The options for kids classes in NYC seem endless…until you realize they aren’t. When local mom Vanessa Bennett couldn’t find the kind of sports class she envisioned for her daughter—an encouraging, girls-only, multi-sports class that fosters confidence and strength in every sense of the word—she created it. You might say that necessity was the mother of this mother’s invention: Dynamo Girl. The program has been empowering girls on the Upper West Side since 2015, and now it’s available across town, too.
photo: Dynamo Girl
The Dynamo Doctrine
A graduate of all-women’s college Wellesley and an athlete herself (she played six sports growing up and runs half-marathons) Bennett founded Dynamo Girl to offer girls ages five and up an all-female, safe and encouraging environment in which they can become better athletes. “Without the intimidation of intense competition or the self-consciousness of a co-ed environment, Dynamo Girl allows the girls to try new things and to take risks without a fear of looking silly, a vital aspect to building girls’ courage and confidence,” she says. “By offering girls a safe environment in which to take risks both physically and emotionally, we are helping them grown stronger inside and out.”
The goal of Dynamo Girl is not to produce champion athletes, necessarily (although laying the groundwork is certainly possible) but to teach all girls, both those athletically-inclined and not, fundamental sports skills. The program, which Bennett developed with a curriculum consultant after over a year of research, is built on the conviction that competence in a variety of physical activities cultivates confidence in life. Every new skill gained – how to throw a ball, jump rope, work as part of a team – demonstrates to girls that challenges in life can be met with confidence and self-belief.
Additionally, the Dynamo Girl curriculum helps foster confidence through the mastery of physical skills, while also incorporating elements that research suggests girls also value, such as cheering, collaboration and creativity.
photo: Dynamo Girl
You Go Girl!
Each 14-week semester is made up of classes dedicated to a specific theme (Courage, Creativity, Spirit, Determination) and activity (obstacle course, cooperative team games, individual sports like track and field or tumbling). Different equipment is used in each class, but every session is guaranteed to include running, jumping, throwing and catching, as well as a warm-up of yoga and other forms of stretching and an art break thematically related to the unit.
Classes are led by women recruited for their athletic ability, experience and knowledge, who can also serve as role models for Dynamo Girl students.
For girls in Kindergarten, the class is one hour long, and focuses on engaging physical activity, while for older girls, it’s 90 minutes and incorporates specific skill-building activities. Dynamo Girl also holds Parenting Workshops to strengthen parents’ skills in supporting and communicating with their daughters.
photo: Dynamo Girl
The Dynamo Deets
For the past year, classes for girls in kindergarten through fourth grade have been offered on weekends at Ethical Culture on the upper West Side. Now, due to popular demand, Dynamo Girl classes are available on the Upper East Side at the Birch Wathen Lenox School. In fall of 2016, Dynamo Girl will be offered to girls in fifth and sixth grade as well.
(The program is also running its first after-school class at Ethical Culture, for kids that already know each other; the staff finds that some students prefer to be with kids they already know, while others enjoy meeting new girls.)
There are lots of ways to do Dynamo Girl. Students can participate in weekly, hour-long open gym sessions ($250/semester); a weekly, hour-long multi-sports class with art break ($600/semester), or a weekly, 90-minute multi-sports class with art break ($850/semester). Families with a need for flexibility can purchase seven-class drop-in passes for 90-minute classes at either location for $500.
The Future: Camps, Dynamo Moms & Expansion Plans
Lots is on the horizon at Dynamo Girl. Week-long summer camp sessions will be offered this June, with registration beginning in April. Additionally, next year Bennett and her team hope to expand downtown, and eventually to Brooklyn and Westchester, as well as run camps during school breaks.
And, with so many moms into the Dynamo Girl message, it’s no wonder they’ve started asking for classes for themselves. Dynamo Mom will be coming soon, and there will be a focus on integrating parents into already existing classes as well.
Does your daughter take a sports class she loves? Tell us about it in the comments below!