Brightworks is based on ideas that were developed and tested in two pioneering summer programs started by Brightworks Education Architect Gever Tulley and Bryan Welch, who was involved in founding the school. Gever created Tinkering School in 2006 to explore the idea that children can build anything, and through building can learn anything. Bryan co-created A Curious Summer to develop the idea that rich, curated explorations would inspire children’s creativity. The response – both from the children that experienced these programs and from the global community of educators who follow the programs – was nothing short of amazing. Gever and Bryan felt inspired by each other’s programs, and together they developed the pedagogical approach that is at the heart of Brightworks.


The name was inspired by the definition of “brightwork,” which refers to wood or metal on a boat that has been varnished or polished, or “finished bright,” rather than coated with paint to protect it from the elements. Finishing something bright requires dedication and commitment to the attention and care of that surface, far beyond what a painted surface requires.

The school opened its doors to 19 students on September 6, 2011 in the old Best Foods Mayonnaise factory in the Mission District of San Francisco. In the first year, the students experienced four arcs, talked to a multitude of experts and went on dozens of field trips while taking on their learning with first-hand experience and focused on projects and applicable learning. The second year saw a change in the space, the number of students, and the number of collaborators, and with three arcs to dive deep into, the students began to embody what it means to be a Brightworks student and a member of the community. We continue to grow and change each year with new students, staff, and families, and a better, more clear understanding of how the arc pedagogy works and how to approach the curriculum with each student’s needs in mind in order to help them on their way to becoming life-long learners and competent, curious citizens of the world.

Check out our past arcs: