Yellow Band Continues to Rock

Pet rocks. Classifying rocks. Painting rocks. The Yellow Band is doing it all. (Plus learning about equity and perseverance.)

As the pet rocks were making themselves right at home in the yellow band space, we brainstormed a list of non-fiction and fictional elements to incorporate in our pet rock owner’s manuals and stories. We decided that some of what we should let others know is what kind of rock it is, how it was likely born (or formed), common characteristics of it, as well as what it enjoys eating, its likes and dislikes, and its name. These rocks have become such a part of the Yellow Band, that a number of them will even have life jackets made for them so they can join us on our upcoming sailing field trip.

Meet the Yellow Band rock family. From left to right: Sioux, Snowy Viper, Multle, Rose (on the table,) Not A Rock (under the table,) Skunky, and Terry. #petrock #yellowband #sfbrightworks

Sioux is reading up on her possible birth story. #yellowband #rock #petrock #sfbrightworks #siouxtherock

While our pet rocks looked on, we continued to read myths of how the earth was formed and the science that either supports or refutes it. Using the jigsaw method, we paired up and each partnership read a different myth and scientific proof, created a poster sharing our learning, and then taught the rest of the band what we had learned. Just because we are in the exploration phase of the Rock Arc, doesn’t mean we can’t practice our presentation skills for the exposition phase.

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Tuesday brought us out of the building again, this time to the San Francisco Mint to observe the serpentine base it rests upon. We had a great discussion around what type of rock we believed it to be. Some thought it looked layered and therefore believed it to be sedimentary rock. Others thought that it had possibly been squeezed up through volcanoes, making it an igneous rock. The third group solved the mystery when they decided that it was the combined heat and pressure of the earth that created this metamorphic rock.

Observing and sketching the serpentine base of the San Francisco Mint #yellowband #greenband #serpentine #sfmint #sfbrightworks

Observing the serpentine base of the San Francisco Mint #yellowband #greenband #serpentine #sfmint #sfbrightworks

Thursday morning we classified rocks with the help of the Violet Band. We learned to use a rock classifying key, looking at a number of features of rocks to figure out which of the three types of rocks they were. One thing we learned was that sedimentary rocks are known to bubble when they come into contact with hydrochloric acid. We found that even with the help of the classifying key, it was still fairly difficult to classify a number of rocks.







Studying rocks doesn’t just mean studying the science and history of them, it also means taking the time to observe and enjoy them aesthetically and artistically, and on Friday afternoon we did just that. After looking closely at a number of slices, we created watercolor paintings of them, adding its crystalline texture by using salt absorb the color and leave little circles of lighter color.







Along with all our work around rocks, we also took time to talk about equity and perseverance, using a growth mindset. We shared ways in which we can take care of the needs of others by being equitable, even if it doesn’t always feel fair. After reading an article on growth mindset, we talked about how our brains are continuing to grow and that we need to continually work them just as we do with any other muscle. Just like with exercise, sometimes its difficult, but we must learn to persevere and trust in ourselves and ability.

Next week we are looking forward to spending our afternoons in the shop, working in partnerships to create rock tumblers, and of course our trip out onto the bay to see Alcatraz and Angel Island.

The Rock Cycle: Violet + Red

This morning, the Violet Band taught the Red Band about the rock cycle.

On Monday, we learned about the rock cycle. On Tuesday, we brainstormed how to take that information and make it accessible for babies (they’re only five!). Last night, we came up with a master plan to teach them. And today, we made it work.

The sedimentary station used legos to build layers and break them apart.

The igneous station used chocolate “lava” to cool and form rocks.

The metamorphic station drew diagrams of heat and pressure, then used their hands to form potato latkes with their own pressure and heat.

Brightworks is a magical place.


Orange Band: Rock, Week 2

Looking back on our second week, and I keep returning to the realization that this was a week full of firsts for the year. We went on our first field trip, cried our first tears, asked for and received forgiveness for the first time, presented ideas to the group, gathered our first class rocks.

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We started out the week by finalizing and signing our group agreements. We talked about some of the routines we practiced the first few days and the importance of those procedures on our upcoming fieldtrip. Kiddos were really excited to get out of the building, and I made it their job to prove to me that they were ready to go on a trip that meant taking public transportation and walking in order to see an impressive rock. And they really really did prove it to me.

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On Wednesday, we hit the ground running. We brainstormed a list of jobs for kiddos in our space. Then learned to play the word game, Quiddler. After everybody went to run around at the park and ate their lunch, we had some quiet time. Finally, Ramses reminded everyone about something that he had been looking forward to since the first day of school: MUSICAL BANANAGRAMS! I thought up this version recently. The idea is that, at this age, kids have a wide range of spelling skills, and also need a lot of practice thinking flexibly. So, we listened to some jazz (at the kiddos’ request!) and rotated one spot to the right at the end of each song. Kids could check out the words that others made, check their own spelling compared to a new crossword every few minutes, and practice spelling lots of words without getting too bogged down in perfect spelling each time. The point is to practice building words; it doesn’t always need to be perfect, and we’re all going to try.

