Open Connections

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Virtual-Program Updates

We at Open Connections has been stretching our Flexible Thinking muscles this spring with virtual learning while the campus is closed.  Below we share some snap-shots of what has been happening in our programs!


Here are links to jump to specific programs, or you can scroll through all of them!

Pre-Open Program (ages 2-4)

Open Program (ages 4-8)

Group Tutorial I (ages 7-8)

Group Tutorial II (ages 9-10)

Group Tutorial III (ages 11-12)

Group Tutorial IV (ages 13-14)

Shaping Your Life (ages 15-18)

Choice I (ages 8-10)

Choice II (ages 10-12)

Choice III (ages 13-16)

Theater I (ages 7-10)

Theater II (ages 11-14) 

  • Elliott
  • Zach

Pre-Open Program (ages 2-4)

Youth in the Pre-Open Program (Pre-OP) have been meeting every Monday morning for 20 minutes to see friends and maintain their connections!  For each meeting, youth have the option to share something with the group. Youth often enjoy sharing a “favorite” – a favorite book, outdoor activity, thing to wear, etc.  They then enjoy listening to a book read to them by Pre-OP facilitator Allie Neilson. 


Pre-OP youth and their families also receive an email each week with three (optional) activity ideas (including a materials list and suggestions for various ways to conduct the activity). This usually includes an option for a sensory activity, a gross-motor or fine-motor activity and a conceptual development activity. Recent examples include:

  •  Sensory Activity:  Float vs. Sink?  Experimenting with various household items to find out whether they sink or float.

  • Gross Motor Activity:  Disposable Cup Bowling! Experiment with different ways to stack and position the cups and then learn together how differently stacked/positioned cups might knock over with a variety of ball sizes.

  • Conceptual Development Activity:  Matching/Memory Game.  A parent creates a design or pattern (using blocks/crayons/pieces of paper cut into shapes) and youth are offered the opportunity to copy the pattern either by looking at it/matching it or from memory.   

  • josh letter book
  • op emilia painting

Open Program (ages 4-8) 


The Facilitators for the Open Program at OC have been working incredibly hard to “translate” OP activities into equally engaging and inspiring learning opportunities for all the youth in Open Program (OP) using a range of distance learning tools! Here are the 3 main options available to OP youth.


1.)  OP youth can join their friends and Facilitators first thing in the morning on their regularly scheduled program days to connect! After a brief welcome with the whole group, youth spend a short time in smaller group break-out ‘rooms’ on Zoom. At this time, youth each have the opportunity to share something specific like a project they have been working on at home, a story of what they did over the weekend, or even a “show and tell” with their favorite pet! After the breakout room, youth all rejoin the large group and engage in a hands-on activity. To end, they enjoy a collaborative song together led by the Facilitators.


2.)  Later in the day, all OP youth have the option to participate in a(nother) Facilitator-led activity on Zoom. Some recent examples of these activities include:


  • A Trip to the Beach! After taking turns sharing what they chose to “bring” to the beach, they created a bar graph of all the items. Youth also had the option to create a small book of their own personal Beach Trip story.

  • Will it Float or Sink? Youth arrived at this activity with a bucket of water and a variety of items they had gathered. Youth were able to create a chart and track which items sank and which floated. Youth were excited to share their hypotheses and results with the group!

  • “Tiny Town” Creations! Youth were presented with the challenge to combine their engineering skills and creativity to create a “Tiny Town” using recycled items. Youth enjoyed working ‘alongside’ their peers on live Zoom, and many continued working long after the online session ended.


3.)  Youth also have a 3rd option -- OP Facilitators provide pre-recorded video activities in a variety of areas (science, artistic expression, reading, writing, gross/fine-motor development, etc.) for youth who wish to have the flexibility and freedom to do OP-inspired activities at their own pace. Youth can then upload their own video to share their experience with their peers! Examples of some of these activities include a walk outdoors to collect various items in nature to use to create “Nature People”, and a reading of a book about a young girl pilot, some printable guides for creating various paper airplane designs, a suggestion to test the four designs, and a printable guide for youth to record their hypothesis and results.


  • op emilia and jane s
  • op james

Group Tutorial I (ages 7-8)


Shubho Noboborsho to you all! This is the traditional greeting for the Bengali New Year which occurred on April 14th this year and which we explored during a Zoom meeting via a colorful slideshow. The original plan for this day was a campus-wide celebration of unity and acceptance, so it is rather bittersweet for us to mark the moment from home instead.


