Orange Band: Human, Weeks 11 & 12

Phew, we made it! Through Kid Classroom Week, that is.

REWIND!

So, last week, I decided to watch a bit of the show Kid Nation with the Orange Banders because why not? The show is pretty ridiculous at times, but it’s opened the door to many interesting ethical discussions (on (un)reality, law and order, religion, leadership, just to name a few topics), the kids are really engaged (with the 15 minutes we watch at a time), and it’s an interesting way to talk about taking on responsibility, internal/external motivation, and the value of input from experienced and invested adults.

Mid-week last week, I let the kiddos know that I’d hand over the agenda-writing reigns to them at the beginning of this week. We spend a few minutes at a time throughout the rest of the week discussing the constraints on their power, my role during the week, and their goal for what they’d need to accomplish by the end of the week. Wowee were they excited! After some thoughtful discussions, we decided that they’d need to get their individual body parts done by the end of the week, they had to go to park and lunch everyday, they would have to go to our weekly gameshare with the Red Band on Thursday, and we’d still have Morning Meeting with me every morning as a way to check in and hear any announcements. We’d have a different agenda writer each day, with each kiddo only having one chance to be in charge, and we’d vote at the end of the day each day for the next day’s Agenda Writer. Kiddos wrote in their reflection journals about what they’d put on the agenda if they got to be the leader for a day.

The beginning of our discussion on the parameters for our 'Kid Classroom' experiment.

The beginning of our discussion on the parameters for our ‘Kid Classroom’ experiment.

Throughout, we talked about leadership qualities. We landed on a list of qualities that is heavy on empathy, and light on authoritarianism. The kiddos thought it would be most important for their daily leader to listen to their bandmates, be kind, fun and silly, solve problems creatively, and most importantly, be helpful. Who could ask for more!

Here, Sadie explains to the rest of the band Ramses' agenda proposal, which included lots of breaks to eat chocolate!

Here, Sadie explains to the rest of the band Ramses’ agenda proposal, which included lots of breaks to eat chocolate!

This past Monday morning, the kiddos got into pairs to hear about their partner’s plan for a day in the life of the Orange Band. Then, they introduced their partner to the rest of the group, explaining the agenda they’d propose. Each plan was pretty great, some surprising, and some delightfully predictable. Most of all, each plan truly reflected the personality of the kiddo proposing it. And then we voted! Here’s how it played out:

Monday: Tesla

Tesla writes in the agenda on Monday morning. She included some project work time, some literacy games, a few minutes watching the next episode of Kid Nation, and time to play on the cork floor.

Tesla writes in the agenda on Monday morning. She included some project work time, some literacy games, a few minutes watching the next episode of Kid Nation, and time to play on the cork floor.

Tuesday: Isaac

Isaac made sure to schedule in time for us to play the board game we had just designed together, 'Village to Village.'

Isaac made sure to schedule in time for us to play the board game we had just designed together, ‘Village to Village.’

Wednesday: Gita

Gita reflected later that she felt the tug between her bandmates wanting her to put playtime on the agenda, and knowing that she and others needed more time to work on their projects.

Gita reflected later that she felt the tug between her bandmates wanting her to put playtime on the agenda, and knowing that she and others needed more time to work on their projects.

Thursday: Ramses

After confirming with me that I had in fact procured hot chocolate making supplies, Ramses puts a hot chocolate drinking break on the agenda.

After confirming with me that I had in fact procured hot chocolate making supplies, Ramses puts a hot chocolate drinking break on the agenda.

Friday: Emilio

Oh boy, these results were a bit controversial. But, all I could say was, "Y'all knew that Emilio wanted to do math all day!"

Oh boy, Friday’s results were controversial. But, all I could say was, “Y’all knew that Emilio wanted to do math all day!” A few kiddos were able to find a compromise by submitting ‘Project Work Time’ as a Community Friday activity in the afternoon.

Now, as much as I implored that the ballots were TOP SECRET, and for each kiddo to vote for the plan they liked the best, I know there was a lot of politics involved in who voted for who–which is why I sent kiddos to opposite corners of the school to vote, and hid the ballots afterward. In the end, the voting process feels bittersweet, because I know that silent alliances were formed, promises were made, promises were broken. I know this because I saw the ballots at the end of each day, and because I know each of these kiddos so well. At the end of the day, all but one kiddo took the chance and put their name on the ballot, which took a lot of bravery. One of the goals here was to encourage this kind of emotional bravery, and give them a positive first experience of what can happen when we make ourselves vulnerable by proposing an idea and putting it in the hands of others.

