The Launch of By Land and NaNoWriMo

After an amazing week in the Mendocino Woodlands, the Teal Band had to come back to the reality that is Brightworks and the start of a new arc and the launch of NaNoWriMo. They began their week with a visit from Piper’s father Evan, who shared his process of writing children’s picture books. The story of writing his first book, shared with the band ways to look to their personal experiences for story ideas, even if the story takes you to a fantastical world where animals talk, drive trucks, and hold down jobs. During the remainder of the week, the band looked at elements of writing, character development, and plot lines. They mapped out the plot of Evan’s Giraffe Rescue Service, seeing it as a rollercoaster, with the climax of the story peaking at the top of the first hill.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by Evan, as he reads his book 'Giraffe Rescue Service' to the Teal and Blue bands.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by her dad, as he reads his book ‘Giraffe Rescue Service’ to the Teal and Blue bands.

Using 'Giraffe Rescue Service,' the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Using ‘Giraffe Rescue Service,’ the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear from a few members of the Mission District and Bernal Heights’ Hispanic communities. They shared their connection to Alex Nieto and his story in preparation for those attending Loco Bloco’s play, “On the Hill: I am Alex Nieto.” They also shared stories of others in the community, many of whom are greatly affected by the gentrification occurring in San Francisco. This is not always an easy conversation to have, but it is an important one that we will continue throughout the year and for years to come.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

On our way to catch BART on Wednesday morning, we took a slight detour down Clarion Alley. This alley sits between Mission Street, a street that still holds on to much of its original Mission District roots, and Valencia Street, one that has seen a lot of change due to gentrification. It is home to numerous murals painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project. We took the time to stop and look at a few that addressed struggles of San Francisco and the changes its facing as its population continues to grow.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

On Thursday, we really began to look at the “movement of education by land,” a concept we will be focusing on this arc. We started our journey into this exploration by watching the documentary “On the Way to School” (trailer is below.) It follows four groups of children around the world on their often dangerous and long journeys to get to school. When asked to reflect on the children’s experiences, Selina wrote:

I think that a lot of children across the world have to make long journeys like this to get to school because a lot of towns don’t have enough resources to have a school. So they send their children on journeys to other bigger towns that can afford to have schools. I think that the reason that the parents want them to go to school is that they didn’t get a chance to have an education…I think that the reason that these kids want to go to school so much, even though the journey is so treacherous, is because they are all very poor, and this opportunity to learn can not only make them happier but let them get a job that can support them and their families. Even though these journeys are hard, I think that school is something that is so amazing to these children that they would do almost anything to go to school.”

While we are not passing elephants, riding horses or walking upwards of four hours, each of us makes a journey to school everyday and we will be looking into those journeys, how they affect us, and the effects they have on others and the planet.

One of the ways the Teal Band will be looking at these journeys to school is by collecting data using a school wide questionnaire. On Friday morning they brainstormed a number of questions they felt would lead to strong explorations and provocations, and created a Google Form. They are interested in comparing the journeys of the students of Brightworks to those of their parents.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

We wrapped up the week with a bit more work on our bridge storage wall. They worked as a team to support one another as they constructed the frame and cut and attached the shelves. Progress is being made.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 1

Wait a minute, it’s only been a week?

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

This may be the Tinkering School in me talking, but I really love the way things click for kids when the scale of a question is turned way up. So, for several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the enormous things that humans move around the world. Not enormous amounts of things (yet), but rather things that are massive, heavy, take up a lot of space.

Like Stonehenge, or those big trees in Mendocino. So, we started this week pondering how people long ago moved things that are just so huge.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Not to mention that all of our hands and bodies don’t even fit around the rock!

Rock relocation, day 1.

Rock relocation, day 1.

This idea must have really gelled with the kiddos in the Beehive, because when we introduced our next building projects, many proposed that we use wheels to make something that would allow a kid to lift another kid. This led to some great explorations around simple machines (with some help from Bill Nye), not to mention enriching our ongoing discussions about how to move that darn rock.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

Kiddos knew that wheels would be very helpful to move the rock, but one suggested that we shouldn’t use casters to build a cart because the ancient Britons that built Stonehenge would not have had wheels (that was a freeby!). Luckily, another Yellow Bander suggested that we use some type of cylinder, so we headed to the shop to see what we could find. Answer: PVC.

