Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 6-8

A few weeks ago, we started to talk about international shipping, the switch to containerized shipping, and the globalization of the textile industry. Yea, you read that right. All this with these 1st and 2nd graders.

Working on a map to visually display the data we collected on where everyone at Brightworks’ t-shirts came from. Read about it below!

The thing that started it all was this podcast, which focuses on the port of Oakland. It tells the story from the beginning, hearing from longshoremen and tugboat drivers, and follows the story all the way through to today, even taking the listener inside a container crane. Because, you see, shipping goods around the world used to be enormously hard, labor intensive work. Ports employed lots of people, because lots of human power was needed to load and unload cargo from the belly of ships. And so, a lot more stuff was made closer to home. Things were trucked across the country. Then, a company called Sealand used the first container. Suddenly, stuff could be loaded in boxes, and those boxes could be put on ships. Instead of each sack of coffee or pallet of cloth being painstakingly loaded, containers could quickly and relatively easily be stacked on ships. Now, all it takes is one operator in a container crane. And so, since shipping is so cheap–so cheap in fact, that the international shipping industry loses money hand over fist–we started getting more and more products made overseas, where labor is cheaper. On that first day, after listening to the first episode of Containers, we took a minute to look at the tags of our t-shirts to see where they all came from. India, Indonesia, China, Guatemala, Vietnam. And off we went.

Devlin checking to see where his shirt was made. That tag can tell quite the story!

The following week, we started to look at some data about the Port of Oakland, getting ready to go on a field trip to see it all in person. We work on making graphs and charts about where the goods received at the port typically come from, and what kinds of goods are packed inside all of those containers. Then, we spent a day at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, right smack in the middle of the port, taking a closer look at the container cranes, and watching in awe the amount of truck traffic going in and out, in and out, constantly. So many trucks! So many containers!

We saw tugboats hurrying around the bay.

And so many trucks dropping off cargo, picking up cargo.

And one HUGE ship parked at the port, though we couldn’t tell if it was getting loaded or unloaded.

Then on Friday, it was our turn to lead morning circle. So, we posed a question to the whole school: where did the shirt you’re wearing come from? And the data we collected was really compelling. The following Monday, we got to work graphing our data, making bar graphs and line plots. As we worked, we noticed that close to half of our shirts came from Asia, with Latin America a distant second. We also noticed that none of our shirts came from Europe or Russia or Australia.

Solin working on her line plot of our t-shirt data.

She used t-shirts on her line plot–perfect!

Nolan’s line plot/chart came out very precise and easy to read, great job!

Then, we put our data on the map, using different sized bubbles to show the number of shirts that came from each country.

There was so much great geography woven through this exploration too!

We knew that a lot of the reason that so many shirts came from Asia, which seems very far away, is that container shipping is cheap, and so is labor, but our understanding was missing the human story. So, I went to Newsela, searching for articles about the textile industry. These articles really filled in the story of our t-shirts. First of all, chances are the cotton your t-shirt is made of was grown in the US. You won’t find that on the tag! On top of that, kids might have had a hand in making our clothes! And, women in Bangladesh actively choose to work in the textile industry, because even though it can be dangerous, it gives them freedom to earn their own money and make their own decisions.

Solin read about a change to labor laws that could lead to more children leaving school to work in the garment industry. Advocates worry about children being taken advantage, but sometimes poor families need the money that their children can earn.

That last point really stuck out to us. In our discussions of what we think about the textile industry, most Yellow Banders had a value for affordable clothes, and no discrimination for someone making the shirt here or far away. If the shipping is cheap, why not? People in other countries need good jobs, so why not make clothes? And, people need access to clothes they can afford! Reading these articles (and later listening to the Planet Money episode about two Bangladeshi sisters that work in a garment factory) gave our discussion a lot more depth and empathy. Now we could see that we could both be in favor of affordable clothes, and think that the humans that work to make our clothes deserve to earn a living wage and work in a safe environment.