Was this experiment a success? In a few ways, I think so. Kiddos considered the trust they put in each other, and the trust they put in me. They prioritized play time, sometimes at the cost of project work time. They succeeded and failed at listening to each other, and saw real consequences to their choices. They did not all finish their body parts by the end of the week. I think this week they genuinely experienced what happens when they listen to each other and work hard, and that’s all I could really expect.

Blue: Me Staying Outta Their Way

Over the last two weeks, I gotta way, way outta Blue’s way. They’re on a roll and I told them the last thing I want to do is derail it. Projects are intense, and they are hustling!

So, here’s what Blue is up to:

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Audrey is testing out group psychology and group dynamics by selecting specific personality types and having them work as a team to solve a problem. (Because she really likes space and Mars, and really wants to see which types of people would work best together in a one-way mission to the red planet).

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Owen is going to tan leather from start to finish. He’s been designing/building/welding tools to assist him in the process. (Because he really likes leather and is interested in the ways in which some of the process has been lost or changed in the commercial industry).

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Declan is making a life-sized action figure with joints that move in the way that real human joints move. (Because he’s fed up with the inaccuracies of the toy industry!)

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Fran is so busy interviewing the womyn (her spelling, a political statement) of Brightworks. She wants to know how stereotypes effect the way folks interact with one another and also precieve themselves. (Because she identities as a feminist and hates the way girls are taught to act by popular culture).

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Basically, Felix is designing an alien. He is researching planets that could potentially support life, and then creating a creature that might be able to survive and thrive there. He’s also researching the interconnected organ systems of people and animals for inspiration and a deeper understanding of what a living body needs and does. (Because he’s fascinated by UFO narratives).

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Julian is designing a video game. He has been drafting on paper the worlds and the characters and the accessories, and he also downloaded and is learning to use video game design software. (Because he’s interested in video games’ effect on the brain and their potentially addictive qualities!)

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Clem is learning about bones and muscles in order to become a better drawer. She’s been drawing hands and arms while learning about the bones and muscles. (Because she loves art and wants to get better at drawing people).

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Kaia has been intensely focused on math. She wants to complete the core curriculum generally taught to public school 7th graders. She’s been working for hours each day to go learn the subject matter, and has been hanging out with me most of the day so that I can help her. We’ve had a lot of deep conversations about applied math and also the math that we just learn and practice now so that we can later apply more complicated processes on top of it later. (Because she is really interested in learning skills that might be useful in her adult life).


And here are some more awesome moments —  just because I love these kids! Carry on, Blue.

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Chartreuse Band Economy

Looking to learn about the economy and grow our sense of responsibility for our space and our belongings, the Chartreuse Band has begun the Chartreuse Band Economy.

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We began our exploration with the question of “What is ECONOMICS?” The vocabulary of economics came flying out: currency, trade, finance, taxes, supply, demand, services, goods, credit, debit. Questions were asked: “Where do our taxes go?” Debates began: “I believe that we need to invest more money into our public schools and not as much into the military.” Their interest, excitement, and most importantly, their prior knowledge around the idea of economics was unbelievable.

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We did not just want to talk about economics, we wanted to live it, and through that experience also take a greater responsibility for our band spaces. What would an economy belonging to sixteen 10 and 11 year olds look like? What jobs would be needed to care for one another and our space? How do those jobs relate to jobs in the real world? How are those jobs valued and would we value them in the same way?

Classroom jobs that would be paid for by “tax dollars” were quickly brainstormed. We’d need someone to vacuum, just like we need street sweepers. We would need bankers and law enforcement. Lost and found keepers could impound items that are left lying around when they should not be.

“But how will we choose who gets each job?” “Do we need a President?” “Can we have side jobs to make additional money?” “What outside materials are allowed to run businesses?” “What is the goal of our economy?” These were the questions we were going to and still are having to answer.

