boy with homemade cape and sunglasses triumphantly looking at the sky

Calling all students across New York City! It doesn’t matter which borough you’re from or which grade you are in, you can join the fun and maybe even win a prize or two. The NYC Department of Education is hosting citywide summer challenges during the weeks July 13, 2020 through August 17, 2020. There will be something exciting for everyone, grades K-12, including: 

  • Expressing yourself through dance or song
  • Designing a better world in Minecraft
  • A backyard bird scavenger hunt
  • An urban design challenge (for students in grades 6-12)
  • And much more!

New challenges are posted each week, so bookmark this page and check back regularly!

Select submissions will be displayed on Flipgrid, for everyone to see! All submissions must be submitted to Flipgrid. For tips on how to use Flipgrid and record your screen, see the Tips for Submitting to Flipgrid page.

Week 1 (July 13–17): Theater and Visual Arts

The theme for week one is two fold: theater and visual arts! Each grade band has four theater-themed challenges and five visual-arts-themed challenges. All submissions are due by 5PM on August 7, 2020.

Grades K–5

Theater Challenge 1: Plot Your Life
Imagine this: You are making a Broadway show about your life. Your show will need an order of events (a plot), so in this challenge, you make a plot timeline of your life so far. Get something to write with, or a computer to type on, and start by writing down the year you were born. Then add one important event from each year of your life and the year it happened. For example, when you started school, when you lost your first tooth, or when you met your best friend. If you’re feeling extra creative, add future events! These should be things you want to happen, for example, visiting a new place or graduating from school. Feel free to add drawings or photos to your plotline. Upload a picture of your plotline on Flipgrid K-5 Plot Timeline.

Theater Challenge 2: Design a Show Poster
Now that you have written a plot for your show, you need a poster to promote it! In this challenge, design a poster that will make people want to see your show. Use paper, colored pencils, crayons, or markers. You can also ask an adult to help you cut images out of a magazine or newspaper to glue on your poster. Make sure to include the title of your show, the location where it will be performed, and the date and time! Upload a photo of your finished poster to FlipGrid: K-5 Show Poster.

Theater Challenge 3: Write and Perform a Monologue, Song, or Scene
Using the plot timeline you created in Challenge 1, you are now going to choose one of the events on your plot timeline and write and perform a monologue (a short speech made by one character), song, or scene depicting that event. Film yourself performing your monologue, song, or scene and upload the video to FlipGrid K-5 Lyrical.

Theater Challenge 4: Write an Awards Speech
Imagine this: you’ve won an award for your performance in your show. Now you have to write and give your acceptance speech! Write your acceptance speech and share a video of you accepting your award. To write your speech, think of all the people and things that have helped you get here (family, friends, teachers, fans, pets), or an inspiring quote from your favorite movie, book, or artist. Once your speech has been written, dress up in your favorite fancy outfit and perform your speech in front of a camera. Ask an adult or friend to film you. Upload the video to FlipGrid: K-5 Award Speech.

Visual Arts Challenge 1: Draw a Blind Contour
To warm up your hands and eyes, make a blind contour drawing. A blind contour drawing is made without looking at what you are drawing! Watch this 6-minute video from the Smithsonian to see what it’s all about. When you're done, submit your drawing to FlipGrid: K-5 Blind Contour.

Visual Arts Challenge 2: Draw Your Favorite Food
Think of your favorite food and then draw a picture of it! Don’t forget the details! Submit a photo of your drawing to FlipGrid: K-5 Favorite Food

Visual Arts Challenge 3: Draw Your Favorite Object
We all have objects that we love. They may have been given to us from someone we love, or they might remind us of a happy time. Choose an object that is special in your life--it could be important to you or someone in your family--and draw a picture of that object. When you're done, upload your drawing to FlipGrid: K-5 Favorite Object.

Visual Arts Challenge 4: Design an Album Cover for Your Favorite Song
Design an album cover inspired by your favorite song. You can draw it, paint it, or make a collage. Let your imagination run wild! When you’re done, upload your album cover to FlipGrid: K-5 Album Cover

Visual Arts Challenge 5: Create a Self-Portrait
Use any of the images you have created in challenges 5-8 to create a self-portrait. (A self-portrait is a picture of you made by you!) Draw a picture of yourself by blind contour, draw yourself next to a picture of your favorite food, or draw whatever comes in your head as you listen to your favorite song--the possibilities are endless! Share your self portrait on FlipGrid: K-5 Self Portrait.

Grades 6–12

Theater Challenge 1: Write a Monologue
A monologue is a speech given by a single character. In this speech the character expresses his/her thoughts and feelings aloud to another character, characters, or the audience. Follow the steps below to create your own monologue.

  1. Start off with a quick free-write session. Here are some prompts to get you started:
    • What you need to know about me is…
    • What I need you to understand is...
    • I am...
    • I wish that...
    • Did you know that...
    • Don’t tell me to…
  2. Keep writing and let your imagination run free. Ultimately your monologue should tell a story about something, or take audiences on a journey.
  3. Rehearse your monologue. If you can, commit it to memory and rehearse with feelings and add in some physical gestures.
  4. Perform and film your monologue!
  5. Upload your video to FlipGrid: 6-12 Monologue

Theater Challenge 2: Rewrite Show Tune Lyrics
Show tunes tell a story and just like a monologue express the emotions and experiences of the singer. Do you have a favorite Broadway show tune? How might you rewrite the lyrics to that song to tell a story about who you are, an experience you have had, or an issue you feel is important? For example, you can rewrite the lyrics to “In the Room Where it Happened” from the musical Hamilton, to be about being stuck at home in quarantine.