Sakira and Emilio read about women in Bangladesh that work in textile factories. The women often work in hot, dangerous, grueling conditions–one woman said she tries to make 1,000 shirts everyday! But, leaving their small villages and earning their own money gives them freedom and independence. And, the money they send home significantly improves their families’ lives.

Then, I saw online that this past Monday would be the 4 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. So, I decided we should make our own t-shirts.

At the fabric store choosing fabrics!

Then, cutting out pattern pieces printed out from a free online pattern, and piecing them together like a puzzle.

In the afternoons for Beehive Choice time, we’ve been using a raglan t-shirt pattern to make shirts. Here, Dash helps Sylvester pin on his sleeves.

And Piper from the Teal Band has been coming over to help us–which has been awesome!

The Yellow Band worked on making some custom t-shirt patterns. Here, Reyahn traces Sakira to help her draw her custom pattern.

Nolan works on his custom pattern. Figuring the shape the pattern pieces need to be is pretty tricky!

And, Oscar helps Nolan cut out the fabric using his paper pattern as a guide.

And that’s the story of why we’re making clothes during the by Sea arc. In case you were wondering.

Launching into Expression

The last few weeks have been busy. We’ve explored the stories of the Chinese immigrants in Chinatown, researched sea creatures, made paper mache models, prepared declarations, and even made lunch for the entire school. Now it’s time to fully launch into projects. This time around we have a wonderful collection of projects that truly speak to each Teal Bander and their interests. Below is their proposed project introduction from their declarations.

SelinaI am proposing to do a series of experiments on algae:

  • It turns out that the limiting factor of algae growth is the amount of iron in the water. In combination with researching how much oxygen algae produces per square inch and calculate the amount of algae that would need to be grown to counter the carbon footprint produced by the average family, I would like to try increasing the amount of iron in the water to figure out how much iron would need to be dumped into the ocean to counter the family’s carbon footprint production. This could be used in huge quantities to stop, or at least slow down, global warming.
  • Growing algae in different solutions such as different salinities and pHs to observe possible variation in growth rate.
  • Growing algae in polluted environments to observe what effect global warming/pollution will have on algae growth in the future.
  • Try growing Euglena gracilis, a type of algae, under a heat lamp. Euglena gracilis is a type of algae that, when grown in temperature from 31 to 35 c, loses it’s color and turns white.

Along with my experiments, I want to write a small research paper on sea anemones, specifically the giant green anemone, and their symbiotic relationship with algae.

PiperFor my project, I am proposing to learn about the ways people and organizations help to save sea turtles. I will write a research paper on sea turtles and the reasons they need saving and the ways people work to save them. I will also find an organization to support. I will make sea creature stuffed animals to sell and raise money for the organization. I will include a little “bio” about each type of sea creature with them.

PatrickI want to write an online fiction on the hosting site RoyalRoadL.

I found it a while back in January and have been hooked on it ever since with about 24 open fictions that I am keeping up on. I’ve wanted to write one of my own for about two weeks now and believe my project time will be well spent doing something I’m passionate about. My fiction will connect with the By Sea Arc because I will be incorporating research around hydraulics, fire pistons, and sailing cultures such as the Vikings.  I won’t really need anything for this project, just time, wi-fi, a computer and my imagination. Overall, I think this would teach me to be prepared for deadlines and how to focus better on what I’m supposed to be doing.

NoraFor my project, I will be trying to figure out why sargassum is suddenly coming to the shore in mounds and mounds making it impossible to swim.  I will also write a paper on sargassum, along with making a detailed model that would explain all of the different parts (e.g. the purpose of the grape-like balls filled with air so they will float on the surface of the water.)

Jonah: For my project, I am proposing to build a mini hydropower plant. This hydropower plant will use water to power a light bulb. Water will travel through a canal and over a waterwheel to create the power. As this is my first project, I want to take on something that won’t be too difficult, but is still fun, so I can take my time learning about the project phase. Huxley is helping me with the understanding of the energy flow. I think the hardest part about my project will be getting power from the generator to light the light bulb. I will also be researching hydropower, such as the positives and negatives of its use and creation.