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Each band member had strong ideas around the jobs they wanted to hold and after taking a poll on each child’s top four choices, we held interviews. Before being interviewed, we looked at the idea of sharing who we are and our experiences through resume writing. Ellen came and spoke to the band about her role in hiring at BWX and what she looks for in a resume and interview. During the interview process, each student applying for a position was asked three questions by the other band members. The questions were incredibly thoughtful and took both the needs of the position and the student into account. Upon conclusion of the interviews, the entire band individually wrote down their top three applicants based on their qualifications and interview, and so the jobs were filled.

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They have very quickly taken responsibility for their roles. Messages have been left, mailboxes have been made and uniforms have been created. Beyond their government jobs, numerous small businesses have opened up. We have nail salons, shops with small items, candy stores, and day spas, just to name a few. Real estate has become a hot topic with cubbies being put up for sale. Money is flowing throughout the Chartreuse Band Economy.

As with every economy, challenges have presented themselves. Should we have more than just one central bank? What laws do we need to have in place and how will we enforce them? What are reasonable fines for breaking the laws? Can we even trust our law enforcement? How do we know that a transaction is final? With every weekly town hall meeting, we continue to answer more and more of the questions that arise.

Orange Band: Human, Week 9 & 10

At the beginning of this week I was King Kong.

Ramses fills in my salutation on Monday's morning message.

Ramses fills in my salutation on Monday’s morning message.

We’re working hard to integrate skills work into our project work. This looks like writing a checklist of what we’d like to accomplish every week, measuring and including dimensions in our design drawings, researching and taking notes from books and videos that inform our projects.

Sadie watches a video demonstration of a new type of suture--aka stitch--and takes notes.

Sadie watches a video demonstration of a new type of suture–aka stitch–and takes notes.

Sadie's first few practices of the running subcuticular suture using felt and embroidery floss. This week, she started to use a curved suture needle!

Sadie’s first few practices of the running subcuticular suture using felt and embroidery floss. This week, she started to use a curved suture needle!

Oscar explains his design drawing to me.

Oscar explains his design drawing to me.

Tesla tries out paracord as a material to represent larger blood vessels.

Tesla tries out paracord as a material to represent larger blood vessels.

But first Emilio had to untangle his spinal cord.

But first Emilio had to untangle his spinal cord.

On Tuesday, in Math Workshop, we compared the number machines we’ve been practicing to ratio tables we worked on earlier in the year. We noticed that predicting the future using these two different types of tables looks very different. In a ratio table, we can double like 5 to find the answer to like 10. But in a number machine, we jump forward or back depending on the pattern. Huh. After sitting with this puzzling difference while playing some board games, we came back together to try and define what exactly is the difference. After a few different proposals, we realized that we could describe the workings of each table using different mathematical operations! Our number machines are ruled by addition, and our ratio tables are ruled by multiplication (which can also be represented with addition). Wowee! We just defined what it means to add and what it means to multiply! We can go in so many different directions with this… stay tuned!

When playing chess, remember to think about spheres of influence.

When playing chess, remember to think about spheres of influence.

OH, and considering all of the hard work we’ve put in at the Treat Commons Garden, we decided it was time to put down some roots–scallion, cucumber and radish roots to be more precise.

Putting down roots required scooping some dirt from the compost bin first.

Putting down roots required scooping some dirt from the compost bin first.

And making some friends.

And making some friends.

With 4 (four!) entries in the journal this week, we had a lot to talk about at Class Meeting. So, I decided to focus our discussion on the art of apologizing. As we’ve discussed before, if you have friends, you will both hurt your friends feelings and have your feelings hurt by your friends. So, you’ve got to know how to apologize and what to do when someone apologizes to you. Here are some basic steps:

  1. Use the words, “I’m sorry.”
  2. Acknowledge that you made a mistake, and describe how it was that you made a mistake.
  3. Acknowledge how it was that your mistake resulted in your friend’s hurt feelings.
  4. Ask for forgiveness.

Easier said than done, that’s for sure! But for these young kiddos, they’ve got nothing but practice ahead.

Oh, and we kept making art together.

Herve Tullet's 'Traffic Jam' workshop.

Herve Tullet’s ‘Traffic Jam’ workshop.

Herve Tullet's 'Traffic Jam' workshop.

Herve Tullet’s ‘Traffic Jam’ workshop.

BEEP BEEP!