For this challenge, listen to your favorite Broadway show tune, then create your own lyrics that tell your story! Put it all together and have a friend or family member film you performing your song, then upload your song to FlipGrid: 6-12 Show Tune

Theater Challenge 3: Design Costumes or Sets
Imagine that you are a character in a play. Your play could be set in any place or time, and you could be anyone you wish! Using your imagination, design your play’s costumes and sets! You can sketch your designs with paper and pencil, or with a digital drawing computer program, like Sketchpad. You can also clip images out of magazines and newspapers, or use images from Google. Take a photo of your design (or designs) and share it on FlipGrid: 6-12 Theater Design

Theater Challenge 4: Make a Magical Prop
Imagine you could invent an object with magical powers. What would it do? What problem would it solve? What would it look like? Use your answers to these questions to create a magical object, and then...a video commercial for your object! You can use a few items from around the house (for example, a paper towel roll, a paper clip, and a wooden spoon) to create your magical object. Then perform, record, and upload your commercial to FlipGrid: 6-12 Magical Prop

Visual Arts Challenge 1: Create a Self-Portrait
Show people who you are by creating a self-portrait. You'll need a mirror (or a camera to take a selfie), and a paper and pencil. Crayons or colored pencils are optional. Submit your self-portrait to FlipGrid: 6-12 Mirror, Mirror

Visual Arts Challenge 2: Create an Abstract Self-Portrait
Can you create a self-portrait only using symbols? For this activity, think of objects, numbers and words that might tell people about you. You can create a self-portrait that is symbolic because it uses elements that have a personal meaning for you. Invite your family members to do this too. Submit your self-portrait to FlipGrid: 6-12 The Face Off

Visual Arts Challenge 3: Compose a Personal Still-Life
A still life is a portrait of objects that don't move. And just like a self-portrait, a still life can tell people a lot about you. Follow the steps in the attachment to create a personal still life portrait of yourself. Family members can try this too. Upload your work to FlipGrid: 6-12 Freeze!

Visual Arts Challenge 4: Dream Outside Your Window
Windows are often described as the eyes of a building. For this challenge, look outside your favorite window. First, sketch what you see. Then, sketch a fanciful, imaginative view of what might be outside your window. Submit your sketches to FlipGrid: 6-12 Daydream Believer

Visual Arts Challenge 5: Visual Arts Wrap Up!
You have created many works of art during our Summer Arts Challenge. You have made: a contour line self-portrait, a drawing from a photo of yourself, a self-portrait using symbols that tell us about you, a still life of objects that tell us more about you, a realistic view outside of your window a fanciful, and an imaginary view outside of your window. Now let’s wrap up with a final challenge! Select one work of art that you have created…and write a poem about it! Submit your poem to FlipGrid: 6-12 Visual Arts Wrap Up

Week 2 (July 20–24): Bird Watching

Grades K–5

Audubon New York Pigeon Challenge 

  • Time required: At least one hour
  • What you will need:
    • A grown-up or caregiver to accompany you
    • A phone or camera (you can use your grown-up’s phone or camera) to take pictures and videos of pigeons
    • A copy of Audubon Pigeon Watch: Get to Know and Love our Amazing City Birds to help guide you and your grown-up in looking for specific pigeon colors and behaviors.
    • A notebook and pencil (optional, but it helps to have a place to write down any notes or observations you see while you’re looking for pigeons)!
    • Binoculars (optional, but helpful if you’re viewing pigeons from a distance)
  • Instructions: Head to a place in your neighborhood where pigeons are known to live (if you’re not sure, a park or other open space is a good place to start). Then, start your pigeon watch. Be ready to take photos of the pigeons you see with your camera or phone!
    • Grades K2: You will be looking to see how many of the seven different color morphs of pigeons you can find! Learn more about the seven different color morphs of pigeons. Each time you see a new color morph, take a photo of it!
    • Grades 35: In addition to looking for the seven color morphs, you will also be looking for six different types of courtship behaviors between pigeons. Each time you see a new color morph or courtship, be sure to take a photo or video! Try to find and document all the color morphs and all of the courtship behaviors!
    • Bonus challenge: Look for pigeon nests! Like most birds, pigeons lay their eggs and raise their young in a nest. How many pigeon nests can you find? Take pictures of each nest you find and count up how many you notice!
    • Extra bonus challenge: Find the most interesting nest! Pigeons in urban settings sometimes nest in weird places. Where’s the weirdest place that you can find a pigeon nest? When you find a pigeon nest in a weird place, take a photo of it and write down a brief description of the nest – where you saw it, and why you think it was in a weird place.
    • Create an online pigeon journal. Your journal should include the photos and videos you took on your pigeon watch. For ideas on how to format your journal, see these templates:
  • Submission instructions: By 5PM on August 7, 2020, submit a video or screenshare of your Pigeon Journal to Flipgrid:
  • What you can win: All students who successfully complete and submit a pigeon journal will receive a Young Birder certificate from the NYC Department of Education and Audubon New York. Students who find the most types of pigeons in the K-2 (color morphs and nests) and 3-5 (color morphs, courtship behaviors, and nests) grade bands will receive a fold-out bird guide from Audubon. We will also feature a set of exemplary pigeon journals on a FlipGrid mixtape that will be shared in August 2020.
  • How submissions will be judged: Students who identify, document, and submit the highest number of bird color morphs and nests (K-2) or color morphs, courtship behaviors, and nests (3-5) will be considered challenge winners.

