Follow that Food!

Ah, November; what a month you’ve been, already!

This month has been nothing but nonstop action since it began. Indeed, the Orange Band  has hit the ground running since we returned from Mendocino last month: exploring San Francisco, where our food comes from, and, of course, NaNoWriMo!

Mendocino Memories - filtered light and the scent of redwoods

Mendocino Memories – filtered light and the scent of redwoods.

The movement of things by land is yet another vast undertaking for the Orange Band students. We saw, early on, that the interests and ideas we bring to the table make for a variety of possible projects and dives, big and small.

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As a way to focus our energies and efforts, students began and in-depth and up close look at an essential part of our daily lives: food. We began the arc with a field trip to Pie Ranch, a thriving, working farm located in Pescadero. Pie Ranch’s food education program experience offered the Orange Band a first-hand look at one very special source of local food. Kiddos explored the multi-crop farm, its animals (pigs and goats and cows, oh, my!), and helped the farmers transition the crops and land as it began to settle in for a winter’s “sleep.” We celebrated a solid morning’s work in the fields with a delicious chili and cornbread lunch, topped with homemade herbed butter — nearly 100% of our meal was supplied by Pie Ranch! Does pulling the veggies out of the ground necessarily make them that much more tasty??

The fields were filled with color even at this late stage in the growing season. Orange Band kiddos helped the farmers remove irrigation tubes from finished plots.

The fields were filled with color even at this late stage in the growing season. Orange Band kiddos helped the farmers remove irrigation tubes from finished plots.

 

Amiya, Lucy, and Phoebe harvest the still plentiful crops.

Amiya, Lucy, and Phoebe harvest the still plentiful crops.

 

Roman can't resist tomatoes, right off the vine.

Roman can’t resist tomatoes, right off the vine.

 

Did you realize that beans grow in pods??

Did you realize that beans grow in pods??

Our final bit of work: flavoring homemade cheese with fresh herbs and flowers Orange Band students picked from the fields.

Our final bit of work: flavoring homemade cheese with fresh herbs and flowers Orange Band students picked from the fields.

And yet, most of our food — found in our homes and in Brightworks — is not so easily traced back to one source farm. Even though the list of stores our families shop at include more farmer’s markets and co-operative markets, where our food comes from is often mysterious and unknown. More often we are concerned if the avocados in the produce department are at that *just right* ripeness, and not how these fruits always seem to be available to us when guacamole cravings set in.

Where we shop truly does make a difference in terms of knowing where our food comes from.

Where we shop truly does make a difference in terms of knowing where our food comes from.

Orange Band students set about to find out just where the items we so cavalierly toss into our baskets or reusable grocery bags actually can be traced back to. Students chose a recipe to track down and we set out, maps in hand to help keep track of just where our food comes from: to a local franchise in the Brightworks neighborhood, a gigantic national supermarket, and two farmer’s markets. What was especially striking was the breadth of difference between the different markets. At one store, we were able to identify the state produce or meat came from (or city of production, if a dry good). At another, we were simply informed of the country the product was from. This certainly highlighted the disconnect we often have from our food, unless we take specific steps to get closer to what ends up on our plate, such as shopping at local farmer’s markets. At both the Civic Center market and the Ferry Building, we were able to identify the farms our fruits, veggies, and meat originated from. What a difference!

Perusing the stands at the Civic Center Farmer's Market.

Perusing the stands at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market.

Of course, the next logical step was to make the delicious meals we had been researching to such great lengths.

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Roman and Jeevan prep for the mashed potatoes, while the NY strip steak sits, waiting to be cooked.

Phoebe and Charlotte help to get the band space ready for the "Bandsgiving" feast.

Phoebe and Charlotte help to get the band space ready for the “Bandsgiving” feast. On the menu: fruit salad, ham sandwiches, guacamole, steak, mashed potatoes, and chocolate sheet cake.

Can't handle the wait! Must eat now!!

Can’t handle the wait! Must eat now!!

Amiya's grandmother's cake was delish!

