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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part I: Color Me Poetry

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

Close your eyes and think about how the color purple makes you feel. What does purple taste like? Smell like? Feel like?

These are the questions Brightwood Education Campus students are answering on Monday during their “Color Me Poetry” lesson. Writing coach Rachel Rosenberg takes the floor and asks each student to take a minute, set all pencils aside and simply listen. She reads to the silent class a few poems written by other students like themselves. She tells them anytime they hear a color to think about how it makes them feel.

“Reflect on all the sights, sounds and feelings flooding into your mind when listening to these poems,” she says.

There is much emphasis on reflecting quietly during this activity.

The takeaway from this lesson, during the third week of the DC SCORES season, is that self-expression is more than writing words on a page. It’s a long, multi-step creative process that begins with reflection. Shannon Nelson, another of the DC SCORES coaches at Brightwood, explains that it is important for the structure of the program — and its 167-page ‘Power of Poetry’ curriculum — to guide the students from easier tasks, such as self-reflection, to eventually writing meaningful works of poetry.

The ultimate goal of poetry sessions is to teach the students that there are many creative ways to articulate themselves, and that no way is wrong. It is just as important for the students to understand that good writing takes time and effort.

Nelson and Rosenberg consistently reiterate to students that patience, reflection and consistent writing are imperative for improving their skills. This is why the students are given 10 minutes at the beginning of every poetry session to free write. This is also why the initial lessons like “Color Me Poetry” are so crucial.

Asking the students to write about how a particular color makes them feel engages them in a new level of abstract thinking. It initiates the creative thought process and employs them to explore a range of emotions they have connected to that color.

One student told me the color red made him think of the brick wall outside in the courtyard, a place where he can run around freely after school. Another student told me that the color aqua makes her feel “strange.” When asked why, she said because her mom doesn’t like that color. “But blue makes me happy,” she added. “My mom and I both like blue better than aqua. ” She connected the color blue to happiness because it is a similarity she shares with her mother. It is these types of realizations that are fostered through creative lesson plans.

It may seem trivial to those who have been writing for years, but taking the time to think abstractly preps the brain for deeper thought and, ultimately, artful works of self-expression.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DC SCORES coach's journal, Part I: The first day of programming

Zachary Gomes moved to Washington, DC, two months ago from Albany, NY, to begin working at DC SCORES as a Coach Across America AmeriCorps volunteer. Zach has a passion for working with youth, and as part of his work with DC SCORES is coaching poetry and girls soccer at Lincoln Middle School. Throughout the season, Zach will share his experience as one of DC SCORES’ 190 coaches who run the program at our 47 schools. Zach will provide insight on the impact of DC SCORES -- through the eyes of a coach.


Written by Zachary Gomes
Soccer Coordinator

This fall, I am the writing coach and girls soccer coach at Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. I live very close to the school, and before I began working at DC SCORES I spent most of my afternoons playing pick-up soccer in the neighborhood.

On the first day I visited Lincoln, I arrived at the soccer field wearing a DC SCORES shirt and shorts. Kids and adults walked up to me instantly, telling me they were a part of DC SCORES, how much they loved the organization and how they couldn’t wait for the season to begin. The fact I was associated with DC SCORES made integrating into my new surroundings a thousand and forty-seven times easier. It was truly amazing.

Programming at Lincoln started on Sept. 15. The way the middle school season works, on Monday and Wednesday we have writing and then walk to the soccer field for practice; Fridays are reserved for Game Day.

Coach Zach at his firstLincoln  soccer practice
I prepared for the opening day of programming by writing an introductory lesson. My plan was to 1. I will introduce myself, and the kids will love me. 2. I will play some icebreaker and teambuilding games -- coaches are provided with a plethora of resources and examples during training -- and have everyone laughing and loving my awesome teaching style. 3. I will introduce them to their writing journals and explain how important they are to the class. 4. They will begin to decorate their notebooks, making them unique, their own. 5. If we have more time, we will do a group writing exercise and, of course, if needed, I would whip out some of the games I keep in my back pocket. 6. We will walk the four blocks to Tubman Elementary School, where Lincoln has its soccer practices. 7. We will do some running, stretching, passing, shooting, sweating, smiling and have a generally awesome first practice.

