#TBT: Winterim In The Dominican Republic

My Experience by Bianca Drouin ’21

This is the one of an occasional series penned by students. The stories focus on their experiences at Lawrence Academy and within the school’s many programs. Enjoy!

The Mariposa Foundation

For my Winterim, I went to the Dominican Republic, where we worked with little girls and built a structure at The Mariposa Foundation. The Mariposa Foundation takes in girls who live in extreme poverty and gives them better education so they can have a better life than what was laid out for them by their socio-economic status. The Foundation takes girls starting at age 7 through high school graduation. The Foundation began in 2009, and it has grown tremendously since then.

The Maripositas

Every morning, we would get to the Mariposa Foundation at around 8:45 am. The first day, we were split up into groups of five to go to classes with the Maripositas. Every day my group would go to math, then reading, and then sports or board games. I became very close to one of the Maripositas named Katiana. She was adorable, sassy, and full of energy. Wherever we went, she would hold my hand and make sure I never left her side. These girls come from almost nothing, yet they are the happiest I have ever seen a child. They all have such an energy about them that radiated joy and compassion in everything they do.

“Eco-brick” Project

During our time in the Dominican Republic, we built the Maripositas a music room made out of “eco-bricks,” which are water bottles compacted with trash. We used these because of the trash problem in the Dominican. The streets are littered with plastic and garbage that people will throw on the ground, not thinking about how it could affect the environment. Using these “eco-bricks” will help put some of this trash to better use. The Mariposa Foundation paid locals to find water bottles and stuff them with debris. 2,000 bottles were collected, and we used every last one. Each day from around 1pm to 4pm we worked on this structure; by the end of the 10 days we were there, our work was finished!

The Blue Moon Retreat Center

During our stay in the Dominican Republic, we stayed at the Blue Moon Retreat Center. There were four bungalows that we all lived in for 10 days. There was even a saltwater pool next to the huts, where we ate breakfast and dinner. The owner of the Blue Moon would cook our food, which consisted of all different meal styles everyday. The owners live in a house on the top of the hill, which the Blue Moon sits upon. They have two kids named Samuel and Khyla, two dogs named Luna and Rico, and a cat named Cookie. Samuel and Khyla would come down during dinner to eat and hang out with us. They loved spending time with everyone. We all became very close to these kids and loved them just as much as they loved us.

Life-Changing

Throughout Winterim, my group became very close. I didn’t know most of the people who came with me to the Dominican, but by the end of it, we were all good friends. Furthermore, this trip really opened my eyes to how good we all have it living in the United States, going to a private school, and having a safe home. As such, I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity and wouldn’t trade anything for this incredible experience.

Check out Bianca’s gallery from the Dominican Republic

Mr. Smith Goes To The Dungeon

It’s always interesting to see what is going on behind the scenes. And nothing more more interesting to students than to see what makes their teachers tick, right?

Case in point: This week Scott Smith is debuting a Kickstarter for his latest off-hours project – a tabletop game called “Dungeon Drop.”

Yep, one of the teachers who offers the Winterim, “Beyond Monopoly: Board Game Design,” is producing an actual game of his own invention – neat how that works!

Scott Smith and “Dungeon Drop”

Growing Up Gaming

“I grew up with gaming as a thing, you know?” explained Scott when he visited the Communications Office to show us the new game. “I’m a father now, but I’m kind of part of this first generation of people that aren’t innately averse to gaming.

“But at this phase of my life, just sitting down at the computer and doing that type of gaming is not so appealing anymore,” continued Scott. “Board games are a wonderful way to make gaming a part of your adult life; where you can sit down at a table with your friends… [and] I can game with my kids and it feels good.

“We’re talking together and we’re sharing actual time at a real table together,” said Scott, with a smile. “As opposed to the kind of guilt that goes along with just staring at a screen.”

Dungeon Drop: Game-Play

With a quick paced game like “Dungeon Drop,” there’s very little staring at any one thing. Check out the game-play video from Tantrum House, who reviewed “Dungeon Drop,” below:

The impetus for Smith’s game was a contest on “Game Crafter“; a game design competition, which employed restrictions that had Mr. Smith’s mind churning (about a game that needed to be constructed only from “bits and pieces”).

“I kept thinking about it and just was on ride home from the grocery store one day and came up with this idea,” said Scott. “I was going to design a game that didn’t have any [board or traditional printed components] and I wanted a way to visualize something cool that made sense to me.”

Voila! Thus was born the unique design for “Dragon Drop.”

Creating Abstraction

“So basically the whole idea for the game was kind of circumventing the restriction of having this really abstract game. I wanted to actually be able to see a ‘picture’,” explained Smith. “So I came up with this idea that you drop all these random pieces, but once you understood what you were looking at… you actually started to visualize an actual dungeon on the table.”

And as far his team, Scott was thrilled to see both the game, and the team take shape.

“Everybody wants this; this feeling that a whole small team of people are working really hard together for the same goal… So that’s another great thing.

Scott Smith

“And in the Winterim, that’s a part of it, too,” added Smith, who saw shades of his own process in the work of his students. “For their final project, the students are in a small group and trying to work to each other’s strengths.”

English, Art… Game Design?

Looking at Mr. Smith, and watching him explain the ins-and-outs of the rules, and the game’s design, it was fun to think that the once English teacher, turned Art teacher, may now carry the title “Game Designer.”

“Oh, right now I still say I’m an arts teacher, which is absolutely true,” said Smith. “That is what I do for a living.

“But yeah, the more you do some of this stuff, the more you do start to incorporate it into your language of who you are.”