Orange Band: Human, Week 7

I was so glad to have everyone back this week–we missed you Tesla and Emilio!

At Pace Art + Technology on Thursday. Thank you to our parent volunteers, it was a great day!

At Pace Art + Technology on Thursday. Thank you to our parent volunteers, it was a great day!

We started the week with some baking, then wrapped up our Lower School book Clubs with a tea party Tuesday morning and our Wednesday afternoon journal entry, went to Pace Art on Thursday, then did another of Herve Tullet’s art workshops for children on Friday morning.

Monday morning, we got ready for our day in character on Tuesday. Kids thought about questions that others might have  for the humans that we read about in the biographies we read for our book club discussions. Kids were so excited to do this–some even copied their questions and answers onto notecards so they could practice.

Sadie's questions and answers about her biography, a book about Anne Frank.

Sadie’s questions and answers about her biography, a book about Anne Frank. She thought it must have been hard for Anne to say goodbye to all of her friends and family when she went into hiding.

Wowee, these kiddos really did it with their costumes! We had an Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, 2 Rosa Parks, a Martin Luther King, Jr., a Thomas Edison and an Amelia Earhart. There were leather jackets, wigs, stripes, glasses, colored hairspray, suit jackets, ties and face paint. On Monday afternoon we baked cookies and made finger sandwiches with ingredients that we got on a walk to Rainbow last Community Friday afternoon. Yum!

Isaac and Oscar scoop up handfuls of vegan snickerdoodle dough, then roll them in cinnamon sugar.

Isaac and Oscar scoop up handfuls of vegan snickerdoodle dough, then roll them in cinnamon sugar.

Tuesday morning tea party!

Ramses/Albert Einstein finishes up making a sign for the gluten free sandwiches.

Ramses/Albert Einstein finishes up making a sign for the gluten free sandwiches. Ramses asked that amazing question, “How can I help?” so many times this week!

And don't forget about Math Workshop! Isaac, Emilio and Oscar working on a centipede based on a repeating pattern we designed together during math workshop on Tuesday afternoon.

And don’t forget about Math Workshop! Isaac, Emilio and Oscar working on a centipede based on a repeating pattern we designed together during math workshop on Tuesday afternoon.

After a great morning at the garden on Wednesday, working on clearing pathway we started last week, we came back to school and wrote an entry in our journals about how we are similar and different from the historic humans we read about. I haven’t had a chance to read all of these entries, but I know we have some troublemakers, deep thinkers and adventurous kiddos here in the Orange Band.

And Thursday we went to Pace Art + Technology in Menlo Park to see the cool Living Digital Space exhibit. It was so fun! Here are just a few pictures, and make sure to check out the Red Band’s flickr to see more.

The exhibit is based on our interaction with physical space. Artists created digital art pieces that change based on your proximity. So, Oscar reached out toward this giant cube of LEDs to watch the wave of his hand effect move across the sculpture.

The exhibit is based on our interaction with physical space. Artists created digital art pieces that change based on your proximity. So, Oscar reached out toward this giant cube of LEDs to watch the wave of his hand move across the sculpture.

Reyahn paints flowers with his hands.

Reyahn paints flowers with his hands.

Sadie and Solin let the projection move across their bodies.

Sadie and Solin let the projection move across their bodies.

Friday morning, we tried another of Herve Tullet’s Art Workshops for Children, this time painting with music. I felt really prepared, with a piece of paper taped to the tables for each person, a playlist, and pallets of paint. Kiddos would move from one painting to the next, musical chairs-style, with the music, painting based on what they heard and felt. The best laid plans though…

After reiterating that each kiddo should add on to the previous artists’ work when they arrived at a painting, we ended up with a couple finished paintings that truly represent the work of each Orange Bander. Better luck next time!

2016-04-15 10.50.51

Saw some interesting uses of the paintbrushes during this workshop! Here, you can see that a few students used the handles to scrape away paint and reveal the colors underneath as a way to add to this painting that had been covered by another student with just one color.

And in this painting, you can see the swirls, dots, layers and scratches of each artist--the goal!

And in this painting, you can see the swirls, dots, layers and scratches of each artist–the goal : )

Blue: Systems and Stereotypes

IMG_0338

This first week back from spring break and last official week of Exploration, Blue dove deep into thinking about systems and stereotypes.

