Coming back from winter break, the Violet Band set right to work on their Expression projects.  The projects exhibited illustrate a diversity of thought surrounding the concept of “Cloth”; everything from how cloth is made, using cloth to help others, and even designing a home in cloth.  The Violet Band Crew took some time to explain what they are doing, in their own words.  Check out a few of their exciting projects!


Frederica, age 12
For my project I am making coconut husk (Coir) into  a usable thread. I will chemically soften it using NaOH (Caustic Soda) then treating the Coir with MgCL2 (Magnesium Chloride). I will then incorporate this softened Coir with other natural materials including wool, hemp, and cotton. I will then test the flexibility, durability, and tensile strength of each blend of Coir and other material. From this project I have learned that Coir is usually is used for ropes and mats and is produced in India and Sri Lanka. In India, which produces one fourth of the worlds coconut, only 15% of the husks are recovered for use. India annually produces 280,000 metric tons of husks. Coir fibers are categorized into two sections, from ripe to immature coconuts. Ripe coconuts produces coarse brown strands which is  highly resistant to abrasion and strong, they are also one of the only naturals materials to float in sea water. Brown husks  are usually used for mats, rope, and upholstery. Unripe or immature coconut produce light brown or white soft and weak threads which are spun into yarn which is woven into mats or twisted into twine for rope.

Aurora helps Frederica build her fume hood.  After building the hood, Frederica taught her peers about how she used lye safely



Patrick, 12
At my school, we have three arcs in the school year. Each arc is two parts, Exploration and Expression. This year we have Coin, Cloth and Cities. The current arc is Cloth. In Exploration, we learn about the subject and go on fieldtrips to try and find an idea for our Expression project. My project is felting multiple cup sleeves, like the cardboard slip-ons at Starbucks. As this won’t take too much time, I am also felting a original item, which is turning out to be a plant… thing. I had to design the plant, as well as multiple cup sleeves, until my expert explained the prices for the wool. I just learned how to felt, and think everyone should at least try it.

Thanks for reading,

Patrick exhibits his first iteration of his felted sleeve



Selina, age 12
For my project, I am using SketchUp to create multiple room designs. I will have three designs in total. My designs are based off of a Victorian style. They also have as low carbon-footprint as possible, all while keeping it within a reasonable price range (reasonable meaning not higher than a normal Victorian room). Along with this, I am designing my own chair. It is a cross between an armchair and an ottoman. So far, I have finished my final drawings and my paper model. I still have to create a final foamcore model, then put it into SketchUp. My goal is to have three examples of environmentally friendly rooms, using low water-consuming material, low-waste dye, and healthy (not chemically harmful) cloth. Doing this project has taught me how to use Sketchup, how to create comfortable, aesthetically pleasing designs, and how to manage both aspects of my project.

Selina working away at one of her iterations on Sketch-Up


Trudy, age 12
My project is creating a photo essay about how the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies and clothing can affect a woman’s self perception of themselves and their body. There will be two photos of each woman, one in an outfit that makes them feel confident and another in an outfit that they think highlights their insecurities. I am also taking audio interviews where I ask the women to share some experiences they’ve had feeling bad about their body. I’m going to compile each person’s audio and photos and post them to an Instagram account I created for this project. So far I’ve learned that I lose things very easily and that cutting PVC pipe gives me anxiety. My first photoshoot is today, Wednesday, January 17, and I have one tomorrow and two or three on Saturday. My next steps are getting my backdrop together and finding a microphone and other equipment for recording.

Trudy built her own backdrop for her models.  She designed it to be easily taken up and down so she can travel with it.



Jared, age 12
Hello! My name is Jared, Im a 7th-grader, and in my school out semester is divided into three subjects, these three are: coin, cloth, and city, we call these “arcs”. Majority of the time, we make up projects related to the arc. For example: my project is weaving as many scarves as I can for the homeless. This includes carving out the loom. (A tooI I need to weave the scarves). Along with donating all of the scarves I end up making to a homeless shelter.





