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Young Students Inspired to Write and Teach

Panagiota Lilikaki is an English teacher at A. FANTIS school in the community of Saints Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Brooklyn who knows that imagination and simple crafts and activities go together as spurs to creativity.

“In my 8th grade English class, I guided my students into writing informational essays by following Malia Wollan's writing style. Wollan publishes her own articles weekly in the New York Times Magazine, and I love reading them every Sunday!”

“I have submitted some of the articles that my students wrote to The National Herald. I feel that they captured the journalist's style while also having fun,” Lilikaki said – and the tips from authors wise-beyond-their-years are delightful. 

How to Dutch Braid Hair

By Lila Pfitzer

“Under the strand, not over!” says the braid expert, Bailey Joyce. “If you put the strand under the braid it will puff up more and look fuller, instead of being flat or one dimensional. If you’re confused about which strand to pick up next, think of what you did last and do the opposite. I know it sounds confusing at first, but it just takes some practice. Have the strands in your hand at all times – it helps to pull tighter to see what your last move was, it makes it more defined,” Joyce explains.

Most of us know how to do a basic three-strand braid, but many cannot do more complex braids, such as the Dutch braid, which actually originates in the country of Algeria. And unlike a French braid, a Dutch braid has more volume. It makes your hair look thicker, and the overall look of the braid is more apparent.

Most of the time it’s rather hard to explain the step-by-step process, so when practicing, it’s helpful to have someone to demonstrate on. My babysitter, for example, taught me by using my sister’s long, thick hair. I remember one time she accidentally gave her the wrong type of braid. “Hopefully she won’t notice,” she said. Still, you should try to be attentive to make sure you’re following the right steps.

To start off, section the top of the hair into three equal parts (they should be quite small since it’s only the top of your head). Then, you start braiding by taking one of the outer strands and putting it under the middle. Keep alternating which side you're grabbing. As you are braiding it, grab pieces from the rest of your head. By the end of the process, you should have incorporated all of your hair into a full, luscious Dutch braid.

Worst case scenario: You can also just research and find a video explaining the process. For example, You Tube is a great way to find any video about anything. Joyce recommends finding someone who does hair tutorials regularly, so you know they’re reliable. Bookmark that video so you can always go back to it, to reattempt it.

Always end the braid with some type of elastic – a scrunchie, a coil, even a ribbon. Switch it up based on where you're going, or how long you’re going to be there. People often stray away from new things in fear of messing up. It’s okay to have to restart! Don’t worry about messing up one step. Making a mistake is not going to kill you. It could kill the braid though!

How to Film a TikTok Dance

By Raegan Sullivan

“You just have to be authentic,” says Charli D’Aamelio, a popular TikTok creator.

That is a good mindset to begin with. You shouldn’t feel the need to blend in. TikTok is all about standing out. There are trends that everyone does, but it is better to put your own twist on them! Simply be yourself, not a clone of everyone else. This inspires confidence in yourself, and you will look assertive in your video. When TikTok became popular last year, there were over 40 million users in the United States alone! Now, there are 800 million worldwide! There is no handbook or checklist for how to film a video, but I can provide new TikTok creators with a general guide.

When you can’t decide what sound to use or dance to do, just pick something you’re comfortable with and would enjoy looking at every time you go to your page. Now that you’ve picked a dance and song, just learn it. Simply watch and re-watch a video of someone performing, such as: an influencer, a dancer, or the creator. Keep re-watching the video until you can do it by yourself. I recommend using the same video the entire time. Even though you are following someone else's video, remember to do something to make yours memorable and special.

After you gain confidence in what you are doing, pick a spot to film. This could be in your room, in a place that will draw people’s attention, or just outside on the street. That is going to set the tone of the video, whether you are taking it seriously or casually. Once you pick a spot, just start filming. Don’t be afraid to mess up. It’s totally okay to refilm tons of times. Nobody can get it perfect on their first attempt, so don’t worry. Save a few videos you have created, and when you are done filming, pick your favorite one; don’t forget to watch it over! Once you pick the best one, you can choose to edit your video by using bling effects or adding text – perhaps you can even put the beauty filter on! After all, this is the Internet.

The last step is to write a caption. You don’t want to make something too cringey. You may like the video, but in a little while you may not like the caption. You might want to not even put a caption – just put a hashtag. Most of the time putting a hashtag can boost your video views. If you want it to get famous, this is an important part. You can also choose to just write something, adding on to what is in the video, such as what you are doing, where you are, or why you filmed it. Make sure to not take any of this too seriously, because it’s just a TikTok!

How to Climb Trees

By Anne Rodrigues

Climbing trees can seem intimidating at first, but with time and practice you will get the hang of it. There are different purposes and ways to climb trees. Whether you are doing it leisurely, in pursuit of fruit, or as a challenge, there are some basic concepts that encompass all.