Grades 6–8

Audubon New York Backyard Bird Scavenger Hunt 

  • Time required: At least 1 hour
  • Materials needed:
    • A “bird watching buddy” who is a member of your family or household to accompany you – this is for your safety, and because it is easier to spot birds when you have two or more sets of eyes!
    • A list of the bird species in your borough and type of habitat area (choose from the list that best describes the habitat within your borough where you will be bird watching - you can print out this bird species list or just have it available on your phone)
    • A charged phone, iPad, or camera to take photos and videos of the birds you observe
    • Optional: A notebook and pencil (it helps to have a place to write down any notes or observations you see while you’re looking for birds)!
    • Optional: A copy of Audubon’s Bird Photography Introductory Lesson - this will give you helpful tips for photographing birds you observe.
  • Instructions:
    • Choose the borough and neighborhood bird list that best fits the area where you plan to search for birds. Take the list with you so that you can use it when you are looking for birds.
    • Grab your materials (bird list, phone, notebook and pencil) and go outside with your bird watching buddy to a place in your neighborhood where birds are known to live (if you’re not sure, a park or another open space is a good place to start).
    • Have your phone or camera in your hand or in a pocket or other place where you can access it quickly.
    • Start looking for the bird species on your neighborhood bird list! Each time you see one of the species on your neighborhood list, take a photo of that bird, and then write down the species of bird that you just saw in your phone or notebook so that you have a recording of which species it was. Use this Bird Photography Introductory Lesson to help you take good photos of the birds you see.
    • Try to see how many different birds you can spot. The more bird species you can find on your list, the better!
    • Create a backyard bird journal. Your journal can be made on a presentation platform (for example, Google Slides or PowerPoint), a photo album, or you can download the Digital Backyard Bird Journal template and add your bird photos and descriptions to it. For each bird species you find, you will need to submit the following pieces of information in your digital bird journal:
      • A photograph of the bird
      • The name of the bird species
      • The date and location of when and where you photographed this bird
    • By 5PM on August 7, 2020, submit a three-minute video of your journal to Grades 6-8: Birds in Your Backyard Challenge Flipgrid
  • Bonus challenge #1 (counts for one bird): Pick one bird from your neighborhood bird list and – learn what its bird call is – and make up a mnemonic device for its call. The website All About Birds contains audio files of bird calls that will allow you to listen to the bird calls for all of the birds on your list. Once you have made up a mnemonic device, add a page to your digital bird journal where you share the following information:
    • The bird species you chose
    • A description of this bird species’ call
    • Your mnemonic device that will help people remember this bird species’ call
  • Bonus challenge #2 (counts for one bird): Make, document, and submit a bird decal to help protect local birds from flying into your window. See this link on the Audubon website to learn more about how to make a bird decal. Then, add a page to your digital bird journal where you share a photograph of the bird decal that you made.
  • What you can win: All students who successfully complete and submit a backyard bird journal will receive a digital Young Birder certificate from the NYC Department of Education and Audubon New York. Students who find, document, and submit photos of the largest number of birds on their borough/habitat list will receive a fold-out bird guide from Audubon. We will also feature a set of exemplary journals on a FlipGrid mixtape that will be shared in August 2020.
  • How submissions will be judged: Students who identify, document, and submit the highest number of backyard birds from their designated borough/habitat list will be considered challenge winners.

Grades 9–12

Audubon New York Design Thinking for Birds: Designing a Native Plant Garden to Make My Neighborhood More Bird-Friendly

In this challenge, you will engage in a design challenge to design a native plant garden that supports the well-being of two selected bird species that live in your neighborhood. 

  • Time required: At least 2 hours. You are welcome to spend more time on this challenge, if you like!
  • Materials needed:
    • Phone, camera, or notebook to record observations of birds in your community
    • Tools to design a native plant garden – a digital platform (for example, Minecraft) or tools to make a two-dimensional or three-dimensional model (paper, pencil, etc.)
  • Instructions:
    • Step 1: Observation: Take at least 1-2 hours to observe birds in your neighborhood, taking care to look for birds in residential and commercial areas, as well as any trees, parks, or other green spaces in your neighborhood. Using your phone or a notebook, document a list of interactions between birds and humans or birds and human-made structures (buildings, fences, street lights, etc.) you observe in your neighborhood. If you can, try to capture some of these interactions on video using your phone or another device. As you explore your neighborhood, look for possible locations for a native plant garden - possible locations include yards, vacant lots, rooftops, the median in a major road or avenue, etc.
    • Step 2: Choose two bird species to design for: You will choose two species of birds that are known to live in your neighborhood (these can be birds that you have seen and identified during your neighborhood observation, or they can be birds from Audubon’s list of bird species that are of special concern, known to be threatened by climate change, or known to live in your neighborhood) and will do some research to find out:
      • What this bird species’ habitat needs are in terms of food, shelter, and nesting/reproduction needs
      • What threats this bird species faces in urban environments like New York City 
    • Step 3: Design a native plant garden for your selected bird species and your community: Design a native plant garden for your selected bird species in a specific location that you have identified in your neighborhood using Audubon’s Native Plants resources and Plants for Birds database. You may construct your design in a digital platform (for example, Minecraft), or by hand (2-dimensional drawing or 3-dimensional model).
    • By 5PM on August 7, 2020, submit your Native Plant Garden design to the Grades 9-12 Native Plant Design Challenge FlipGrid
      • You will have up to 3 minutes to present your native plant garden design, and should plan to provide a voice-over narrative to explain your design to the judges. In your narrative, make sure that you:
        • List the two species of birds you designed for and explain why you chose these two birds
        • List the three native plants species you selected, and explain why you chose these three plant species
        • Explain how your garden design meets the needs of your selected bird species and your community
  • What you can win: All students who successfully complete and submit a native plant garden design project will receive a Young Birder certificate from the NYC Department of Education and Audubon New York. We will also feature a set of exemplary design projects on a FlipGrid mixtape that will be shared in August 2020.
  • How submissions will be judged: Submissions will be evaluated by a team of NYCDOE and Audubon judges using this rubric, and winners will be announced by mid-August.

Helpful Links

Below are some resources to assist with your research on your selected bird species:

Bird Identification

All About Birds

The Audubon Society's Bird Guide

Threats to Birds in NYC 

NYC Audubon Society's Issues of Concern

NYC Audubon Society's Lights Out New York

NYC Audubon Society's Project Safe Flight

Climate Change

The Audubon Society's Climate Initiative

Week 3 (July 27–July 31): Minecraft

All Grades

Challenge: Build a Better World
In this challenge, you will build a whole new (and better!) world in Minecraft. You will need a computer, tablet, or device with an internet connection, and Minecraft, for this challenge. You can download Minecraft Education Edition for free with your DOE student account. The deadline for this challenge is August 2, 2020.