Cloth Update and Tool Training

The hive has been so lucky to have Daniel Gill, a master puppeteer, visit the hive once a week to make different kinds of puppets and show us how to tell stories with them.

Last week, Daniel brought some marionettes!

This week, Daniel taught us how to make our own marionettes.

Now that we’ve begun tool training, we can begin to work on our second iteration of the puppet theater.

Speaking of tool training, Sylvester shows us proper eye protection while using a clamp.

Before the tool challenge, we practiced using the drill to make holes and drive screws. We’re working hard on keeping control of the drill and using two hands.

Dash loves drilling holes!

This week, our tool challenge was to build a cube using drills, clamps, and your team.

Just because you’re not using a tool doesn’t mean you can’t help. Calvin held wood for his team so it wouldn’t slide around so much while driving screws into it.


In other news…

We began writing “small moment” stories about things that happen in our lives. A small moment isn’t a big long story about your day or the trip you took on vacation. A small moment is one part of your day, like breakfast or going to the park.

Khalilah noticed she needed a better spot for writing so we started finding comfortable writing places around the band space where people could work.

Ronin is writing a story about New Zealand.

Dash is writing about moving into the Sunset house. He’s really excited about his families’ new home.

We’re also exploring place value and addition during centers. For this activity, kiddos are building structures from base-ten blocks and adding them up.



First Iterations

All of the Amber Band Expression Projects have been approved! Throughout the Exploration Phase of the Cloth Arc we explored the ways in which we’re all connected through cloth. We screen printed personal logos, drafted patterns to construct wearable shelter pieces, and experimented with the chemistry behind stains and dyes. Last week students shared the first iteration of their expression project.


I am making a 360˚ fight scene. This image is the movie poster for the film. The film won’t have planes and fire in it those are just to get people to watch the film. I’m making this film because I like making movies, and I’ve never made a 360˚ video. I’m going to make elaborate sci-fi costumes for the film. In my storyboard you can see each frame is four squares long to show the full 360˚.


My project is to create a digital loom. A digital loom is a set of buttons on a website that corresponds to the levers/heddles on a loom. When you click those buttons, it would make a different pattern.



For my project, I’m making a series of dresses from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the dresses, I’m trying to show what was happening at the time that they were designed. For example, in the 1920s, dresses were almost completely straight up and down. The reason for this was, in the 1800s women had to wear corsets and have an hourglass silhouette to be accepted as beautiful, and women wanted to show off that they could be beautiful without showing off their hips or curves.

But you can see that this completely changed as the Great Depression started because there were less resources, so you can see dresses get shorter and shorter and the dresses start to get more of a waist. Around the late ‘50s or the early ‘60s it became acceptable for women to wear pants.



For my project I’m making clothing that people want to wear to school. I interviewed a few people and asked them what they would want in school clothes. I got a lot of the same answers: comfortable and functional. I also got a request for a crop top so I took this information and came up with some designs. My final designs are a comfy sweater dress, a crop top and skirt, and some comfy pants with pockets and a basic shirt.



For my project, I’m trying to augment cloth with tensegrity structures (stable three-dimensional structures consisting of members under tension that are all contiguous, and members under compression that are all not), making it a viable building material.

The fatal flaw with the idea of cloth as a building material is that it has no compressive strength. Tensegrity structures could convert its tensile strength to compressive strength, eliminating this flaw.

This would allow the utilization of the good qualities of cloth as a building material, being cheap, light, and portable.

By augmenting cloth with tensegrity structures, it eliminates its fatal flaw as a building material.

A product that would test this ideas limits as well as highlight its good qualities would be a personal cloth tensegrity structure windmill for power generation in developing countries. I have set out to make just that.



I am making a loom and rayon fiber that i am going to weave with. I am using wood and a lot of chemicals for my project. This project is interesting to me because I think it will give me a great opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and use chemicals and big scary tools (shop tools), but I will also get to weave which is something I love doing.