JaredMy proposed project is on dolphin communication and echolocation. Dolphins are seen as highly intelligent and appear to have a language of their own that consists of whistles and clicks. I am interested in researching more about how they communicate with one another and their communication process in general, both through sounds and body language. Along with communicating, they use their clicks to help them echolocate. I will be writing a research paper and creating a short documentary on dolphin communication and echolocation.

HuxleyInstantly inflatable devices for drowning prevention have been released out into the market, however, their compressed CO2 system does not allow them to be larger scale than a personal device such as a bracelet that inflates to the size of a small balloon. Super-corroding alloys are made by combining a noble metal and a highly corrosive metal. When in contact with water, the noble metal forces the corrosive metal to corrode at an extremely accelerated rate, forming corrosive metal hydroxide or oxide, and a gigantic amount of H2. I want to create a instantly inflatable flotation device using supercoroding alloys, as proof of concept that this process would be able to produce a larger scale flotation device.

FreddieI, Fredrica Lipsett would like to propose my By Sea arc project where I study the natural history and evolution of barnacles. I would like to:

  • write a research paper,
  • make a major evolutionary family tree poster
  • do a dissection of both barnacle species  
  • anatomical drawings and draw diagrams of barnacles.

As there are over 1,400 different species of barnacles, I have decided to do my research on two specific barnacles. The first is the Acorn Barnacle which is the most common and the second is the Buoy Barnacles.

AuroraFor my project I am interested in researching the transportation of goods by sea. This project would include a number of parts:

  • Tracking an object from where it was made to Brightworks.
  • Interviewing experts in manufacturing and shipping to understand the manufacturing and delivery process.
  • Research how goods are packaged, how efficient it is to ship them from point A to point B by cargo ship, as well as how truck and train transportation affects the cost, monetarily and environmentally.
  • Make a model of a shipping container that, in an emergency, will float so that there will not be so many shipping containers at the bottom of the ocean where they scrape the hulls of boats and hurt the ecosystems.

These next seven weeks will be another wonderful adventure through the Expression Phase.

The beginning of our journey down the Barbary Coast Trail, The Granite Lady, the Old Mint.

Recording our reflections on our visit to Angel Island and Chinatown.

Our collection of paper mache sea creatures we researched.

Making breakfast for lunch for Community Lunch. Delicious!

Surfspiration

It’s Declaration Week at Brightworks, and while students started brainstorming ideas for their expression projects, we sought out inspiration on surfboards!

Ambigo after an epic day of surfing!

Fortunately for us, Brightworks is just a 20 minute drive to Linda Mar Beach, a perfect spot for any newbie surfer to feel the power of the waves. Most of the group had never been swimming in the Pacific Ocean before, and for many this was their first time surfing. We worked with experienced surfers to learn the basics: protect your head, keep your eyes on the waves, and fall flat.

We lucked out with some pretty perfect conditions, and everyone was able to catch a wave or two. Most of us boogied in, and a few even managed to pop up on their boards.

Everyone found a way to move with the water—on surf boards, boogie boards, and simply body surfing.

Khalia was ready to catch some waves after a one-on-one lesson with Sean.

Owen and Rhone are all smiles after spending the day on the water.

Elijah rolling in with the waves.

Anthony and Amparo grilling up tasty treats.

After a long day of surfing it was great to grill out!

How did we move with the water, and why? Back at school the group took some time to reflect on the time we spent surfing. Many realized how important it was to work with the water, rather than to fight against it. We also discussed the salinity of our blood, and compared that to the salinity of the ocean. We noticed how easy it was to float in our wetsuits, and some talked about regulating their buoyancy with their breath (like the submarines we designed a few weeks ago). The trip was a great way for us to reconnect with the sea before submitting declarations for approval, and diving into our expression projects!