  1. Choose one of these two themes to inform the design of your world:
    • Health care: Design a new way to better provide healthcare for your neighborhood, or for NYC. Help people of all ages and abilities access the care they need. This might be an at-home solution, or a creative design for a community clinic. Keep in mind people with disabilities, so that you design a safe, accessible, and inspiring environment in which everyone can be healthy.
    • The best space ever: Create a fun place where you, your friends, and family would want to visit. Use your imagination to create a space in Minecraft for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.
  2. Review the rubric for each theme. The rubrics are linked below and are on Flipgrid too. If you have time, you can do both builds!
  3. Launch Minecraft Education Edition (sign in with your DOE student account) and start building your world! Use a template world, biome world, or build a world from scratch. Have fun!
  4. Record a 3-minute walk-through of your world (you can do this either with screen capture outside of Flipgrid or within Flipgrid). Your walkthrough should include a voiceover of you explaining the world. Include how your approach helps people of different ages and abilities access the care they need or if you did a build of the best place ever, describe the elements you included to engage visitors.
  5. Submit your walk-through video to Flipgrid: Minecraft Summer 2020
    • Important: make sure your parent or guardian completes the consent form, online via Flipgrid and have them video their consent too. Projects that do not have media consent cannot be considered for the showcase.

A showcase of worlds will debut the last week of August. In addition to rubric requirements, reviewers for the showcase will be looking for submissions with the best pitch, most impactful, and best collaboration/multi-player submissions by grade.

Guide to Multiplayer: Multiplayer is one of the most popular and effective ways to leverage Minecraft and is a great way to keep students connected with classmates, even when collaborating remotely. Working together encourages collaboration, communication and problem solving as students work together on projects in a shared Minecraft world.

Multiplayer across different internet connections is possible as long as the criteria in the multiplayer guide is met. Every home network is different, so it's possible that some players may not be able to join a multiplayer session from their respective networks due to distinct configuration settings. Anti-virus and firewall applications may block access to multiplayer, so ensure you configure these programs to allow access to Minecraft.

Week 4 (August 3–7): Computer Science + Career and Technical Education (CTE)

By August 7, 2020, submit a video or screen share of your reflection on the challenge(s) below that you completed to Flipgrid. For tips on how to use FlipGrid and record your screen, see the Tips for Submitting to Flip Grid page. 

Grades K–5: Coding the Playground

In these five challenges, you will learn all about computer programming! You can complete these challenges on a sidewalk, in your backyard, or on a playground. Some set up is required and you may need more than one person to complete each challenge. You will also need to know these vocabulary words:

  • Algorithm: step-by-step instructions that go in order (like a recipe)
  • Programming: giving instructions to computers in a human language
  • Computer: a device that needs specific instructions to work
  • Conditional: a statement that tells a program to do different actions depending on whether a condition is true or false.

Challenge 1: Red Light, Green Light

Traffic light at night

This activity reinforces the concepts of programming and algorithm creation. Computers follow directions exactly as they are told, so you must be very specific in your algorithms in order to get to the finished project. Ultimately, the “runners” are computers. The goal of the game is for the computer to follow the programmer’s directions and get to the finish line!

  • Number of players: At least three
  • Materials: Paper and pencil
  • How to play:
    • Each player must choose a role: two of you must be computers, and one of you must be the programmer.
    • Find a square space with a lot of room! Make a start line and a finish line. Get a piece of paper and a pencil! 
    • The computers will stand on the start line at the opposite end of the finish line, while the programmer stands off to the side. 
    • The programmer will create an "algorithm" for the computers to get to the finish line. Write down directions such as “move forward one step, move backward, move right, and move left.” Remember, the computer must do exactly what the programmer says! The programmer must be specific!
    • When the computers are ready, the programmer yells green light and the computers must follow the programmer’s instructions. The programmer can read the instructions out loud.
    • The first one to get to the finish line wins!

Challenge 2: Hand Jive

This activity reinforces the concept of pattern creation and pattern recognition. Looking for patterns (analyzing) is an abstract skill that is vital to all students.

  • Number of players: At least four
  • Materials: None
  • The goal of the game: For a pattern to make it around the entire circle!
  • How to play:
    • Player One creates a pattern of movements (for example: clap, clap, thigh slap, thigh slap, clap)
    • The whole group does the pattern
    • Player Two performs the pattern then adds another movement on to it.
    • The whole group does the new pattern.
    • Player Three performs the pattern then adds another movement on to it, and so on…
    • Have one player sit out and try to identify the pattern.

Challenge 3: Hopscotch 

This activity reinforces the concepts of conditionals. Some everyday conditionals are: “If we hear the fire alarm, we will evacuate the building.” Or, “ If I am hungry, then I will eat.” Conditionals tell a computer what to do under certain conditions.

  • Number of players: At least two
  • Materials: Chalk or masking tape to make a Hopscotch game board on the ground
  • The goal of the game: To get to the end!
  • How to play:
    • Set up a Hopscotch game!
    • Each player creates a conditional (for example, if your rock lands on the number three, or multiple of three, then you have to do three jumping jacks. Or, if your rock lands on an odd number, then you have to make an odd face when it’s your turn).
    • If a player does their turn successfully, they get to change their conditional. If they don’t, then the other players don’t have to do their conditional.
    • The first player to get to the end wins!

Challenge 4: Jump Rope

This activity reinforces the concept of programming (similar to the Red Light, Green Light challenge above).

  • Number of players: At least 4
  • Materials: A long, circular rope
  • The goal of the game: To have fun!
  • How to play:
    • Make sure each player knows the jumps they can do
      • Jump in
      • Jump out
      • Jump straddle (legs on either side of rope)
      • Jump on
      • Jump side (one leg inside the loop, one leg outside the loop)
    • Player Three and Four stand facing each other, about five feet apart.
    • They place the long, circular rope around their ankles. This will make the rope create a long rectangle.
    • Player One creates a jump pattern (for example: jump in, jump out, jump on, jump straddle)
    • Player One then tries to “program” Player Two to do the same pattern (they say the pattern out loud and Player Two tries to do it)
    • If Player Two does it successfully, they get to create the next pattern for Player Three. If not, Player Three gets to try.
    • And so on until every player gets to create a pattern!

