Model Builders

With the changes in expression project structure this spring 8 students from different bands have grouped together to make models of places in San Francisco! During the brainstorm stage many students suggested building particular dioramas as a possible project. Each student joined the group with a solid idea of what building they wanted to create and the worked as a team to bring their ideas to life.

Week 1

Students began by sketching the dioramas they wanted to build and coming up with a cohesive group vision and plan. This included deciding how we would put the project all together and what everyone’s role would be. Some students decided to team up for their builds and others decided to plan a solo project. Soleil joined the project with an intention to make a map and the group loved how that element would help bring the structures all together.

Week 2

Students started their second iterations by noticing how the 3D shape of their building could be made as a flat net that folded into the 3D shape. Students practiced drawing their shapes on graph paper to explore how to ensure that the proportions didn’t change as they shrunk their building into model size. Students also did research to find deatailed plans or maps of their buildings to make sure they fully understood the porportions of their buildings.

Midweek we visited Malcolm Kenter’s studio to observe how the artist used accessible items to make detailed models. He introduced us the the idea of using shrinkydinks to add detailed lettering! We also had the chance to go to scrap and pick up reuse materials for our final builds.

Week 3

Students started the week by sharing out their second iterations and asking the group a few questions to guide the feedback they felt they needed before their next step. For example, Isaac wanted to know what kinds of details he should focus on for his Palace of Fine Arts build since his building was so detailed.

Now students are hard at work addressing that feedback as they build their final models for expo night. The models are getting even bigger, so students are coming up with strategies to stretch their work to a larger scale. Some students are getting ready to use an overhead projector. Other students are working with larger graph paper and multiplying their lengths.

Next week we will be continuing construction and beginning to add details.

BBS has a Spectrum of Stories to Share!

Blue through Amlet Bands brainstorming Expression Project ideas

Expression phase is looking a little different this year! With our new home, slight time setback, and adjustment in resources, Blue, Orange, Green, Teal, and members of Amlet decided to take Expression in a different direction, with group projects! In order to form these groups, we had students brainstorm ideas of anything and everything they wanted to do for Expression.

Story-Telling Group organizing our different interests and ideas

The Brightworks Broadcasting Service (B.B.S.) initially came together as a group of students who wanted to do storytelling for their Expression projects, under the aptly titled group name “Storytelling.” During our first brainstorm, kids shared out the different ways they wanted to tell stories—through a choose-your-own-adventure book, a skit, a nature show,  a graphic novel, a series of restaurant-reviews, a show about drawing. As we pieced together these different ideas, we decided to form our own broadcast station modeled after KQED and PBS. We called it BBS—the Brightworks Broadcasting Service! Our goal is to educate our community about fun, interesting and delicious activities and places around us.

We worked on our group declaration and presented to our peers our plans and ideas. As we did for Amlet and the other multi-band expression groups, we were assessed in the areas of:

  • Weekly Goals: How realistic and clear are the weekly goals presented for this project?
  • Resources: Does this project have clearly defined, realistic, and enough resources  in and out of our current space?
  • Research: Does this group have specific and relevant books, videos, and other media that can support the project?
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Are there enough clearly defined roles for all of the individuals in the group throughout the project?
  • Impact and Audience: Does this project help both creators and the community?
  • Magic: Does this project have that special something that we all look for in a project?
Emilio captures the mission state of BBS

We received incredibly thoughtful and helpful feedback from Amlet and our friends in the SF Models group…and were approved! Our work was cut out for us with just 6 total weeks left of school and a variety of days out and about, and so, BBS set to work!

Lisa and BBS planning out our 6 weeks of Expression work

Made up of Ramses (Green), Nolan (Orange), Emilio (Orange), Thomes (Teal), Charley (Orange), Apollo (Green), Dash (Blue), Sakira (Green), Amiya (Amber) and Erik (Violet), the BBS crew is creating the following shows for the public’s viewing pleasure:

Research is an important component of show writing
  • Bugs and Small Animals with Dash: a nature show that features our smallest friends found all around us
  • Sketch with Sakira: Sakira will host a drawing tutorial show for the art-lovers in our midst
  • Apollo’s Bite!: Apollo will sample and review a Tacolicious lunch for our audience’s enjoyment
  • Charley’s Comedy Corner: Charley’s love of comedy is infectious and will delight audience members of all ages and bands
  • Reading Rainbow with Thomes: Thomes will read aloud two original stories–a comic co-authored by Emilio and Nolan, and a choose-your-own-adventure story written by Jack Bloodstone
  • Synesthesia Studies with Erik: Erik will explore the concept of synesthesia, a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses (such as sight).

Amiya is filling the role of producer for these educational and fun shows, working with each show writer to create and maintain a pre-production and filming schedule, as well as providing general feedback and support.

Apollo interviewed a manager at Tacolicious for his review on the restaurant – tune in for his take on pastrami tacos!
Sakira and her film crew films her intro and outro for Sketch with Sakira

With our line up set and students excited to get going, we spent our first two weeks preparing for filming days. Show writers considered the intended audience and purpose for their shows before they began writing preliminary scripts, scouted locations, and reached out to experts and the community. Our authors worked on first and second iterations of their stories, writing furiously and voluminously. Preliminary shots were taken and shows were really starting to come together. We just needed a little inspiration and background understanding of just what makes public media so special.