Boat Launch at Stow Lake!

It was a bright and breezy April afternoon – auspicious weather conditions for the launch of the Orange Band’s own cardboard boats!

Lucy awaits the launch of her team’s boat: the BWX Unknown!

There is a romance and kind of magic, it feels, inherent in our explorations By Sea. Even when collaborators brainstormed the many interactions with the sea and the things it moves before the arc began, I don’t think that any of us anticipated the just how captivating it would be to go out on the water. Thanks to our proximity to the ocean, bay, and lakes, we have been able to experience being on the water no less than FIVE times – in such a myriad of ways! From rowboats in the bay (and just beyond), to massive ferries, four mast turn of the century shipping boats, and sail boats, the Orange Band’s logical progression has been to build and launch their own boats. Naturally!

When given free range to build a boat, which design would YOU choose?

This boat building project – so close to the start of the year’s last expression portion (Coincidence? Perhaps not!) was much more than *just* another build. The road (waterway?) to the successful paddles was marked with challenges and opportunities to stretch the kiddos, individually and as a group!

The challenge began as an individual boat prototype build on a small scale. Throughout the year, kiddos have been honing this skill – and the Orange Band tackled this task with comfort and ease, each student creating their own model, a testament to their practice and capability with their tools: cardboard, rulers, and boxcutters. Essential to the work was their familiarity with the crafts they have been on throughout the arc; the days spent on the water allowed for so much time interacting with and analyzing boat design and structure. As such, there was a good amount of variety found among the prototypes.

Next, students voted on the designs they felt would be the most successful. Using this criteria helps to get the kiddos in the project mindset – and feel confident about getting into the boats, themselves!

With the boat designs narrowed down to two choices, the Orange Band began construction in teams on Monday. We had a scheduled boat launch set for Thursday afternoon- and an impromptu field trip on the Bay popped up on Tuesday.

The Orange, Teal, Blue, and Violet Bands joined the Call of the Sea out of Sausalito for a day on the water.

The clock was ticking for the teams, underscored by the ongoing fear of actually getting into the boats. Sailors were hard to come by as worries of getting dunked in the lake or eaten alive by snapping turtles flew around the shop.

Phoebe works with the straightedge for greater precision.

This three day work was when, in truth, the *real* work began. That is, tackling a build that was going to be put to the test in the world, under real time constraints, in a group project setting! Students were challenged to hone their communication skills, practice delegating tasks, and being flexible on the fly – all tall orders, to be sure. Each day of construction ended with more than a few worries about whether the boats would be ready in time – or ready to float!

Amiya contemplates his next construction move on his team’s design: a craft with a double outrigger style pontoon

Aaliyah helps Lucy and Charlotte secure the fourth layer of plastic to their craft.

But this is Brightworks! Come Thursday morning, both crafts were duct taped and wrapped in plastic – ready for the waters of Stow Lake. Not surprising, with the excitement of the actual launch at our fingertips, sailors suddenly came from left and right, clamoring to hop in! Anticipation was high when our first sailor stepped a shaky foot into her team’s boat. Families, puppies, and the meandering park goer alike cheered as the craft pushed off to great success!

Our first sailor still has the jitters before her voyage.

Post trip, Phoebe is ALL smiles!

And what a success! Both boats went out for multiple voyages on the lake, steering around the intrigued paddle boats and navigating the flow of the lake, and the occasional wind gust.

With two boats on the water, BWX Boat Launch was a resounding success!

Amiya navigated the current and flora of the lake with determination.

This craft was sound enough to take on two: “It looks as though they’re on a Sunday stroll.”

We left the lake that afternoon back to Brightworks with full hearts, high on the triumph of the students’ hard work. It was a magical afternoon – just the kind of day that will resonate in the kiddos’ minds as they gear up for their next, and last, project experiences of this year.

