson, Director, Camp and School-Age Programs

Do you remember when Legos were bricks and only bricks? For almost a year now the DCJCC and Play Well-Teknologies have been running both a Lego camp and an after-school engineering enrichment class. Working with these classes has taught me two things:

  1. You are never too old to play with Legos.
  2. The Legos of 2012 are much more than simple bricks for building.

As I watch the children working with Legos, I am always amazed at what they come up with during their free building time. I have seen elaborate scenes where the children use the classic “mini figures” to reenact movie scenes, complete with motorized escapes or a small pile of gears that is easily turned into a self-propelled walking android.

As remarkable as their free build can be, the most interesting part of all is the ongoing conversation between the students while they are building. The classes are appropriately named “Lego Engineering” because that is exactly what they are doing! Through the use of Legos, these students have been taught about structure, torque, speed, lift, and other complex physics principals that I only wish I had learned at such a young age.

I once made the mistake of asking a six year old student how the “rubber band” helped the car to move. With a straight face and a look well beyond his years, the student looked up at me and said, “It is not a rubber band. That is a belt, and it is linking the pulleys in my car. The front pulley is attached to the motor which drives the back pulley attached to the axel. A rubber band is an office supply!” I knew then and there that my houses and castle designs were no longer the extent of what children could do with Legos.

I have heard second graders debate over the way that a car should be geared: “Mesh the smaller gear first so it can be geared for torque.” “No,” another student replied, “we are racing. You need to use the large gear first so you can be geared for speed!”

Just yesterday I walked into class and the kids were in the midst of a team build. They split into different teams and were all responsible for creating a different component of what was to become a boomed crane like we see around the city lifting heavy loads to create buildings. As groups, the students discussed overlapping for structure and gearing to reduce the weight load being lifted.

Over the last year I have come to understand the brilliance of what these small plastic bricks have become. It has spawned birthday parties, cult like followings for the rarest of sets, and theme parks, but above all, it is a creative catalyst and one of the greatest educational tools ever made. Children are able to learn basic physics principles and have a wonderful time while doing so.

On Sunday May 20th the DCJCC will be hosting Camp-A-Palooza. At this event campers will get a chance to meet counselors and experience “a day of camp.” Play Well-Teknologies will be on hand that day and, with the aid of the kids, they will attempt to make a structure that is 30 feet tall!

You might see a plastic brick. They see unlimited potential!

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Community Service Up Tos

By Erica Steen, Director, Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service

What we’ve been up to:We’ve had a busy summer so far, including four weeks of camp–three weeks for high school students and one for middle-school students. The four weeks took a lot out of us, but we think the students learned a bit, and so did we.

One of our favorite days of camp was volunteering with Street Sense and their Vendor-for-a-Day program. Our group paired up with local vendors (you’ve seen them on the DC streets wearing highlighter yellow vests) to help them sell their Street Sense papers. Our students are neither homeless nor hungry, but they truly got to experience what it might be like).

Students stood on the corners in their borrowed yellow vests hocking the paper: “Help the homeless; only $1” or “Buy Street Sense, a paper written by the homeless, only $1.” The students noticed many business people answered cell phone calls without the phone ringing, crossed the streets to avoid them, or just looked away. We also had people donate money and not take the paper, pay $5 for an issue (opposed to the suggested $1) and (our favorite) people who stopped to ask questions about who we were and why were selling the paper (since we didn’t seem homeless). Over the three sessions with Vendor-for-a-Day we raised over $400. It was an amazing experience for all of us.

The next time you see a Street Sense vendor on the street, buy a paper, it makes a difference.

What we will be up to: We’ve got a new volunteer project this month that you should register for! We’re going to volunteer with Common Good City Farm (CGCF). They are an amazing community garden in LeDroit Park. We’ll begin July 31, and in August we’ll be going on the 4th Sunday evening of each month. Volunteers will help the staff with whatever’s needed everything from picking the weeks harvest to helping teach a class on healthy eating. We will be at the mercy of the CGCF staff, but it will be a good time no matter what! But don’t take our word for it…the CGSF has the endorsement of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Prince of Wales.

How you can be a part of what we’re up to: It’s easy; just visit our website to see all of our upcoming volunteer projects!

Other UP TOs…we’re on Twitter at VolunteerDCJCC and in September and October we’re doing a sock drive, drop NEW socks off at the JCC front desk and we’ll make sure they get a good home.

This Week at the 16th Street J

Click to Register for Session IIHot Times in The City Summer Day Camp

Session II Begins Monday, June 30
Spots still available in Camp Skate, JKids and for CITs (we’ll even pro-rate if you’re reading this after Monday 6/30)

Is your kid spending the summer at Camp XBox? Get them off the couch and into the best urban camp in the country.

The Annual Washington Jewish Film Festival Friendraiser: The Debt

The DebtMonday, June 30, 7:30 pm
Join past donors to the WJFF for a great film and light reception. Meet Susan Barocas, the new director of the WJFF as it gets ready to launch its 19th edition this December.

2007, Israel, 35mm,
93 minutes, Hebrew, German and Russian with English subtitles
Director: Assaf Bernstein

This thrilling drama tells the tale of three Mossad agents who capture the “Surgeon of Birkenau”, a monstrous Nazi war criminal in 1964. The agents keep him confined to their safe house on the outskirts of Berlin awaiting further instructions to return to Israel. As they watch over the captive, a psychological duel begins between the Nazi doctor and the three young agents; leading to the doctor’s eventual escape. Unable to face their horrible failure, the agents fabricate the Surgeon’s death and return to Israel as heroes. More than thirty years later, the Surgeon resurfaces in the Ukraine, claiming he wishes to confess his crimes against humanity. Gila Almagor (Munich, In Treatment) plays the ex-Mossad agent Rachel, who must take action to protect their lie by terminating a man known to be dead and redeem the debt against which she has built her life.

Hebraica Mirrors by Matatiaou in the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery

Opens July 1 through September 30
Hebraica Mirrors by MatatiaouHebraica Mirrors includes over 60 fine prints on Arches Velum and leather parchment, representing the crossroads of contemporary design and traditional Hebrew calligraphy by the French Jewish artist Matatiaou. This universal graphic interpretation is inspired by the Zohar- the direct origin of the Kabbalah, written circa 1300. The exhibition comes to us from The Jewish Museum of Florida.

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