Meet Matthew Trainor, Co-founder, NORY
By Anu Kapur, Publisher, Lower Manhattan Macaroni Kid & Upper West Side Macaroni Kid February 12, 2021
Matthew, please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am an educator at heart, having taught English for five-plus years in the US and abroad. I studied behavioral economics and marketing as an undergraduate and innovation and entrepreneurship as a graduate student. I have two young daughters and live in Westchester County.
When was NORY incorporated? What is the concept behind the classes?
NORY was founded out of Columbia University in 2015 by myself and another dad, and inspired by the following question and subsequent answer.
"What do we want our own children to do and learn?"
Fail and dream fearlessly,
Ask "why" relentlessly, and
Connect with others authentically.
This question and answer helped us identify three soft-skills that we wanted to foster in our own children: resilience, inquisitiveness, and empathy. These are the fundamental skills ingrained in NORY. All NORY programs take the project-based, experiential learning approach to develop these core soft-skills.
What is the ideal age group for your classes? How are classes structured?
NORY programs are offered for children ages three to twelve. We customize our curriculum and activities to each age group. Families with children seven and up have been asking for more coding lessons, and we were excited to introduce our newest Roblox curriculum this winter.
All of our classes empower students to take risks and use technology in exciting ways.
What skills do kids develop when they are creating and building at NORY?
Children who attend NORY regularly become more confident, collaborative, and resilient, and with time display the following growth.
1. Children are more inclined to think like a scientist. They love to develop hypotheses and verify (or revise) them through relentless testing.
2. They become more confident in the engineering design process. Children better visualize and design their projects, and they are more proficient (and creative!) in using materials.
3. Last but certainly not least, we observe that children respond better to adversity. They tend to persevere at harder, novel challenges and tasks.
In essence, we’re seeing real change in our camper’s growth, helping them develop and strengthen the skills that make up our core philosophy, and deepening our impact the more they attend.
Please tell us more about your virtual enrichment camps.
When the city shut down in March, we knew how extra difficult it would be for children stuck at home, and we made it our mission to ensure that those who attend our virtual programming would have as magical an experience as ever.
We started by asking ourselves the following question, "What kind of activities and what purpose would our own children need to have a meaningful and unforgettable virtual camp?" Based on this, we carefully created activities that nurtured empathetic and purposeful problem solvers. These included: inventing robotic aids for the visually impaired, building hand-cranked wearable generators for blackouts, and many more.
We spent hours user testing our curriculum to anticipate what would work best in a virtual setting and ensure meaningful social opportunities to bond with friends.
We invested significant time and capital, creating robotic material kits to mail to families to make it as easy as possible for families, while still allowing children an opportunity to build some really advanced bots!
Does NORY host virtual birthday parties right now? If yes, what themes have you’ll covered?
Yes! Birthday parties are one of the most common requests we receive from families. Our virtual parties are all about FUN! We can customize our robot building activity to fit any party theme. This past year, families have requested super hero, outer space, unicorn themes, and more.
What advice would you give a parent whose kid is interested in STEAM?
Don’t be intimidated! As a parent, you do not have to have an extensive background in science, technology, or the arts to create activities and teach STEAM. It starts with working together and answering our children's curious questions.
The best thing to do is provide children with the materials and opportunities for play because children learn best when playing.
Are there any books you would recommend for kids and preteens?
I have so many favorite books that I read and share with my two daughters and NORY campers. A few include: Anything is Possible (Belloni), The 13 Clocks, The Phantom Tollbooth, Doctor De Soto, Brave Irene, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories), The Silver Arrow.
Where would you like to see NORY five years from now?
I would like to see some of our nascent classes, Entrepreneurship, and Empathy, become more prominent. We have also recently expanded to Westchester County, and five years from now, NORY will have launched in multiple states.