Green Band Explores Color Meaning Around the World

Over the first four weeks of the Rainbow Arc, the Greenies have been studying color meaning in different cultures around the world. This exploration was inspired by a conversation that we had as a band on Chinese New Year (during Spark Arc), when I’d come to school wearing a red shirt and “gold” (yellow) pants. Both colors signify good luck and fortune in Chinese culture, and are traditionally worn for the New Year as well as other celebratory occasions, such as weddings. While I explained this to the Greenies, we talked about other color meaning in Chinese culture, and they were surprised to hear that the color white is representative of death and mourning, an association that seems counterintuitive considering Westerners often associate it with purity and blank slates. Once Rainbow started, we decided to take a deeper dive into what these different colors mean in different places and to different people. We kicked this off with a free-association brainstorm of what we think of around different colors.

Green Band free-association color brainstorm.

After collecting our various associations with colors, each student picked one color to be their “focus color.” This would be the color that they study in depth to understand what it means in different parts of the world. We had four main goals and skills to develop during this study: research, note-taking, growing our understanding of different colors, and then presenting that information. Blaise and Ramses picked black, Apollo chose yellow, Soleil studied white, Sadie did red, Tamsen and Sakira picked purple, Isaac chose blue, and Lars did orange. (I modeled by studying green.)

Sadie and Isaac takes notes on their focus colors, red and blue.

In the Band Space, students read articles, books, and watched videos that talked about the meaning of their color in different places. Using our various sources, the Greenies practiced taking notes based on what style worked best for them, most chose to use bullet points. Some students found that they occasionally learned conflictual information about their color, which made things a little tricker.

Ramses sharing what he learned about the color black in different East Asian countries.

This exploration was also one of our most field-trip packed. Out on the field, the Greenies visited three different museums—the Asian Art Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the de Young. We also took a walking tour of 24th street. Our first trip was to the Asian Art Museum, where we looked specifically at the Chinese, Korean and Japanese collection. During our visits to the museum, Greenies were asked to look specifically for their color, and then to compare the way their color was being used in the art piece to the information they had learned through research in the Band Space. For example, I learned that green in China can be a color associated with good luck and happiness, which is part of the reason jade is so popular. At the Asian Art Museum, I found jade jewelry which I believed was probably worn as a way to bring good fortune onto its wearer.

Lars, Sakira and Tamasen seeking out their focus colors in Chinese snuff bottles at the Asian Art Museum.

Our trip to the Legion of Honor focused primarily on Western Art, with a lot of Christian imagery, as well as Greek and Roman mythological references. We did a scavenger hunt there, looking for different colors being used in specific symbolic ways, for example images of red as a sign of war or violence. Something else that the students noticed at the Legion was the lack of diversity in many of the subjects. Greenies pointed out that it was almost all white people in the art pieces.

Blaise observing a colorful piece of Christian art at the Legion of Honor.

Based on this observation of the lack of representation, we decided to shift our focus for our trip to the de Young. Instead of only looking for our focus colors, the Greenies were also challenged to notice who was featured and who was not in the paintings. (Or perhaps, who was featured in the backgrounds, on the sides, as accessories to the main event?) We watched Titus Kaphar’s TED Talk “Can Art Amend History?” to inspire us. At the de Young, students specifically sought out figures in the art pieces that clearly weren’t intended to be at the center of the painting, and imagine what they might ask or say to those less prominent figures.

Soleil and Tamasen seeking out images of under-represented figures at the de Young.

As a culmination of our work, the Greenies put together individual slide shows that talked about their focus color, and 3-4 different cultures’ ways of thinking of their color. Students also had to include a picture they personally took (not from the internet!) that represented the color’s symbolism. Students could take pictures of things out on the street, at a restaurant, from our museum collection, or even out of a book. This proved to be pretty tricky, especially for cultures that we do not see as frequently represented in our communities. However, the kids got really creative, and we ended up with some awesome and informative presentations!

Apollo shares his slides on the color yellow.

Green and Orange Bands Study What Sparked Japanese Internment during WWII

Back during the Heart Arc, the Green and Orange bands visited the de Young Museum for the Weapons of Mass Seduction: The Art of Propaganda exhibit, which displayed propaganda art from WWI and WWII. Semi-inspired by this trip, Green and Orange decided to embark on a deeper exploration of what sparked the United States to get involved with World War II. From there, we took an even closer look at the question of what sparked the U.S.’s decision to intern hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans for several years during the War, an event that strongly impacted the West Coast of the United States, but is often not the focus in WWII discussions.

