Happy New [School] Year

Hi Everyone,

If we’ve not yet met I am Nicole, the Red Band Collaborator. This year we can be found up the block at 1920 Bryant with Nathan, Piper, and the Yellow Band. We are all thrilled to work in this new space together and continue to build it out with the two bands.

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This was an exciting week as we explored and settled into the space. We brainstormed goals for ourselves for the year, both personal and shared, to help create our group agreements. We read Ish by Peter H. Reynolds to help frame our thinking around the people we would like to be and how our actions affect others. Our week was filled with activities to get to know one another, such as our people scavenger hunt and people mapping.

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We learned about and have practiced the daily routine together, including morning circle and lunch spent up at 1960 Bryant. This included learning about morning “vitamins”, multi-disciplinary skills work that allows each kid to work through a problem on their own then share out their process during a group discussion. Our afternoons will be largely dedicated to arc and project work with the kids choosing between two different project offerings. Our first projects are aimed to improve our bandspace entryway. I am helping a crew create outdoor seating while Nathan is working on garden beds.

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We ended our week with a round of show and tell. My favorite part of this activity is learning about the things that are important to each kid and let me tell you, it was a wide range: from home gardens to family heirlooms to hopes and dreams of owning a pet.

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It was a jam-packed week and I can’t wait to see what week two brings. If you would like to follow along find me at @bwx_nicole on Instagram and on Flickr at SFBrightworks.

Have a lovely weekend,

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magenta Launch!

In this first week, the Magenta Band focused on getting to know each other and coming together as a cohesive and enthusiastic group. We also began to explore some topics from our first Arc, “By Air.” We shared stories about ourselves, experimented with balloons and paper airplanes, and made mobiles.

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One of our opening activities was answering this question: “Would you rather fly or be invisible?” This is inspired by a great This American Life episode called “Superpowers,” which you can listen to online.

Then, to make the Magenta Bandspace our own and to make sure every student contributes to decorating our space, students decorated the stairs and other wooden beams with large nametags that revealed their passions and interests.

One of the initial small group tasks was the Balloon Challenge. Students divided into pairs, and each pair got a helium balloon, some string, and an uninflated balloon. The task was to conduct an experiment that leads to a discovery to be shared with the whole group.

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As a follow-up, we wrote a collective poem called “Seventeen Ways of Looking at a Balloon.” This writing exercise is inspired by a poem by Wallace Stevens called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

Another challenge was to make a paper airplane that stays in the air the longest and flies the farthest. Extra points were given for cool designs and paper airplanes that can do tricks.

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On Thursday, we visited SF MOMA to see and write about Alexander Calder’s mobile exhibit. We also explored the museum as a whole and wrote about exhibits that elicited strong reactions from us, explaining why that was the case.

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When we got back to Brightworks, students made their own kinetic sculptures, aiming for creative and elegant designs as well as personal expression.

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I am looking forward to our second week of school with this awesome group of students!

A New Year, A New Band, A New Arc

This has been an amazing first week for the Teal Band. They shared stories about themselves, talked about what it means to be a supportive band member, agreed to take pride in their band space by caring for it, challenged themselves to send messages by air, and so much more.

The Teal Band showing off their personality and their

The Teal Band showing off their personality and their “new” band space.

On day one we watched Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk, Grit: the power and passion of perseverance, and defined what it means to have grit for each of us. We discussed our thoughts around a quote taken from a 5th grader at UCDS (the school in Seattle that hosted the math workshop a number of collaborators attended this summer): “It’s only failure if you do not learn from it.”  They shared stories of times they ran into challenges in previous projects. Challenges that may had felt initially like failure, but turned into successes because they chose to learn from their mistakes instead of giving up. Grit will continue to be at the center of many of our discussions and will play a big part in how we will challenge ourselves and one another this year.

What is grit?

Teal Band’s definitions of what grit is.

On Wednesday, we had a bit of fun (and food) with a design challenge. The Teal Band was tasked with sending each band in 1960 a message by air telling them that they would be receiving a popcorn treat at the end of the day. There were attempts at “hot air” balloons, ziplines, paper airplane flinging rubber band guns, ping pong ball launching shopvacs, and falling balloons asking to be popped. There were successes and there were challenges. In the end everyone was happy to have popcorn and the Teal Band had something to reflect on on Thursday morning.