When Day 2 of rock relocation got underway, after a reminder to make sure to use ready calls before lifting the rock (ouch…), we managed to move the rock a grand total of about 16 inches–off the stage and onto the cork floor. It took so much teamwork, patience and sticktoitiveness, and then we were pooped.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Phew. After all of that effort, we took a break to watch a short video explaining the point of all this. Humans move enormous things by land all the time. Along the way, they encounter loads of problems to solve and the persevere so that they can get the thing to where it’s going.

Joe Vilardi of BudCo Enterprises is one of those people. You may have noticed him in that video, working on the installation of Sequence at the SFMOMA. I reached out to him weeks ago, hoping for the kiddos to have some type of interaction with this expert rigger. And he was down! Thanks Joe!

So, on Thursday, we moved the rock as far as we could–which happened to be the top of the entryway stairs.

Then, on Friday morning, we went to SFMOMA to see the Sequence in person–feel the scale of such an undertaking–and write questions for Joe.

"What's the heaviest thing you've ever moved?"

“What’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever moved?”

"How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?"

“How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?”

"How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?"

“How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?”

You can see more photos of this week in the flickr album!

NANOWRIMO

NANOWRIMO, short hand for national novel writing month, is a time in which students put their inner editor on the shelf and write their stories.  November is upon us, but luckily the Blue Band won’t be embarking on this ambitious venture empty handed. For the past month the Blue Band has been planning out their novels and getting hyped about writing.  They have drawn pictures of their main characters, given them hopes and dreams, fears and obstacles.  They have studied texts like our read aloud, The Extraordinary Tale of Ordinary Basil, to understand better the elements of plot.  They’ve learned about Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and used this to interpret stories they’ve read and guide their own story. They have made sketches of their settings and they have been learning the art of dialogue. With this road map to their story they will be ready to set out into the wilderness of their imaginations!

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We’ve also been learning about what it means to be an author.  The Blue and Orange bands attended LitQuake at the public library where they met authors and listened to them speak about their craft.  They spoke about everything from where they get their inspiration to how many different drafts they wrote before their books were published!

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The whole group couldn’t wait to get back and read the books they had gotten from the event.  Some students even got their books autographed! It’s great to see everyone getting so amped about reading and writing stories.

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This week we had a visit from Piper’s dad, Evan Sagerman, a published children’s book author.  He read us one of his books and then explained the process he went through to get his work published.  It was impressive to see just how many drafts he went through before he settled on the best way to draw his giraffe!

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Evan Sagerman’s publisher also asked him to write a three sentence description of his story, the kind you find on a book jacket.  The Blue Band took a shot at describing their own stories in three sentences or less.  Though these stories are liable to transform and grow in the coming month, here is a rough sketch of what each of the Blue Band will be writing in the coming month:

Gita

“Elliana is a nice girl who loves her dog and just wants some friends. When she goes to school, it is too bad that Jessica wants only herself to be friends with Alma and Alejandra.  Will Elliana only have her dog to count on for her life or will she stand up to Jessica?”
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Ramses

“There was a boy named Ramses and he was a normal boy.  He made friends with a vampire boy.  They are looking for a jewel that turns vampires back to humans.  There is a evil villain vampire killer who is in their way.”
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Ronan

“Clavis Carmine lives in a three story mansion on top of candlewick hill.  Clavis might seem like an ordinary boy and for the most part he is, but one thing made him stand out: a small gem…”

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Soleil

“Tahani doesn’t have time for her inner love of science.  What happens when she decides to make her science experiment at Hamiton Middle School in Jacksonville?  Tahani wants everything living to be respected but the science experiment goes crazy.  While she is at it she goes on adventures.  One adventure involves talking candy!”

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Sadie

“Katie Storm is 13 and she lives in London.  Katie just wants to see her dad again, but she gets on a train and has to do a bunch of trials.  The train is not an ordinary train. This story doesn’t have a happy ending!”
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Isaac

“I’m writing a fan fiction about Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.”

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Tamasen

“This is a story about a girl who goes to look for her lost parents.  On the way she has to face poof the villain who is a small puff ball.”

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Lily

“My story is going to be a graphic novel about a girl who looks really dark but is really optimistic and a boy who looks really bright but us super pessimistic.  They go on a camping trip together.”

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I can’t wait to see all of these stories come to life over the next month!