What actually happened?

I got to Lincoln early and was brought to the cafeteria. Soon, 42 very excited children filled the large room and I was bombarded with questions and comments.

“Are you our coach!?” “Who are you?” “You’re not Charity!” (last year’s coach). “Why are you wearing those shoes??” “Do you like soccer?” “Do you speak Spanish?” “Are we gonna get uniforms? And where is our snack??”

My plan did not go according to design, but that’s okay as improvisation is also fun. At one point during writing, I turned the cafeteria into a maze and blindfolded some of the students with my sweatshirt. The blindfolded students had to listen to the directions of their team to try to find a chair I had placed on the other side of the room. This game was a hit.

Soccer practice was great. The girls were incredibly excited to be on the field, and it was immediately clear that I had some natural-born leaders on my team. After running a lap around the field, the girls formed a circle and Katie -- an eighth-grader who has been in DC SCORES for three years -- walked into the middle and began leading a team stretch. I had not asked for Katie to take the lead, but I certainly did not complain when she did

Overall, the first day was a success. There were problems, but that was to be expected. The most important thing as a coach, I kept coming back to, is to constantly remind yourself why you have gotten into this position in the first place; why you are out on a field playing soccer with kids. Why self-expression and empowerment is so important.

For me, it’s because I love it. I love being part of something bigger than myself, being part of a team, having my work provide a space where youth can express themselves and feel comfortable. There is lots of work to be done, and our team culture is still being built in the writing classroom and on the field. I anticipate good times and trying times to be part of our future at Lincoln Middle School, and I am excited to share with you the triumphs and challenges that are yet to come as a DC SCORES coach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photo blog: The first 7 days of DC SCORES' fall season

Today is just the eighth day of DC SCORES programming for 1,500 youth across the District, but much has already happened. Here are some photos to illustrate the beginning of our 20th autumn providing the arts, athletics and academics for DC youth.

DAY 1: Lincoln Middle School, Ward 1

The Lincoln Knights were hard at work the first day of programming, warming up for soccer practice with several exercises.

DAY 3: Burrville Elementary School, Ward 7

Coach Daryl Forte is beginning his 15th season coaching the Eagles, and his approach doesn't change. Expectations are set during the first week of practice.

DAY 4: Truesdell Education Campus, Ward 4

Fifty kids. Fifty! That's how many elementary school children came out for DC SCORES programming during the first week. Truesdell also has a thriving middle school program. DC SCORES is a huge part of the school's identity and culture. Look for a Truesdell Trojan nearby!

DAY 5: Barnard Elementary School at The White House, Ward 2

Programming wasn't a week old, but the Barnard Bears were in midseason form when they put on a clinic for guests at The White House during the Social Innovation Fund's "What Works" Showcase.

DAY 6: C.W. Harris' alphabetic scavenger hunt, Ward 7

The Viking immersed themselves in self-expression during an early lesson, thinking of 36 words that identified their school's neighborhood and writing them in their journals.

DAY 7: Alphabetic string poems at Anne Beers Elementary, Ward 8

At Anne Beers Elementary, students studied their poetry classroom and identified objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet. They then wrote five-line poems using an alphabetic string of five words!


Check out our large collection of photos from Brightwood Education Campus' first week of writing, and see all photos from the season -- both soccer and writing -- on Flickr

Stay up to date with all things DC SCORES by following us on Twitter @DCSCORES and searching the hashtags #PowerOfPoetry and #SCORESfall114.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Volunteer spotlight: Ted Webne, Lincoln Middle School soccer coach

Written by Josh Freedholm
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

On Monday, DC SCORES began programming for elementary and middle school students throughout the District. It would be impossible to give 1,500 students the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. This month we highlight Ted Webne, who on Monday returned for his second year as a volunteer soccer coach. Ted coached last season at J.C. Nalle Elementary School and is coaching the Lincoln Middle School team on the pitch this year. Check out our interview with Ted and some photos of his first day on the field with his new team!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.DCSCORES.org.


