Symbols of Value

Amber Band out on a mural walk in the neighborhood.

This year we’ll be taking a closer look at how we’re all connected—by coin, cloth, and city. To kick the year off with coin, we’re considering what we value most. The band began by discussing our hopes and dreams for the year. We then considered what agreements we might need in place to help us achieve those hopes and dreams, and organized those agreements into categories. The final iteration of the agreement synthesized their ideas into a concise, affirmative, and important list to guide our work together.

The band broke into two groups to brainstorm agreements to support our hopes and dreams for the year.

We decided to publish the agreement in the form of a mural. This got us thinking about our environment around the school, and how murals around our city impact their environments. We made close observations of the murals around the neighborhood, and used those obsesrvations to define the criteria and constraints for our mural. The band calculated the surface area of the wall where we planned to have the mural displayed, and used conversion techniques to determine how many gallons of paint would be needed to cover the square footage of the wall.

An expert muralist visited the band to share feedback on designs.

Once our plan was under way we started translating our agreement into symbols. The neighborhood is full of murals by artist Sirron Norris, and we got the chance to talk with him about his mural process. “This is hard work!” Sirron reviewed our group agreement, and shared with us how it was going to be difficult to think metaphorically about such big concepts as “try to learn, treat others the way that they want to be treated, and respect materials”. After a few rounds of brainstorming symbols, the group had narrowed it down to three main concepts. 

The kids made quick impulse drawings in response to the main ideas we distilled down from our larger agreement list.

We explored symbols further by getting out around the city to make observations of symbols of value. We went on a scavenger hunt around the Financial District first to record symbols, and assigned a value to each. We then went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to look at the ways artists use symbols to assign value. Students sat with one work of art that symbolized something of high value to them. Many were mesmerized by the piece Clinamen by the artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot because they felt that it provided a quiet and calming space, something the group all really valued.

Huxley made rubbings of symbols we found around the Financial District.

Reggie found a plaque in the Financial District of William Leidesdorff, a West Indian immigrant of African Cuban and San Francisco’s first city treasurer.

 

Back at Brightworks, the band worked together to come up with a consistent color palette before they jumped in to start painting. This sparked conversations around identifying patterns in symbols. Researcher and educator, Jo Boaler, has found that brain pathways light up when we visualize with numbers, and shares new research that shows how when we’re thinking of numbers as symbols and visualizing those numbers, we make new brain pathways. We practiced working with math examples through a color coding system.

After many iterations and collaborative sketches, the group voted on their favorite design for the final mural. Felix’s sketch distilled all of our ideas down to focusing on respect for self, others, and our environment.

The band projected Felix’s drawing onto our wood panels to trace for the final mural.

 

We worked with a limited color palette to unify our design.

Once we started painting, the mural started coming to life!

This week we’ll continue to discuss our personal definitions for value, and exploring what it means to be rich. We hope to have the mural complete after a few more finishing touches to add detail. The mural will go up as a symbol of the agreement we made as a band to respect ourselves, each other, and our environment. This theme of respect will stay with us throughout the work we do together as we tackle epic projects and go on awesome adventures.