Challenge 5: Rainy Day Pixel Art!

In this activity, you will learn about all about pixels! Pixels are small little dots that make up the images on computer displays. The screen is divided up into a matrix of thousands or even millions of pixels. Each pixel can only be one color at a time. However, since they are so small, pixels often blend together to form various shades and blends of colors.

  • Number of participants: just you!
  • Materials: paper and colored pencils, crayons, or markers, or (free)
  • How to complete the challenge:
    • Watch this video, What are Pixels?
    • Create your own pixel picture online on or draw one by hand!

Interested in learning more about computer science?

If you would like to learn more about computer science education in NYC, please visit CS4ALL Blueprint Beta and

Grades 6–8: Happy at Home!

For these challenges, you will need a device, and the programming platform Scratch. If you are unfamiliar with Scratch, watch these Scratch tutorial videos before you try the challenges. If you do not have a Scratch account, you can create one. For the last challenge, you will not be using the Scratch platform. Please share the link to your projects in Flipgrid or share a screen recording in your Flipgrid video!

Challenge 1: Hack Your Window!

green leafy plant in front of a window

Take a picture of a window at home, and use Scratch, turn it into a computer game, or into an animated story, or an art project! The possibilities are endless, you just have to imagine! Check out some examples of Window Hacks here.

Challenge 2: Do It Yourself (DIY)

Are you an expert on something? Maybe it’s making slime or playing an instrument. Create a how-to animation on Scratch. You can use these DIY Scratch examples as guides. Share your skills! 

Challenge 3: Boredom Busters

Bored at home? Add randomness to an activity you do at home! Get ideas from this Boredom Buster folder. All of the activities are dedicated to making your everyday life at home a little more entertaining!

Challenge 4: Dance Party

Do you love music? Do you love dancing? For this challenge, you will be programming your own dance party on (free) set to popular songs by artists such as Lil Nas X and Selena Gomez! Get shaking!

Grades 9-12: The “All About Me!” Challenge

Ready to think about your future goals and careers? Thinking about your future might seem a little strange, or even scary, right now. That makes sense! It can also be a way to feel hopeful, or a little more normal. However you are feeling, now is the time to take some important steps in planning your future.

We are excited to introduce three units:

  1. What makes me tick? Let’s put it all together!;
  2. Creating Your Own Elevator Speech; and
  3. Creating Your Resume

These activities will help you learn how to convey your strengths, experiences, and interests by way of a resume and elevator speech activity. The challenge will help you think about how to present yourself to future employers and colleagues. That means these activities will get you thinking about what makes you unique!

Winners will get a mentoring session with an industry professional where they can practice and receive feedback about their elevator speech with top employers and conduct an informational interview.

  • Materials:
  • Instructions:
    • Review "All About Me" Lessons and Activities overview for all three units.
    • Start with Unit One: What makes me tick? Let’s put it all together!
      • In this section, we will help you prepare to write an elevator speech. Identifying your values, strengths and skills are an important way to understand what kind of career you may be interested in. If you don’t enjoy your job, you may find yourself not happy or performing to the best of your ability. Understanding your values (step one), strengths (step two) and skills (step three) will also help you create an awesome elevator speech. You don’t need to submit anything for Unit One’s activities for the challenge.
    • Move on to Unit Two: Creating Your Own Elevator Speech
      • Now that you have thought about your skills, values and strengths, we’d like you to create an elevator speech. Draft your speech with the following instructions and practice yourself doing it. Remember to keep it under 45 seconds.
    • Finish with Unit Three: Creating a Resume
      • Now it is time for you to create your own resume. In the following pages, you will see info about what a resume is and a template for you to create your own. If you have a resume already that has all the following sections, you can submit that as well.
    • Record your elevator speech and submit your resume via Flipgrid. Don’t press the submit button until your resume is uploaded in the “Link” category that shows up before you are prompted to submit your recorded video. 

Submission are due by 5PM on Friday, August 7, 2020. If you are under 18, please have your parent/guardian fill out the consent form and record a video in Flipgrid saying "I am the guardian of [Student name] and I have reviewed and signed the consent form and agree to my children participating in this challenge."

Your elevator speech and resume will be judged based on a rubric that looks for your communication, personal branding and organizational skills. You must submit both items in order to be considered for the competition.

Week 5 (August 10–14): Music and Dance

Each grade band has four music challenges and four dance challenges. Please submit your work by September 7, 2020.

Grades K-5

Music Challenge 1: Make a Playlist

To “curate” means to collect things that, when put together, express a feeling or message. Curate a playlist of songs that expresses a mood, emotion, or message about you! You will need a paper and pencil. A device with a streaming music service, would be helpful but not required.


  1. Write down 3-5 things about you that make you unique and special. For example, you could list the sport you play best, the subject you like most in school, or how many languages you speak.
  2. Think of 3-5 songs that express the things you wrote down. You can choose one song for all the things you wrote down, or 3-5 songs for one of the things you wrote down.
  3. Make your playlist! Write down your songs on paper, or, with the help of an adult, use a music streaming service, like Spotify or Apple Music, to create a playlist.
  4. Share your playlist with a friend or family member and on! Maybe your family and friends will, in turn, make a playlist for you!

Music Challenge 2: Perform a Song

You can express yourself through the performance of music by choosing pieces of music that you connect to, and then singing or playing in ways that show why you love those pieces so much. For this challenge, choose a song you love that represents something about yourself, and perform it with emotion!


  1. Similar to step one in the first challenge, jot down 3-5 things that make you unique and special.
  2. Choose a song that expresses all of the things you wrote down.
  3. Practice singing the song. You can sing along to a recording, or, sing on your own without music (this is called acapella).
  4. As you practice, play around with volume (for example, sing it loud and soft) and movement (for example, hand gestures, facial expressions, or dance moves).
  5. As an extra challenge, try singing along with a karaoke version of the song. (Karaoke tracks have the main singer’s voice removed.) You can find karaoke versions of songs on YouTube and other music streaming services by searching the title of the song and the words “karaoke version.”
  6. When you are ready, perform for your family! If you like, ask your parent or guardian to film your performance with a phone or iPad so that you can share it with friends and other family members.
  7. After your performance, ask yourself these questions:
    1. What was the message or emotion I hoped to communicate through my performance?
    2. Why did I choose this particular song?
    3. How did it feel to perform this song for my family?
  8. Write your thoughts on a piece of paper. Discuss the experience with a trusted friend or family member, and challenge them to do this activity, too!
  9. Finally, share your performance or reflection on!