Group Tutorial I (GT I) has continued some of their favorite activities such as Attribute Block challenges and logic puzzles from home. In addition, they have started a read-aloud book called Fortunately The Milk, a humorous adventure story about a simple trip to the market, with some fantasy/science fiction flare. Facilitators have designed a series of activities inspired by the themes in the story for youth to do outside of their live meeting time including a language arts activity called Name That Thing, another milk science activity called Milk Plastic, a make your own Deity Flipgrid activity, an activity that explores the process of invention, painting alpanas (traditional Bengali designs that are painted on thresholds, sidewalks & streets on special occasions), a simple extension activity on Flipgrid about time travel, and instructions on how to make a lassi - a traditional Bangladeshi beverage. 


Another element introduced is a chapter book called Tiger Boy. It is written by Mitali Perkins, the author of Rickshaw Girl, and is a wonderful story that the youth really enjoy reading at home. The group spent a little time going deeper into the character of Bon Bibi, the deity known in both Bangladesh & India as the protector of the Sunderbans (the setting of Tiger Boy), and, as a group, virtually explored this region of India.


The group has also enjoyed a Mini Peer Facilitation on cheese! One element of this facilitation was a vegan cheese-making demonstration. The recipe was shared with everyone so they can try making their own vegan cheese too. Young people also had the opportunity to share their creations for The Cheese Restaurant, the hands-on component of the MPF. Their creations ranged from delicious to outrageous and included several cheese-based desserts (yum).


For their Word Presents, GT I has decided to use pre-made blank books this year, and plan to compile "kits" for each young person that will contain a blank book, the WPs written to them from other group members, and photos.  When they get their kit, each youth can create their own personalized book to wrap-up the year!

  • gt i shep
  • gt i emmy

Group Tutorial II (ages 9-11)


Youth in Group Tutorial II (GT II) are enjoying a range of engaging, inspiring and collaborative learning activities that have been thoughtfully crafted by their facilitators!  GT II youth and facilitators meet “live” on Zoom twice a week:  Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9:30 – 11 am.


A typical day for a GT II youth often starts with a few minutes for check-in and catching up and perhaps a fun question to get everyone thinking (and laughing!) to start their program session. The main activity for the GT II day taps into a range of learning areas and skill-building for youth: presenting ideas and research, writing, math, critical thinking, artistic expression, exploration of science and nature, etc.  


“Peer Facilitations”, which offers each young person the opportunity to spend a number of weeks doing research into a topic of their choosing, preparing a presentation and a related activity for the group, have continued in a virtual format. Topics ranged from venomous snakes, the history of chocolate, guinea pigs, crystals, foxes and Shih Tzus.  Peers offered feedback about each presentation on FlipGrid (an online platform that offers the opportunity for youth to connect by posting a video response to an activity or a question).


Last week, youth in Thursday GT II started to share their Science Project presentations with the group.  Fascinating topics so far have included elephant toothpaste & yeast, strawberry decay, how to wash off germs, and the reaction of Mentos & soda.  After each presentation, peers and facilitators have been creating a virtual ebook on Book Creator for each youth to provide specific appreciations about each presentation.


In a recent math activity, youth were challenged to create an “EstiMystery” in which they filled a jar with many of the same or similar objects collected from around their home (lentils, paper clips, small chocolates, LEGO bricks, etc) and then made a video with mathematical clues to assist their peers in estimating how many objects were in the jar. 


GT II youth have also spent time researching a Naturalist and sharing their findings with their peers; sharing a review about a book that they’ve read; using any unique materials/medium to create a scene from a book that GT II had been reading together this year; and a challenge to complete a random act of kindness.

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  • gt ii

Group Tutorial III (ages 11-12)


Group Tutorial III (GT III) has been connecting through Zoom and Flipgrid, exercising their science, math, writing and creative muscles. They’ve engaged in a discussion and demonstration on chemical reactions. Afterward, young people were given an optional hands-on lab activity using baking soda and vinegar. The challenge was to control the product of a chemical reaction by predicting and testing ratios to get the reaction of bubbling/gas to rise to the top of the container without spilling over. Building on the idea of chemical reactions where the substances don’t disappear but merely rearrange, the group discussed balancing mathematical equations. This led to another activity that encouraged youth to design an Alexander Calder inspired mobile to explore balancing materials.


Creativity and flexible thinking abounded in the repurpose/upcycle fashion “trashion” challenge! Earth Day inspired the group to discuss the different efforts that have been made to decrease waste: reduce, recycle, reuse, and repurpose. They learned about a company called Terracycle that works with companies to collect items that are difficult to recycle and find what can be made of them. Young people were challenged to create an accessory (hat, belt, bag) with recycled items that they had at their disposal, either something that have a lot of or that caught their eye. 


A group problem-solving challenge included some riddles from TED ED such as Einstein’s Riddle. They worked to solve this as a group and were very enthusiastic. Facilitators provided information on these riddles to encourage deeper thinking and a continuation of finding possible solutions at home. 