I’m making a project on people switching outfits for a week. I’m making it because I want to work on camera skills, and I want to research something that is less commonly known like the style from people at my school.

A Round Up of Our Cloth Arc Exploration and a Preview into Expression Projects

During a trip to the Asian Art Mue traveled through the ages of Korean clothing from traditional to contemporary. Using the framework of See, Think, Wonder, we took a deeper look at the garments and discovered connections between the past and the present.

Many noticed how simple the garments appeared until they dug deeper and discovered their complexity in construction or the undergarments worn with them.

The second gallery of the exhibit featured couture clothing from high-end designers influenced by the clothing of the past. We wondered if this dress was influenced by the large number of layers in the women’s traditional undergarments.

The final gallery took us off the runway to the present. While these garments were both designed by Koren designers and influenced by traditional clothing, they were strong representations of today. They  incorporated trends in contemporary Western attire and pursued a “zero-waste design.”

Moving from curated couture to fast fashion, we recorded data on clothing at stores such as H&M and Gap. We looked at materials, construction, price and origin of production. Observations such as the quality of the clothing and price, in comparison to the customer service, were made with Nordstrom coming out far ahead of H&M and the Gap.

We also just had to take time to try on the softest stuff in each store.

Internationally known and accomplished weaver Travis Meinolf came to share his stories of weaving around the world and literally on the streets of cities spanning the globe, as well as to teach the Green, Teal, Violet and Amber bands how to backstrap weave.

We discovered how backstrap weaving can be created through working together with partners, weaving from opposite ends of the cloth towards one another. It was incredible to watch partners overcome hurdles and problem solve as a team.

For some it was an incredibly relaxing activity, for others it became a task of intense focus.

As well an act of dedication. A number of students gave up their park time to stay in and finish weaving a scarf they wore with pride the rest of the day.

It was pretty incredible to watch all these focused weavers working together. Travis’s visit has led to a couple Expression projects in both the Green and Violet bands.

In preparation for our field trip to a sheep and cotton farm, Rich shared with the Teal, Violet and Amber bands a presentation on protein and cellulose fibers. We looked at the science behind them and why we use them the way we do for cloth production.

We took a trip to Sally Fox’s sheep and cotton farm, Viriditas. We learned about how she’s been able to produce both cotton and wool and the relationship the two have with one another’s production. It was really cool to hear her story of acquiring her first flock of sheep and the work they did to repair her land.

Sheepies! The farm raises both Merino and Shetland sheep. Do you know how to tell the difference?

With the negative environmental and financial impacts that dyes create, Sally has spent her years studying and developing naturally-colored cotton and successfully invented the first commercially viable method for mass-producing colored cotton.

Here are the three colors of her cotton. We were surprised to learn that the cotton on the left could go from that incredibly pale shade of “green” to a rich dark green through a boiling process.

Sierra and Christian walked us through the once yearly process of sheering all the sheep. She described it as unzipping and removing a coat in the way that they begin down the belly and move outwards.

The next step in the process for the wool was learning to skirt it or simply cleaning anything stuck in it. Once skirted, we learned about the ways that you can distinguish a higher quality fleece from a lower quality. We looked at, felt, and even listened to the wool fibers of a few fleece. In the end, the students made arguments for why they would select one fleece over another.

Our exploration of wool didn’t end on the farm. We selected the fleece we believed to be the highest quality and purchased it. Back at school, we combined our soap we made with our wool, exploring how much lanolin is in the wool, by weighing it, washing it, then weighing it again.

We also take some pretty incredible visual notes.

Who knew all that wool could come off one sheep and all intact.

Diving deeper into natural dyes after learning about Sally Fox’s naturally dyed cotton, the Teal and Violet bands prepared a Lunch to Dye For for Community Lunch. We made salads full of natural dyes such as purple cabbage and yellow onions.

While enjoying lunch, everyone’s swatches of silk sat in the dye baths, soaking in their incredible natural colors.