Amiya’s grandmother’s cake was delish – especially with fresh whipped cream!

As a capstone to these weeks of getting ever closer to our food, Charlotte and her mom, Kiki, gave us an even more intimate experience with our food: two ducks from the Jewell’s own home to be prepped for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Orange and Teal bands were all hands in!

The two ducks were beautiful to behold.

The two ducks were beautiful to behold. Kiki held out the wings for all to admire.

The labor intensive and fascinating activity included scalding the ducks to prepare them for plucking. Plucking and sorting the feathers was the most time consuming, and perhaps the most relaxing–once we got a handle on how to pluck the outer feathers, we were able to deftly leave just the soft, soft down to be removed.

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The final step was to gut the ducks, a task Kiki did with an ease that many of us carnivores and omnivores do not possess. It was so special to be able to see what the meat we eat begins as, post slaughter — and it is not wrapped in neat plastic packages, to be sure!

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Throughout this food investigation, and the looks into where our food is moved from into our personal lives, students began reading acclaimed food writer Michael Pollan‘s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. As students began digging into Pollan’s investigation of the Industrial food chain, the source of most of our food in much of the country, we contemplated the True Cost of the food we eat. Just how frugal are we being when we buy tomatoes at $2.99 a pound at our local Safeway (an oxymoron?), as opposed to $7.99 a pound from the Farmer’s Market? Why is our food system so reliant on a mutation of a grain (corn)? What does it mean to buy and eat responsibly in today’s industrial food age? These questions will continue to loom over us as we read and investigate further!

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Biomimicry + Borders

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Students reflected on the election news through collaging.

The Amber Band took some time to reflect on the current events taking place in our country, and tried to process the recent election news through art-making. Students talked about how their art showed a divide in our country, and for many this divide sparked questions around immigration. We decided to research the history of our political borders, and how the natural world crosses those borders freely. To guide our work, we asked: How might we design a vehicle that mimics a system from nature, allowing us to travel across borders?
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Some students colored printouts of Favianna Rodriguez’s work while we watched videos of artists as activists.

Artists like Favianna Rodriguez, Tania Bruguera, and Theo Jansen were all great sources of inspiration for our work. Favianna’s Migration is Beautiful series uses the butterfly as a symbol for migration, and it got us thinking metaphorically about our own work. Tania Brugera’s Immigrant Movement International project, a community space that seeks to empower immigrants, showed us the power of community. Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests captured the potential for bringing life to our vehicle designs. We organized ideas for our designs by conducting short research projects around immigration.
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War & Expansion: Crash Course US History #17

As an introduction to the complicated history of the political border between the United States and Mexico, we analyzed Crash Course’s War and Expansion video. We also read Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States, Chapter 8, War with Mexico. Students were surprised to learn that several of our States were previously part of Mexico, and that the Mexicans and Native Americans who had been living on that land were suddenly under the jurisdiction of the United States. This lead us to explore current events on immigration. Students read this article on Donald Trump’s deportation plan. The article got us thinking more about how and why people might cross borders.
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Audrey made close observations of the frogs in the rainforest at Cal Academy.

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Felix, Elijah, and Oscar were inspired by the snapping turtles in the aquarium at Cal Academy.

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Norabelle practiced using the camera lucida to make a scientific illustration of an alligator skull.

 We talked about examples of how the natural world crosses borders through migrations, in search of food and shelter for survival. Then we looked at how scientists and inventors are learning from nature to make advancements in technology, like how Tokyo’s Shinkansen Bullet Train was inspired by the aerodynamic head of the Kingfisher. To help us take a closer look at nature, and to get inspiration for our biomimicry vehicles, we went on an excursion to the California Academy of Sciences. We got up close to living creatures and preserved specimens to make detailed scientific illustrations in our journals, and students made note of the qualities they would use in the design of their vehicle.
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The Amber Band strikes a pose on the Cal Academy living roof.

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Ella explains her biomimicry vehicle design to the group.