DCS: Where are you from and where do you work?

I am from Alexandria, VA, and I work at Mary Mcleod Bethune Day Academy Public School as a Behavior Intervention Specialist.

DCS: How did you get involved with DC SCORES?

I became familiar with DC SCORES through friends and I decided that it would be the best way for me to give my time.

DCS: What do you find most interesting about DC SCORES?

DC SCORES is an ambassador for the sport that I have a passion for, in the city that I love.

DCS: Describe your experience volunteering for DC SCORES.

DC SCORES has provided me with the opportunity to help introduce the game of soccer to several first-time players in Washington, DC. I know first-hand that a commitment to soccer can lead to a lifetime of positive experiences. For this reason, I am confident in the potential for the DC SCORES program to make a difference in all of the lives of the children it serves.

DCS: What do you like to do with your free time?

When I am not coaching soccer, I am usually playing it. Otherwise, I like to hang out with friends.

DCS: Who is your favorite singer or poet?

My favorite singer is Thom Yorke or Bill Withers.

DCS: Who is your favorite athlete?

My favorite athlete is "Number 18, Nate Burkey, striker for the Azkals.” Nate and I played at T.C. Williams High School together. He currently plays for the Philippine National team and Ceres FC. Through his committed service to under-served communities in Manila, Nate is also able to live out his passion for bringing the game to those who might not otherwise get the opportunity to play.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome to the 20th fall season of DC SCORES

The countdown is finally over!

After 47 days of highlighting each of our program schools across Washington, DC, the season starts this afternoon. When the school bell lets out, 1,500 DC youth will take to the soccer field and receive their personal poetry notebooks.

DC SCORES will begin.

But what, exactly, does the fall DC SCORES season entail? Who runs it? And how often are youth engaged? As everything begins today, here is an overview:

Youth Engaged
We serve 1,500 youth in 29 elementary and 18 DC public and public charter schools. An average "team" at each school has 32 students with an equal gender split. View a list of our schools HERE.

Who coaches?
DC SCORES hires four coaches -- two soccer and two writing -- at each school. The large majority of our coaches are also teachers at the schools, strengthening school-day relationships with students by working with them after school.

How often is programming?
Our elementary schools have programming five days a week. On two days, the students learn soccer skills through practices. On two days, they are in the classroom learning how to express themselves through poetry. And on Thursdays, students participate in game days where a school plays a girls game followed by a boys game against another school. Game days are great for many reasons, including schools visiting neighborhoods they're unfamiliar with and the great community support from families and others.

Our middle schools have programming three days a week, but the same number of hours as elementary schools. In a block scheduling format, schools have both soccer and writing two days a week and then game days on Fridays.

What is taught?
Our coaches are trained to take students through a very specific, comprehensive curriculum for both soccer and writing that includes academic enrichment modules and readily usable soccer practice plans. Above all, coaches instill the core values of Teamwork, Leadership and Commitment in students while also stressing sportsmanship on the soccer field.

What special events are there?
Oct. 25, Fall Frenzy, Trinity University -- Fall Frenzy is our large fall outdoor event for all 800 of our elementary school students. Schools play a round-robin soccer tournament and also engage in myriad fun activities including facepainting, arts and crafts, relay races and more. It's a family-centered event and everyone is welcome.

Nov. 25, Capital Cup, Bell High School -- The Capital Cup is our middle school soccer championships event, with the girls title game followed by the boys game. It is a great afternoon for seeing how much DC SCORES teams have developed during the fall season.

Dec. 3-4, Poetry Slam! -- The Poetry Slam! is the culminating event of the fall season and an absolute must-attend for anyone who's a fan of DC SCORES. The two-night event showcases the original poems of students representing all of our schools, as each team does a 5-minute performance on stage in front of capacity crowds.