Apollo, Sadie and Soleil at the de Young’s Weapons of Mass Seduction exhibit during Heart Arc.

Because California was and continues to be one of the most densely populated states for Asian-Americans in the U.S., our Bands were very lucky to be able to attend so many field trips which specifically documented and paid tribute to the people and places affected by Japanese Internment. To kick off our study, we went to the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, where students learned not only about internment, but also about the history of Japanese immigration to the United States and even the specific history of Japanese people in San Jose. One of our docents, Yoshiko Kanazawa, was interned as a child, and so students were able to directly ask her questions about her experience. From Yoshiko, we heard not only about the lack of privacy at camp, which she considered to be one of the most challenging aspects, but also the variety of attitudes Japanese-Americans had towards being interned. For Yoshiko, her family encouraged her and her siblings to maintain a positive attitude and trust that they would only get stronger from their time in camp. She explained that other people at the camp were much angrier at the U.S. and felt that their imprisonment was hugely unjust and wanted to fight back, which lead to disagreements and resentment amongst the Japanese Americans.

Yoshiko Kanazawa giving a tour to Green Band at JAMsj.

The Green and Orange bands also attended the EXCLUSION: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration exhibit in the Presidio, which gave students the opportunity to examine primary sources and artifacts related to our study. For example, the exhibit contained replicas of the first order issued by the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army Wartime Civil Control Administration to people of Japanese ancestry instructing them on their evacuation. These documents were published in the Presidio, and students engaged in an activity where they had to reflect on what it would feel like to see such a poster that may target their own ethnicity or background.

Blaise, Lars, Emilio and Lola looking for resources at the EXCLUSION exhibit in the Presidio.

Back in the Band Space, Green and Orange drew from a number of different sources on the events of Japanese-American internment in order to broaden and expand our understanding of these historical circumstances. We read My Dog Teny by Yoshito Wayne Osaki—a story about a young boy who had to leave his family dog behind when relocated to a camp, analyzed excerpts from A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn which looked at the events leading up to WWII with a critical eye, watched historical videos that presented a more objective perspective, watched a Ted Talk by George Takei who was interned as a young child, and even listened to a song by Fort Minor which described the artist’s grandfather’s tragic experience in Manzanar. Perhaps our favorite source throughout the study was the historical-fiction graphic novel, Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner.

One of our in-school resources.

Gaijin told and illustrated the story of a young half-Japanese, half-white boy named Koji from San Francisco who is interned with his white mother at the Alameda Downs. Due to his biracial heritage, Koji is seen as an outsider, or “gaijin,” by people both inside and outside of the camp. While dealing with the hardships of being interned—including being bullied, missing his father, and feeling untrusting towards his mother, Koji struggles to find his identity. Through our reading of Gaijin, Greenies analyzed the book’s themes, images, language and characters, allowing us to further understand that, like Yoshiko had mentioned at the museum, every Japanese-American who was interned by the U.S. had their own individual experiences and responses to the events.

Sully (before he moved to Teal Band) reading Gaijin.

Our culminating field trip for our Japanese Internment exploration was our three-day journey to Lone Pine, CA, where we had the unique opportunity to visit Manzanar, one of the few camps (now a National Historic site) located in California. Driving roughly 10 hours, the brave students, collaborators and volunteer-parents stayed two nights in the town of Lone Pine, located in the Owens Valley, and spent one full day visiting Manzanar. At the Historical Site in Independence, CA, toured by Park Ranger Alisa, the students of Green and Orange were able to not only see the actual location of the camp, which was a dusty desert surrounded by the stunning and colossal mountains of the Sierra Nevadas, but also go inside the restructured barracks, latrine, and even have lunch in the original mess hall. In the visitor’s center, students learned about different individuals who were kept at Manzanar, and the struggles, tragedies, joys and successes they experienced during their time interned.

The Green and Orange Bands at Manzanar in Independence, CA.

Green Band gets cooking!