IMG_0368

On Monday and Tuesday, we had a visiting Teaching Artist from Southern Exposure Gallery, Claire Rabkin.

Backstory/Gesture to the Near Future
Robby Herbst is an artist who makes art about games. Over the next few months, Southern Exposure will be hosting a few events that feature his work and also place him in conversation with other Bay Area artists and critical theorists. Claire is working with area students respond to Robby’s games by hosting workshops where we play the games and then create our own. The material generated from the workshops will also be in a youth exhibition at the gallery.

What?! This is such an awesome opportunity for the students Brightworks! I connected Claire with Blue, and some amazingness happened.

IMG_0362

To get warmed up, we played one of Robby’s games called Grabster. Grabster is a lot like Twister (it uses the same game board), but with two exceptions. The game board is cut into pieces, and each of the colors have a civil right inspired label on them: free speech, safety, jobs, education.

The game also starts a lot like Twister, except some of the rules are ambiguous. Can we move the pieces? Sure. Can we prevent other people from touching the pieces? Sure. Can we form alliances and make enemies? Sure.

During the first few minutes of the game, craziness ensued! Folks ran off with the game board, and on the chaos of the barrel-ridden cork floor, kids were barricading themselves off, chasing one another, and also tucking the game board in their pockets. After this initial explosion, it became evident that the game was less fun than originally thought. Once a pod of people had at least one of each color game piece, the interaction was basically over. No one cared anymore if everyone had access to all four colors.

IMG_0347

After much critical discussion of what made the game fun and not fun, we used Robby’s formula to make our own games: Find a system in society that has distinct rules, and then use those rules to create a board game of our own.

IMG_0464
IMG_0502

In true Brightworks fashion, this prompt that was supposed to fill two afternoons turned into a week-long exploration of board game prototypes. The Blue Band split into three groups and each group developed a wildly different game. They are still working on their projects, and I’m excited to share that the materials will be hung in the gallery at Southern Exposure. (More info to come as we get closer.)

Meanwhile, have I mentioned this is the end of the Exploration phase?

(Declarations. Human Arc Projects. Elaborate Flowcharts.) While thinking about games, Blue is also deep in brainstorming…

IMG_0540

…to be continued.

Orange Band: Human, Week 6

And we’re back–almost all of us at least!

Our field of flowers!

Our field of flowers!

This week’s highlights were a workshop with Claire Rabkin, a guest artist-educator from Southern Exposure, a group mural project, and brainstorming project ideas.

A few weeks ago, Amanda Simons let me know that an artist with SoEx is leading workshops with mostly middle-school-aged kids based on the work of the artist Robby Herbst. Herbst’s work has to do with rules and systems, and uses kids’ understanding of games as an entry point to encourage them to notice the rules and systems that govern the world around us. She and I met with Claire, and put our workshop on the calendar.

Claire modified her workshop to work with the Orange Banders’ developmental level and it was so great! First, we thought about Rules and Play, and made drawings describing what these two ideas mean to us. After drawing, we noticed lots of words on the Rules side, and lots of playgrounds on the Play side–even though the Rules side drawings often described games!

Gita, Sadie and Ramses work on drawings on the 'Rules' side of the paper. In a few weeks, our doodles and game will become a part of an exhibit at Southern Exposure! Details to come!

Gita, Sadie and Ramses work on drawings on the ‘Rules’ side of the paper. In a few weeks, our doodles and game will become a part of an exhibit at Southern Exposure! Details to come!

Then, Claire led the kiddos through a game developed by Herbst called Grabster. Grabster is a lot like Twister, but each colored circle has a word on it describing a type of resource we think everyone should have access to (education, , , ) and the circles are loose, not connected together on one mat. So, when you’re playing, you can grab, steal and hoard the dots in order to have them available when that color is spun. This play is intended to give kids’ an emerging understanding of what it’s like when resources are hoarded and not accessible to all, when the rules we think we all play by are broken by a few.

Finally, we brainstormed a system from our daily life and the rules that govern this system: our food system, what to do when someone gets sick, morning routines, just to name a few. The kiddos decided to play a game based on getting sick–it was hilarious!