After weeks of exploring cloth, it was time to start looking towards our Expression Phase. We brainstormed ideas and organized them into similar project focuses. Anyone interested in creating cloth out of human hair? Thankfully this wasn’t one of the selected projects, though it would be interesting.

After being able to answer all the questions Gever had about his project, Viggo was so excited to get his first declaration signed.

We’ve launched right into project time. Nora is spending her days sewing, knitting and crocheting hats and scarves. She’s also inventing phone holding headbands to help with the recording of her work for her how to video she’s making.

Looking to create a “net floor” for the top level of his bunk bed at home, Justin is working through numerous iterations of knots. He’s even taken inspiration from the nets at the batting cages. Yay baseball!

Aurora is working out the details in her three dresses she’s designing and sewing. She’s been learning about the tools needed to create and sew a garment, as well as all the proper steps to successfully design and create one.

Viggo is definitely proud of the work he’s put into drawing out the tessellation that will become the pattern for his wooden blanket. His next steps are trying out multiple smaller scale iterations, testing out different backing materials and adhesives.

Jonah and Roman work from plans to create a materials and cut list for their Book Charkha transportable spinning wheel.

Natalie has already been to the Haas-Lilienthal House and ACT’s costume shop to take photos and record videos for her documentary on 19th century clothing and cloth.


We look forward to sharing more of our Cloth Arc Expression process.

BWX Scratchers in Action

Devlin recreates the song “Seven Nation Army” using Scratch code.

In After Care this year, we have been exploring different ways we can use computer code to create visual art, tell stories, invent new things, and share our passions with other people. One tool we’ve enjoyed using is the Scratch visual programming language. Developed at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch provides a safe, fun online community for programmers of all ages and ability levels to upload their projects and learn from each other’s work. Coding in Scratch requires users to snap color-coded blocks together so it feels familiar to anyone who has worked with Legos. Every project on Scratch can be opened up and remixed so users can iterate on each others’ ideas and learn new techniques. In his book Lifelong Kindergarten, Mitch Resnick writes about the genesis of Scratch and how its development was informed by what he calls “the Four P’s of Creative Learning.”

  1. PROJECTS. Creating projects is the central activity in the Scratch community.

  2. PASSION. When people work on projects they care about, they’re willing to work longer and harder. Because Scratch supports many different types of projects (games, stories, animations, and more), everyone can work on projects they care about.

  3. PEERS. Creativity is a social process with people collaborating, sharing, and building on another’s work.

  4. PLAY. Scratch is designed to support playful experimentation as a pathway to creativity, encouraging young people to take risks and try new things.

This framework maps perfectly to the educational environment we try to cultivate at Brightworks (which might be why our school was featured as a case study later in the book) so it’s no surprise that our kids have started developing a diverse range of impressive projects…

Romero began his Scratch journey re-designing a game called Nyan Cat Blast, adding new graphics inspired by his favorite internet memes. He has now developed a strong foundational skill set and helps his friends debug their programs during Scratch Club on Community Friday.

During the latest Scratch Club, Sakira created a beautiful intro animation that she can put at the beginning of her projects to personalize them.

During After Care, members of the Red and Yellow Band have enjoyed finding fun games and then “hacking” their code to make them easier. In Calvin’s apple-picking game, he has removed all of the obstacles from the original code and increased the size of an item so they were easier to collect.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Brightworks Scratch projects are developing, check out the new Brightworks Scratch Studio curated by Ronan Underwood.

In the Cloth Percolators

The Orange Band has had the luxury of many Cloth experiences during Exploration. While there are still a few adventures and outings left in the weeks after Winter Break, we took some time in the week before our hiatus to read about the cloth related topics that the kiddos found interesting and intriguing. Their research revealed stories about gender bias in the shoe industry, a brief history of pant in ancient Rome, and fiber advances inspired by spider silk.  Then, kiddos practiced their summary writing skills, necessary tools in their upcoming Expression Projects. Enjoy the Orange Band’s recent research!