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After a pep-talk from our Blue Band co-fieldtrippers and a lot of practice staying together, being flexible, working hard and listening respectfully to each other, we were ready to go. We left bright and early Thursday morning for Billy Goat Hill. Kiddos left pondering the questions: How did these rocks get here? Is there an order, and if so, what does it mean? While at the park, kiddos explored, took in the view, collected rocks, made field sketches of the rock and other surroundings, hunted for treasure. It was a great morning!

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Oscar showing Emilio some of the rocks he collected. Oscar left the park that day with a literal backpack full of rocks!

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Frances showing her field sketches to Ramses. The older kiddos of the Blue Band really modeled for us how to behave on a fieldtrip–it was hugely appreciated by all!

After an eventful morning, lunch and quiet time were also hugely appreciated by all! Then, we got back to work designing a storage unit for our space. For this second design, kiddos were asked to include all the similarities we noticed in our first designs. Then, everyone had a chance to present their design to the group and answer questions. This was an excellent opportunity to practice showing each other respect by listening to their ideas. Kiddos showed they were listening by asking great questions, using the ‘me too’ sign, making eye contact, and turning their bodies toward the person presenting.

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We started off Friday right: with art time! Several students have made more than one self-portrait for the project that we started last week, and each one is unique and beautiful. I really like the idea of having a series of self-portraits, so that each kiddo can look at how they have seen themselves on different days. Plus, we’ve had so many different styles–including the idea of making yourself into the portrait! I think we may need some help from Zada with some costume make-up to make that happen for Ramses!

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On Friday afternoon, we took some time to reflect one more time on the past few days. We thought about things that are going well, and things we are all working on. Kiddos pointed out that lots of things about the field trip went really well, like making field sketches and collecting rocks, and next time we will work on staying together a bit better. We also noticed that everyone is doing well at getting ready for park and playing at the park, and that we all need to work on our listening skills. It is really important to us that each member of the band feels comfortable sharing, so we are all going to keep working hard on listening to each other’s ideas. And every day we get a little better.

For Those About to Rock: Red Band

Hello Everyone! I’m Nicole, red band ring leader and fellow rock-hound novice. Before we take the plunge into Change Over Time: Rocks, we are spending our first days of school working on community building within our band. We began our year by getting to know one another, working together, and teaching each other. Each morning we have a quick circle to sing a hello song, look over the calendar, and review the agenda of the day. After quiet time we have another meeting to check in on the day. Our next order of business has been working on our goals and agreements:

(DAY 1) Goals:

  • Be kind
  • Be safe
We brainstormed what these might look like: (be kind) ask and act nicely with others, share, trade, ask please, listen; (be safe) don’t hurt people- poking, hitting, slapping, throwing, etc. Other important ideas were: Don’t write on other people’s skin or things and tell the truth.
We reviewed our work from day one and have agreed:
  • Don’t hurt anyone
  • Don’t potty talk
  • Listen to others
  • Share
  • Tell the truth
  • Ask to borrow
  • Say nice words
As we work on these agreements we are aiming to move from don’ts and no’s and/or add positive messages and examples. These agreements are a work in progress as we are still identifying what is important to us and necessary for us to have a happy and healthy year.


We then started sharing what we know about rocks. This has already sparked new questions, experiments, and answered the questions:
Can a rock be soft?
Can a rock float?


We’ve broken rocks, sorted rocks, painted rocks and went on our first neighborhood walk/rock hunt. I’m very excited to see where our questions and investigations take us.  Come along for the ride and follow us at @bwx_nicole on Instagram. For even more Brightworks highlights, follow us on Flickr at Brightworks School.

Week2wBlue: Shh, don’t tell anyone — this isn’t really about rocks.

That view!

Let’s entertain a pretty important question for just a moment. It’s often the elephant in the room at Brightworks (and maybe at other schools — though I can’t really speak for those other schools). It’s the kind of question that gets to the core (ha, earth science joke) of what I do as an educator, and what students do as wide-eyed learners. It’s the kind of question that I imagine parents secretly wonder, and administrators dedicate their professional lives to making happen. And this question, it’s a pretty heavy question to ask on week 2, and it’s the kind of question that we’re going to return to over and over for the rest of the year, and with any luck, for the rest of our lives.

But, stick with me.

What if the Rock Arc isn’t really about rocks?


I know. It might seem too soon to ask this question.

We’ve barely scratched the surface (ha) or cracked into (double ha) the real material at hand. We’ve just started talking about the rock cycle, and earthquakes, and erosion. We haven’t even gotten into the real nitty-gritty of rock identification or the ways in which rocks and minerals sneak into our daily lives. The Blue Band has only really left the building twice to go out and experience the rocks in the city and we certainly haven’t heard from many experts yet.