On Friday students presented their biomimicry vehicle designs, along with their research on immigration. We took some time to reflect on how our thinking had changed on immigration. Each vehicle design showed new possibilities for exploration, and their written reflections captured the challenges many face by crossing borders. After the Thanksgiving break, we’ll continue exploring alternative vehicle designs and looking closely at our global community.

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 4

Things are really coming together over here in the Beehive. And also coming apart a bit.

Solin, Sakira and Rebecca working CLOSELY on their morning vitamin.

Solin, Sakira and Rebecca working CLOSELY on their morning vitamin.

At the end of last school year, as the faculty and staff brainstormed arc topics for the coming year, we were sure about one thing: we intended to spend the 2016-17 schoolyear working hard to weave math skill building work into our explorations. Plus, a few weeks before school started, the lower school team (Mackenzie, Melissa, Nicole, Lisa and myself) spent a week at a workshop at UCDS in Seattle learning about how this progressive, project-based school integrates math in theme-driven provocations. In these first few weeks of By Land, it feels like these intentions are becoming reality over in the Yellow Band.

Devlin models an equation with cuisenaire rods. These blocks are an excellent math manipulative, with blocks representing different numerical values in different lengths. Students can line up the blocks to show sums, differences and arrays (for multiplication and division).

Devlin models an equation with cuisenaire rods. These blocks are an excellent math manipulative, with blocks representing different numerical values in different lengths. Students can line up the blocks to show sums, differences and arrays (for multiplication and division).

A few of the important take-aways from this workshop included techniques for incorporating manipulatives into a math practice, ways to encourage skill-sharing and cross-pollination among budding mathematicians, and seeing mathematical reasoning in a wide range of activities–not just computation and arithmetic. So, in the reading I’ve been doing about the history of the Pony Express, I’ve also been taking notes on details that would make great morning vitamins. AKA, Pony Express Math.

Oscar models an equation with cuisenaire rods, then builds a proof for his solution.

Oscar models an equation with cuisenaire rods, then builds a proof for his solution.

We start with a story: “You were riding across the prairie, your mochila loaded up with 20 pounds of mail, when a strong gust of wind blew open the pockets holding all of the letters! Some mail flew out, and scattered in the tall grasses. You had to stop, and discovered that you only had 13 pounds of mail left in your mochila. How much mail was lost?” Each student models the problem with an equation (or number sentence) in their journal, then uses a manipulative to solve the problem. And don’t forget, you’re not done until you’ve shown your work in order to prove to me that your answer is true! In other words, you must BUILD, DRAW, RECORD.

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Rebecca and Sakira BUILT the problems on the simple machines worksheet in order to figure out how the lever and pulley would change the direction of force. And they got to use materials from our very own shop!

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Emilio DREW the story from the morning message, to show his understanding of the Pony Express rider heading from one relay station to the next.

Reyahn and Sakira record their work as they go, practicing adding strings of numbers and using the cuisenaire rods to prove their answers.

Reyahn and Sakira RECORD their work as they go, practicing adding strings of numbers and using the cuisenaire rods to prove their answers.

So far, I’m liking the rhythm of this practice. We start one morning with a story and one problem to practice a targeted skill. The next day, the kiddos practice the skill more, often on a worksheet I make with several similar problems. Each day, we wrap up our exploration by sharing our strategies and insights at Morning Meeting. This is a part of the practice that is really important to me, and that our schedule allows us to prioritize. Not only do these nascent scientists need a chance to verbalize and explain their own thinking, but they need to hear the different and divergent opinions of their peers. Because there are many different ways to solve one problem, and by listening deeply to these varied approaches, we enrich our own understanding.

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Nolan shares his strategy for solving one of the pulley problems with Emilio and Oscar.

Finally, this blog post wouldn’t be complete without sharing one bit of bittersweet news: a member of our Yellow family is moving on to a different school. Our friend Rebecca will still be an important part of the Brightworks community, we just won’t get to see her every day like we’re used to. We got to send her off today with a sweet letter that the rest of us wrote together, and we’re looking forward to seeing her at community Friday clubs and Expo Nights.

