Yellow Band: By Sea, First Weeks

The students of the Beehive are ready to hit the high seas!

We dove right into several different explorations around the idea of transportation by Sea, I’ll run through a handful of them. We got started studying the stars, both building a constellation as an afternoon project, and studying how sailors navigated when out on the open seas. We’ve been doing a lot of experiments around buoyancy–weight, density and water displacement–in order to build small crafts that float, and maybe even carry heavy and dense cargo like rolls of coins. We has an awesome all-school field day, focusing on building a kind and inclusive community here at school! Oh, and we started reading Hemingway! Really!

First off, the constellation project and related celestial navigation explorations. What the heck does it even mean to build a constellation anyway?! I don’t know, that’s why I posed it as a project! One thing we often talk about when selecting projects for both the Tinkering School and Brightworks is that a good project is like a keyhole: it may seem narrow in focus at first, but upon further examination opens up to a world of possibilities and expressions. The constellation is just that! It immediately conjures an image and connection to the real world. There are loads of stories to tell around the stars–just ask the Greeks! Plus, none of us have ever built a constellation before, so there will be loads of neat problems to solve and science to learn along the way.

Right off the bat, the constellation group decided that we wanted our constellation to be rooted in real science: show the magnitude of the different stars, convey their different distances from earth, and demonstrate the connection to celestial navigation. We started with reading some from H.A Rey’s book, The Constellations, which combines facts about stars with star maps and the Greek myths that go along with many well known constellations. When we got to the part about light years and the stars different distances from earth, we did some perspective drawing, showing a chair from two different angles. This helped us wrap our heads around the idea that constellations that are very familiar to us, like the Big Dipper, would look totally different if we stood on a different planet.

These astronomers are drawing this chair from two different perspectives. Afterward, we analyzed our drawings, pointing out the features we emphasized in from our first perspective and our second.

Here is Nolan working hard on his second drawing of the chair!

After doing some research, and nailing down our priorities in what we’d like to get across by building a constellation, we were ready to get to work! We decided that we needed a ‘Night Box,’ for the stars to live inside, and that we wanted to build both the Little and Big Dippers, because one includes Polaris–the North Star–and the other points to the North Star. So, If you can find one of those two constellations, than you can figure out where you are! Then, we decided that we wanted the whole thing to be about as tall as the clock on the wall (which turned out to be 7′). Then we got down to the nitty gritty!

Sylvester explains to May and Dash why the chops stop means that we don’t need to have a line drawn on our wood in order to cut.

A regular fixture during morning choice time has been some type of exploration around buoyancy: what types of things float and why? After exploring some different materials like wood, metal and plastic, and defining what we meant by ‘float’ anyway (if you push it down into the water, it doesn’t come back up), then we got started trying to build some type of craft that would carry a roll of nickels.

Wood floats really well! But metal maybe doesn’t, and the empty plastic water bottle floated, but the one filled with water didn’t. Hm.

Balloons became popular flotation devices because we noticed that air really really floats. But, they didn’t end up working that well to build boats because they were really hard to stabilize–the nickels always flopped over to the bottom and sunk!

Nicole had been doing some origami at choice time, so Reyahn decided to try out his paper boat to see how many nickels it would hold. Not quite a whole roll, but it did hold 25 which was the most a craft held that day!

Then we had field day! During our in-service week, we talked a lot about school culture, and wanting to take a moment to emphasize kindness and caring for each other. An all school community Friday field day seemed like a great chance to have some band-specific communication and teamwork focused activities, but also mix up all the bands to emphasize how much we care about each other. Thank you so much to Jay, Nathan, Justine and Evan for organizing and facilitating! And thank you to the Magenta for offering some great activities too!

 

Ally shows Phoebe and Sakira how to twist up their t-shirts to get them ready to tie-dye.

May and Sakira inside the parachute.

Nathan led the Yellow Band in a communication focused activity similar to river crossing. In this activity, the group has to figure out the order that they can step on the different squares, Nathan knows the sequence, and only tells them ‘Yes,’ or ‘No!’ One person tries at a time, but as the group figures out the path, they can help each other! And, they’ve got to remember those kind ways to offer help and advice!

And then back to work! Another of our choices these first few weeks has been to read and visualize Hemingway’s classic short novel The Old Man and the Sea. This is one of my favorite books, I’ve read it many times, so it was a clear choice for a novel for us to get into because, you know, don’t dumb it down. That being said, sometimes I have to artfully rephrase things a s I’m reading. But anyway, it’s been great! It’s an excellent story of companionship and perseverance, there is a lot for us to unpack as we read. We’ve had excellent conversations about the difference in the relationship between the young boy and the old man, and the young boy and his father, carefully analyzing the descriptions as we go by making drawings to show what we’re hearing. On a given day, we probably only read 2 or 3 pages because there is so much rich detail to sift through.

Khalilah’s illustration of the old man’s bed and his dreams: his bed with newspapers for sheets and rolled up trousers for a pillow, and his dreams full of lions.

And, of course, we’ve kept up with our morning vitamins because MATH. So far, I’m loving the math of the sea–there is so much interesting stuff to do! Our first exploration is connected to our work on the constellation, the idea of celestial navigation. Did you know that much of our calendar, number system, and organization of time is based on an ancient system that wasn’t even in base 10?! True story! The basis for 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. and 360 degrees in a circle is the Babylonian base 60 number system! So, we’ve been learning how to count like a Babylonian on our hands, and how to record numbers like the ancient Sumerians would too! It’s kinda tricky, but a great way to stretch our brains, thinking flexibly about numbers.

But first, we had to really nail down how we use our hands to count to begin with. And we went into a lot of detail, in order to emphasize metacognition and reflection. Some kiddos start on their thumbs and work out, others start with their pointers and end on their thumbs. And, we all different ways to count up to bigger numbers–some counted by 5s or 10s, some used one hand for 1s, and the other for bigger quantities. Interesting!

And then we started to practice counting like a Babylonian! They used their hands in a really interesting way, counting each joint on their fingers and using their thumb as a pointer. That way they could count up to 12 (aka one dozen!) on one hand, and keep track of dozens on their other hand.

Armed with an understanding of where the degrees on the compass came from, we went up to the field to start doing some of the basics of navigating. Because, if you’re trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going, you’re going to need to know how to use this tool!

Using compasses up at the field!

Oscar and Sakira used a pencil as a pointer, which Emilio then followed with his eyes to check their degree readings for accuracy. We measured from the center of the field the location of the Bay Bridge, Bernal Hill, Sutra Tower–just to name a few!

Nolan and Reyahn kept their compass on the ground and measured from there. I asked the kiddos to first take two measurements on the same thing–one of the goals on the field–first from the south fence, and then from the center of the field. We’ll use these measurements to talk about the relationship between the angle and the distance next week, but I have to figure that out a bit more first!

More more more to come!