Ramses had an allergic reaction to some tomatoes, so he went to the pharmacy to get some benadryl--in the game we created about getting sick that is!

Ramses had an allergic reaction to some tomatoes, so he went to the pharmacy to get some benadryl–in the game we created about getting sick that is!

In a few weeks, Claire will assemble all of the student work from workshops she’s led around the Bay Area and exhibit them at Southern Exposure. Details to come!

For spring break last week, I went to New York to visit friends and family. While I was there, I got a really cool book on leading art workshops with children by the artist Herve Tullet. I really like the structure of these workshops because the emphasize artistic elements like color, shape and line over technique and figure. What’s more, kiddos mostly create together, whether working on one large mural, or each contributing to smaller pieces in musical chairs style movement. On Friday, we worked together on a mural called ‘Field of Flowers.’ To create an abstract, full mural with depth of field, we just drew circles and dots, and we used oil pastels for their rich and solid colors. We moved around a lot, and took breaks to stand up and look at our work to see where we needed to add shapes and colors. We added on to others circles and dots, and waited until the very end to add stems. On the DL, another student MIGHT decide to use our mural as the background for a mural project she’s been working on!

Sadie stands up to get a better look at our mural, and see where we need to add color and shape.

Sadie stands up to get a better look at our mural, and see where we need to add color and shape.

Oh, and we brainstormed all of these project ideas! We can’t wait to hear Emilio and Tesla’s ideas when they get back too though.

The beginning of a expression project brainstorm. Note: 3D bodies using our packing tape sculptures!!!

The beginning of a expression project brainstorm. Note: 3D bodies using our packing tape sculptures!!!

Band Swap – Psychology

The past month, the middle school and high school bands have been rotating between collaborators. Each member of the Upper School team wanted their kids to have access to certain similar elements of “human” – early civilizations, body systems and maintenance, civil rights, and psychology. These four subjects were decided on because, well, they’re important (duh!) but also because the kids have explicitly expressed interest in these areas over the course of the year.

Instead of the traditional single-collaborator dive into each one of these, it made more sense for each teacher to specialize in an area and have the kids cycle through.

We designed a week-long crashcourse in each area, with a small culminating project at the end of each session. The notes, reflections, work, and projects would be physically entered into a portfolio due after the entire wheel. As it’s Spring Break currently, the students are wrapping up each of their projects and getting them ready to submit.

Once submitted, each project earns an individual button!

Check out my button for psychology:

The course questions for psychology were amended for each particular age group, of course, but went as follows:

  • what is psychology? why is it hard to study or learn about?
  • what are “knowns” about psychology? what are trends enough they’re truths? (focused on cognitive development and stages in developmental psychology!)
  • how do we learn these “truths”? is there anything we disagree with about them? what are the ethics of studying them?
  • how do we behave? what do we want to know? can we design a psychological study to figure it out?
The culminating project for the psychology course was to design an independent social study to answer a research question of interest to the student. Ideally, if one of the kids wants to turn it into an arc project, they now have the time to perform their study and analyze the data. But, if not, at least they have practice thinking critically about the ethics and development of a psychological study.
And, because the Exploratorium has an exhibit all about social studies (specifically, not the curricular arena) and sharing right now, we were even able to go and play out several of these experiments!
The other projects were: to create a full-scale ancient civilization with all the key components; to research and then write a civil rights bill that would impact groups of people today; to write a love letter to a system of the body and explain why it’s so remarkable.
We get back to school on Monday! I can’t wait to see their work.
Oh, and then we jump into sex ed. ~~

BlueBlueBlueBlue: Upper School Band Swap Week 4

IMG_0080

I gotta be honest.
I’ve waited three weeks for this.
I’ve waited three long weeks for the Band Swap to cycle through and for Band Band to come back to me.

Welcome home, Friends. I’m so ready to blow your minds.

The Collaborators structured the schedule of the Upper School Band Swap so that during the fourth week of the Swap we would be with our own Band. It would be right before going on spring break, and it would also give us three other weeks to tweak and perfect the curriculum before we dove into the content with the kids we are so familiar with.