Not goodbye, just see you soon.

Not goodbye, just see you soon.

Rebecca made sure to give each of her bandmates a hug this morning!

Rebecca made sure to give each of her bandmates a hug this morning!

Oh, and families, there’s a surprise in the mail for you! Literally!

Surveying, Writing, Busing, Planning, Voting, Outlining, and As Always…Eating

These last two weeks have been quite an adventure for the Teal Band and the US. To start out, the Teal Band took a look at the results of their “Getting to School” questionnaire they had received so far. It was exciting to look at the data collected about the parents’ journeys to school, as well as where they were living at their child’s age. They noticed how many more parents traveled to school on their own or with friends, compared to the students of Brightworks, where the majority of the kids are arriving by car. They also began brainstorming new ways to use the data, such as planning car and walkpools to minimize the carbon footprint of getting to Brightworks.

Looking at where the parents who completed the questionnaire lived as kids and brainstorming what information and provocations can come about from the results.

Looking at where the parents who completed the questionnaire lived as kids and brainstorming what information and provocations can come about from the results.

Looking at some of the numbers associated with the

Looking at some of the numbers associated with the “Getting to School” questionnaire.

We saw the official launch of NaNoWriMo on November 1st and celebrated this by walking to Maxfield’s Cafe to write among the other adults there on their computers. While being incredibly productive, everyone enjoyed the treats they bought to eat and were excited when they saw a woman in there wearing her “2015 NaNoWriMo Winner” t-shirt.

Lauching NaNoWriMo writing in a cafe.

Lauching NaNoWriMo writing in a cafe.

As part of our exploration around the movement of education by land, we began looking into the busing that swept the US in the 60s and 70s, attempting to desegregate schools. Teal Band listed why they like being in Teal Band and why they are comfortable being where they are. Soon the band was being “bused” off to new schools, the Amber and Indigo Bands. Their initial reactions were largely that of excitement and wonder. Once they returned to the Teal Band, their reactions had flipped and many said they felt a lack of belonging and confusion. We discussed how something that was intended to “make things better” could have such a different outcome.

What happens when you love your school and community but are forced to leave it? A lot of feelings.

What happens when you love your school and community but are forced to leave it? A lot of feelings.

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Our new “schools” we were bused to, a.k.a. the Amber and Indigo bands.

With Election Day on November 8th, we spent a full day reviewing 13 of the California propositions. They asked all the hard questions to get to the heart of each proposition. Where is this money coming from? What other group(s) will be losing out as a result? Who is backing this? Who is opposing it? It was amazing to hear from all the families how much their child helped them look deeper at their vote as a result of our conversations.

The results of our research and votes on a number of California's propositions.

The results of our research and votes on a number of California’s propositions.

They were tasked with finding our way around the city to our field trip destinations. Many wanted to jump right onto Google Maps, but quickly found out that they were going to start by using a Muni map and schedule. After coming up with a few different routes, we did use Google Maps to compare our results. We did a fairly good job planning our route using the map and schedule, but we also learned a number of tricks using Google Maps and reflected on what was most important to us regarding our travels, such as cost, time, and method of travel. As a result of all this work, we spent the next morning working on NaNoWriMo back at Maxfield’s and the afternoon at Little Skillet, where we also enjoyed some chicken, waffles and grits (because we have GRIT!)

Teal Band was tasked with finding our way for our field trip using the Muni map and schedule.

Teal Band was tasked with finding our way for our field trip using the Muni map and schedule.

A new spot to work on NaNoWriMo also includes grits and fried chicken.

A new spot to work on NaNoWriMo also includes grits and fried chicken.

After listening to a podcast entitled, “Why Busing Didn’t End Segregation,” on the Boston busing program, we also watched a video on why we live where we live in an attempt to see how urban geography creates segregation. We saw how particular groups of people end up in certain areas as the result of transportation and the layout of cities and suburbs. We discussed how it was this sort of “natural segregation” that led to busing programs in parts of the country where segregation was not originally law.