Visual brainstorm of ways to send other bands messages by air.

Visual brainstorm of ways to send other bands messages by air.

Working as a team to prep the popcorn machine and find ways to send messages about the tasty treat.

Working as a team to prep the popcorn machine and find ways to send messages about the tasty treat.

Gever shared with the Orange and the Teal bands his vision of the arcs.

Gever shared with Orange and Teal, his vision of the arcs while I finished popping the popcorn.

The Teal Band truly proved how strong of a team they already are when it came time to picking letters for each member of the band to decorate for our band space sign. They took charge of figuring it out as I cut out letters down in the shop. Some students stepped up, by stepping down when others wanted the same letter and kindly allowing them to “just have it.” Sometimes they had to ro sham bo. The one thing that never occurred was conflict. The sign is still a work in progress, but each letter certainly expresses each band member’s personality and design aesthetic.

Adding some flair to exterior of the band space with our band name.

Adding some flair to exterior of the band space with our band name.

Friday morning we launched into blogging. They will be blogging weekly as an opportunity for them to share and reflect on the arc and also on topics that are of general interest to them. This week’s initial posts were a chance for them to begin writing again after a summer away from blogging and a space to share something about themselves or something they have become interested in learning more about

Jumping right into blogging.

Jumping right into blogging.

We finally wrapped up our week with a brainstorm around our arc topic of The Movement of Things By Air. This was saved till the very end of the week to give them the space to bond as a band, before becoming engrossed in the actual arc exploration itself. There were so many incredible ideas: Benjamin Franklin, hot air balloons, gliding vs. flying (flying squirrels vs. birds), helicopters, carrier pigeons, bacteria, air traffic controllers, flying cars, air hockey, combustion engines. Next week we will be focusing on kites, the history of them, the geometry of them, building them, flying them, writing about them, all while continuing to flush out what it is we want to learn this arc.

Brainstorming what we are interested in studying this arc on the The Movement of Things By Air.

Brainstorming what we are interested in studying this arc on the The Movement of Things By Air.

 

Be prepared to have “Let’s go fly a kite” stuck in your head all next week! I know I will.

Indigo Blast-Off!

This week, Indigo Band has been journaling, developing group agreements on how we treat one another and the space, setting up accounts for the various services we use in the band, completing design challenges around flight, and learning how to prototype in cardboard. The kids set goals for themselves in various areas of their lives and got to know one another better. 

Quite a discussion! The kids’ interpretations of our goals are on the right.

Working with Amber has been great for many of the kids who have friends in different bands and has been an opportunity for those new to Brightworks to interact with a larger community. Megan and I have been working closely to make sure the kids get a chance to spend time as a larger group to foster friendships outside of their bands while still making sure they get Indigo-only time as well.   In the afternoons, Amber and Indigo (henceforth referred to as Ambigo) have been completing design challenges to foster teamwork and collaboration as well as emphasizing the importance of delegating tasks. The kids working in pairs to create a parachute in the wind tunnel that hovered in a given area. They next day they worked in triads experimenting with the structure and capabilities of cardboard.

The girls managed to get their parachute to stay in the target area

Using scoring to create a 3D shape was one of the challenges

We closed out the week playing “Buildtionary” with cardboard, using the skills learned on Thursday to create a creature based on nouns and adjectives pulled out of a hat. It quite impressive what they were able to make in the time we had. They only had a little over an hour from start to finish!

Dash, Oscar, and Kaia showing off their finished product

Owen and Rhone add a stabalizing piece to the back of their Penguin

Next week is Kite Week for the majority of bands at BWX. We will be learning about the history of kites, geometry of kites, making kites from scratch, reading Dragonwings together, going to SFMOMA, visiting a kite store, and flying kites together as a school on Bernal Hill (wind permitting). I have a feeling Kite Week might run long!

Up, Up and Away

If you are the parent of a Blue Bander you might have heard something about balloons this week.  Yes, we are studying the history of the first human flight, yes, we’ve been looking at balloons through the lens of geometry and yes, our literature study book is Twenty-One Balloons by DuBois, but there is a bigger story here.  To make something truly amazing (like an enormous balloon that can take our stuffed animal aeronauts into the sky) you have to work together with other people.  What this week has really been about is teamwork and collaboration.  You know what? It’s actually incredibly hard!  