Music Challenge 3: Create a Song

You can express yourself through music with lyrics (the words in a song), a rhythm or beat that matches the song idea, and a melody that you are comfortable singing. Create a song by making a beat, writing lyrics, and singing and/or rapping those lyrics. If you choose to sing, you can make up your own melody (tune) or rewrite the lyrics to an existing song.


  1. Think about what you would like to express with your song. It might be a mood, an activity, or a message. For example, the song could be about happiness, playing outdoors during the summer, or spreading kindness.
  2. Consider how you want the listener to respond to your song. Will they feel happy, excited, inspired? Will they want to dance or relax? Will they be reminded of a time or place?
  3. Create a beat for your song. There are several ways you can do this:
    • Use items in your house to create the beat (shoe boxes, spoons, plastic cups, etc.) Make sure to get permission from your parent or guardian first!
    • Record your beat with a simple audio recorder like the one found on most phones, iPads, or computers.
    • Use an online program like Groove Pizza to create a beat. Here’s a brief video explaining the various components to Groove Pizza.
  4. Create your lyrics and/or melody. If you will be rapping, focus on your lyrics and how they “fit” over your beat.If you will be singing, you will still need to think about rhythm and rhyme. You will also need to think about the “tune” you will use; the tune you sing is called the “melody.”
  5. Perform your lyrics over your beat. Consider filming yourself performing your song and sharing the video with your family, or give your lyrics to a friend, and see how they interpret your song!
  6. Share your video on

Music Challenge 4: Create a Podcast

You can express yourself through storytelling, then enhance your story with music. To do this, create a podcast with a soundscape that tells the story of a favorite memory, family story, or book. For an example of a story-based podcast, check out Molly of Denali. For this challenge you will need Soundtrap, an online recording studio. Your parent or guardian will need to sign up for the free version of Soundtrap.


  1. Pick a favorite story. This could be a book you like to read, a made-up story, or maybe even a favorite memory.
  2. Think about the setting, plot, and characters of the story and consider the story’s soundscape. A soundscape is the soundtrack to a story – the sounds that enhance what is being said in the story. Ask yourself these questions and write down ideas for how to use sound in your story:
    • What sounds occur during the action of the story?
    • What kind of music do the main characters listen to?
    • What sounds were part of their daily life at that time (subway, traffic, school bells, dogs barking, etc.)?
    • What sounds were part of their experience in the story (holiday music, sounds of the ocean, an amusement park, parents or teachers yelling, siblings or fellow students talking, etc.)?
  3. Map out the pacing of the story by marking key events and any sounds you might want to use to accompany them.
  4. Now that you have your plan, it’s time to record! Make an audio recording of you, or a family member, telling your story.
  5. Now it’s time to add some sounds! Click the round purple music notes icon in the upper right corner to open the loops and sounds selector. Click a sound once to hear a sample and click it twice or drag it to a new track to add it to your project. You can also import an mp3 or .wav file of music to your project.
  6. Edit your audio recording and create a transcript (just use the interactive transcript tool!)
  7. Save a copy of your podcast on your device for sharing.
  8. When you are ready, share your podcast on

Dance Challenge 1: Make a Dance Out of Shapes

For this challenge, you will need a recording device.


  1. Create a shape that you like to make with your body. Name it Name Shape 1.
  2. Create a second shape that is on a different level and a different type. For example, the shape can be curved, straight, angular, geometric, organic, etc. Name it Name Shape 2. Practice this many times also.
  3. Pick two different ways of traveling through space. You can choose from run, hop, skip, crawl, slither, jump, swim, or find another locomotive movement.
  4. Using all of these shapes and moves that you practiced, make a dance phrase following these directions:
    • Use one of your traveling moves to travel to a new spot.
    • Do your second name shape in your new spot.
    • Use a different traveling move to travel back to your first spot in space.
    • Do your first name shape again.
  5. Practice this a few times, making decisions on where your shape faces and how fast or slow you move from one shape to another.
  6. Once you are happy with your Name Shape Dance, have someone videotape it.
  7. Submit your work via FlipGrid: K-5 Dance Challenge 1

Dance Challenge 2: Map Out the Name Shape Dance

Use three different pathways to travel through space!


  1. Think of all the ways that you can travel through space on a pathway and make a list.
  2. Pick music to go along with your journey and practice your dance journey until you can do the entire journey with music from memory.
  3. Ask someone to videotape you doing your journey and share your video with friends and family.
  4. Ask them to make their own map journey and share it with you.
  5. Step up to the challenge and try doing your friend’s journey and have your friend do yours.
  6. Submit your work to FlipGrid K-5 Dance Challenge 2.
  7. Bonus: Can you think of other ways to share your journey with a friend or family member?

Dance Challenge 3: Walking the Talk: Creating with the Language of Dance (LOD) Motifs


  1. Take a look at these four Language of Dance Motif Symbols and study each one.
  2. Explore and practice different ways of being STILL doing ROTATION, TRAVELING and SPRINGING
  3. Use these four motifs: STILLNESS, ROTATION, SPRINGING and TRAVELING to make a short dance phrase.
  4. Find music that you like and practice your motif dance phrase to the music.
  5. Videotape your phrase and share it with friends. Try doing each other’s motif dance. Notice what is the same about your dances and what is different. How much does your dance say something about you?
  6. Submit your work to FlipGrid: K-5 Challenge 3

Dance Challenge 4: Me, Myself, and I

Create a dance that includes shapes of your favorite things. Upload a photo of your worksheet, along with your favorite 1-minute video from a friend. You can submit more than one video if you like by recording another response to the same challenge. Submit your work to FlipGrid: Dance K-5 Challenge 4

Grades 6-12

Music Challenge 1: Make a Podcast

Our favorite movies would not be the same without music. It’s almost impossible to imagine “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” or “Coco” without any music. When done well, music can enhance the emotional impact of a scene and draw us into the story. Podcasts use sound and music in much the same way, and perhaps to a greater extent because they rely solely on audio to tell a story. In this challenge, create a podcast capturing the story and feeling of a treasured tale, poem, or memory and illustrating key moments using music and sounds. You will need the Soundtrap application (you can sign up for free).


  1. Choose a subject for your podcast. It can be a story, poem, speech, or personal memory.
  2. Think about what sound effects and or music might enhance your podcast, and jot down your ideas.
  3. Ask your parent or guardian if they would be willing to sign up for a free Soundtrap account. If so, your parent or guardian would go to Soundtrap and click “Try it Free,” then scroll all the way to the bottom, click the orange-and-white “Signup!” button.
  4. Outline your podcast with this Soundtrap template. Mark key events and any sounds you might want to use to accompany them. You may find it helpful to use crayons, colored pencils, or pens to map out your soundscape, using a different color for each sound. See an example here.
  5. Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to record! Make an audio recording of you or a family member telling your story or reading your poem or speech.
  6. Now it’s time to add some sounds! Click the round purple music notes icon in the upper right corner to open the loops and sounds selector. Click a sound once to hear a sample and click it twice or drag it to a new track to add it to your project. You can also import an mp3 or wav file of music to your project. Click the link to learn how.
  7. Edit your recording and create a transcript to share.
  8. When you are ready, share your podcast and share it on
  9. Don’t forget to share your podcast with family and friends! Click “file” at the top of the workspace, and select “Export as mp3” to save a copy on your device for sharing.

Helpful Links

Helpful Soundtrap Guide Videos

Music Challenge 2: Play or sing a favorite song and write a reflection on why you love it

Music serves many purposes and fills many needs in our lives. It can change our mood or help us sit with our feelings and work through them. It can help us learn, grow, and feel. It can enhance our celebrations and accompany our grief. It can entertain us and give us a break from the stress in our lives. Music can lead a revolution or guide us to sleep. Play or sing a favorite song and write a reflection on why you love it.


  1. Select a favorite song.
  2. Play or sing your song! Using a hairbrush as a microphone is optional, but have fun and enjoy performing your song.
  3. Reflect on why you like this song and what it means to you by completing these prompts:
    • The first time I heard this song I was…(location)
    • The first time I heard this song I was feeling…
    • The first time I heard this song I was experiencing…
    • When I hear this song, I feel like…(dancing, sleeping, etc.)
    • This song makes me think of…
    • When I hear this song, I feel…
  4. Bring your reflections together in one of the following ways:
  5. Turn the above statements into a 1-2 paragraph reflection on what this song means to you.
  6. Upload an mp3 of your song to a DAW (digital audio workstation) like Soundtrap, GarageBand, or Audacity, and record a vocal track over the music where you tell the story of what this song means to you.
  7. Create a piece of artwork reflecting how this song makes you feel and what it means to you.
  8. Share your reflection on! Also share it with a family member and ask them to share a favorite song with you.

Music Challenge 3: Write Your Own Song or Rap

Songwriting can be an excellent way to express yourself and share meaning in a creative way. Songwriting can be fun, and you can do it with the help of technology. In this challenge, write your own original song or rap! If you want inspiration, watch “Here's to You" by a high-school senior in Indiana, or "No More Pain" by a then 10-year-old Bentley Green.


  1. Choose a topic! Will your song be about love, current events, a cause that is important to you, or will it be to honor someone you admire? Think about what you would like to express. What is the mood? What is the message?
  2. Draft your lyrics. As you write, think about when to rhyme, and consider how long your phrases are in relation to one another. You might also find it helpful to think about pairing or grouping lines together and creating the same number of lines for each section. You can use Splice Beats Maker to practice your lyrics over beats of your choice.
  3. Once you have a good start on your lyrics, choose your harmony. To do this, use one of the following methods:
    1. Use the harmonic structure of a song you already know by going to YouTube and typing the name of your song and “backing track” in the search bar. Try a few until you find one that feels right for your song and the meaning you want to convey.
    2. Try one of these generic backing tracks in a style that interests you:
      1. Inspiring Hip Hop Beat (B minor)
      2. Jazzy Hip Hop Backing Track in F Minor 2013 NRS 2/5
      3. Soul Hip Hop Jam Track in A minor - BJT #35
      4. Country Backing Track in G
      5. Melodious hard rock backing track in Em
      6. Deep Soulful Ballad Guitar Backing Track Jam in G Minor
      7. Acoustic Ballad Backing Track C major A minor
      8. Smooth RnB Backing Track in C# Minor
      9. "Bluegrass" Jam Track in G 100bpm | Tom Strahle | Easy Guitar | Basic Guitar
      10. Funky Blues In Bb Blues Backing Track By Ultimate Blues Jams
    3. Use a DAW like Soundtrap, GarageBand, or Audacity to create your own backing track using loops, importing audio, or recording your own using acoustic or synthesized instruments.
    4. Go to Hookpad by and select a common progression from the “progressions” tab.
  4. Record your song! If you are using a DAW, you will be able to record your vocals on a new track. If you are using Hookpad, you can download your harmony and upload it to a DAW to record your vocals OR simply record yourself singing with your accompaniment on a separate device.
  5. Share your song on!

Music Challenge 4: Curate: Make a Playlist

To curate is to collect things that when put together express a feeling or message. Choose a theme, feeling, person, or event of your choice, and curate a playlist around that subject. For this challenge, you will curate a playlist for any topic of your choosing. You can use paper and pencil, or a music streaming service.