On Friday, we spent some time looking at how we can use outlines to help us organize our thoughts before writing and used these skills to reflect on the discussion we had the day before on busing and segregation. We will continue to work on outlining to organize our thoughts, notes and writing.

Using outlines help us in so many ways.

Using outlines help us in so many ways.

Using our outlining skills to share what we learned about

Using our outlining skills to share what we learned about “What Busing Didn’t End Segregation.”

Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 2 & 3

These past two weeks have been jam packed! Between field trips, projects, and assessment meetings, we’ve been so busy.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We've been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We’ve been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

After we finished moving Gever’s rock, we started to study the US Postal Service, because they move massive numbers of things every day. I had this crazy idea that after moving something massive, we should move a massive number of things–like I said, crank the scale WAY UP.

So, I asked Karen–Jack’s mom, and Tinkering School Manager–if she could pick us up 1,000 takeout boxes.

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“Piper, this is ridculous!” proclaimed the Yellow Banders, as they gleefully folded box after box, taking on the jobs of folder, tosser, double and pile pusher. I know it’s ridiculous, that’s part of what made it work!

We started by watching a bit of a short documentary on the Postal Service, then got to work folding the boxes. As we folded more and more, I heard many kiddos discussing possible strategies for moving them. Maybe we could fill up the wagon, and bring the wagon all the way back and forth between the Beehive and the Orchard. Maybe each of us should carry armfuls to the Orchard, then come back to the Beehive for more. But, as the days passed and the pile grew, it became clear that this was not a viable plan. When we got to the part in the documentary about the Pony Express, the light switch flipped.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both just running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

It became clear that we needed to break up the distance with relays, just like the riders on the Pony Express. One person would pick up some boxes and take them a certain distance, then pass them on to the next ‘rider.’ This ‘rider’ would take the boxes a bit farther, then pass them off to the last ‘rider,’ who would run the last few feet and drop the box off on the deck. Donezo Washington!

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I can’t believe how much fun we had doing this! Plus, we’ve started to dive deep into the brief but captivating history of the Pony Express, with lots of interesting morning math vitamins along the way.

Oh, and our afternoon projects have been awesome too! With a small group of Red and Yellow banders, I’m helping build what is basically a block and tackle (sshh, don’t tell them that!). It helps that I’ve never made one before, so we get to research, tinker, and discover our way through the process together. As you may remember from our last post, we started by building a frame, then mounting the pulleys to the frame. Then, we started to experiment, trying to balance a drill on one side with something lighter on the other end of the rope.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

There was something we were missing though, so we went back and did a bit more research, learning that the mistake we made was to attach all of the pulleys to the frame. Armed with this knowledge, we went back to our design and made some changes, tinkering as we went. We’d need to fix the rope to the frame so that it would act almost like an extra person to help carry the weight. Then, figure out how to use the pulleys if not all of them are fixed in place, but rather have some that are movable so that the weight gets distributed among many lengths of rope.

Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction.

Along the way, we practiced predicting how a simple machine will change force. Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction, and modeling with materials from the shop as they go.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Next week, we’ll figure out how to add a harness (and maybe need to build a bigger frame too)  so that a Beehive kiddo can lift another Beehive kiddo! Using wheels!

A Walk Back In Time

At Brightworks we have certain traditions in the beginning of a new arc.  Gever always gives a presentation that covers the scope of the arc topic and the bands always have some sort of brainstorm where they map out their interests.  Given that the Arc is By Land, I was expecting that my students would want to make some sort of vehicle, but no!  When we sat down to brainstorm the Blue Band expressed an overwhelming interest in studying how early people migrated across continents and how the First Peoples in North America lived.

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In the past weeks, the Blue Banders have explored the most basic of by land transportation: Walking!  What circumstances and mutations led to humans’ ability to walk?  We uncovered some answers in the documentary The Origin of Us by Dr. Alice Roberts and in the copious books we brought back from the library.  We learned that walking upright also freed early human hands to create tools.