The Green Band has sparked our Spark Arc with one of our favorite topics- food! Side story: On our first day of school this year, while each child was sharing what they were excited about, Sakira said she was excited to be in my band because I’m the “cooking collaborator.” A number of children nodded and agreed with her. I was completely unaware of my reputation as the “cooking collaborator,” and having only cooked a couple of times last year with my band (which didn’t seem like more than any other collaborator), I wasn’t sure where it’ had come from. Nonetheless I have felt some pressure to live up to my reputation, and I do really love to cook.

Last year’s Greenies eating tacos they made, leading to my reputation as the Cooking Collaborator.

Thus inspired our cooking unit. Cooking is, by definition, “the practice or skill of preparing food by combining, mixing, and heating ingredients,” so why not explore this idea of heat and food through a scientific lens during the Spark Arc? The Greenies started the unit by each receiving a carrot. We observed the uncooked carrots, took notes, and then each decided on a different way to cook our carrot. We microwaved a carrot, boiled a carrot, grated it and fried it like a latke, roasted it for different lengths of time, and even tried to light one on fire (it did not work). Kids checked for changes in the color, texture, size, smell and taste. We then shared our results with the band.

Isaac cooking a carrot-pancake.

After our open-ended carrot experiment, the Greenies then designed their own experiments following the Scientific Method. Students asked themselves a question they wanted to answer about food, formed a hypothesis, and then designed their own experiment. We talked about what a testable question is, learned complex scientific vocabulary like “independent and dependent variables,” and what a “control” is. The Green Band hit the grocery store and then performed their experiments in the kitchen.

Ramses was very excited to compare his control chocolate with his habanero pepper chocolate!

Working either independently or in pairs, the Greenies conducted their experiments carefully to test their hypotheses and answer their food questions. Blaise boiled a jalapeño to see if it would change the spice-level, Tamasen and Sakira fried a peach to see how it affected the texture, Apollo microwaved a potato to see how it changed the texture and color, Soleil fried berries to analyze their look, smell and taste, Ramses made chocolate mixed with habanero pepper to see what happens when you mix sweet and spicy, and lastly Sully fried peas to see if it would change the texture. (Isaac and Sadie were not at school for our first round of experiments.) Each experiment had a control so that kids were able to accurately compare their experiment group to the untouched produce.

Sakira and Tamasen compare their fried 1/2 peach with their control 1/2 peach.

After finding and sharing their results, the students tweaked their hypotheses and redesigned their experiments, changing one element, but keeping the rest of the variables the same, for a last and final experiment. Blaise roasted his jalapeño, Tamasen and Sakira toasted their peach, Apollo pan-fried his potato, Soleil baked her berries, Ramses added pepper to chocolate milk, and Sully fried a half head of cabbage. Isaac was able to pan-fry his potato slices, and Sadie attempted to fry watermelon slices. We got some delicious, some mushy, and some gross results. We followed up these experiments by reading an article on how different cooking methods affect nutritional value.

Sadie fries her watermelon slices.

On December 7th, Greenies will celebrate our cooking experiments by hosting Community Friday. Hope you’ll be there!!

We promise we won’t serve boiled jalapeños!

Propaganda Party!

As an extension to our work with murals, art and identity, the Greenies continued our Heart Arc with a study of propaganda, where we continued to ask ourselves “what is at the heart of this piece?” We learned that propaganda is information—often presented in a visual way—that is used to convince its viewers to believe or follow a certain point of view. We discovered that the term “propaganda” first came into use in 17th century Europe by the Catholic Church during the Counter Reformation. As a band, we studied several different types of propaganda, including bandwagon, testimonial, framing, and fear tactic. Student viewed different propaganda images and then sorted them into categories. We found that many of the images could fall under two or more categories, and also came to the realization that propaganda is everywhere around us!

Band Space propaganda poster

To gain some more historical understanding of propaganda, the Greenies headed to the de Young Museum exhibit, Weapons of Mass Seduction: The Art of Propaganda, with the Orange Band. The exhibit, which focuses on World War I and II propaganda, gave students the opportunity to take their analytical skills developed in our work around art and identity, and apply them to historical posters and films. Looking at the extensive exhibit, we asked ourselves who is the targeted audience? What is the message that is trying to be communicated? How can you tell? Some of the posters that we found most interesting were the ones that communicated the idea that nobody could really be trusted, and anybody could be working for the Axis Powers, so keep your mouths shut. We noticed the ways in which different people were depicted in the various propaganda images, including those who represented the “good American citizen,” and those who were clearly meant to be untrustworthy.

