Rocking Out

Oops! This is a late post (that I didn’t see was saved as a draft!)

After being out for over a week, Indigo Band was very happy to have me back. I’m happy to be back! I’ve been itching to get into the Earth Science topics I’ve been researching and see what the kids latch onto. There are also some larger-picture goals we still need to set. This week, we’ve been establishing a protocol for how we approach math. Since kids in Indigo are all over the place in skill level, whole-group instruction just won’t work. We can’t all do the same thing at the same time. Yesterday, I showed students the list of prioritized standards for each grade level in math. We broke down how to use this guide as a reference to aid our math exploration and set individual goals. The class requested we work on math for an hour each day, less during Expression, and set a group goal of learning 3 new skills a week, to learn around 100 new skills by the end of the year. From the list of standards, I showed the kids how to find the corresponding skills on Khan Academy so they could be sure they were weren’t wasting time on skills that aren’t as necessary to learn. We’ve only been working for a few days, but everyone is extremely focused and on task. It always amazes me that by framing options and allowing kids to choose, you create internal engagement. The kids are working for themselves, not to please me. A highlight for me came from Max, who after our first day of math, told me that he learned more that day than he did in all of last year. While that’s probably not completely true, it showed me that he’s again excited to learn, and happy to have ownership of that process.

Aside from math, we’ve been learning about the formation of Earth. Using a documentary from National Geographic as a reference, we’ve spent the afternoons watching, taking notes, pausing to discuss, then repeating that process. At the end of the day, the kids take their notes from the film and our discussions home and do some further research on an aspect from they day they found particularly interesting. Last night, everyone researched an animal from the Cambrian Explosion and wrote a blog post about what we believe that animal lived like, when, and why. I love the curiosity of these kids!

Upper School 2 Mars

Today, we went to Mars.

Did some basic astronaut training, first.

Debriefed at Mission Control: there’s a station on Mars and a replacement team coming to swap them out, the Mars Control team and the Spacecraft team.

Got into position, and took off.

Our mission was successful!


Yea, space!


Blue: A Printmaking Tangent

This week, the Blue Band took a bit of a detour in our study of earth science (though this detour isn’t really that far off course).

On Tuesday, we went on a field trip to Gruenwald Press, an art studio and gallery space owned printmaker John Gruenwald. While at his studio, John taught the Blue Band how to replicate a drawing using the process of stone lithography. (For all the non-printmakers out there, lithography uses the repelling relationship of oil and water to transfer an image from a slab of limestone to a piece of paper — over and over again.)

Blue got to see and experience the process from beginning to end.


We used grit, time, and erosion to prepare the surface of the stone.

We collectively created a design on a prepared stone using oil pencils (as well as some of the natural oil already on our hands and skin).


We got to roll out the ink, and use the press to transfer the image to rag paper.


After the visit, everyone became pretty interested in printmaking, and in the idea that a unique image could be replicated over and over using a totally unfamiliar process.


As a result of our tangent, we spent most of Friday making our own prints.


This was a pretty special moment for Blue.

After using the whole morning to get to know the tools and process we would be using, everyone begged to skip pre-lunch park time, so that they could have more printmaking time. So, that’s what we did. We used our break to continue working on designs, on helping on another understand the printmaking process, and on talking about how to edition and price their finished artworks.

We’ll continue this conversation on Monday, for sure!


Orange Band: Rock, Week 4

It’s starting to happen: we are beginning to get into a rhythm. Which is great! We’ve established our weekly routine, have learned many of our protocols, and games, are getting deeper into our Rock exploration, and are regularly adding responsibilities and competencies. Self-sufficiency, here we come!

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Gita and Oscar on their first day doing a job in the classroom!

During the second week of school, we brainstormed together a list of jobs we thought kiddos could do in our bandspace. We really covered our bases, and narrowed our list down to seven jobs, so that everyone could have a job each week. This week, everyone got a job! We now have a weekly morning message reader, agenda reader, art supply monitor, pencil sharpener, library monitor, whiteboard wiper and superhero (read: substitute). Our classroom stayed so neat and tidy all week!

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Tesla, Oscar, Gita and Isaac hard at work adding finishing touches to their portraits, collages and nametags.

We’ve also been working hard on self-portraits and collages to go in a honeycomb-shaped corkboard that hangs on the wall adjacent to our button rug. And this week we made colorful nametags, flexibly chose our spots in the honeycomb, and posted our portraits for all to see. This place really feels like home now.

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The Honeycomb, in progress. Come to our bandspace to check it out!

We also went on another field trip! To Lands End! I heard that the labyrinth near Mile Rock Beach had recently been rebuilt (out of rocks, duh!), and thought it would be a great chance for us to spend the whole day outside. I was right!

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Nathan joined us on our field trip! Oscar and Emilio checking out the view of the cliffs and coastal mountains.

We took the bus, learned a bit about the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, walked the Coastal Trail, checked out the view of the cliffs and the coastal mountains, talked about the tectonics of the Bay Area, missed our turnoff, ate some lunch, backtracked to the labyrinth, searched for the Minotaur, and practiced resilience by hurrying back to catch our bus back to school. Wowee!

