Violet Band! 

Greetings from the north side of the mayonnaise factory’s “middle structures”, aka Violet Band headquarters! Natalie, Keyen, Clementine, Jacob, Harper, Zev, Sutchat, Trudy and Rich are happy to share that the new year is off to a exciting start, and the ball is rolling (or should I say the rocket is flying?) on By-Air. Over the past couple of weeks we have been getting to know each other, our bandspace, the school, Collaborators and peers.


Day 1. The students enter their new bandspace, and are greeted by the ultimate real-world problem solving exercise: the assembly of an Ikea office chair…



Introduction to hand-eye coordination



“By-Air” student generated brainstorm



Preparing for the library…



Travel around the city with them and you really get a sense of why they’re called “bands”.



Introduction to working with cardboard…




The Violet band makes geometry compasses out of cardboard.


Our first construction of the year was…kites! We began our builds by doing research on different types of kite design. Craft books and the internet offered a bunch of different designs, and each member of the band chose a design that was to their liking. Each design was different, and a few students chose to see how a scaled-down mini-kite version might do. Our building materials were rice paper, bamboo, string, and glue. Working with the materials was a challenge themselves, the delicate paper, HOT glue, and tangly string all gave us opportunities to practice our patience (with the materials AND our fingers).


More prepping of the bamboo…


The Violet band was not the only band to partake in a kite making adventure, and were joined by the Red and Teal bands on Bernal Hill. With the sun bright and the wind strong, our hopes were high. After climbing to the top of the hill, we all began to launch our kites…or at least try really hard to launch our kites… At the end of the day, only a few of our kites took to air, a few did imitations of a washing machine spin cycle before crashing into the Bernal churt, others fluttering a few breathless moments before dropping to our feet. However, the process was fun in itself, for attempting a launch became a cooperative effort between a person holding the kite, one with the string, and a third to film the experiment. Oh, and the view wasn’t that bad either.

The Bernal Hill International Kite Proving Grounds.


Teal Band’s group project reaches new heights, and inspires us all…


…and this is how we learn the most…



Back at Brightworks, we troubleshot why certain kites flew and others didn’t. An exploration of the forces affecting a flying kite, led us to an interest in calculating the surface area. Tinkering around with the idea led the students to discovering the equation for calculating the surface area of a triangle, and with this newfound knowledge, they were able to calculate a kite’s surface area. Scoring that goal with ease, the students were ready for another challenge. We brought another dimension into the mix, and they were off calculating the surface area of three-dimensional objects. A brief digression led us to explore how one calculates the gallons of paint needed to cover the exterior of a house (taking into account all windows), a concept we will use to better understand wing design as we move beyond kites next week…


The theme of kites has entered our literary world as well. We are reading the youth novel, Dragon Wings, by Laurence Yep. The story follows a young boy named Moonshadow from his village in China to San Francisco at the beginning of the last century. A stranger in a foreign land, the boy has to confront and understand the hardships of life in a foreign land, building a relationship with his father, and the technology that might allow him to fly as his father’s kites do. Class discussions about the book quickly move beyond exploring characters and particulars of the story, and venture into a land that addresses questions about society, sparked by comments such as; “I can’t believe they did that back then”, and “that’s so messed up”.


We’ve hit the ground running, and I for one am very excited to see what else we create and explore during the remaining weeks of our first short Arc. The students are very interested in exploring how music, sound, disease, and animals move around the world by air. Stay tuned to see how these interests manifest themselves in the weeks to come…

TEAL band continues to ROCK out!

Greetings from Teal band! So much has happened since the beginning, that it’s hard to believe that we’re only on week 5. As you know, we kicked off the school year getting to know each other and moving into our new bandspace.

Since then, we’ve climbed mountains…

read of their value,

worked in the shop,

developed our number sense,

and began to learn that even though we may stumble,

there is a way to be graceful about it.


We immediately set off to check out the rocky spots around our school. Teal soon realized that the tall rocky outcroppings of Corona, and Bernal Heights were made out of a type of sedimentary rock called Chert. Chert is a type of rock born on the ocean floor, and is build of the accumulated shells of a type of plankton called radiolaria. We had to look into it, and found out a thing or two. One, was that the radiolarians must have accumulated over a very long amount of time (geologic time), and these ocean odes to geometry have defenses that make a porcupine look tame.