BWXRed by-sea

Welcome to the by-sea arc explorations of the Red Band. We started our journey traversing the seas by submarine. The kids and I took on the task of creating bottle submarines that would dive and surface. Our initial problem was to sink a plastic bottle using coins, straws, binder clips, balloons, and tape which the kids tested in our sink or float tub.

Quinn and Abir worked together to sink their bottle by filling it with coins, paper, and water.

Applying what we learned from these tests, the kids set forth to sink their bottles which proved harder than we thought. Once the kids reflected on their work they found attaching heavy items to the bottles was not enough to counter the buoyancy of the bottle, rather filling the bottles with water was the most successful route. Employing what we learned about submarines and their ability to dive and surface, we set to work with our same materials to create our own ballast tanks. The final solution was to attach straws and cut out hole to encourage the bottle to fill and release water! Success!

Khalilah cuts out two holes in her submarine

To celebrate our  hard work Red and Yellow traveled across town to visit the U.S.S. Pampanito at Pier 45.

Onboard the U.S.S. Pampanito

During our journal reflection the kids shared that being on the water was not their favorite experience so we have set sail on our own virtual boat trip. Two weeks ago we packed up our stuffies, clothes, money, toothbrushes, food, and sleeping bags and set sail from San Francisco to Panama City. It was all smooth sailing until we hit a storm off of the coast of Guatemala that snapped some of our lines leaving us with just one sail.

Abir tracks our course up to the unavoidable storm!

Luckily we reached our final destination and were able to get our ship repaired and set sail through the Panama Canal to Haiti where we came eye to eye with a tsunami, yikes! Our quick-thinking crew quickly turned us round and set course toward Puerto Rico with our Uniform flag hoisted to let other ships know they were heading into danger.

Sylvester, Abir, and Quinn review the international code flags to determine which message we should send to other ships.

Make sure you’re following along #brightworksbeehive to see where our next adventure takes us or to watch tugboat and crow’s nest come to life.

But does it float?

The Amber Band has been taking a closer look at how water works. This week we visited the Marine Mammal Center, played around on Rodeo Beach, and took buoyancy experiments to the next level. All of these explorations gave us a chance to learn more about the physics and chemistry of water, in an attempt to better understand our relationship to it.

We kicked off the first day back from spring break at the beautiful Marine Mammal Center.

We got a chance to see how marine biologists conduct blood tests to learn about the health of the marine life they rescue, and some of the techniques they use to help prepare marine life to go back out into the wild.

After our visit to the Marine Mammal Center, we hiked down to Rodeo Beach for a picnic. We decided to spend the afternoon playing around on the beach. There were tide pools, watery caves, drift wood, and so much more for us to get up close and explore. We took the opportunity to reflect on this spectacular day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Students noticed all the colors in a handful of sand, the warmth of the sun, the sound of the waves, and the smell of salt in the air.

We found some tide pools at Rodeo Beach.

Having lunch on the side of a sea cliff.

Cartwheels on the beach are the best!

We found a jellyfish that had washed ashore.

There’s a whole world in a handful of sand!

Rhone found a small dead fish that had washed ashore too.

Back at Brightworks, we continued playing around in La Petit Mer (the epic test pool built by Indigo Band) to understand buoyancy and density. What do we need to know about density to be able to move through water? We started by designing and building a vessel that could maintain a neutral state of water (does not sink, does not float) while containing cargo weight of 50 grams or more. Once they figured that out, students began pushing those limits by finding ways to move their vessel forward, backward, up, and down—all without using their hands.

Measuring the mass and volume of our vessels to calculate their density.

How do you measure the volume of an oddly shaped object? Water displacement! Phillip showed Ambigo how to measure the water displacement of their vessels in a graduated cylinder to find the volume.

Clem and Audrey experimented with ways to make their submarines “breathe” to control when it floats and when it sinks.

Next week we’ll begin building our very own boat! Ambigo has decided to tackle a seemingly impossible mission by building a boat that will safely carry us to Angel Island. We begin building next week, and hope to have something ready to test in the bay by the following Friday. Before that though, we’ll get a chance to learn more about navigating in the water and “reading the water” on a surfing trip in Linda Mar.