There are many different techniques, depending on the person’s purpose and style. For all techniques of climbing trees, you first need a way to get into the tree. Some styles are: aided climbing using a rope, frog foot, and front foot method – which uses a coir loop rope – and free climbing. Remember, for any method of climbing, keep your safety and care for the tree in mind!

Free tree climbing is the most common style, and it has been used throughout history. With free climbing, individuals climb up limbs and structures to get into the tree. Learning by doing is the best way to learn tree climbing, so if you can, get out there and give it a try!  When starting to climb, grab hold of a branch and use it to hoist yourself up. Then try to get a foot hold so you can reach for a higher branch. In addition to being fun, tree climbing gives you good exercise – climbing trees works muscles that are not normally used elsewhere. Keep in mind that if you do not get it at first, it is Ok, and practice will help you get better.

Hopefully, the feeling of climbing a tree pays off and makes it worth the effort – that wonder, and peace you get from taking a moment from the top of a tree. And not only that, but you will be in the embrace of something that is alive!

Climbers that climb for the purpose of getting fruit have another story. To climb a coconut tree, the frog/front foot method is used. The only thing needed for this is a coiled rope. The rope should be made of strong and sturdy material, such as coir, so that it will be able to hold your weight. The first step is choosing a tree. Pick a tree that you can wrap your arms around. Because coconut trees are tall with no branches, a tree leaning at an angle will be easier to climb. Once your tree is picked, it is time to start climbing! Fit the coiled rope around your feet, and secure it with a strong knot. Climbers take off their shoes and socks before they do this so that they will be able to grip the tree better. An important thing to note is that climbing barefoot will hurt at first, but with practice your feet will get tougher. To start the climb, climbers grip the tree on both sides with their hands opposite from each other. Then they place the soles of their feet against the tree. Their feet will be faced inward, and their legs will be bent outwards, like a frog. That is why this is called the frog foot method. The rope is used for support, and as a leverage point when you push up. Once on the tree, climbers push themselves up with their feet, bringing them higher. Then they move their arms higher also. Here is where it gets a little tricky: climbers have to quickly pull their feet up to reposition them higher. During the time when your feet are in the air, it is important to hold on tight with your arms as you pull yourself up. This process is repeated until climbers get to the top, in which case they can pick the coconuts.

As with all tree climbing, whichever method you choose, respect the tree and have confidence in yourself. That is the key. Tree climbing is a wonderful way to get a new perspective on the world. As the Tree Climbers International says, “a calmness, a disconnect from the busy world below. You’ll see, hear, and feel nature in a whole new way. You'll feel invigorated, too. Whatever your experience, tree climbing takes you into another world, and it can be as close as the branches of the tree in your own yard.”

How to Write Free-Verse Poems

By Anna Hunt

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings,” says W.H Auden, one of the most famous poets of the 20th century, known for his “chameleon-like ability” to write poetry in any verse-form. He has written four hundred poems in his lifetime, seven of them being book-length poetry. Auden’s poetry is one of the most influential in the 20th century, most of his poetry being concerned with moral issues with a psychological context. Yet, poetry does not specifically need to address politics, or moral issues. It can simply be one’s love for a specific subject, or one’s feelings toward something transpiring in one’s life. Poetry is the expression of your feelings, something that lets you, the poet, express yourself in any way you optate; specifically, free-verse poetry. Free-verse poetry, allows the writer to indite poetry in any structure they want. Although many times we see people struggling to express their feelings, it doesn’t mean we should just give up on poetry. 

I’ve had many personal experiences while writing poetry, when I have been on the receiving end of writer’s block. Two years ago, we had an upcoming poetry recital for school and although I really wanted to write my own poem, yet for many days I couldn’t think of anything right; it was really frustrating. But I learned a lesson from times like these:  you cannot force yourself to write! Instead, you have to let ideas flow freely and naturally.

One of the first and most consequential steps in writing poetry is finding something that you are profoundly passionate about. This can range from your cat, to the shoes you bought the other day. It can also be a policy, or feelings that you feel vigorous about; feelings such as anxiety, sadness, or a current political event. When a writer is passionate about a subject, or has strong feelings towards an experience, it motivates them, keeping them more focused and committed, as well as sparking creativity. As a poetry writer myself, once I find a subject I am passionate about, I draw down images or thoughts that come to my head. This usually helps develop the poem further, or inspires me to write more. 

The last step of writing a free-verse poem is bringing all your ideas together. Allowing them to flow, as they emerge out of your head, or simply bringing together all the previous ideas you had about the topic, is completely fine. Free-verse poetry does not have any structure; ergo, it does not matter how many words are in a stanza or how many stanzas are written. It could be 6 words, or 700 words, it does not matter how much one writes, but rather, how one expresses themself. Like Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, once said “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” A poem goes far beyond simple writing of words, it is a way to express everything you are feeling. A poem is a great way to finally get everything off of your chest; be it the burden of the world you are writing about, or the sandwich you ate yesterday, poetry is beautiful. 

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