BBS Crew giving feedback to our authors

And what better way for our fledgling public television station to prepare for our first broadcast than to visit KQED! BBS took a trip to San Francisco’s venerable radio and television station. We got an exclusive behind the scenes peek at all of the moving parts that go into public media!

Behind the scenes at KQED! Did you know the station uses one room to film many different shows?

Stay tuned for when we air our shows on June 3 and 4! BBS is sure to entertain, inform, and delight!

The World Is A 🌈

🌈 has taken us all over in search of color and noticing it at every turn. We made our way to the Exploratorium to play with color and light.

During a most drippy morning we walked our neighborhood looking for a 🌈 of plants and flowers.

We spent a day in Golden Gate park searching for color, making prints, collecting specimens, running through the grass and rolling down hills!

At the Conservatory of Flowers we went on a color hunt and found fronds almost as big as our bodies from plants as high as the ceiling!

At Garden for the Environment we learned about composting, planted a group of peas, and tasted our way around the garden.

We are proud to say we were the first group of chocolate tasters to welcome our new neighbors Dandelion Chocolate to the neighborhood. They taught us all about their process from bean to bar and let us taste everything in between! Did you know cacao pods can be gorgeous reds, yellows, purples, and greens! We tried nibs straight from the roasted bean, liquid chocolate (cacao + sugar), bars made of beans from all around the Earth’s belly, and even mixed our own chocolate!

We continued our exploration of 🌈 in food and made a delicious fruit salad.

Stick around to see how we’ve chosen to show and share what we’ve learned!

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.

Red 🌈s

🌈 has been a most exciting time in the #brightworksbeehive. We spent our first day of our this arc rainbow spotting at SFMOMA.

Morris Louis, untitled and Icee

Our initial brainstorm inquires about form, color, and of course, treasure.

#brightworksbeehive 🌈 brainstorm
welcome to our 🌈

In #bwxred we are hitting the ground running trying to answer some of our questions such as: Why is a 🌈 called a rainbow? Why do they come up in the sky and not down on the floor? Why does the the 🌈 have to have all of the colors of a rainbow? And Why do the colors of the 🌈 have a certain pattern?

#spoileralert 🌈s are circles

This arc we are using journals to track our exploration. We began by reading Eric Carle and Friends’ What’s Your Favorite Color? Next we entered our favorites into our journals. We then had our first art class with Zina and learned about primary colors and rainbow colors but making our own color wheel. Taking what we had initially hypothesized about rainbows (they get their name from their shape and the rain) and applying what we have previously learned about the Earth, we decided:

A rainbow is a circle of blended colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple/violet) made from sunlight and rain.

It looks like a bow because of the horizon- where the land meets the sky.

#bwxred, 2019 with help from our moms and dads and the book Rainbows Never End by Laura Lyn DiSiena

This week we explored prisms and how they separate the color spectrum found within white light. We experimented with different lights and prism shapes, then with different materials and properties like plastic, opacity, and iridescence.

We spent the week learning about light refraction
Moving on to light reflection

We have also explored 🌈 with lots of paint explorations! From the use of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple to create pulled and marbled rainbows. After learning of primary and secondary colors we’ve created our own colors, shared works, and scraped together more colors and patterns. 🌈 has inspired all of us to try on new hats- poet, painter, engineer, gardener, and scientist. I can’t wait to see where it takes us next!

Color mixing and scrape painting

Our Community is a Rainbow

The last two weeks Blue Band has been busy answering two questions. The first question come from one of the kids asking me months ago “in Rainbow Arc are we going to study diversity?” This has lead us to try and answer “how is our community a rainbow?” We have also been looking at another student’s question “why is mixing paint different then mixing light?” Here’s our journey:

We started by mixing different colors for a twister board.
Each of our colors got a fun and fitting name.
Then we looked at pictures of the neighborhood and talk about the difference of directly observing something and growing an idea about something (making an inference).
Then we went to the murals on Balmy Alley to try out our observational skills.

We also went hunting for rainbows on a scavenger hunt.
Which included buying snacks to share.
Then we wrote interview questions to ask neighbors and tried out these questions on other kids at school.
Then we walked around the neighborhood interviewing anyone we could!
Before we talked about what role our interviewees have and what groups they belong to, we started with ourselves.
And then closly rewatched our interviews to describe what is importent to the person.
Lastly we made 1st iteration portraits so we could get ready to introduce our neighbors.
Our 1st iterations are do and blue banders are ready to make a big, paintfilled version!

Blue Band Spark Expression Projects

This January and Feburary I journaled weekly summaries for a credential clearing program I’m going through. I figured it might be useful to share this documentation for anyone curious about how we do projects in the Blue Band, how I structure projects for all learners, or anyone curious about what we were up to.

Voting, Research, and Planning
In order to maximize student interest in the project we did a brainstorming activity to reflect on topics we might want to explore in a project. Then I had students do a quick journal write up proposing their favorite project ideas and quickly defending why their idea should be picked. These activities scaffolded writing for my lowest writers by making a quick exercise where the focus was on brief communication of ideas rather that elaboration. It also let me see where students were in their persuasive writing so I knew how to gage my instruction leading up to presenting project ideas to Liz for approval. I then made a list of these ideas for a vote after lunch that day. Students picked making video games, so I had them pick a topic as a class to make games about. Students agreed that everyone really like animals so we settled on making game to teach a player more about animals. This process helped my students direct the topic while giving me space to make sure the project was manageable and accessible to all learners.


The next day we went to the library. Before going students made a list of books that looked useful to introduce them to using the catalog as a tool to help you find the right books. Students plucked 5 “just right” books about their animal. This let readers truly find books at their level and hone their skill in independently finding books at their level. After getting the books we spent 5 sessions reading and “stop and jotting” (taking notes on post-it’s) while we read. I taught students how to take jots about important details, key words, questions we had while reading, and similarities and differences across texts. This helped students practice informational text reading in the context of a useful purpose.


Students used this research to plan their games. I made a graphic organizer where students sketched out each part of their game, explain how that part would be played, and talked about what the player was learning on that level.

Sylvester and Dash taking notes on post-its about important details in their books

May finishing her plan

Declaration and Introducing Coding

At the beginning of this week students shared the project idea and their specific game plans with the principal. This allowed students to get feedback from someone besides me and use that to direct their progress. Students then got to work familiarizing themselves with scratch.mit.edu, the program we were using the code their games. We spent one lesson playing “mentor” games about animals to get inspiration for ways other games organized their games. We had another 2 lessons where I gave them a checklist of mini challenges to try. These challenges taught them how to use a few resources that scaffolded the coding. This included tutorial videos on the site and a bunch of task cards the site provided. There is a lot of new vocabulary within the code options on the site, so these tools allow students to independently figure out this new vocabulary. I love that scratch uses accessible language because all my readers can use the program to practice reading in context, the actions caused by the code give readers immediate feedback on their decoding (reading). It also provided a meaningful context for practicing reading beyond books. I know for my lowest readers this is going to be a labored process, so I am giving a long time period for this project.


Scratch also uses math concepts in context. I let my students discover these ideas as they explored the program and share out with the group after exploring to help everyone make sense of these ideas. Some of my challenges were to move a character 10 steps up, down, left, and right. This caused students to learn that changing the x caused a character to move left and right and changing the y lead the character to go up and down. We used this to discuss the meaning a the x and y axies and negative numbers as backwards steps. I think this exercise will be useful for my student’s number sense and give them a basic idea of a coordinate grid.

An example of a student using the task cards

Students working together to scaffold the coding for each other

Scaffolding Task Management and Introducing the Coordinate Plane Formally

Now that students are more comfortable with scratch I am going to focus our daily math work on concepts relevant to the project. This week I taught students how the coordinate plane is an invisible grid that helps us describe where an object is. We played battleship to start using this language. Because the game uses positive and negative numbers this game helps students see what the game meant when it used negative numbers.
I also taught three mini lessons this week about creating to do lists and breaking down big goals into smaller, clear tasks. This was a big help for students working in teams who were struggling to verbalize how to share the work in their project. Students are starting to lose stamina on these projects and need help re-establishing excitement next week.


Battleship on a Coordinate Plane

Team Big Cats coming up with a plan

Research at Zoo and Finishing Games


This week I intentionally scheduled a break by having the class visit the zoo. This helped students do more research about their animals and feel more motivated to share this information in their games.


I also had students help me make a rubric to clearly articulate their goals for their projects. This took two sittings. I let the students pick the language for the levels their games could be and for the three main goals for their projects.

Zoo fun

The students’ rubric

Making Revisions Based on Feedback
Students worked to finish their games this week. This included adding a credits and instructions to their project pages on Scratch. I gave mini lessons on the importance of giving credit to sources and making sure not to use other author’s words without giving credit.


Students then played each other’s games and had older students and adults in the community play their games. This let my students see what their games looked like begin played and get suggestions for feedback.

Ronin giving feedback to another student

Beckett getting feedback form a Violet Band Student

Documenting Process and Giving a Presentation

Now that students have finished and revised their projects it’s time to document and share. I let students decide if the wanted to work by themselves or in groups to write about the different steps we took in our project. Each group got a stack of photos from the different steps in our project and had to describe what is going on in the photo and what we learned during that step. I used this writing in our presentation script.
Students also wrote a story of their own projects by describing what they made, why they made it, and how they made it in a way that is written for their presentation audience. The student did this by asking questions, telling stories, and/or weaving in explicit details. This also went into the presentation script.


We practiced the presentation 4 times as a group and students had multiple opportunities to practice to a buddy or stuffed animal. After all that practice they presented their project to their families and school mates.

Calvin is writing about the research phase of our project

Atticus is talking about the challenges we faced in our project