How do I get involved?
Great question! There are many ways to be a part of our team this fall:
  • Volunteer: Refs are needed for our elementary school soccer games (minimal experience needed). We're also looking for assistant coaches who have an afternoon a week open. Additionally, volunteering at Fall Frenzy is guaranteed to be a good time. For a full list of opportunities, visit our website.
  • Come to a High Five! Tour, the best way to learn about the impact of our program in one hour!
  • You can also make a real impact at anytime from anywhere by giving the gift of team.

How do I stay connected online?
There are many ways to keep up to date on all things DC SCORES with powerful stories, fun videos, and a plethora of photos:
And, of course, visit www.DCSCORES for all updated information about our program.

We look forward to having you be a part of our 20th season building teams for DC youth!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Coaches of all levels unite at Coach Kickoff, ready for DC SCORES season

Jacqui Kemp addresses roughly 100 coaches at the Kickoff.
Written by Josh Freedholm
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

This past Saturday, roughly 100 coaches convened at Capital City Public Charter School to prepare for the start of DC SCORES programming next week. When you have the highest coach attendance in DC SCORES training history, it’s hard to call the event anything but a success.

However, it was the energy in the building that made the event one to remember and a great starting point for another DC SCORES season.

Despite the early weekend wake-up call, coaches were ready and thrilled to participate in the opening icebreakers. As staff member Jacqui Kemp ran across the room getting coaches to do the wave, it became clear the event would be more than just an information session for the coaches representing 47 public and public charter elementary and middle schools spread across the District.

The day was filled with activities that got the coaches using the skills their students will be honing. As new and returning elementary school writing coaches crowded around tables with Writing Coordinator Rachel Klepper to go over this year’s curriculum -- which is long and comprehensive, by the way! -- she got them to participate in a quick round of “Poetry Poker” to teach that poetry doesn’t always need to make sense.

At each table, a dealer dealt cards of poetic phrases, giving two to each coach and placing two more group cards in the middle. Coaches then worked to create a multi-line poem using all four phrases available to them. Their passion for writing was clear as 35 coaches silently jotted out their ideas, before one coach shared his and blew us away with this outstanding poem:

“There’s no sunlight on this cold train, 
Darkness, nothing but darkness as it was going. 
but out of the darkness sprang a voice 
muffled, without void, yet plain, crisp, clean 
of a woman who could not endure without her nice, 
old, stale piece of pie.”

I was left feeling excited for the poetry this coach is going to help his team produce by the time the Poetry Slam! rolls around in December.

In the afternoon, coaches split up to participate in the first-ever leveled trainings. Through the new system, soccer and writing coaches advance to higher levels of training as they gain experience, enabling DC SCORES to implement a program that teaches coaches new skills to make their teams even stronger.

Upstairs in the steamy gymnasium, soccer coaches broke into Level One and Level Two training groups. The heat couldn’t deter the Level One coaches as they worked with Program Manager of Soccer Operations Carlos Fonseca on the fundamentals of the game. Coaches dribbled, passed, and shot their way around the room, before taking a role as students while Carlos led them through a mock practice session.

On the other side of the room, Level Two coaches focused on refining and developing their skills. Those returning coaches worked on their ball control, as well as changing their direction and speed with the ball.

“This was the most excited and engaged I have seen our coaches at one of our trainings,” Carlos said. “Having different levels of training really allowed our coaches to interact even more.”

The soccer coaches finished the day with tired legs and new ideas, while the writing coaches all convened to decorate the writing journals they will hand out to students next Monday. Speaking with some new coaches as they picked up their DC SCORES Coach shirts, I realized the role the day had played in transferring the passion of those who have been with the program for several years to those first-year coaches.

“I learned that with us encouraging poetry and writing through the children that we can become more than a sports team,” said one freshman coach.

“What really impressed me was seeing how the program positively impacts kids,” added another.

My only thought -- just wait until you get to see the program in action next week.