Teal band

In an effort to continue learning about our local community, we headed to the Randall Museum. Local animals, large and small, live at the Randall. We had an opportunity to observe a raccoon from close up, have a tortoise bite at us, check out the beautiful pattern of a Gopher Snake (one of which we later saw in the wild), and noticed the difference between a crow and a raven.

Teal band

Teal band

From the start, we’ve also been on quests to know and understand the ‘things’ that are within the walls of our old mayonnaise factory. We started of with a partnered quest to identify all things at Brightworks that are made of rocks. The most interesting discovery for Teal band was that metals come from rocks! Then we went outside…it was also metal, and concrete…everywhere! Is it true, that if it’s not grown, it’s mined?

In an effort to dig deeper into metal production, we checked out some videos about mining and processing metal ore. Wide eyes and comments like; “Oh…wow, I had no idea” could be found in the theater room. The Sun-bright molten ore and metal is an exceptional site, but interest was drawn because of another reason as well.


Teal band is reading a youth novel that follows a young boy growing up in a copper mining town in Tennessee. We quickly learned of some the social and ecological impacts mining towns experience, and now we had a clue about what was happening in the company factory in the story. The next step was to discover what the copper was being turned into. We explored different copper products that interested us, and illustrated them for display. As we read about the struggles of Jack Hicks’ community in “A Bird on Water Street”, we now knew what their toils were for.


We’ve also been practicing a few other skills that will serve us, regardless of the Arc we’re in. Namely, developing our number sense and proprioception. We’ve been developing our number sense by practicing simple mental math, figuring out what multiplication and division means to us, the different ways we can do it, and we even secretly dabbled in algebra a bit (but of course we didn’t call it that:).

Teal band

Proprioception has taken the form of ball toss and falling practice. Patterned group ball tossing to sharpen our visual awareness and hand-eye coordination, and falling class in order build holistic body control, confidence, and keep us out of the Band-Aid bin.

Training our body will not only keep us from knocking over a glass at the dinner table and help grow gray matter, but serve us as we head into the shop and gain experience with the tools and materials of Brightworks. Some days ago, the band received a provocation to build a miniature Zen rock garden. Essentially a shallow wooden box; they measured, cut, clamped, glued and sanded. Simple as it seems, much was learned. Moving on to the miniature rakes meant moving on to trying the band’s decade old hands at fine woodworking. Drilling and setting the minute teeth required focus and intentionality, and it gave the students an opportunity to push their fine motor skills to the limit.

Oh…and it was really fun too:)

Teal band

On a ‘meta’ note: with ‘change over time’ as a Meta-Arc, we’ve begun to learn how to visualize just that. We were introduced to graphing, and busied ourselves with building a graph to visualize Amanda Oberski’s knee recovery progress. We are plotting ‘knee bend progress’, and are very happy to “see” that Amanda is rapidly recovering from her surgery:)




Week one kicked off with a bang! Introductions were exchanged, agreements made, summer stories told, laughs and hugs were shared. Then the sounds of chopping, cutting, drilling, and troubleshooting filled our ears. TEAL band’s first major group project was to finish creating their band space. Students paired up, and each team tackled a different project.

Khalia and Harper hopped to making an aquarium and plant stand for our window. Apart from getting to know each other, each got to know proper and effective hand drill and chop saw use. Declan and Oscar became familiar with safe and effective table saw use, as they cut shelves for multiple projects. They were also reminded of the importance of precise and accurate measurements, and the difference between ‘measure twice and cut once’, and ‘measure once, cut so many times that even a beaver would get sick of it’ (shout out to the ‘Measurement’ Arcs of 2013-14!). Sutchat and Rhone handled ‘large scale’ builds, they enlisted the aid of their band mates as they relocated the whiteboard, cut and installed a large wall panel, and trouble shot where the band scooters might be stored. Norabelle and Jacob prototyped a ‘tea mug tree’ and had their hand at advanced band saw use when they created a circular tea table.

All this was done with a harkening to our community agreements and the Brightworks approach. We took frequent ‘get to know you’ breaks, and so the sound of construction was interrupted by hilarity, merriment, and at least one; “you guys are gonna be my best friends”.

Next week we continue to explore ‘how to succeed at Brightworks’, and dive into the story of ROCK, with hands-on, and abstract explorations into its properties, origins, and uses. We look forward to exploring our city and meeting the men and women that call themselves; geologist, jewelry maker, sculpture and builder.
Watch out ROCK, here we come!







Teal band