Our group has been presented with challenges big and small this week and asked to reflect on how best to collaborate and communicate.  We’ve done all sorts of team building games like the marshmallow challenge where students were given dried spaghetti, tape, string and a limited amount of time, then asked to build a tower strong enough to support a marshmallow.

First week of Blue Band

Sadie, Tamasen and Lily worked on a tripod to support their marshmallow.  Sadie spearheaded several iterations.  When the team got frustrated, Tamasen chimed in with some encouraging words.

First week of Blue Band

Gita, Soleil and Ronan reached for a pencil and paper before they even started building.  They were able to conserve their materials and divide the work by making sketch first.

Here are some of the things that our students discovered about the best approach to working in a group:

  • Make a plan and listen to each other before you get building
  • Ask how you can be helpful
  • Split up responsibilities
  • Snap different ideas together
  • Be positive and give encouragement

Next week we will really put these guidelines to the test as we attempt to make two enormous balloons that will have the lifting power to take a stuffed animal into the air!

First week of Blue Band

Inspired by a documentary about the Mongolfier brothers, the band tried to make balloons from paper.  Sadie looked to the hexagons and pentagons of a soccer ball for inspiration.  The main take away from this challenge was that it is hard to make a balloon from paper.

First week of Blue Band

In Blue Band’s second attempt at building a balloon, the group created polyhedrons.  Lily wore a fashionable polyhedron made of pentagons, squares and triangles on her head!

First week of Blue Band

Gita and Tamasen have loved working together this week.  They created crown-like shapes that fit together.

First week of Blue Band

One of the Blue Band’s favorite moments this week involved testing parachute designs in the wind tunnel.  Transfixed, the group watched their creations swirl in the tunnel.

First week of Blue Band

Ramses cited the wind tunnel as his favorite moment of the week.  He tirelessly tested iteration after iteration.

First week of Blue Band

Soleil also loved the wind tunnel but instead of testing several iterations, she spent her time carefully taping together beautiful balloon-inspired curved pieces.

First week of Blue Band

This week and this year, these intrepid learners will be presented with difficult challenges. They will make mistakes and try hard.  This article that the Blue Band read is about the neuroscience of learning.  The main message is that intelligence is like a muscle: the harder you work the stronger you get.  Ronan was so inspired by the article he wrote down quotes in his journal!  This year we will be flexing our problem-solving muscles everyday!

Yellow Band: By Air, Week 1

Welcome all to the Yellow Band, and welcome to 1920 Bryant St! I’m so excited to be working in this space this year, and to get to work even more closely and collaboratively with Nicole and Nathan. This year is going to be great!

Speaking of which, we got off to a really great start this week. We set goals for ourselves, and then used those goals to guide our group agreements. We started to establish routines and protocols for life in our space. We practiced using our tools. Oh, and we made lots of new friends of course!

On Monday for tool practice, students worked in pairs to build something that both could sit on. Here, Rebecca and Reyahn work together to assemble a corner using a right angle, clamps and drills.

On Monday for tool practice, students worked in pairs to build something that both could sit on. Here, Rebecca and Reyahn work together to assemble a corner using a right angle, clamps and drills.

And Solin and Devlin quickly built a see-saw--what a neat idea!

And Solin and Devlin quickly built a see-saw–what a neat idea!

On Tuesday morning, we did a quick run through of what our schedule will look like every day. Here goes:

  • In the morning, kiddos will work independently on a ‘vitamin,’ a short, skill building activity outlined in the morning message. Then, they’ll eat a snack. After that, we’ll have a quick morning meeting discuss our work, and give any announcements for the day.
Nolan and Reyahn work on our first vitamin. They made a self-portrait using pattern blocks. Then, they tried to determine the value of their portrait, assuming that the triangle = 1. This was a great practice in equivalencies, adding multiples, and doing a proof.

Nolan and Reyahn work on our first vitamin. They made a self-portrait using pattern blocks. Then, they tried to determine the value of their portrait, assuming that the triangle = 1. This was a great practice in equivalencies, adding multiples, and doing a proof.

Emilio's self-portrait is of his whole body!

Emilio’s self-portrait is of his whole body!