  1. Choose the subject for your playlist. It can be something you consider deep and meaningful or something that feels light and fun! Here are some ideas to get you started:
    • A birthday party or other celebration (graduation, anniversary, wedding) for you, a relative, or a friend.
    • A road trip
    • A day in the park with friends or family
    • Summer vacation
    • Your life
    • Your family
    • Songs that cheer you up
  2. Write down your chosen subject on a piece of paper or in a word processing document. Then write down words or words or images that come to mind when you think of your chosen subject.
  3. Looking over the words and images you came up with, choose 5-7 songs that you feel represent your subject best.
  4. You can use a streaming music service like Spotify to create a shareable playlist.
  5. Finally, share your playlist with a friend or family member and on! Maybe your family and friends will, in turn, make a playlist for you!

Dance Challenge 1: Dance Chain Letter

Can you and your friends create a dance chain letter video with original choreography and poetry? For this challenge, you will need a phone or laptop to record, and software to edit the video.


  1. Watch the video If Cities Could Dance: Dear Dancer, an example of a dance chain letter.
  2. Collaborate with peers and classmates to make your own chain letter that shows people who you are
  3. One person begins with a 30 second dance introduction. They then send this video to a friend. The friend begins their dance introduction in the shape that the previous dancer ended in. Continue this process. 
  4. Use a video or movie editing software to edit the videos together to share!
  5. Consider writing a poem to read as the soundscape to your work.
  6. Upload a completed video along with a word document of the poem to FlipGrid: 6-12 Dance Challenge 1.

Dance Challenge 2: Martha Graham’s 19 Poses

Can you find a creative way to copy one of choreographer Martha Graham’s 19 poses? Upload a photo of your attempt at the pose that best represents who you are. You can submit more than one photo/pose if you like by recording another response to the same challenge. Submit your work to FlipGrid: 6-12 Dance Challenge 2

Dance Challenge 3: Self-Expression Dance Improvisation

Create an improvisation jam in real time with peers. You will Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. An example of a dance company’s work using Zoom is the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Lonely Waltz.


  1. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to meet with your peers.
  2. Take turns playing music and, most importantly, dance together.
  3. Take turns sharing improvisation suggestions inspired by expressing ourselves through dance. For example:
    • How can you dance your favorite color?
    • How can you share feelings through dance?
    • How can you express a goal that you have through movement?
    • How can you show your strengths through movement?
  4. Take turns sharing improvisation suggestions inspired by Laban Movement Analysis (LMA):
    • Change levels
    • Use a different body part
    • Change tempo
    • Change locations
  5. Optional: Record your dance improvisation to create an original dance film!
  6. Submit your work to FlipGrid: 6-12 Dance Challenge 3

Dance Challenge 4: Dancing as a Movement: Using dance to talk about social issues

Dancers have a history of speaking out on social issues. In this challenge, you will create a dance that represents a social movement or issue that you care about.


  1. Watch Camille A. Brown’s dance film “Ink” for an idea. Read more about the piece here at Camille A. Brown’s website. 
  2. Think and write about a social movement you care about. Ask yourself why the movement is important to you and why do you want to express your opinions about this movement.
  3. Create a dance that responds to this movement for change.
  4. Perform and record your dance!
  5. Submit your work to FlipGrid: 6-12 Dance Challenge 4
  6. Consider sharing your dance and an explanation of its message with friends and elected officials.

Week 6 (August 17–23): Citywide Innovation

Grades 6-12

Engineers have a way of solving problems called the engineering design process. This process is very practical and inspiration often comes from noticing a problem in your everyday life and applying the design process to produce solutions. The student, their friends, family and community are the most important elements of the process and it builds empathy, civic engagement and can be highly social and fun!

As our City looks to reopen safely, we have to reconsider many of our everyday activities in the age of COVID-19. From how to hang out with friends to how to ride the subway, we have to use our innovation and design to make these activities safer and potentially better than before. Join us as we redesign and reimagine our environment and build a better tomorrow together.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to physically distance as we try to keep socially together and even now we’ve come up with innovative solutions to new challenges. We challenge students to identify a problem caused by or exacerbated by the pandemic, and use the engineering design process to identify a problem and share it with the community.


  1. Identify a problem that impacts you, someone close to you like a family member, friend, or your community. It can be a discrete problem - one that only impacts a few people or a larger problem like how do we ensure social distancing on the subway.
  2. Brainstorm and research solutions to the problem. Your research can include internet research, interviewing people who encounter the problem and finding similar problems and solutions that can be adapted. Use this worksheet as a guide through the engineering design process. This process is used by engineers to identify problems and find solutions.
  3. Prototype your idea and create a 2D or 3D solution to the problem. You can draw the solution, build it in using materials you may have at home such as cardboard and other recyclables, design it in CAD or any other visual medium that helps you describe your solution.
  4. Show your solution to people who could benefit from your solution and modify it based on their feedback. You may want to create a “before” and “after” version of your solution.
  5. Create a video that documents and explains all of the steps of your project for an audience of your friends and community members.
  6. Submit your video by 5PM on August 24, 2020 to Flipgrid: Citywide Innovation

For tips on how to use Flipgrid and record your screen, see the Tips for Submitting to Flipgrid page. 

How Your Submission Will be Judged

Volunteer judges from companies and universities around New York City will review your presentation and provide feedback on your solution. Please see the judge’s rubric on Flipgrid. In September, we’ll put together a showcase of your projects! Please see the official rules for more information.

What You Can Win

All students who successfully complete the challenge and submit a video on Flipgrid will receive a Citywide Innovator certificate from the NYC Department of Education and NYC FIRST. You’ll also win a NYC FIRST 2D to 3D puzzle. We will also feature a set of exemplary videos on a Flipgrid mixtape that will be shared in September 2020.

Submission Guidelines

  • Your video should include:
    • The problem that you’ve identified and why it matters to you
    • Your proposed solution, and
    • A 2D or 3D model that helps present your solution. 
  • Your video can be up to five minutes long.
  • Be sure to give your project a title.
  • Not sure what a presentation looks like? Watch some videos of sample projects that have been submitted for similar challenges.
Back to Top