A WWII propaganda poster from the “Weapons of Mass Seduction” exhibit.

The Greenies also took a walking tour of 24th Street, where we looked for propaganda and discussed the different artists’ intended messages. We discovered that propaganda isn’t always posters, but can come in different mediums too, such as stencils or murals. We found that a lot of the murals on 24th Street could be seen as propaganda, and that the majority of them had messages around preserving the culture of 24th street. Some of the examples we found included concepts and vocabulary that we had to break down and interpret as a group.

Propaganda stencil piece found in various locations around the Mission.

Back in the Band Space, the Greenies were put into 3 groups to create their own propaganda posters. The first, and perhaps trickiest step, was to come up with a message they wanted to spread to others, forcing them to reflect and ask, “what belief do I feel passionate about and want to pass on to those around me?” Coming up with a message while working in groups required some compromise and creativity, which led us to do some additional reflection around what it looks like to be a good teammate. Eventually the groups established three very different, but important, messages. Sakira, Soleil and Sully settled on making a poster around affordable housing; Ramses, Sadie and Blaise focused their poster on promoting the drinking of kombucha; Apollo, Isaac and Tamasen decided to create a poster that promotes reusing trash and recycled goods. What seemed to come easiest for the propaganda groups was coming up with catchy slogans to promote their ideas. (These kids should go into sales, I swear!)

Ramses, Sadie and Blaise research and work on their kombucha propaganda.

The groups designed their posters in four iterations, and gave each other feedback in between each iteration. While looking at one another’s posters, we asked, “is the message of this poster clear?” and “can we identify what type of propaganda this is?” For some of the posters, we noticed that the graphics and slogan were eye-catching and clever, but the intention of the poster was unclear. On others we saw that there was a clear message, but it didn’t really fall into any propaganda type. This exchange of feedback required students to listen to their peers openly, be flexible, and persevere. Developing these skills will help all of us when we finally enter our first Expression phase next Arc!

Soleil, Sakira and Sully’s poster.

Tamasen, Isaac and Apollo’s poster.

Sadie, Blaise and Ramses’s poster.

Green Band Explores Heart as Metaphor for Identity

What better Arc to start off the 2018-19 school year with than the Heart Arc? It is the arc of love, friendship, romance, centrality, identity, strength and life! In our first few weeks of school, the Green Band has been analyzing the heart on both a biological and metaphorical level. Through the lens of heart as identity, Greenies have engaged in a number of explorations and exercises that have allowed us to bond and get to know each other as a band. I can say without hesitation that the Green Band already feels like a family.

Green Band’s name stories

For one of these exercises we created Identity Icebergs, in which the surface of the iceberg shows what one can see on the outside (brown hair, nose ring, tattoos—don’t worry, that one is mine), and below the surface we wrote traits one would only know if you got to know us (lives alone, has 2 cats, has ridden a motorcycle—again, me). Another exercise involved discussing our communication styles. We talked about different communication styles through the metaphor of animals. What might it mean to be a tiger, eagle, turtle or wolf communicator? And which style resonates with you? We also worked in pairs to fill in Buddy Venn Diagrams as a way to get to know one another. Students asked silly questions like “if you were a dessert, what dessert would you be?” to see what they had in common and what what they felt differently about.

Greenies work on Buddy Venn Diagrams to get to know each other.

Another way we have jumped into the arc topic is by analyzing art and asking ourselves “what is at the heart (center) of this piece?” During our first week of school, we took our question to Clarion Alley, and evaluated the murals there. As a band, we found and wrote about murals that advocated for same-sex marriage, mourned the loss of small business pushed out of the neighborhood, paid respect to nature, and advertised the use of Narcan during times of emergency. In addition to naming what was at the center of each piece, Greenies had to back up their answer with evidence from the mural.

Soleil taking notes on a mural in Clarion Alley.

Combining our heart mural analysis work with our identity work, Greenies each came up with a symbol or illustration to represent what is in their heart. Their only restriction? It could not be the traditionally shaped heart. Inspired by heart-spark-rainbow themed pins made by Teal Band Collaborator Melissa, each member of the Green Band drew out their idea on GoogleDraw, and then used the Glowforge to laser cut their designs with the help of Loren in the shop. For some of us, it was our first time using the laser cutter, which was very exciting. Next step is for students to turn their laser-cut items into pins or earrings so they can wear their heart “on their sleeve,” so to speak.