Believe it or not, Friday was only day seven. Day seven might seem really soon to question the very base foundation of our studies at Brightworks, but if we’re not here to ask great questions, then why are we here together at all?

And if we’re not here in the Rock Arc to learn about rocks, then furthermore, why are we here together at all?

Week two wasn’t really about rocks. It was about learning why we’re here.


The nine people in the Blue Band space are here to create a supporting community. We are here to love and challenge and help one another. We are here make our space a space where we can discuss and learn together safely.


We’re really here to try to translate the ideas in our heads to a medium that other people can see or hear or also experience, so that those other people can also learn about our ideas. We are really here to transfer knowledge, and learn ways to do that more effectively and creatively and better and better and better.


Sometimes we are going to practice transferring knowledge by learning about rocks. Sometimes we are going to do that by trying to look at a wooden sculpture, drawing it, and then giving those blueprints to another person who will try to make that same sculpture. Sometimes we will transfer knowledge by answering a question of the day, or writing a blog post.

Sometimes this will be really easy. And sometimes we are going to fail at this practice.

But that’s why we call it practice.

This week, the Blue Band practiced asking important questions. They challenged each other, and certainly me, to be better and work better as a team. They practiced a lot of self-directed learning opportunities, and also took the time to work through ideas in more structured activities. I’m pretty confident that they had a lot of fun practicing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we all turn it up a notch in Week 3.

Yellow Band Tells the stories of rocks

Four more days into the school year and we are moving full steam ahead, as a band and as geologists.

Roots ripping apart rocks. #slickenside #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

The Yellow Band began the week by making a very hot trek up to Corona Heights along with their fellow geologists in the Green Band. Taking the long way down to the park gave us the chance to explore the vast amounts of chert that make up the hill. The questions began almost immediately. “Why is it rust colored?” “How was it made?” “How old is it?” “What are the stripes?” “How are the stripes different than the layers?” Success!!! They were interested in rocks. We took some quiet time to sit with our rocks, observe them, sketch them, and record our observations and questions.

Sketching rocks. #slickenslide #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

#slickenslide #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks#slickenside #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

As they sketched, they sat in the shadow of something very special, one of the world’s largest occurrences of slickenside (a polished and striated rock surface that results from friction along a fault or bedding plane.) “It looks like China!” “How far into the ground does it go?” “How did that happen?” We certainly had a lot of questions to go back to school and research.

Researching the chert and slickenside we observed on yesterday's field trip. #yellowband #sfbrightworks

Wednesday was filled with researching our questions. We discovered that the chert we found is a sedimentary rock rich in silica, formed from the tiny silica shells of marine plankton called Radiolaria. Its rust color reflects that there was a great amount of oxygen oxidizing small amounts of iron in the sediment as it became rock.  

Introducing the Arc of Rock #sfbrightworks #rock @gevertulley

Gever’s introduction to the arc during Thursday’s morning circle with the story of his rock couldn’t have come at a better time. That was the day that the Yellow Band learneded that they would have Pet Rocks. Each of us brought in a rock that held some sort of importance to us. We are going to have some fun with this mini project. We’ll create manuals and write stories or comics, telling the story of our rock, both scientifically and fictionally (come on, don’t all rocks love living in a striped sock?)

Friday Tea and Talk #yellowband #brightworks

We wrapped up our week with what will become a weekly occurrence, our Friday Tea and Talk. This is a time we can share our feelings from the week, ask for support and suggestions on dealing with challenges or conflicts, and simply become a stronger band.

Next week we’ll continue to explore the rock landscape of San Francisco, research our rocks, and grow even more as a band.

Violet Band – Group Class

One of the things a lot of the Violet Band said when listing their goals for the year was experience teaching and mentoring. Brightworks is a good space for that – it’s filled with curious, interesting minds of all ages. And we’ll work on being community members and mentors for the younger bands.

What’s even harder, though, is leading a class with your peers.

And so the Violet Band Group Class was created. Every day after lunch, we’ll spend a half an hour on a student-selected and student-led study. Each “class” will last two weeks, and we’ll shuffle to the next one.

To start, my two weeks of “Sample Group Class” – a nonfiction literary study on information consumption and critical understanding. And while I led today’s class, I created a guideline and template for how to lead future classes, and we discussed ways in which they can lead their own sessions.

And then I passed the other chapters off to the group.

The book is Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor. And our schedule is as follows:

To help prepare for full group class, each session leader of our sample class gets to create their own lesson – introduction, meat, practice, closing – and lead the discussion around the chapter.

I really love this book, and as the BWXian high schoolers work to become quicker observers and more intentional writers, I feel like the book unlocks a lot of mysteries and deeper meaning in content. It is exciting.

Brightworks is always full of excitement, though. In addition to group class, today we got first-hand favorite Rock thoughts from a geologist, explored independent learning pathways, had SketchArt session one, and designed iteration two of the (standard, regular, but with a kid-attached motor) motorized wheelchair.

Check it out: