To begin the Cloth Arc, the Teal band has started with what they know best, themselves, looking at the stories their clothing tells.
It’s pretty incredible when you take a six-week journey with eight 11 and 12-year-olds through an arc entitled “Coin” and you spend the majority of your time talking about personal value and social currency. We explored symbols of value, both those which are recognized by the masses and those we find value in individually. We wandered through the streets of the Financial District and the galleries of the SFMoMA. Taking advantage of the high supply and low demand for Giants game tickets, we took in a baseball game and a collection of baseballs. We designed our own dollar bills after exploring those from all around the globe. We found math in money in everyday life and even more when traveling the globe, converting international currencies. And as all middle schoolers enjoy, we shared our opinions and formulated arguments…just ask them if they think America should get rid of the penny.
Here is a visual journey of our Coin Arc exploration:
Blue Band has launched into cloth by thinking about the stories told by items made of cloth. We started by thinking about the practical aspect of cloth by touring Joshu + Vela, a leather and canvas bag manufactor in the Mission. We learned about all the tools used to cut and prepare leather:
This machine makes impressions to add lettering or designs to leather.
This machine cuts leather.
We also learned about the process of manufactoring bags from making inrpiration boards to trying various samples before coming up with the final designs. It was great to see a real world example of editing and iterating!
We then tried our own hand at working with leather:
Last week we transitioned to thinking about how cloth helps create items with purposes that go beyond the practicle. In Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt by Barbara Smucker students learned how certain patterns of quilt have been developed to tell cultural and sentements stories. In the Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco we learned about the significance of passing down a keepsake within a family for multiple generations. During project time students started their own quilt squares and pillow case projects:
Today we went to see portions of the AIDS quilt project that are on display at Grace Cathedral. Students noticed how friends and family had rememberd their loveones by including meaningful images and fabrics.
Throughout the Coin Arc the Amber Band read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In the book Junior, an aspiring cartoonist, decides to leave behind his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend a farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. This book gave us an opportunity to talk about what Junior values, and how social currency is constructed.
After reading the book we discussed the overall theme in the book. Students reflected on what Junior valued most:
“I think Junior values friendship most since he asked Gordy to be friends instead of punching him.” — Norabelle
“Junior values money, mainly to achieve his dreams, and the dreams of others around him. I saw this when he said: ‘But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Or choices. We’re just poor. That’s all we are.'” —Oscar
“Junior views possibility as value, or as he puts it, hope. I think this is the hope of possibility. In the book he says: ‘Where can I find hope?'”—Huxley
Inspired by the 90 Second Newberry, we decided to try synthesizing the big ideas from this book into a 90 second video. We started by analyzing other 90 second films, like the one that the Amber Band made last year for Crossing the Wire. Students worked in small groups to draw up a storyboard, record audio, film and edit their stop-motion animations. The resulting animations showed the story of Junior, and what he values most.
Making these movies gave us a chance to consider the math behind stop-motion animations. We looked at the work of contemporary artist William Kentridge. In the video he talks about his process. This got us wondering, if it takes William Kentridge 100 frames to make 4 seconds of animation, how long would it take him to make a 90 Second Novel? Students worked through the problem independently, then came together to share their process for finding the answer.
This project helped us to analyze the novel we read, and it helped prepare us for the work we’ll be doing all November long—NaNoWriMo! We’ve already started to discuss plans for how we’ll be participating in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and some of the Amberites even have an idea for the stories they’d like to share in their own novels.
Today we wrapped up the Coin Arc by casting our coins! (Demar and Griffin were very missed!) Students got to cast their coins using the Brennans’ foundry outside of 1960 Bryant. Liam’s dad, Matt, taught us a lot about the foundry process, aluminum, the melting points of metals and more. He expertly helped the kids turn their purple styrofoam molds into beautiful shiny silvery “coins.” Below are some pictures of our process!
Remember last week when I said we had something very exciting in the works? For my last week here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering, the Yellow Band and I decided to do something fun, exciting and meaningful. Out with a bang, as they say!
As you may remember from last week’s blog, the Yellow Band spent has been learning about children in different countries, thinking about what’s important to us, and what’s important to them. We discovered that though these kids might eat different foods from us, get to school differently, wear different clothes and live in different types of houses, on the inside we all have a lot in common.
Then, we read some news articles about Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico, flipped through an issue of Faces Magazine, and read about the island’s potential to become the 51st state–because there’s a lot more to Puerto Rico than Hurricane Maria. We talked about how the children in Puerto Rico wouldn’t be able to return to school for weeks, if not months, and brainstormed ways we could help them out. Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean, what we could do? Answer: BAKE SALE!
Oh my goodness! This was such an exciting possibility! And, what a great way to use our bandspace’s little kitchen for the first time. Everyone got so pumped. We went about our daily business, planning bit by bit. We decided we should have one sale on Friday, and maybe another on the night of the Fall Potluck. We knew we needed to make a few kinds of things–something vegan, something nut-free, something gluten-free, and something with anything. And this is the menu we chose: vegan cupcakes, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, nut-free brownies, and Nathan’s special banana bread, yum! We also decided that everything should cost $1.50, because that’s how much stuff costs at Daiso 😉
On Thursday we finally got to start baking! We measured, stirred, and cracked; we poured, scraped and spread. It was marvelous! And while the kiddos were away at the park, I tucked everything into the oven, just to make sure the bandspace smelled irresistible when they returned.
On Friday, we could hardly contain ourselves! All of the things we made looked sososo good, but we knew we needed to wait till the bake sale. We put finishing touches on our cupcakes, cut the brownies into bars, and arranged all of the cookies on a baking sheet. After a quick dance party, it was finally time to set-up for the sale!
And that’s the story of the bake sale. The story of the bake sale is also the story of the Yellow Band’s exploration of Coin this arc. We approached this arc topic as historians, anthropologists and philosophers, considering the origins of money, the different types of money used by different civilizations throughout history, and the purpose of money. We emphasized throughout that money is a tool, and around the world folks lead very different lives, yet on the inside we have a lot in common.
Okidoke my friends, we’ve come to the end. It’s been really, really real. Nothing will ever be like my time here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering; I’ve welded with 8 year olds, built a child-sized, see through model of the human body (and filled it with felt, paracord and lego guts), contemplated friendship, travelled the Underground Railroad and California Trail, and so much more. Now, I’m travelling just down the street, please come and visit at CCA.
My favorite reasons for why I work with young children are their endless imaginations and their innate courage. The last two weeks in the Hive have been filled with brave moments: saying hello to someone new, asking for a name when you’ve forgotten, trying a new game, eating lunch at the Orchard, and sharing the stories of your life. We have started our adventures in writing with Lucy Calkins’ Writer’s Workshop. The Hive’s Writer’s Workshop is a time for everyone to become an author and illustrator. Our first few lessons have included: How do you get ready for school? along with a morning of sharing their work. What did you do over the weekend?
And our latest adventure The Story of My Stuff was inspired by a gallery visit I had about a year ago. I learned about a project related to consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt called Obsessive Consumption which documented everything she purchased over the course of three years. I was fortunate enough to catch her show at Mule Gallery and picked up her zine “Belongings: Stories that Belong to the Stuff that Belongs to Us”. Here you get a glimpse of Zachary Schomburg and Bingaman-Burt’s stuff and the stories of each treasured item as illustrated by Bingaman-Burt.
We had a conversation around what it means own something and I shared the story of the owl keychain that lives in the Hive, a left-behind gift of our friend Octavia who used to go to Brightworks. Our writer’s set off to show their own valuables: teddy bears, houses, and pet quails. Each item accompanied by a lovely story of how it became theirs. We will continue to dive into the story of our stuff this week as we prepare our final coin explorations.
Also did you know we’re studying coins around here? What is a coin? What are the parts of a coin? And how do they work? These questions have been examined in order to have us reach the goal of designing our own coins. We identified the parts of the coins as: location where it was made, year it was made, its value, a VIP, and a valuable item of our country. For the purposes of our coins, we chose S for the San Francisco mint, our birth years: 1985, 1986, 2011, and 2012 respectively, our faces- because we’re VIPs, and from our identified items from our Story of My Stuff writing we added an item that was valuable to us to the back of our coins.
What a wild ride, five weeks have come and gone. Up next we are gearing up to head out on our first field trip of the year which happens to be our overnight stay at Nature Bridge just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Stay tuned!