The Clarks Shoe Company

By Soleil

The problem began when The Clark’s Shoe Company in the United Kingdom, started selling “The Dolly Babe” and the “Leader” shoes. The “Dolly Babe” (the version for girls) was made with black leather as well as the “Leader,” but the “Dolly Babe” had detail of a pink insole printed with hearts while the “Leader” (the version for boys) had a design of a football, which stays on sale. Also, the “Dolly Babe” was so uncomfortable and not sturdy. Jemma Moonie-Dalton is a parent who didn’t want her daughter to have the “Dolly Babe” shoes. The article states that, “she does not want her daughter to avoid puddles. Her daughter should play games. She does not want her daughter to worry about getting her shoes dirty.” The boys shoes were built for running and climbing and playing. That shows a stereotype for boys and girls.  Then, there were so many complaints from the parents of the students about how the shoes were so unfair, that the Clark’s Company took their shoes off the shelves. The point the author was trying to make is that there are still stereotypes around boys and girls right this second and that we should stay aware of that.

How pants in Ancient Rome went from banned to required

By Sadie

The problem began when the Romans banned pants. They wore tunics instead because it was extremely warm in that spot. They decided to  because winter was coming and they would freeze to death because the tunics were too short. Then, people wore pants all the time in Rome.

At the beginning people think that pants were always worn. Before that, the Romans banned pants because they were for “savages.” The Gauls group triggered that. Then, soon after Rome’s started wearing trousers because it was cold at the battlefield and soon became really popular. Next, the ban said that “who ever wore trousers would be exiled.” The reason why is that people couldn’t tell if you were a civilians and soldiers apart because it was confusing. The ban soon was lifted and people started to wear trousers again and soon were worn all around Rome and were starting to evolve into pants.

Spider Silk Summary

By Romero

Scientists from all around the world are trying to replicate spider silk because the substance is very strong and flexible. Two important ideas of the article are that: Spider silk, when large, is very strong and replicating it will make great advances in technology and safety. Spider silk is a very strong material, and it’s amazing because it’s 98% water! If we can replicate this, we can use them in many different ways such as to produce low-heat types of various fabrics, that don’t need any chemical solvents.

The main idea of this passage is that spider silk is very interesting. One fact or example that supports this main idea is if we could replicate it at a scale, we could change the future of safety. Another fact or example that supports this main point is that it is stronger than steel! In addition, it is 98% water! Finally, the fact that it’s made by only by spiders, a small life form, illustrates that spider silk is amazing!

The Shoe Problem

By Lillian Girarde

The problem began when Clark shoes called the girls shoes “Dolly Babe.” The boys shoes are called ”Leader.” This made parents very mad because this said that boys  were leaders and girls  were  Dolly babe’s,  and that is sexist because this says that boys are a higher power than girls. a bunch of people on Twitter   complained  that “Dolly Babe  shoes are sexist”. After that,  The Clark shoe company tried to say it was a mistake. The Clark shoes  couldn’t   take the complaints anymore. The problem was finally resolved when Clark discontinued “Dolly Babe” shoes.

Ram’s Cloth Summary

The main idea of this article is to create man-made spider silk that is good for the environment.  One way it’s good is you don’t have to pay too much money because it’s cheap.  And, it is made of water, rocks and plants.  And also if you throw it away, it decomposes. A really weird example of weirdness is that scientists at Utah State University are breading “spider goats” that will produce silk proteins in their milk.  The main idea of this article is that spider silk can be used for lots of things.  One example that supports this main idea is that the US Military is thinking about using this man-made silk for their bullet proof vests.   Another example is, this man-made spider silk is safe to use on the human body like in stitches. Finally, the materials needed to make spider silk make it like nylon. The end.