Blue: Mathing and Memorizing

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This week was a strange week for Blue. We ended up doing a few things that, at their core, struck me as antithetical to Brightworks — but we ended up doing them in some pretty Brightworksy ways.

We’ve been doing math in the mornings. All the students are at different levels in math (which admittedly makes it sometimes difficult to teach group lessons), so we’ve mostly been using an online module to assist with lesson instruction. I get them all going at the same time, and they work independently on lessons. I float from student to student and assist. The lessons vary from fractions to inordinate mapping to surface area calculation to logic problems. It’s pretty “real school” like sometimes, and sometimes Blue hates that, and sometimes it’s okay. This week it’s been okay. And then something magical happened.

“Amanda! Can you explain Pythagorean Theorem?” I got asked. “I understand how to figure out the equation, but I don’t really get how it works or why.”

(Yes. Duh. Totally. We’re gonna get off the computer to do this. Meet me in the shop after lunch.)

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This simple question turned into an afternoon of math exploration. I set up a series of problems for Clem and Kaia in the shop so they could practice using the Pythagorean Theorem. I cut a length of paracord, used screws as three points on a triangle, and kept moving the points around. For each math problem, I asked them to calculate the length of cord needed to wrap around the triangle. They each solved the problem on paper, and then we tested their answers.

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This was all well and good, but why? Why does this work?

“I actually can’t remember,” I told them, and we consulted the internet.

Thank you, Vi Hart, for explaining it so well! We spent the rest of the afternoon testing out triangles and watching more math videos.
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In a similar vein, Clem’s project has begun to bloom into a meditation on the intersections of rote memorization and figure drawing. She is testing out the hypothesis that learning about the structures of anatomy will make her a better illustrator of humans. She began by doing a drawing of arms and hands, and is now taking the time to study the bones and muscles that make up the body parts found in her drawing. Then at the end of the study, she will draw the same composition again and compare the two.

We usually don’t explicitly memorize things for the sake of memorizing things, so when Clem came to me one morning this week and asked me to witness her testing herself, it felt a little strange.

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Nonetheless, we sat in the dining room and went through the names and correct spelling of the bones that make up the wrist. With this simple activity came a whole discussion about memorization tactics, strategies for spelling words that you don’t have any idea how to pronounce, and also about the structural intricacies of wrist bones. This conversation quickly shifted into a discussion about short-term and long-term memory, and after Clem asked if I would re-test her right then, I then told her to give it a rest and move on to something else.

“I think our brains work the same,” I told her. “Go draw for a bit and come back to this.”

She said no, that she had started making the quiz for the next part of the hand and since earlier in the week I taught her how to use the photocopier, she wanted to prep her testing materials.

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(Well, imagine that — excitement about testing!)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Blue: Declare Your Project

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During one of our closing circles last week, one of the Blue Banders raised his hand to share an appreciation with the school. “I want to appreciate Amanda for turning our Declaration writing into a game! It’s helped us all make better Declarations!”

Without further adieu, I present: The Declaration Flowchart.

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The Declaration Flowchart has been up in the Bandspace for the past two weeks. It accounted for every step of the process from brainstorming to drafting to revision to project starting, and it helped do two things:

  1. The Flowchart both tracked and displayed the student’s progress to me and the rest of the Band.
  2. The Flowchart also helped the students remain independent and self-motivated as they drafted and refined their ideas.

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Additionally, the Chart incorporated several opportunities for direct feedback from me and other people in the BWX Community. It allowed an audience to ask questions and challenge the student’s ideas, and thus built INTO the process places for Blue to respond directly to holes in their logic and practice re-explaining and re-pitching their ideas before going to the Administration for approval.

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The other really great part about the Declaration Flowchart was the day that we all sat down and created avatars to track our progress. I even drew myself and asked Blue to catch up to me on the Flowchart. Creating a visual that the kids had to look at everyday (as it took up A WHOLE WALL of the Bandspace) generated an external representation of a process that is usually largely done in abstract and nonrepresentational ways.

After all, who really sees how many times you delete a sentence when drafting a letter?
Who knows if you’ve gotten feedback from other people?
Who is really going to know if you’re revising writing?

…especially if we’re editing something in Google Docs. And everyone is independently working on their computer. And everyone in the Band is too anxious and focused on their own work to look up and realize that everyone else is struggling with the same thing they are.

