Where does water go in a city?

We spent April answering one very interesting questions about cities: where does water come from and go? Come follow us on our water journey:

Writing about the experience of one raindrop traveling from the ocean to the mountains to the clouds and beyond!

Sharing our water stories with the Yellow band (who was also thinking about water in the city).

Making mini watersheds

We talked about point vs. non point pollution by telling the story of Fred the Fish and how various contaminates got from the city into its stream.

Designing water filters to clean Fred’s stream.

Testing our filters.

Exploring pH.

A mountain in the Sierras

Explaining his model of our sewer system.

All the final creations!

 

Although we wrapped up our study of water two weeks ago the curiosity has lived on in student’s independent projects, from adding water treatment centers to our designs to researching the story of Atlantis.

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.

A City Built from Scratch

When a city is created where there was none before, what are the considerations of those building the city?


This arc, Orange Banders were introduced to the city of Kalu Yala, a city being built in the jungles of Panama by a group of individuals interested in building “the world’s most sustainable city.”

After an introduction to the project by Orange Band helper and friend, Jessica, who worked and lived in Kalu Yala as part of her college work, the kiddos brainstormed a number of questions they had for the group involved in the project.


Resources (Water/Food)

Safety + Health

Education

Impact + Effects

Social + Population


To say that their questions were insightful and reflective of a deep understanding of the intricacies of how a city comes into being – and, perhaps, why and if it should come into being – would be a gross understatement…

Orange Band’s Questions About/For Kalu Yala

  1. What is the relationship between the city and the indigenous people?
  2. Do they have a stable plumbing system?
  3. How was it funded? Where did money for materials come from?
  4. How do they filter water? What is the water source?
  5. Is this a good idea for the indigenous people?
  6. What would they do if there was a natural disaster?
  7. Would you call this colonization? Why or why not?
  8. What inspired this project? Why Panama?
  9. How was the group allowed to build in Panama?
  10. How will this affect the animals/nature of the area?
  11. What will they do about medical emergencies/outbreaks?
  12. How will Kalu Yala affect the world?
  13. What are buildings made from?
  14. Who was living there before? Is it the same population of Kalu Yala now?
  15. Is Kalu Yala in a high-risk zone? What are emergency procedures/protocols?
  16. Who gets to live there?
  17. What does a completely sustainable city mean?
  18. Do they vaccinate?
  19. Where do the teachers for the school and teacher prep program come from?
  20. How do they respond to animal threats?
  21. Is there a cap on the number of people that the city can sustain? How will they decide how many people get to live there? How will they decide who gets to stay and who has to leave?

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!

Wildlife in the City

Bernal Hill

The Yellow Band visited Bernal Hill as one of our first trips to a large green space in the City. Bernal has a resident coyote, so we looked for signs that it lives here.

Yellow Banders found signs alerting us to coyotes in the area.

We can do it!

 

We attempted to see if we could find Brightworks from here.

Breaks were necessary, it’s quite a climb to the top!

May stopped to rehydrate and take in the view.

In the end, Yellow Banders found some scat that they believed to be from a coyote. Could be!

The Yellow Band was left with a lot of questions after visiting Bernal Hill. Where could the coyote’s den be? What does it eat? Thankfully, we have our own resident coyote expert here at Brightworks and invited her to present her findings on the Bernal coyote.

Freddie explained that many people mistake coyotes for carnivores, but they’re actually omnivores here in the City eating anything they can find, including trash. She also explained how some coyotes have traveled quite far to live here, and some people have even shot video of coyotes crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin. It is suspected that the coyote on Bernal lives in some dense brush near the bottom of the hill. That’s not where we expected!

As we continue to explore nature and how we interact with it in the City, we’ve come to a few conclusions as to why coyotes might be going to such great lengths to live here, but not before having a little fun with a math provocation by exploring the speed at which coyotes travel.

First, we started with what we know: Coyotes run about 43 mph at full speed which is approximately 63 feet per second. The length of our block from 18th to Mariposa is 466 feet. So, how fast could a coyote run the length of our block at full speed? We know that most likely when coyotes travel they’re not going full speed, so we figure if they’re going that fast then mostly it’s to get away from something or to hunt.

 

May records how she breaks up the numbers to add them. Kiddos generally liked to add 63 (or double it) until they got close to 466. Each time they added 63 they added another second to the time it would take a coyote.

Yellow Banders concluded it would take about 7 seconds for a coyote to run the length of our block. We discussed the reasons why coyotes would be traveling into or around the City in the first place and were reminded of what we know about animals and their habitats. Kiddos explained how animals need food, water, and shelter to survive, and that if coyotes are looking for one of those things then most likely they’ll travel. Finding more territory was a topic of discussion as well. With human populations rising and more green spaces disappearing, kiddos realized that coyotes might often feel cramped and in need of new territory.

Animal Habitats at The Randall

We checked out the Randall to learn more about animal habitats and how animals adapt in the City. We discovered that many of these animals were in our own backyards or neighborhoods.

Sylvester and May learn about how wildlife has adapted to urban life in San Francisco.

Animal Research

Yellow Banders are beginning to learn about research and how to record their findings. We really enjoy Non-Fiction books and articles, maybe we’ll be able to write some of our own!