  • After morning meeting, we’re going to move toward having workshop time for the rest of our morning until park time. Kiddos will work from a Menu that outlines things they must work on during the week. They can choose the order to work on these tasks, and how long to spend on each one. And, they must get certain things done each week. We haven’t started this yet, so no picture!
  • After park and lunch, we’ll have a half hour of quiet time. This is basically choice time for calm, quiet activities like reading, building with blocks, drawing.
Need I say more?

Need I say more?

  • Most afternoons we’ll have group project time. Two collaborators will lead projects, and kiddos can choose which one they’d like to join for the afternoon.
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Nathan and the Planter Boxes group figure out what they want to make sure to include in their planter box design–because we’ll have these for a long time!

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Nicole and the Bench group went on a walk to research different bench designs. They noticed that this bench is partially made out of something that’s not wood or metal–and has a planter box!

Since our bands will be spending so much time together, Nicole, Nathan and I thought it was super important to set goals and make group agreements as a group. While this was sometimes challenging as a whole group, we worked hard to read the needs of the kids and break out into smaller groups whenever possible. By doing this, we came up with a great list of group agreements that each kiddo signed today. Setting these types of norms really helps the kids understand how we’ll live together in our little space.

Solin and Sakira discuss the importance of listening, and the idea of 'one voice at a time.' We used a small candle during our discussion to show whose turn to talk it was.

Solin and Sakira discuss the importance of listening, and the idea of ‘one voice at a time.’ We used a small candle during our discussion to show whose turn to talk it was.

Have a restful weekend, and see y’all on Monday!

Orange Band: Human, Week 15

We had an awesome week: Expo Night, Stow Lake field trip with the Red Band, Beach Day, and SFMOMA this morning. The copy you’ll read below is the letter I wrote each Orange Bander to close our Class Meeting Journal.

Dear Emilio, Gita, Isaac, Oscar, Ramses, Sadie and Tesla,

One last group photo as we left the MOMA this morning.

One last group photo as we left the MOMA this morning.

We Made it! We’ve had so much fun working hard and learning together.

Tesla and Sadie were our posting putting up team! While some kiddos finished typing the captions for their posters and Gita worked on her skull, those two helped everyone out by putting on brown paper backing and using a mallet and thumbtacks to hang their bandmates posters for Expo Night.

Tesla and Sadie were our posting putting up team! While some kiddos finished typing the captions for their posters and Gita worked on her skull, those two helped everyone out by putting on brown paper backing and using a mallet and thumbtacks to hang their bandmates posters for Expo Night.

We’ve laughed, cried, broken, fixed, played and worked our way through 37 weeks of school–wowee!

Gita had her work cut out for her on Monday afternoon. Since her second clay skull dried inside the cast, it cracked as we tried to remove the plaster. Amanda Simons came down to help take the cast off and get her started fitting the puzzle pieces back together. After about an hour and a half of piecing them together, and trying to glue them together, we decided it would be quicker to tape the cast back together and make another skull.

Gita had her work cut out for her on Monday afternoon. Since her second clay skull dried inside the cast, it cracked as we tried to remove the plaster. Amanda Simons came down to help take the cast off and get her started fitting the puzzle pieces back together. After about an hour and a half of piecing them together, and trying to glue them together, we decided it would be quicker to tape the cast back together and make another skull.

Throughout, y’all have come to our class meetings with honesty, sincerity and vulnerability.

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Emilio yelled, “This way!” to lead his bandmates toward the bridge over Huntington Falls at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Isaac and Reyahn climbing a tangle of tree trunks on our field trip to Stow Lake.

Isaac and Reyahn climbing a tangle of tree trunks on our field trip to Stow Lake.

Because of your caring nature and willingness to take emotional risks, we’ve grown so much as friends.

Oscar and Emilio hung out all day for Beach Day. Because they really like each other.

Oscar and Emilio hung out all day for Beach Day. Because they really like each other.

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Ramses, Sadie, Gita and Tesla squeezed in a quick game of Families on the stadium seating alongside Richard Serra’s Sequence at SFMOMA.

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The kiddos make their way through the sculpture. We looked back to our study of labyrinths during the Rock Arc, and forward to our study of the movement of things by Land next year. Did you know that Serra’s sculpture weighs over 200 tons?

Love,

Piper