A Week of Keith: Hip-Hop, Graffiti, and Legality

Last week, the Green and Orange bands got a tour of  the RESPECT: Hip Hop Style & Wisdom exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. The multi-sensory exhibit covered music, fashion, dance, art, literature and even transportation as they connect and relate to hip hop culture, Black history, and in some sections, directly to Oakland. (I highly recommend the exhibit, if you can’t already tell.) While there were many different elements to the show, the two bands participated in a rich and insightful discussion with our DJ-tour guide, Alex, as he probed us to question the meaning and purpose behind the various different pieces and their connection to city life. One of the features of the exhibit that seemed to speak to the students most was this idea of street art/ graffiti. Because the kids know that painting or writing on someone else’s property without permission is illegal, there were mixed responses to the idea of graffiti. We were left pondering a couple questions—do we consider graffiti to be art? and is the intent behind it justified?

Aaliyah looking at an interactive “graffiti’d” wall at the RESPECT exhibit in Oakland.

Now cut to Rachel at home, reading in bed with her cats, at the late hour of 8:15 PM on a Thursday. The book she’s reading is Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement, which was recommended to her by Lisa of Orange (oo…full circle). In the book, the reader gets a view into the brilliant but tumultuous lives of Jean-Michele Basquiat and his long term on-and-off girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk. The book is a mix of third person narrative, verse, and personal accounts from Suzanne herself (I highly recommend the book, if you can’t already tell). It also discusses both Basquiat and his contemporary Keith Haring’s relationships to graffiti and street art. Reading their stories inspired me to bring their work into the Band Space, so I did!

Guapa sitting on my library copy of “Widow Basquiat” by Jennifer Clements, at 8:45.

Cut back to Brightworks. The Greenies spent this past week studying Keith Haring. (I decided to start with him over Basquiat because I felt his art style would be more accessible for our first Artist Study. He was also able to more seamlessly straddle the high art world with the street art world than Basquiat, given his privileged position as a white man, which is discussed in Widow Basquiat. We will study him next.) During the week, we looked at Haring’s artwork, listened to his interviews, watched an 80’s news segment about him, and read two different sources about his life, including a picture book written by his sister. The kids used these various sources to discuss his art style, as well as what we felt his values were and what made him so unique as an artist. We learned that while he did make a lot of money selling his artwork, he also continued to make his art accessible to all—including by drawing in public places, like at subway stops. At the end of the unit, kids journaled about whether they feel it is ever justified to do something illegal. While we had mixed responses, not all art-related, one student wrote, “Keith Haring drew on blank sections in the subway. It was illegal, but he had good intentions. He wanted to let everyone see and enjoy his art.” 

The Greenies looking at examples of Keith Haring’s art.

Greenies Innovate and Design to Address Basic Human Needs

Expression is just around the corner, and the Greenies have been working hard on a number of different projects since the last time we spoke (you read.) Since the beginning of the Arc, Greenies have written essays on character development, studied volume, learned how to use Google Earth and Google Maps to do measurements for their scale landmarks, and gone on a number of different field trips.

The Green Band at the SF/Marin Food Bank.

One of the Explorations we’ve continued to work on throughout this Arc has been our study of homelessness. In my last blog post, I discussed the inspiring presentation Doniece Sandoval did for Brightworks about Lavamae. Since then, the Green Band had a toiletries drive and made small gift bags to hand out to the community, as well as taken field trips to the SF/Marin Food Bank where we bagged rice, and to Glide Memorial Church to serve lunch. (Fun fact, Glide buys most of its food from the Food Bank!) The Greenies also have come up with their own innovative ideas to help the homeless.

Our finished toiletry bags to give out to the community.

We started this project by asking ourselves “what are our basic human needs?” The Green Band brainstormed and came up with hygiene, shelter, clothes, food and water. Students voted on which of these basic human needs they’d like to dive deeper into, and then were put into pairs based on their interest. Each pair researched other gadgets, nonprofits and inventions that address their specific need, and then came up with their own innovation!

Charlotte and Griffin paired up to work on hygiene. It was a little challenging to come up with an idea as good as  Lavamae after seeing the amazing Lavamae presentation. However, after learning that homeless people often have to travel all over the city to make it to various medical appointments or services, the pair decided that they wanted to come up with an idea that not only addresses personal hygiene, but also addresses medical needs. They ended up creating a prototype-model of a double decker bus where one floor would be a small medical clinic, and the other would be for showers and bathrooms— “a one stop shop” as described by Griffin.