Ronin and Dash discuss with Nathan how bald eagles could face some obstacles when finding food if they aren’t able to find enough fish. If people continue to over-fish, the bald eagle may not have a consistent food source in the future.

Khalilah uses the information she highlighted in her resource about raccoons to fill in the information on her graphic organizer. Graphic organizers are a great way for kiddos to organize information before writing research in paragraph form.

Abir chose to learn more about coyotes saying, “One lives by my house!”

Calvin also chose to learn more about coyotes. It’s been a popular subject since our visit to Bernal Hill.

 

Yellow Banders also wrote fictional stories from the perspective of some of the animals we’ve been learning about.  To really get into character, they pretended to be their chosen animal while I opened and closed our front gate to pretend the sun was going down or coming up so that all the animals would have a chance to come out.

 

Thanks for reading, and keep on the lookout for wildlife and green spaces in your neighborhood!

The Road to Red Explorations

The Red Band kicked off #bwxcity with our all-school Big Bus Tour back in February and have been exploring ever since.

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On the hunt for murals in our neighborhood- learning about commissioned work versus graffiti

Beginning with a neighborhood walk we learned that our neighborhood provides space for homes of all types (apartment buildings, duplexes, and single family homes), work spaces (art studios, coffee shops, and a big bakery- Hello Panorama Bread, we smell you), and our school. Beginning with Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy, we have started a study on the public art available to our city. During our neighborhood walks we noticed that we have a good amount of public art within a two-block radius of our school; murals by local artist Sirron Norris are easily recognizable by their big blue bears, the work of Project Artaud is on display all down 17th street, and commissioned and permission-ed giant works of art all in our neighborhood. We’ve even made a few paper and chalk pieces of our own to share on Bryant Street. We continue to be on the look out for murals, graffiti, and statues during our field trips as we discuss, What is art?

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Painting rocks to brighten up the front of the Hive

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We have been out and about each week with each trip bringing us to some real gems in our city such as: the Bernal Heights Library Branch to start our City book collection, the Randall Museum to learn about some of the other inhabitants of San Francisco, and Niantic Labs to learn about augmented reality.

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After our presentation on augmented reality we met a giant Snorlax

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After a short rain storm we arrived at the Randall Museum to learn about mammals, amphibians, and reptiles found both in and out of San Francisco

Our enthusiasm to learn more about the shared spaces in our community and city has taken us to our local parks and playgrounds: Bernal Heights Park and rec center playground, a rained our Corona Heights Park, Transamerica Redwood Park, gardens of the Financial District, and the playground at Sue Bierman Park. With more trips on the horizon we will continue to explore the design and value of these communal spaces.

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A sunny day of hiking, meeting dogs, dancing, and digging at Bernal Heights Park

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A mini redwood forest in the middle of the Financial District- Transamerica Redwood Park

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“We saw this playground from the bus !” During our Big Bus tour

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Until next time…

 

Get Lost! Hike Through Golden Gate Park

 

Rain was firmly forecasted, but Blue and Orange brought the sun and blue skies to their trek through Golden Gate Park!

The first few weeks of the City Arc have been map-filled, to say the least. Both Blue and Orange Bands have dug into maps of all kinds, studying perspectives, purposes, and the quirks and idiosyncrasies of maps. We have drawn maps, collected data to add to maps, and thought about how maps reflect the spaces and places they represent.

We decided we need to test out maps in the field. And, to do that, we needed to get lost-in the wild!

The task: Find your group’s way through Golden Gate Park from one distinct departure to the final destination: the Chinese Pavilion at Stow Lake.

 

The bands met in groups of four and planned out their routes from Lindley Meadow, Metson Lake, Kezar Stadium, and the Conservatory of Flowers.

The Gamers began at the Conservatory of Flowers

One of the first tasks was to find both the starting and ending locations on the map

The Lightning Puppies debated the best route, trying to take into account foot traffic

The Dancing Sushis plotted a trek from Metson Lake to Stow Lake

The next day, we aimed to GET LOST! Rain greeted us as we made our way across town to Golden Gate Park (although we truly lucked out in the weather department by the time we arrived!).

Lightning Puppies: Intrepid explorers of urban green spaces!

Challenge #1 upon landing: Where ARE we??

 

Ah! There we are!!

Using landmarks such as other meadows and lakes was super helpful

But orienting ourselves with the map proved to be the biggest challenge when we were en route

Thankfully, the city provided some clear cut signs we were on the right track!

Even so, some signs were almost TOO big to be noticed! The Lightning Puppies debated for quite a while about whether they had arrived, while standing right in front of this sign! They figured out they were arrived pretty quickly

Scouting ahead was a strategy some groups took full advantage of

This looks familiar!!

Geese were our first greeters as groups made their way around the lake

The Dancing Sushis were the FIRST group to make their way to the Chinese Pavilion (not pictured)

More groups arrived and made for great rock hopping fun

Reunited, at last!

Success at getting found DEFINITELY calls for fro-yo!

 

All in all, it was an amazing adventure in the City! Blue and Orange got to test out their map skills in the wilds of the Sunset and Richmond Districts, and hone their collaboration and compromise skills (aka, YES! to Teamwork!).