Yellow Band: by Sea, Week 5

Welcome back everyone! A short post this afternoon, just thinking about the great math work we did this week, and thought I’d share a bit.

A few weeks ago, while we were working on the constellation project, we started studying the Babylonian/Sumerian number and counting system. The ancient Babylonians did not use base 10–the system that we use, and is also the foundation of the metric measurement system. Rather, they counted in base 60. But, hit the brakes. We didn’t start there. We started by looking closely at how we use our hands to count. And we started to have some really neat discoveries!

Emilio records in his journal how he would count up to a few different numbers, some big, some small.

When we got everyone’s hands drawn on the board, we noticed some really neat things. Some people started counting on their thumbs, some on their pointers. Some held their hands palm up, others palm down. And, to count to big numbers, like 47, some people counted up by 5 and others by 10.

From there, we learned how the Babylonians counted on their hands. They did a neat thing: they used their right and left hands differently. On their right hand, they used their thumb as a pointer, and counted out each joint on each finger. This allowed them to count up to 12 on one hand. On their left hand, they kept track of the dozens that they counted on their right. In this way, they could count up to 60 on just their two hands. These first few explorations really focused on our hands, our most concrete way to count, most literal connection to the abstract concept of number.

Samira shows how she is practicing counting on her hands like a Babylonian!

Sakira helps Emilio record in his journal how to count up to a few different numbers like a Babylonian.

Then, we started to talk about base 10 and base 60. We watched a couple of videos about mathematical archaeology, which pointed out to us a few fundamentals of our number system, and contrasted them to the Babylonian base 60 system. Both systems work from left to right, and as we move up an order of magnitude, we add a numeral to the left. In our system, we use a 0-9 pattern, and when we get to 9 in a place, we add one to the place value to the left in order move from 9 to 0. Each place value represents the numeral in that place multiplied by a power of 10. For example, for first place is 10^0, or 1. So, a numeral in the ‘ones place’ is equal to that numeral x 10^0. When you want to move from 9 up to the next order of magnitude, you add one to the ‘tens place,’ or 1 x 10^1 = 10, and the 9 in the ones place turns back to a 0. Well, the Babylonians basically did the same thing, except replace all the 10s with 60s. Or, as Emilio so helpfully put it for us, in base 10 your ‘silent alarm’ goes off at 10, but if you’re Babylonian, your ‘silent alarm’ goes off at 60.

All of this with 7 and 8 year olds! And they really stepped up to the plate! We learned the symbols the Babylonians used (really just 2 different symbols), then started working each morning to practice writing numbers in base 60, which got really interesting when we wanted to write big numbers.

Reyahn works on adding symbols to our ‘glossary’ of Babylonian numbers, to help folks work on translating some different numbers.

Reyahn shows how to carefully organize your symbols. The Babylonians didn’t string out their symbols, the never wrote more than three in a row. Instead, they started to stack the symbols.

Solin shares her strategy for writing a particular number in Babylonian. Solin organizes herself into the first two place values in base 60:  x 60     x 1 . This helped her see that, though she wrote the same symbol twice, one is worth 60, and other 1, so the whole number she wrote is 61.

Sakira shows how she figured out how to write 104 in Babylonian. All these numbers with only 2 symbols! You can see in this picture how Solin organizes herself into the first two place values in base 60:  x 60     x 1 . This helped her see that, though she wrote the same symbol twice, one is worth 60, and other 1, so the whole number she wrote is 61.

Once we were comfortable with the system and the symbols, we could really hit the gas. We worked mostly in just the first to places, which you can see in the picture above–which will take you all the way up to 3,599! This exploration has been so rich with number sense and operations–addition, multiplication and division–and our understanding of our own base 10 system has really gelled. By taking this step outside of our comfort zone, and essentially learning a different counting language, we noticed some really important things about our own number system that will inform the way we work with numbers forever. Woah!