Griffin and Charlotte working on their double-decker bus prototype.

For shelter, Piper and Liam are working on a “mini-home on wheels for the homeless.” They designed and are building a trailer that would fit a standard bed frame and mattress and would be on four wheels. This idea would allow for the home’s inhabitant to not only have a comfortable, roofed mini-house, but would also be transportable. While Liam has taken charge building the shelter’s structure, Piper is adding her personal design finesse by sewing a blanket to make the house more of a home.

Piper and Liam work with Evan on their shelter design.

To address the need of clothing, Phoebe and Gita came up with “Project Foldable Coat.” They designed a coat that would be able to fold and zip up into a backpack. The wearer would not only be able to store their belongings, but also stay warm. The pair decided to demonstrate their invention in the form of a movie-advertisement. Instead of making an actual foldable coat, they used the magic of film-editing to show off their creation.

Gita and Phoebe get ready to film for their backpack-coat movie. Phoebe wears Project Foldable Coat’s logo.

Aaliyah and Lucy were assigned food and water as a combined human need, and did research on innovations for both. For their own creation, they decided to focus on water and it’s cleanliness. Knowing that iodine is used to purify water, the pair came up with an idea to make easily accessible iodine jugs. They made a slideshow to present their idea model. By pressing the button on the jug, consumers would be able to add drops of iodine to their water. These jugs would not only be free, but be placed around the city (or wherever needed) so that clean water would be accessible to all.

Aaliyah and Lucy working on their iodine-jug slideshow.

Needless to say, this project has really highlighted the Greenies’ creativity, collaboration skills, and critical thinking abilities. If we are lucky, we can get these ideas patented and really put them out there in the real world!

Hop Aboard the City Arc Tour Bus!

Welcome readers, to our first City Arc blog post of the year! I’ll be your tour guide as we check out what’s been going on in the Green Band so far. The Greenies are hard at work on various City explorations, so if you follow me I’ll show you what they’ve been working on!

Welcome to the tour!

To the left, you’ll see the historic Bernal Hill, and to the right, the De Young Observation Tower. Both locations have been sites of inspiration for poetry writing in the Green Band. That’s right, folks, the Greenies have been studying poetry! Not only have we sought out different landmarks to inspire us, but we’ve also been studying poetry in the band space. We’ve read and listened to some famous poets such as Langston Hughes and Frank O’hara, as well as those we don’t immediately think of, like Eminem, to expand our understanding of what constitutes poetry. We’ve also been studying literary devices including similes, metaphor, alliteration and our favorite—onomatopoeia—and finding them all around us, in music, prose, poetry and in our conversations! Next step for the Greenies? In conjunction with our reading of Crossover by Kwame Alexander—a narrative book told completely in verse—Greenies will be writing their own narrative poems.

Aaliyah, Lucy and Gita writing poetry at the De Young.

As a tourist, I’m sure you guys appreciate a good map. If you take a close look in our Band Space, you’ll probably notice that Greenies do too! Not only do we have a world map, but we have maps of Brightworks, created by the Greenies themselves for our study of scale! Each student picked one area of the BWX warehouse—band spaces, the kitchen, office, library etc., measured the space and furniture, and then drew it to scale on graph paper. Each student chose their own scale to draw their space to, but when we put our drawings together, we realized this was a problem that prevented us from making a truly realistic map! What a learning experience. Next up in our study of scale, Greenies will be picking a SF landmark to recreate in 3D to scale. This time kiddos will have to choose a scale together so that we can make a realistic model of the city.

Griffin’s scale drawing of the library.

Ladies and gents, as you may have noticed on this tour, there are a lot of homeless people throughout the city. Because homeless people are a part of the SF community (although not always treated as such) and add to the culture of the city, it seemed appropriate that we would study the city’s homeless population. In addition to asking ourselves “What are the factors that cause homelessness?” we are also wondering “How can we help homeless people?” We started our study listening to a KQED podcast on first topic, and then watched a presentation by the founder of Lava Mae (and Tamasen’s mom), Doniece Sandoval on one way to address the latter. Moving forward, Greenies are going to break into pairs to study different issues facing the homeless community, and come up with ways to try and help the issues, much like Ms. Sandoval did.