April was National Poetry Month and the GT III program used this as an opportunity to explore and create original poetry. Earlier in the year the group had explored concrete poetry, acrostic poetry, and haikus. More recently, diamante poetry was introduced. Young people created a seven line poem that forms the shape of a diamond -- the first line is one noun, second line is two adjectives, three verbs make up the next line, the fourth line has four nouns, the fifth line is three verbs, sixth line is two adjectives and last line is one noun. Facilitators suggested two poems, one using antonyms and another using synonyms for the first and last lines. 


Natural Science projects have continued, but presentations have moved to a virtual format. Most youth were able to carry on with the experiments that they had originally designed. Currently youth are posting their video presentations on Flipgrid and peers are able to leave video responses. Young people are also sharing their presentations with the group live on Zoom. 

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  • Ruby

Group Tutorial IV (ages 13-14)


Group Tutorial IV (GT IV) has continued their major projects and plans while transitioning to virtual learning. Facilitators worked hard to make this transition as smooth as possible. The large group meets “live” on Zoom each Tuesday and Thursday to connect and engage in games and discussions. Oftentimes, the large group is split up into smaller “breakout rooms” for these activities. For part of these “live” meetings, time is spent discussing what each young person can work on in between virtual meetings. 


During one week, young people were asked to record their TED talks, which were a short presentation that came out of their comprehensive research projects. Topics included Overpopulation, The Benefits of Immigrant Doctors, Playing a Musical Instruments vs. Taking a Foreign Language in High School, and Global Warming. These videos were shared through the group’s Flipgrid platform (an online platform that offers the opportunity for youth to connect by posting video responses), and peers had the opportunity to reply with their Balanced Responses.


The group began their Shakespere study during this time of virtual-learning, reading and discussing Two Gentlemen of Verona. Each week youth were asked to read an act on their own in preparation for discussions and activities with the group on Zoom. Fun games such as Shakespearean Balderdash have kept things light and engaging.


EXPO Science projects have continued with a focus on analyzing results, graphing, writing abstracts, and creating slideshow presentations. Projects include Dry Ice Bombs, Ant Mazes, and Microplastics in Fabric. All projects will be presented via Zoom to the OC community. 


Thursday Group discussions have recently included Science World articles, ethics of consumerism and the ethics of reopening the country and economy post COVID-19. They even learned about exponential growth in terms of the current pandemic.


The end of the program year is approaching, signaled by the writing of word presents! Facilitators will collect and send word presents to each young person to wrap up the year.



  • syl lucas
  • syl hannah

Shaping Your Life Program (ages 15-18)


The Shaping Your Life Program has transitioned to virtual learning with grace and style, maintaining a 10:00 am - 2:30 pm schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Time is dedicated each week to check-in with each member of the group to maintain the group's sense of community, even in the virtual world. On Tuesdays, the focus is on Math and Science, and on Thursdays the Humanities and Life Skills. 


Mornings are spent working together on explorations and activities, after which is a break for an hour of lunch and group games. The physical activities are facilitated by a rotating schedule of Facilitators and young people (scavenger hunts, yoga, workouts, sports challenges are just a few of the examples). In the afternoon, young people break into smaller groups to explore subjects for five-week sessions. “Poetry”, “Presidential Reactions to Crisis”, “Growing Farmers (creating a vegetable garden)" with Greener Partners Agricultural Director and OC parent, Amy Johnson, “The connection between nature and math -- Fibonacci and more”, and “Looking at the structure and function of DNA, including the Coronavirus” are the current choice offerings.   


Here are a few highlights of projects that the group has engaged in in the mornings. The group traditionally uses the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as the context for learning about the formulas within Google Sheets. With the tournament canceled, the group used probability and linear algebra to simulate the tournament and make predictions. Included in SYL's “March Madness” were digitally created posters for predicted champions, partnered podcasts analyzing the simulations, and lots of fun. Examining the latest statistics and information concerning COVID-19 provides a real-world context for ethical debates and critical thinking skills in the Sciences. On Shakespeare's birthday in April, SYL staged a group reading of Julius Caesar, in full costumes, over Zoom! (see link below)  The SYL teens also participated in a group cook-off, challenging teams to create dishes at home and present them to the group with creative descriptions of their tasty experience. 


Link to video of SYL reading Shakespeare

  • Owen potato gardener SYL

Choice I (ages 8-10 years)


Choice I: Olympics - This group have had fun together virtually exploring the Summer Olympics of both past and present. Some topics that have been explored include the Ancient Olympics, the 2020 (2021) Host Country - Japan, the history of the Olympic Torch Relay, how Olympic Medals are made, new events to the Summer 2020 (2021) Olympics, the Olympic mascots, the science behind track and field events, famous Olympic athletes, the Paralympics, music of the Olympics, and the Olympics of the future. The mornings together start with an Olympic Brain Wake-Up Activity. Youth had the opportunity to complete weekly Flipgrid bonus activities related to the topics discussed on Zoom. 


Choice I: Mindfulness in Nature - Youth in this offering have engaged in making nature mandalas as well as guided imagery. They have used Flipgrid to create and share their creations and experiences with peers. During their program time they had the opportunity to go outside and listen, and then write down what they heard. Each time they are encouraged to focus on hearing different sounds. They have also practiced relaxing their bodies and being as still as possible. During the past two weeks young people chose a sit spot where they would sit comfortably and listen. Then they each had the opportunity to create a Flipgrid video about the different things they noticed while being quiet and still. 


Choice I: Sportsmanship - This choice offering has provided young people the opportunity to learn the history of sports and rules of each game. During the first week, these youth focused on the sport of baseball and all of the terminology involved in the game and in scorekeeping. During the second and third weeks, football was the focus. Next was two weeks of basketball. They will wrap up by learning about soccer and the lesser known sport of marble racing.


Choice I: Zine - Young people have learned the history of Zine, different styles, and approaches to making and creating Zines. They have been encouraged to experiment and create their own Zine and have had the opportunity to share their process and creations through Flipgrid as well as during live group meetings. They are considering creating a group zine.

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  • Noah

Choice II (ages 10-12)


Choice II: Zine - Young people have learned the history of Zine, different styles, and approaches to making and creating Zines. They have been encouraged to experiment and create their own Zine and have had the opportunity to share their process and creations through Flipgrid as well as during live group meetings. They are now working to create a group zine called “Quaran-zine” in which each young person will create a page reflecting on their quarantine experience.


Choice II: Arduino - The Arduino choice has been busy each week learning a new arduino coding skill such as how to set up a pin output to turn on an LED and coding for a photoresistor, ultrasonic sensor, and servo motor. Each week young people have had the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned to a project/invention and share about it through Flipgrid.


Choice II: Parkour - The first week this group learned how to do a Parkour roll, which is different from a somersault in that it protects your spine from rough surfaces such as concrete. They have also learned how to do safety vaults - going over something using hand and leg - and speed vaults, using just your hand. Last week they started individual coaching on their Parkour rolls, receiving tips on how to improve for safety. They also had the opportunity to learn how to do precision jumps and half-turns in the air. Young people were encouraged to develop combinations and post videos to Flipgrid to share with their peers.


Choice II AND Choice III: Mudder Masters - This group of excited young people have worked together for five weeks to plan out the route and individual challenges for this year’s OC Mudder including the finale. Some classic Mudder challenges will return this year like dumpster diving, Palmolive Hill, and swimming in the pond. T-shirt designs have been discussed as well. They are hoping to set up and run the Mudder this summer!

 Choice III (ages 13-16)


Choice III: Mudder Masters - see above in Choice II


Choice III: Short Stories - Young people in the Short Stories choice have been reading classic short stories and discussing components of short stories and microstories, character-building, “showing rather than telling”, and story outlines while working on their original writing. They each have been encouraged to write their own original microstory and short story.


Choice III: Arduino - The Arduino choice has been busy each week learning a new arduino coding skill such as how to set up a pin output to turn on an LED and coding for a photoresistor, ultrasonic sensor, and servo motor. Each week young people have had the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned to a project/invention and share about it through Flipgrid.

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  • ch iii arduino

Theater I (ages 7-10)


OC youth in Theater I have been focusing their weekly virtual meeting times on improvisational and character development skills. Youth started with a challenge to incorporate three words into an unrelated, improvised scene. The following week, youth transitioned into creating their own improvised scenarios and characters.

To work on character development, youth gathered at least one prop (any item of their choosing) and any costume pieces if they desired. Once these items were gathered, youth created a character around their chosen props and costume pieces, and introduced themselves in character to the audience. They then built upon this by having their created characters interact with one another in scenes. 

All of these new improvisational, comedic and character development skills are building up to a mini-show which these youth in Theater I are going to create and submit as part of OC’s end-of-year (virtual) Pausing Ceremony on Friday, June 5th.


Theater II (ages 11-14)

The Theater II group has been busy running lines, completing character studies, and writing their bios. Each young person created a video recording to share their answers to the character study questions with their peers on Flipgrid. They plan to discuss blocking virtually and have each actor/actress take detailed notes to make the transition back to in-person rehearsals as smooth as possible! 


As a back-up plan, they have begun recording their virtual dress rehearsals to share with the OC community. With very little preparation time, young people whipped together their costumes for these recorded sessions -- homeschoolers are so resourceful!


  • SYL mandala
  • SYL mandala