Chartreuse Projects

It’s that time again, when we take all the things we’ve explored during the arc and declare a project.  Melissa and I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to practice autonomy while still getting a chance to create something bigger and more complex than any individual could create.  Following that spirit the Chartreuse band will have an opportunity to choose an independent project as well as a group project.

Independent projects are a tricky thing.  At nine and ten our students are still developing the self management skills they need to be successful at independent project work.  They all still need a good amount of help to create something awesome.  Melissa and I don’t have the resources to be intimately involved in 16 different projects so we decided to give a prompt that would send the students on two different paths of expression.  We asked them to think about either creating a controlled experiment or to researching an area of interest and writing a paper on it.   I will be leading the group that chooses to create a controlled experiment and Melissa will be heading up the researchers.  We will both be giving mini lessons on our respective modes of expression.  Because students will be doing the same types of projects they will also be able to help each other tackle hard problems and stay on track. Already great ideas have surfaced.  Experiments to see how worms in soil, black lights and different fertilizers affect plant growth.  Research projects on bamboo, organic farming and plant defenses.

Because we are Brightworks, the school that always tries it’s best to say, “yes”, we have been open to other independent project ideas as well.  Two students want to write additional chapters in the style of Seed Folks, a book we’ve been studying for the past months.  Another student is putting together a proposal for creating free lending libraries for community gardens around the city.  Stay tuned for a complete list of all of Chartreuse individual projects.  

This brings us to group projects.  Drum roll please…This arc, in small groups, the Chartreuse band will be studying and building vertical gardens, constructing a machine to roll oats and doing a service project for the community garden by building a cat house that doubles as an out house.  Our group project ideas were harvested from a massive Chartreuse band brainstorm.   From this great steaming pot of ideas we chose those that could accommodate several students and had diverse points of engagement.  Because Evan (our new shop teacher and park staffer) agreed to join us for this project phase we were able to give the students three different project options each managed by a different adult.  The students rated each of these three options based on their interest and we were able to sort them into groups based on our knowledge of group dynamics and their preferences.

I’d like to give you all a brief history behind each of these group projects.  


During Exploration the Yellow band built a vertical garden out of gutter material in their bandspace window.  They also did some math explorations of how much square footage it would take to feed different amounts of people.  These explorations of space efficiency and window farming have culminated in this bigger project to create larger vertical garden units in our window.


Melissa is particularly excited about this project and will be leading her team of engineers in using recycled materials to grow plants in windows.  Her group includes: Natasha, Trudy, Patrick, Justin, Lucy and Freddie.


From the very first day of the arc when Gever slashed open a sack of oat groats and let them rain all over the cork floor the Green and Yellow bands were interested in smashing oats.


Both Melissa and I turned this into a math opportunity in which we estimated how long it would take to roll enough oats by hand for everyone in the band to have a bowl of oatmeal.  Though our calculations varied widely, it became apparent that it would take a very long time.  This is when the kids started thinking of creating an oat rolling machine. 


Evan with his interest in primitive machines, ability with sketchup and comfort in the workshop is a perfect fit for this project.  He is really excited to be working with Huxley, Clementine, Zev and Quinn.


Over the past month or so we’ve been visiting 23rd Street Garden on a regular basis.  This community garden is a very special and unusual place.  Tucked behind an unassuming wall and shaded by avocado trees this garden doesn’t have individual plots but is cared for by everyone who comes in.  While we are there we rake leaves, plant potatoes and read Seed Folks.  It has been a wonderful place to discuss how the characters in this novel are transformed by a community garden.


I asked Jeanie, the garden’s guardian, if there were any bigger projects that we could do to contribute to the garden.  She showed us to great big wooden crate told us how they would like to use it as a house for the garden’s resident mouse catching cat.  They would also like this crate to double as a outhouse for pee that can be funneled out into the bamboo for fertilizer.  She asked our young architects to come up with designs and create models of their ideas.


At Brightworks we have a declaration process that ends with Gever and Ellen giving their approval.  What I love about this project is that our declarations will need to be good enough to be approved by the committee that runs the community garden.  It doesn’t get more real than that.  I am so happy to have such a solid team: Lola, Aurora, Nora, Selina, Bruno and Amiya. This project couldn’t be in better hands.