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We were visited by three experts in the evolutionary relevance of flint knapping!  Last year Selina, Huxley and Freddie made a documentary about this very topic.  In the process of making this documentary, they learned how to make stone tools.

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After establishing safety guidelines and explaining how obsidian shatters in what is called a Hertzian cone.  Huxley, Selina and Freddie showed the blue banders how to make their own obsidian and chert flakes.

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The Blue Band got to use their creations to slice through cordage and cut an apple.  Giving them some insight into what it may have been like to rely on stone tools of their own creation.

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The Blue Band has started a new novel study to accompany our study of First Peoples.  Sees Behind Trees, by Michael Dorris, is a coming of age story about a nearly blind boy who learns to use his other senses to find his place in the tribe.

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This beautifully written book has been a great resource to us as the band writes their novels.  We’ve been savoring the rich language, noticing how the author builds suspense, and keeping track of all the different ways to say, “said”.

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So much about reading a novel is about empathizing with another person’s experience.  To connect with the main character in our story’s experience we’ve been playing games and taking on challenges that put us in our own senses. At Potrero Hill community garden the Blue Band lead each other on blindfolded sense walks.  Ramses gives Ronan sprig of mint to taste and Isaac leads Sadie down the trail.

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To delve deeper into what it might be like for our main character we turned to one of my favorite podcasts Invisibilia.  This episode tells a story of a blind man who explains how other people’s expectations of him helped him to see.  Because his mom expected him from a young age to do all the things a person with sight to do he developed a way to navigate the world just like everyone else.

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What a wonderful path these kids chose.  I’m excited to continue exploring it with them!

 

 

NaNoWriMo

It’s the first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the Amber Band is digging in! NaNoWriMo has become a rich tradition at Brightworks. For some of the Amber Band though, myself included, participating in NaNoWriMo is new territory. To help us get into the writing zone, we’ve decided to transform our upstairs band space into a cozy writing nook.

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Our upstairs band space blue prints.

We wanted a creative space for each of us to work on our daily NaNoWriMo goals, and so we brainstormed what we might need to do to transform the space. Teams quickly formed to tackle building a roof to reduce sound, curtains to block out light, furniture to sit on, and a mural to inspire creativity. Students created scale drawings of our band space to map out plans before we jumped right into building.

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Norabelle and Khalia working on the mural.

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Oscar and Elijah assembling one of our chairs.

Then each team had to tackle problems involving volume, and surface area. What’s the surface area of the wood panel for our mural, and how much paint will we need to buy to cover it? How big can we build the chairs, given the volume of our space? 

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Declan double checking his math before we got the supplies to build our roof.

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Amber Band on the move shopping for materials in SOMA

Designing a modular roof was very tricky, and we’re still working on it. The team wanted to use cardboard as our roofing material, but we couldn’t find any panels that were the exact size of our roof area. We worked through this constraint by designing tiles for the roof. To help determine how many tiles, and what size to cut them, the roofing team had to identify factor pairs of the roof size. What’s the largest size tile piece we can cut from the cardboard sheets we bought, and how many cardboard sheets will it take to cover our roof?

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Audrey testing out The Most Dangerous Writing App.

Of course, we also took time this week to set our NaNoWriMo goals, analyze stories, and write! Each student set a personal goal for how they’ll be using their time during NaNoWriMo, and we’re working together to help one another through this journey. Some students experimented with using The Most Dangerous Writing App to help with this. The app is designed to encourage writers to just keep writing, and if they don’t, the app deletes their text. We’ll have all of December to edit our work, but for now students are encouraged to turn off their inner editor.

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Ella sewing our curtains.

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Our cozy writing nook from below.

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Our cozy writing nook from inside.

Redesigning our upstairs bandspace into a cozy writing nook got our band thinking about shelter and home. We talked about how people seek out shelter as they move by land. Next week we’ll explore what causes people to move by land, and the effect that movement can have.