 

Animals by-air

This past arc, the Red Band explored the concept of animal flight. We researched both mammal and insect wings, their construction, placement, and function through a series of investigations. By transferring our new skills from kite construction, the kids created wing models using wooden dowels as bones or insect cuticle. After observing birds at our neighborhood Petco, the kids attempted to imitate wing movement by attaching magnets or paperclips to paper wings. The kids then created their own, taught others, or followed directions to fold paper airplanes. By examining their flight we defined the terms: flying, floating, and gliding to add to our #kiddictionary. We then compared the migration of the monarch butterfly and the albatross, the farthest travelling bird and insect with the largest difference in size and wingspan.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird's flight problem.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird’s flight problem.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Following our explorations, the Red Band completed their first project brainstorm where ideas ranged from revisiting past projects such as the wing models, create a school kite or build a mini-airplane before choosing to create adaptations for flightless animals both with or without wings. We started by identifying a problem: Some animals do not or cannot fly and creating a solution: design wings or means of flight for flightless animals. We each set to work choosing a wingless or flightless animal: an elephant, a girl, a giraffe, an underground dragon blob, two dogs, a penguin, and a chicken. The results varied from tiny insect wings to bird wings to jetpacks and larger ears to aid the animals’ flight. For some added encouragement, we took a trip over to the San Francisco Zoo to observe some of our animals up close. The kids all stretched their imaginations and motivation to truly bring to life their solutions.

#bwxredinthewild

#bwxredinthewild

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A band that weaves a web together… sticks together

Just in time for our first arc gathering, the Red and Yellow bands also wrapped up their cockpit and wave machine projects. Each afternoon the kids choose one collaborator-led project to participate in; since the start of the year we have completed a bench and planter box for our entryway. The collaborators and kids are working in a two to three week long timeframe to expose kids to the Brightworks project process and best practices. We will take our new project guidelines to help us work on our first by-land projects, a carwash and a machine to harness our people-power. Stay tuned for more #brightworksbeehive news.

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currently on display in the hive

currently on display in the hive

Ambigo’s Mission to Mars

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Declan at the white board brainstorming designs for the Mars HAB.

What would it be like to live on another planet? This question inspired great exploration for Ambigo in the final two weeks of the By Air Arc. Students worked on teams to design and build a habitat that was a third the size it would need to be to keep all of us alive on Mars. We set our constraints based on the recent announcement from Elon Musk’s plans for getting to Mars in 80 days. Each team had their own research to do and piece of the habitat to build. Teams covered hydrology, climate, human resources, site facilities, and communications.

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Norabelle and Felix troubleshooting the airlock.

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Rhone soldering the radio for the communications team.

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Khalia radioing her teammates about the storage containers that helped make up our atmosphere in the HAB.

Students wrote reflections on the process of tackling such a big project in our final week of the By Air Arc. Here’s an excerpt from Audrey’s reflection:

We wanted to make the HAB as realistic as possible. A lot of research and math went into that and I think we did a pretty good job. I also thought it was cool that when using the HAB we tried to make sure that the two airlock doors were never open at the same time because if it was a real HAB, and both airlock doors were open at the same time, all the air would rush out and everyone would die. I think my favorite part of the project was the very last day when we had to connect everything together and finish everything in one day (it was also pretty stressful). It was really cool to see everything we had worked on for the last week suddenly come together. Some of my favorite moments in that day were cutting the plastic between the cardboard rings and seeing the newly connected room on the other side.  I think I learned a lot from this project. I learned for one thing that I need to get better at planning out a whole project rather than just planning the first couple days. I also learned that some tasks that seem so big will turn out to be not as hard as you think. We made a HAB in ONE week. That still sounds a little impossible to me. I’m really happy with what came out of this and I can’t wait to see what we do next.

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The HAB all light up for Expo night!

This week we’re kicking off the By Land Arc by looking at traditions. After spending a week  in Mendocino, a beautiful Brightworks tradition, we’re considering what traditions we want to carry over from Arc 1 into Arc 2. We’ll also be taking a field trip to the Oakland Museum of California to look at some rich Bay Area traditions. We’re still thinking of ways we may continue to explore the movement of things by land on the Red Planet, and how we will keep up traditions new and old throughout the second Arc.

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Rhone spotted a deer on our last morning in Mendocino.

 

Exploring Polygons

This arc, the Blue Band took a deep dive into geometry.  Inspired by the polyhedrons we created for our hot air balloon project we set out to become better acquainted with the shapes we were using.  Paul Lockhart, in his defense of the open ended math problem once said, “Mental acuity of any kind comes from solving problems yourself, not from being told how to solve them.”  In that spirit we didn’t start with all of the vocabulary and relationships between shapes, we let the students discover it all for themselves. The band’s first challenge was to create a family tree of different shapes.  

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Some students grouped their shapes by number of sides, some grouped them by angle and others incorporated both of these aspects.

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The group’s next challenge was to see how many different polygons they could create using 4 triangles.