Ms. Sandoval’s presentating on Lava Mae.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Green Band’s City Arc. Check back soon to learn more about our explorations!

Greenies calculate “The True Cost” of cheap labor in garment factories

While the Green Band is in full swing working on their Expression Projects, we’ve also continued a part-time exploration of cloth by studying garment workers and factories. Our study of garment workers was inspired by the documentary, “The True Cost,” which we watched the week before Winter Break. This documentary about the clothing industry specifically analyzed the environmental, social, and economic effects of “fast” fashion. The 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh was a huge focus of the documentary, with footage of the building’s wreckage and interviews with garment workers and the factory owners. Students were outraged to hear the mistreatment and working conditions many garment workers face.

Promotional poster for the “The True Cost”

The week we returned from break, the Greenies started to collect data on where our clothing comes from. Over the course of a week, we checked the tags of our clothing each day and collected data from other bands. We then graphed our data.  We found that China is the biggest manufacturer of our clothes by a long shot, making double of what Vietnam makes, which was the second largest manufacturer on our graph. The Greenies were surprised to find out Bangladesh was not one of the highest places considering we had heard so much about the garment factories there.

Gita, Lucy and Phoebe check out our new Band Space map.

To continue our mathematical analysis of the clothing industry, each child chose one country to calculate the incomes of their garment workers. The countries were Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. Based on this slightly dated 2010 article, students took the hourly income of a garment worker from these counties and calculated their daily, weekly, monthly and annual income based on a 10-hour day, 7-day-a-week schedule, which we found is a pretty average schedule. We then graphed their monthly incomes. We found that in general, factories in Latin America paid their garment workers much more than those in Asia. A garment worker in Colombia, which was the highest paying country out of the ones we chose, makes about $325.00/month. We compared this to a garment worker in Bangladesh (the lowest) who makes under $50.00/month.

Our poster showing the monthly income of garment workers in our selected countries.

To wrap up our study of garment workers, the Green Band jigsawed articles taken from the Clean Clothes Campaign website. The Clean Clothes Campaign “is a global alliance dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.” The articles we read covered topics such as living wages and severance pay, working hours and overtime, unions, health and safety, and gender discrimination. Students split up these articles, practiced their close-reading, highlighting and note-taking skills, and then presented the most important points of the articles to one another (this is what we call jigsawing.) We learned that while the working conditions for garments workers is often horrendous, the workers and their allies are doing what they can to fight and improve the lives.

Notes on the Clean Clothes Campaign articles.

Cloth & Religious Identity: The Greenies Study Islam

The Green Band’s latest read aloud is “Does My Head Look Big In This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The book tells the story of Amal, an Australian-Palestinian teenager living in Melbourne who decides to start wearing the hijab (“veil”) full-time. As a Muslim, Amal is in the minority at her new school and in her community, and the book, told from her perspective, talks about the ways in which the people around her respond to this very visible symbol of faith. This connection between cloth (the hijab) and identity has lead to a study of Islam in the Band.

While the majority of the Green Band identifies as being secular or atheist, the kids have done an amazing job following our Norms for Talking About Religion. These norms, inspired by this Teaching Tolerance article, allow for respectful and open-minded discussions of religion. For many students, this was the first time learning about religion in an academic setting.

Using a number of Newsela articles (our favorite resource), students studied the history of Islam and Muhammad, the Five Pillars of Islam, the purpose of the hijab, the frequently perceived connection between terrorism and Islam, and the tremendous amount of prejudice that Muslims face on a daily basis. The Green Band also took a visit to the Islamic Society of San Francisco and got to experience what it feels like to be in an urban mosque and learn a little more about the religion from our guide Khaled Ghaleb. We learned that Islamic art doesn’t contain images and consists primarily of geometric shapes and patterns. Students observed individuals coming in and out of the space, and although nobody had been in a mosque before, it was undeniable that everybody felt “peaceful, calm, and quiet.”

Our study of Islam culminated in students doing a short reflection on how their lives connect to the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahadah- faith, Salat- prayer, Zakat- charity, Sawm- fasting, and Hajj-pilgrimage to Mecca. Students were able to find commonalities between traditions and aspects of their lives and those of the Muslim faith. I am very proud of the work that the Greenies did in our study of Islam!