Bad Shoe Names for Girls

By Tamasen

The problem began when the girls shoes were named DOLLY BABES. And the boys were called the Leader. And some of the parents said the girls shoe had a bad  name because to call shoes for all the girl in the school Dolly Babes was sexist and rude.   The company is treating the girls differently than boys people say. The United Kingdom is in Europe and leaders there talked about the shoes. Nicola Sturgeon is the leader of Scotland. She said the  name was hard to believe.  Clarks said it will not sell the Dolly Babe shoes any more. It will keep selling the leader shoes for the boy’s though. So in  my perspective I think that the boys Shoe should not be called leaders! And boys and girls shoes should have the same name, because girls can be leaders and boys can’t always be leaders.

New artificial spider silk: stronger than steel and 98% water.

Based off a newsela article by Emily Matchar.
By Ronan

Spider silk has some pretty incredible properties. It’s stronger than steel, and tougher than kevlar. Yet it’s as  stretchy as an rubber band. For these reasons, spider silk has captured the interest of many scientists for decades.

Researchers have discovered a new material that mimics spider silk. It is extremely strong, stretchy, and has an incredible energy-absorbing capacity. But perhaps it’s  most incredible property: it’s 98% water.

Darshil Shah is one of the researchers working on this new material. He is a researcher at Cambridge’s Center for Natural Material Innovation. “Spiders are interesting models because they are able to produce the fiber at room temperature without a solvent.” says Shah

The fiber is made from a material called a hydrogel. It is 98% water and 2% silica and cellulose. The water evaporates, and the silica and cellulose fibers can be pulled from the hydrogel.

Although not as strong as all real spiderwebs, the fibers are extremely strong. They can be made without chemical solvents, giving them an advantage. They also do not need high temperatures for spinning, making them easier to produce then things like nylon.

The fibers could also be modified in a lot of interesting ways, says Shah. By replacing cellulose with certain polymers, you could more easily make different synthetic fabrics.

Although there are a few problems, artificial spiderwebs could become a real thing in the near future. A real important thing.

That cloth and clothing could hold such import is not lost on the Orange Band. In fact, recently, the Orange Banders took some time to participate in the BWX Museum of Everyday – inspired by the museum of the same name found in Ísafjörður, Iceland. Along with the Magenta Band, Orange Band kiddos selected items of clothing and told the story of that item. Their stories of family, passions, and themselves are wonderful. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for Expression and Cloth Project updates! WEAVE been busy! 😉

Cloth & Religious Identity: The Greenies Study Islam

The Green Band’s latest read aloud is “Does My Head Look Big In This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The book tells the story of Amal, an Australian-Palestinian teenager living in Melbourne who decides to start wearing the hijab (“veil”) full-time. As a Muslim, Amal is in the minority at her new school and in her community, and the book, told from her perspective, talks about the ways in which the people around her respond to this very visible symbol of faith. This connection between cloth (the hijab) and identity has lead to a study of Islam in the Band.

While the majority of the Green Band identifies as being secular or atheist, the kids have done an amazing job following our Norms for Talking About Religion. These norms, inspired by this Teaching Tolerance article, allow for respectful and open-minded discussions of religion. For many students, this was the first time learning about religion in an academic setting.

Using a number of Newsela articles (our favorite resource), students studied the history of Islam and Muhammad, the Five Pillars of Islam, the purpose of the hijab, the frequently perceived connection between terrorism and Islam, and the tremendous amount of prejudice that Muslims face on a daily basis. The Green Band also took a visit to the Islamic Society of San Francisco and got to experience what it feels like to be in an urban mosque and learn a little more about the religion from our guide Khaled Ghaleb. We learned that Islamic art doesn’t contain images and consists primarily of geometric shapes and patterns. Students observed individuals coming in and out of the space, and although nobody had been in a mosque before, it was undeniable that everybody felt “peaceful, calm, and quiet.”

Our study of Islam culminated in students doing a short reflection on how their lives connect to the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahadah- faith, Salat- prayer, Zakat- charity, Sawm- fasting, and Hajj-pilgrimage to Mecca. Students were able to find commonalities between traditions and aspects of their lives and those of the Muslim faith. I am very proud of the work that the Greenies did in our study of Islam!