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They discovered fourteen different polygons that could be constructed from these four triangles.  We had been slowly becoming more familiar with the vocabulary of polygons. The teams came together to sort them based on number of sides into quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons and octogons.

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We did some explorations into different types of quadrilaterals.  The bands had to use peg boards to see how many different types of quadrilaterals they could make.  We then learned different names for these shapes and labeled them.

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Our study of shapes culminated with a reading of the Hungry Triangle by Marilyn Burns.  The students then wrote their own stories about a shapes.  Gita wrote about a heart that didn’t fit in amongst her fellow polygons because she had curved sides.  Ramses wrote about a triangle chicken that spent all day eating different triangles.  Ronan wrote about a circle that could be considered a polygon with infinite sides.  All of their stories revealed some deeper understanding of shapes and polygons.

Our Journey To Space

We did it!  The Blue and Yellow bands sent a balloon into the stratosphere.  It reached a height of 83,000 ft, roughly 3 times the height a commercial jet flies, before bursting and bringing back to earth footage from it’s journey.

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All big dreams have small beginnings and our adventure started here with this sketch by our expert ballooning enthusiast, Josh Myer (Calvin’s dad).  The band took notes, asked good questions and generally absorbed all the important mission information they could.   I love those faces!

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The students learned from their expert that the scope of this project was pretty large and the risk of losing our balloon and equipment was very real.  Like any ambitious project we divided ours into smaller more manageable segments.  The blue band split into two teams: Team Helium and Team Payload.

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The Yellow Band was tasked with figuring out where our balloon would land.  Gever briefed the whole team on wind and weather patterns and how they might effect our launch.  The students learned that wind speed and direction is different at higher altitudes.  This is why the speed at which our balloon rises effects the distance it travels.  The longer it stays at high altitudes the further it will be carried by strong high altitude winds.  This information would later become important in the Helium Team’s calculations.

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Team Payload’s first task was to weigh all of the ingredients of the payload so that the Team Helium could estimate the amount of helium they would need to buy.  They used the balance scale to weigh the go pro, GPS tracker, battery pack as well as the various packaging and lines.

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Team Payload had learned from our egg-drop challenge the importance of securing all of the equipment so it wouldn’t break.  They came up with a system for securing the equipment and lines to the styrofoam container in such a way that we could still remove them.  They were in charge of making sure all the important components were packed, charged, and turned on for the flight.

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Team Helium used the balloon performance calculator to estimate how much helium they would need.  They entered the weight of the balloon and the weight of the payload and then played around with the amount of lift until the balloon’s ascent rate was ideal. When they had figured out the amount of lift they recorded the cubic feet of helium we would need to create that lift.  It turned out we needed 76 cuft of helium, so we piled into the car and headed out to a party store to rent a tank of helium!

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Team Helium’s next big task was to go over the balloon filling procedure and create checklists.  They read a how-to guide and harvested important information on what to pack, safety procedures and the steps they would need to take to fill the balloon without popping it!

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Sadie and Isaac practice the knot they will need to use to tie off the balloon!  Sadie volunteered for this high stakes job, and pulled it off beautifully.

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On the day of the launch Ramses read the steps to the team and the rest of the Team followed his instructions for filling the balloon.

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First they attached the nozzle onto the tank.

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Then they attached the hose to the balloon and held it gently while the tank was turned on.

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It was amazing to see the balloon fill with air and start tugging on our lift scale.  We needed 1050 grams of lift in order to have a successful flight.  Different teams of two took turns holding the scale and reading out the amount of lift.  As the payload was attached to the balloon the you could feel the excitement and tension.  We were so close to launch and nothing had gone wrong!  The balloon was finally launched amidst screams of relief and delight.  As the balloon floated away into a speck in the sky the kids ran around giving each other hugs and high fives and generally wearing out their vocal chords!

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Had we known, when we left the Lawrence Hall of Sciences to chase down the balloon, that we would be returning home hours past everyones bed time, we might have turned back.

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But if we had, we would’ve missed one of those golden moments of childhood, when you leave the safety of routine, do something difficult and then discover that despite all odds your story has a happy ending!

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Back at school the following week, we coaxed a story out of the lists of numbers recovered from our GPS.  We discovered that the balloon had traveled 115 flat miles, ascended to 82,798 ft and reached speeds up to 73 mph.

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The Blue Band graphed the altitude data and got an idea of the path our brave balloon took through the sky.

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You can see footage of the earth from near space as well as the launch.  It is truly breath taking.  I hope you enjoy it!