IMG_0029

Let’s talk about familiarity for just a second, though — it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Familiarity can create situations where the content seems boring because the content delivery system (me) has lost its newness and sparkle. Being so familiar with the patterns and habits of such a small group of human can make it harder to pay attention or to stay interested or to continue to be invested. Sometimes newness (the opposite of familiarity) creates an inspiring space where everything is actually interesting.

Everything. Is. Interesting.

That was the idea behind the Band Swap: mix it up, create a new context, introduce a new voice and new content, and create investment at a time in the school year when things might seem routine or unexciting.

So then, it would be understandable that on week four of the Band Swap, when Bands return to their home Collaborator, that the Collaborator might be a little nervous. The flock got a chance to go roam around for three weeks and see what else is out there. Learn new things. From different people. In difference spaces. Now they’re back.

…and what if I’m no longer interesting?

IMG_0005

Okay, I’m going to be so honest right now.

Blue Band, you blew my mind this week!

Familiarity worked to my advantage (and yours, for sure). You were so invested in the content. You thought everything was so interesting. You asked great questions and helped connect the dots with some equally great conclusions. You thought critically and deeply about some really hard subject matter. Our conversations were so intense (so intense, in fact, that our East Bay teacher friend Dana sent us snacks, see protocol (spelling is hard) line item #6).

IMG_9190

This blog post could go on and on about all wonderful, amazing, mind-blowing things that happened this week. There were so many. This was my favorite week of the Band Swap, for sure. I could easily write an individual post about each of the amazing moments. (And I still might, but not now).

In interest of time, let’s recap.

Blue Band, do you…

  • …remember when we talked about gentrification in the Mission for so long that we were almost late to our field trip?
  • …remember when we watched that video about the Sit-In Movement of the 1960s and we couldn’t believe how that women who was saying that allowing African Americans to eat at the same restaurant as her might be a violation of her civil rights?
  • …remember when you were watching that video about Gavin Newsom with Violet Band and you were “Booooo-ing” the television? And then you were cheering at the television?
  • …remember when you suggested that marriage be misspelled “merraje” in order for a state to circumvent the Defense of Marriage Act?
  • …remember when we talked about Lawrence vs. Texas? Remember how confusing and hard and also important that was to talk about?
  • …remember that afternoon when you asked me why I went to talk to the Chartreuse Band about gender identity? Do you remember how supportive you were when I explained why?
  • …remember when we went to the Kadist Foundation to see the Hank Willis Thomas exhibition, and the curator Heidi was so nice, and you all were so curious and attentive, and then you insisted that we watch the entire 29 minute video piece end to end? And then we were late for Park?
  • …remember when you called that crayon image “genius”?

IMG_0107

I do.

I remember all those things.

Thank you for being so invested and creative and curious. It was a pleasure to teach you about civil rights this past week and have it be so well received. I can’t wait to see what you come up with for your Band Swap projects, and I also can’t wait to see how this experiment influences your Human Arc projects.

(Yes, that’s right — it’s almost project time again!)

Enjoy the rest of your Spring Break and see you next week.

IMG_0053

Orange Band: Human, Week 5

5 days.

Seven 7- and 8-year-olds.

2 field trips.

One collaborator.

Zero voice.

This is what happens when you try to be a teacher who can’t talk:

The curved projection screen of this camera obscura at the Cliff House is a lot like the retina of our eyes! Thank you Robert for being so flexible with scheduling, and for giving us some tips on our own pinhole cameras!

The curved projection screen of this camera obscura at the Cliff House is a lot like the retina of our eyes! Thank you Robert for being so flexible with scheduling, and for giving us some tips on our own pinhole cameras!

After the camera, we had a picnic lunch at the Sutro Baths, duh! Planning some more SF history after break...!

After the camera, we had a picnic lunch at the Sutro Baths, duh! Planning some more SF history after break…!

You know how humans pass on culture from one generation to the next? In this game, we needed to pass on knowledge of a maze from one student to the next, but only if our friend asked for help, in order to get everyone through a maze of stones across a stream.

You know how humans pass on culture from one generation to the next? In this game, we needed to pass on knowledge of a maze from one student to the next, but only if our friend asked for help, in order to get everyone through a maze of stones across a stream.

