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  • Writer's pictureRebecca L.

Day 1: Spokes' First Learning Festival!

Updated: Jun 15

Welcome to the first official day of Spokes! Before we jump into Day 1, we’re going to spend a little bit of time detailing Days -1 and 0. I’m Rebecca, a newly minted MIT alum (!?!?!) from Los Angeles.

On Saturday (day -1), JD, Hank, and Varsha drove our packed minivan from Cambridge to DC. The van was packed with some luggage, learning festival materials, and bike gear, as well as camping gear on top and four bikes on the back! They ended up arriving smoothly to DC, where we were staying with the wonderful Heather and Maurice.

JD, Varsha, and Hank (half pictured) in our packed minivan

Sunday morning saw me, Sophia, and Amulya driving down three other bikes in a very snazzy 2024 Tacoma. We were pretty pleased with the way we tied down the bikes, and the truck was so new, with less than 1000 miles on it, that we had an easy road trip down. We passed through Connecticut (right through Sophia’s hometown), as well as NYC, NJ, and more! 

JD also passed the time in Virginia on Day 0  by taking a “casual” 26 mile bike ride. Jess and Cleo also made their ways over from NJ and Paris, respectively, and by Sunday night we were all together eating tacos at Heather’s, enjoying beautiful northern Virginia, and prepping for our first learning festival!

Now Actually Day 1

Our first learning festivals were at the DC Jail and the DC Youth Services Center. Our activities were built into the students’ school days, and so we were able to meet their teachers and administrators. Amulya and I headed to the jail to teach our activities to students over 18, while everyone else piled into the van to start an exciting day at the YSC. We were greeted by Judge Faruqui, who had been so helpful in coordinating the festivals. Amulya and I taught in the same room, which meant you could feel the energy and excitement as we both started to teach our lessons. My lesson, krispie koncrete, teaches the chemistry of concrete and then makes an analogy between the ingredients of concrete and those of rice krispies. It’s also just a good excuse to eat homemade rice krispies which are better than store bought! I also incorporate an intro to sustainability and the problems with the making of concrete, which fun fact makes up 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Amulya’s activity extracts strawberry DNA using simple household ingredients like soap and detergent, and it was funny to watch students pick up huge globs of DNA (which is a weird grey) from across the room. 

We then joined up with the rest of our team that was teaching at the juvenile correctional facilities. Most of our students were under 16, and the class sizes were all small which meant we could learn students’ names and engage with them one-on-one. Sophia and JD shuttled their 3D printer from classroom to classroom to demo the printing of a little boat, and Hank and Varsha gave an intro to Scratch, which is an introductory coding software. 

It was great to see the students engage and have fun learning about science and all the different ways they can explore it. We got so many good questions; during the last session I had a great conversation with one student about different concrete chemistries and innovations. It’s been a while since I engaged with large groups of kids, but I feel like I sometimes underestimate them. But many of the students were interested in learning and engaged excitedly with the content. I feel like this learning festival was mainly to spark curiosity and help students engage with science content as they move forward in their education. I wish we had the opportunity to engage with the students again, but I’m so glad that we had this opportunity!

Spokes with some of Judge Faruqui's team

Some of our group then demolished acai bowls, and we did some very quick sight seeing of the Washington monument and the White House. Chaos reigned for the rest of the night as we got ready for the next day of biking, but we had a great dinner break where the eight of us debriefed the learning festival and got excited for the next day (and ate some really really good vegan gluten free cookies shout out Loren’s cookies)!

These snacks were gone in minutes

Overall, Day 1 got me super excited for the rest of Spokes. Our team was able to work through any snafus and support each other, and we were able to get a taste of what we were working for early on in the trip through the learning festival. Thank you to everyone at DC Department of Corrections and YSC that allowed us to engage with students! Stay tuned for more blogs!

Spokes ❤️s Shoku the dog


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Jun 06

!!!! hi jess - kelton


Jun 06

Rebecca thank you for this wonderful post! It is amazing that you started your journey with a learning festival! Kids are are awesome- ask them open ended questions and always ask them to elaborate so they can make connections on their own, through your guidance. BTW, I wanna try a rice KWISPIE. - SBL


Jun 05

Have a great trip! Rooting for you and am eagerly awaiting your blog posts.

-Maxwell, Spokes '22

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