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Who really knows what we’re working on if we can’t all see it?

To further cement the awesome progress that everyone made last week, on Friday, Blue did 2 minute / 8 slide pitches of their project to the Band. We got to see some more visuals and got to hear what people were thinking. In a lot of ways, this presentation was also a litmus test for understanding — we all agreed, if you can’t talk about your project to other people, you probably don’t actually know what your project is.

And with that, this week on Friday, we are doing a take two. Everyone can definitely pitch their project better, and we’re gonna try it again.

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Declarations aside, we also had some fun this week!

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Screenprinting!

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Fake Animal Ears!

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Library Elevator Selfies!

GO BLUE!

Orange Band: Human, Week 8

Our hands post figure drawing with MB! What a great workshop, more details below.

Our hands post figure drawing with MB! What a great workshop, more details below.

This week was all about declarations, and wow was it great to build on the foundation of our work during the Seed Arc. This time around, each kiddo wrote their own declaration, using a form that we designed together and will meet with a member of the administration to get their project plan approved–yay!

We hit the ground running (as per usual) Monday morning with declaration form design. We remembered the things we needed to include in our project plans: the What, the How and the Why. What do we want to make/experiment with/research? What tools, materials and resources will we use? How will we complete this project, what is our plan? And, why do we want to do this project? How does it connect to what we learned during exploration?

With some building blocks in the back of my mind, I prompted kiddos to describe to me what a declaration should include and look like, and the order they thought the information should be presented in the form. And this is what we came up with!

The declaration form we designed together.

The declaration form we designed together.

I find that taking the time to create resources like this with learners pays off exponentially in the future. During the Seed Arc, we established together everything that should be included in a declaration. So, when we got around to writing our Human Arc declarations, so many kiddos remembered exactly what we needed in a declaration writing form. We were able to have this design session using an established vocabulary that everyone could understand.

I was worried that thinking ahead to make a goal for their project work each week would be a bit too challenging; kids this age are deeply rooted in the present, it is very hard for them to plan. We framed the weeks this way: Week 1 is ‘Write declarations’ for everyone, and Week 5 is ‘Get ready to present for everyone.’ What will you need to do in the 3 weeks in the middle? Then, I decided to take it one step further: for the remaining Monday mornings of the Human Arc, everyone will make themselves a checklist of what they need to get done during that week–just like Elsa, Be Thorough! We talked about how our declaration represents the big picture of our larger goal and project. And, in order to complete our projects, we’ll need to break them down into accomplishable tasks. We filled out our Week 1 checklist together, because, again, everyone’s would be almost the same: Write declaration, meet with an administrator, revise and get approved, and RESEARCH.

Emilio and Justine look over Emilio's declaration, making recommendations for how he can make improvements.

Emilio and Justine look over Emilio’s declaration, making recommendations for how he can make improvements.

Huge shoutout to Sadie’s mom, MB for the workshop she came in and led Friday morning! We talked earlier this arc about doing some figure drawing  with the Orange Band, and we finally worked it into our schedule.  MB is a talented artist, and has a great understanding of both art history and how to present these topics to young kids. She started out with a quick rundown of some of the different ways the human form has been represented throughout history, from the simple, to more detailed and realistic, to impressionist and expressionist and abstract. It was really important to me to show many different ways that humans have drawn and painted to humans. Then, we used different types of charcoal to draw at different speeds. Using a harder charcoal pencil, we drew one of our bandmates who held a pose for several moments. After that, we used a softer charcoal to quickly draw another bandmate who changed her pose about every 30 seconds. Wham bam thank you ma’am! MB did an awesome job of emphasizing that these drawings were not meant to be perfect. Our job was to think about the shapes we saw, the movement of the model’s body, and putting charcoal to paper.

MB shows us how to use our pencil to measure what we see and keep our model's (Gita!) body proportional.

MB shows us how to use our pencil to measure what we see and keep our model’s (Gita!) body proportional.

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You’re doing it right if you’re laughing and smiling with your friends!

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Isaac shows Tesla the way he drew the shapes of her arms after she modeled for us with rapid fire poses.

And, what are our expression projects you might ask? We’re making a human body together, of course! We’ll be filling up one of our tape sculpture bodies with body parts! Ask your kiddo which body part they plan to contribute!