Tesla and Ramses check out these tide tiles in the Observatory. We had some flashbacks to the Rock Arc too!

Tesla and Ramses check out these tide tiles in the Observatory. We had some flashbacks to the Rock Arc too!

Then Ramses and Nolan explored some of the changing geology of the Bay Area, like shipping routes and the history of the shoreline. They had to do this very quietly, because there was a conference happening in the Observatory!

Then Ramses and Nolan explored some of the changing geology of the Bay Area, like shipping routes and the history of the shoreline. They had to do this very quietly, because there was a conference happening in the Observatory!

Isaac, Sadie and Tesla working on planning the layout for their About Me books! Since these will be carefully written and bound (by US, of course), we need to make a very detailed plan for how we want each page to look. This means we also need to think about what we want to go on each page.

Isaac, Sadie and Tesla working on planning the layout for their About Me books! Since these will be carefully written and bound (by US, of course), we need to make a very detailed plan for how we want each page to look. This means we also need to think about what we want to go on each page.

Ramses, will you be the Waste Wizard at the end of community lunch today? "YES."

Ramses, will you be the Waste Wizard at the end of community lunch today? “YES.”

Blue+Indigo: Upper School Band Swap Week 3

IMG_9832

Oh Hey, Indigo Band!

It was week 3 of Upper School Band Swap, I had a great week hanging out with you. We talked about so many unexpected things and in such deep and productive ways. In fact, Wednesday was the best day ever. For realz. No joke. Seriously.

IMG_9795

Let me tell you why Wednesday was the best day ever.

During the Band Swap, on every Wednesday (#hellagayday) I have been doing a 90 minute crash course in same sex marriage history. Starting in 1962 with the first state to legalize homosexual acts in private, I try to demonstrate how state laws effect federal laws, how federal laws blockade progress and how state in turn find ways around the blockades. Using the lens of same sex marriage is just a tactic to help explain all of these other really complicated  inner workings of the US government and legal system. This content is just a way for us to talk about how laws shape humanity, and how humanity sometimes fights back.

This past #hellagayday started much like the others. I drew my timeline on the board, we watched a video, and chatted. And then something unexpected and magical happened — all of these simple historical provocations sparked all of these other things for the Band. And suddenly, we went from talking about Gavin Newsom’s political stunt in 2004 to talking about polygamy, to talking about trans rights, to talking about gender as a spectrum, to talking about sex as a spectrum, to talking about what happens if a baby is born with both sets of genitals.

Indigo, you had serious, thoughtful, complicated, and beautiful questions about what it means to be human in 2016. We had in depth, critical, and respectful conversation about all of these things (and more). This is what it means to be an educator at this school: having the freedom to productively tangent, explore ideas, be flexible and excited, and above everything, be genuinely interested.

I could have continued this conversation for an additional 90 minutes. I could have been sitting in a college classroom. I could have been chatting with a group of friends on a Saturday night.

So, heartemojis to you, Indigo!


IMG_9725

Meanwhile, the rest of the week was an interesting lesson (for me!) in what it means to be a teen human in 2016:

Did you know that pretty advanced technology is just a simple part of every life for these humans?
No big deal. It’s totally normal to video conference an assessment meeting, or to record yourself doing your homework assignment, upload it to YouTube, and then embed it into a Google Slides presentation for when you’re absent.

IMG_9726

Also, safety has been an interesting topic of conversation this week.

I spent the week wearing safety goggles because in a fit of excitement, a pencil was thrown in during the morning check in. This has sparked all sorts of conversation, including what it means to “consent” to something, how tools can be used inappropriately as weapons, and also the difference between play and fighting and what can happen when the lines are blurred.

IMG_9744

And this happened:

IMG_9829

Also, as uncool as they sometimes might pretend it is, our penpals are on our minds.

Blue is having some pretty interesting conversations with their mystery East Bay friends. Some folks are writing under pseudonyms and presenting them fictional stories, while others are asking some intriguing questions. It’s rumored that our friends in Oakland are interested in having a picnic with Blue, and we are working out the details.

IMG_9774

With that, here’s to another week!

Band Swap rotates me back with Blue this week, so it’ll be interesting to close out this curriculum with some familiar faces.