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The last bit of trail before the labyrinth.


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Isaac, Tesla, Sadie, Gita and Emilio searching the labyrinth for the Minotaur.

And, how could I forget–we also started making a timeline for the last 100 million years of the history of the earth. Using sheets of paper printed with 5,000 dots on each sheet, and imagining that each dot represents 100 years, or about one human lifetime, we are creating a detailed timeline showing the history of the earth, a bit past the K-T Boundary. The kiddos are really excited about many aspects of this project: researching eras, periods and epochs of the history of the earth, taping together the sheets of paper to create columns of dots, and creating detailed illustrations to show important events or features from different periods in history. I can’t wait to see it come it together, and the process is fun too!

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Oscar, Gita and Tesla practicing teamwork and working on taping together the sheets of paper into columns. 500,000 years on each sheet!

Violet: Today

Part of the BWX HS program is to create mindful, global innovators.

This morning we discussed varying sizes of infinity and our linear relationship with time and entropy. This afternoon they had work time – two worked on resumes, two updated their swing iteration (the “swing” is suspended from the rafters in the warehouse), one studied French, one self-taught C++, one added a new section to his novel, one took a “mastery” test in math, and one finally got the motors to move the fully student-designed, student-crafted EPV (electronic-powered vehicle).

Though, in the reflections at the end of the day, we’re apparently at “thirty-eight volts, which is enough to run it, but not enough to make it go ‘choo-choo'” – maybe tomorrow will be a forty-six volt kind of a day.

We Will Rock You: Red Band

This past week we spent our time learning about the cycle of a rock and the three major types of rocks. We examined a diagram of the rock cycle and learned about pressure, heat, and compaction. We then put our new terms to the test with crayon rocks. We started by weathering our crayons into tiny pieces.


We then used some tools to apply pressure and chunk our pieces together.


Finally we used a familiar machine, the microwave, to heat up our waxy rocks.

We also had the opportunity for cross-age activities this week. Teaming up with the Violet band we observed and created igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.


We reviewed and applied our new rock cycle terms to create chocolate igneous rocks, lego sedimentary rocks, and latke metamorphic rocks.


We learned that igneous rocks take more than a few hours to cool and form a solid rock. We practiced patience after forming our metamorphic rocks while they fried and cooled. We learned that sedimentary rocks are made of many different pieces.


Violet: Time

Today, we started talking about time.

Time is one of – if not my ultimate – favorite subjects. Especially with babes. Talking about time involves advanced physics and mathematics, involves metacognition and reflection, involves measurement and hypothesis, involves imagination and curiosity.

And the best part about time is that it’s accessible to everyone. Everyone has experience with time. Everyone can understand and grasp it and talk about it. But no one – not even the most advanced physicists – can define it. Time is something with which we interact on a daily basis, and yet something we barely understand.

Time is beautiful.

Time fits into our rock arc – and our meta-arc of change – because change and time are partners. They’re almost the same thing. We measure change through time. We measure time through change.

We started our time chat with listing things we “know” – or think we know – about time. After only a few moments, the board looked like this:


By the end of our information-dumping, we had reasoned out that we – as a collective – both knew an incredible amount about time and how it affects our life, but also knew almost nothing about its very core elements.

Given a few resources, they worked on a shared document to come up with thoughts, questions about time. It’s a preliminary step into our exploration. It’s brilliant. All the ideas and questions are directly from the group; you can read them below.



Is time just motion? Is time only defined by motion? 

Why do we measure time?

If you went outside of the observable universe, does time exist? Would time stretch to accommodate you? Is anything outside the observable universe essentially a large black hole?

Josh wonders when was the first clock created? Who created it? How did it work?

Is time travel possible?

Does time move?

Is time outside of our solar system/galaxy?

Daylight Savings Time?

How does gravity affect time? What if time wasn’t a linear force? If you traveled back in time and prevented your grandmother from meeting your grandfather would you cease to exist?

if we could travel back in time could we change anything, or would our trip back in time have already happened, thus anything that could be changed would have already happened?

is it possible to stop time?

Is time just another dimension in space we can’t visualize? If time is separate from space, why does gravity affect time? How exactly do time and space interact?



Why does time have such importance today in America, Europe, and Japan ect?

Why did humans create a slightly arbitrary unit of measurement for time?

Why do clocks have 12/24 hours?

What are hours?

What are Years?

What time is it?

Is time Cyclical?

How far is a light year?`

What percentage of the Universe’s life have I been alive?

time is the only thing that isn’t a variable

we can assume that time keeps going— or happening— for, well, forever

time is just time, it is what we said it to be. whether or not we do anything, it is there. whether or not we go about our day in a timely fashion (har-har), ultimately, we do what we please while time measures HOW LONG we do it for. it’s not relative. we use time as a measurement. of course, there is the level of questioning that is time & SPACE, but we’ll save that for another time.

in the end, we do not know. but we can assume.

we can’t travel through time. time is bigger than us.