Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 2 & 3

These past two weeks have been jam packed! Between field trips, projects, and assessment meetings, we’ve been so busy.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We've been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We’ve been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

After we finished moving Gever’s rock, we started to study the US Postal Service, because they move massive numbers of things every day. I had this crazy idea that after moving something massive, we should move a massive number of things–like I said, crank the scale WAY UP.

So, I asked Karen–Jack’s mom, and Tinkering School Manager–if she could pick us up 1,000 takeout boxes.

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“Piper, this is ridculous!” proclaimed the Yellow Banders, as they gleefully folded box after box, taking on the jobs of folder, tosser, double and pile pusher. I know it’s ridiculous, that’s part of what made it work!

We started by watching a bit of a short documentary on the Postal Service, then got to work folding the boxes. As we folded more and more, I heard many kiddos discussing possible strategies for moving them. Maybe we could fill up the wagon, and bring the wagon all the way back and forth between the Beehive and the Orchard. Maybe each of us should carry armfuls to the Orchard, then come back to the Beehive for more. But, as the days passed and the pile grew, it became clear that this was not a viable plan. When we got to the part in the documentary about the Pony Express, the light switch flipped.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both just running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

It became clear that we needed to break up the distance with relays, just like the riders on the Pony Express. One person would pick up some boxes and take them a certain distance, then pass them on to the next ‘rider.’ This ‘rider’ would take the boxes a bit farther, then pass them off to the last ‘rider,’ who would run the last few feet and drop the box off on the deck. Donezo Washington!

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I can’t believe how much fun we had doing this! Plus, we’ve started to dive deep into the brief but captivating history of the Pony Express, with lots of interesting morning math vitamins along the way.

Oh, and our afternoon projects have been awesome too! With a small group of Red and Yellow banders, I’m helping build what is basically a block and tackle (sshh, don’t tell them that!). It helps that I’ve never made one before, so we get to research, tinker, and discover our way through the process together. As you may remember from our last post, we started by building a frame, then mounting the pulleys to the frame. Then, we started to experiment, trying to balance a drill on one side with something lighter on the other end of the rope.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

There was something we were missing though, so we went back and did a bit more research, learning that the mistake we made was to attach all of the pulleys to the frame. Armed with this knowledge, we went back to our design and made some changes, tinkering as we went. We’d need to fix the rope to the frame so that it would act almost like an extra person to help carry the weight. Then, figure out how to use the pulleys if not all of them are fixed in place, but rather have some that are movable so that the weight gets distributed among many lengths of rope.

Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction.

Along the way, we practiced predicting how a simple machine will change force. Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction, and modeling with materials from the shop as they go.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Next week, we’ll figure out how to add a harness (and maybe need to build a bigger frame too)  so that a Beehive kiddo can lift another Beehive kiddo! Using wheels!

A Walk Back In Time

At Brightworks we have certain traditions in the beginning of a new arc.  Gever always gives a presentation that covers the scope of the arc topic and the bands always have some sort of brainstorm where they map out their interests.  Given that the Arc is By Land, I was expecting that my students would want to make some sort of vehicle, but no!  When we sat down to brainstorm the Blue Band expressed an overwhelming interest in studying how early people migrated across continents and how the First Peoples in North America lived.

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In the past weeks, the Blue Banders have explored the most basic of by land transportation: Walking!  What circumstances and mutations led to humans’ ability to walk?  We uncovered some answers in the documentary The Origin of Us by Dr. Alice Roberts and in the copious books we brought back from the library.  We learned that walking upright also freed early human hands to create tools.

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We were visited by three experts in the evolutionary relevance of flint knapping!  Last year Selina, Huxley and Freddie made a documentary about this very topic.  In the process of making this documentary, they learned how to make stone tools.

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After establishing safety guidelines and explaining how obsidian shatters in what is called a Hertzian cone.  Huxley, Selina and Freddie showed the blue banders how to make their own obsidian and chert flakes.

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The Blue Band got to use their creations to slice through cordage and cut an apple.  Giving them some insight into what it may have been like to rely on stone tools of their own creation.

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The Blue Band has started a new novel study to accompany our study of First Peoples.  Sees Behind Trees, by Michael Dorris, is a coming of age story about a nearly blind boy who learns to use his other senses to find his place in the tribe.

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This beautifully written book has been a great resource to us as the band writes their novels.  We’ve been savoring the rich language, noticing how the author builds suspense, and keeping track of all the different ways to say, “said”.

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So much about reading a novel is about empathizing with another person’s experience.  To connect with the main character in our story’s experience we’ve been playing games and taking on challenges that put us in our own senses. At Potrero Hill community garden the Blue Band lead each other on blindfolded sense walks.  Ramses gives Ronan sprig of mint to taste and Isaac leads Sadie down the trail.

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To delve deeper into what it might be like for our main character we turned to one of my favorite podcasts Invisibilia.  This episode tells a story of a blind man who explains how other people’s expectations of him helped him to see.  Because his mom expected him from a young age to do all the things a person with sight to do he developed a way to navigate the world just like everyone else.

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What a wonderful path these kids chose.  I’m excited to continue exploring it with them!

 

 

NaNoWriMo

It’s the first week of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the Amber Band is digging in! NaNoWriMo has become a rich tradition at Brightworks. For some of the Amber Band though, myself included, participating in NaNoWriMo is new territory. To help us get into the writing zone, we’ve decided to transform our upstairs band space into a cozy writing nook.

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Our upstairs band space blue prints.

We wanted a creative space for each of us to work on our daily NaNoWriMo goals, and so we brainstormed what we might need to do to transform the space. Teams quickly formed to tackle building a roof to reduce sound, curtains to block out light, furniture to sit on, and a mural to inspire creativity. Students created scale drawings of our band space to map out plans before we jumped right into building.

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Norabelle and Khalia working on the mural.

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Oscar and Elijah assembling one of our chairs.

Then each team had to tackle problems involving volume, and surface area. What’s the surface area of the wood panel for our mural, and how much paint will we need to buy to cover it? How big can we build the chairs, given the volume of our space? 

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Declan double checking his math before we got the supplies to build our roof.

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Amber Band on the move shopping for materials in SOMA

Designing a modular roof was very tricky, and we’re still working on it. The team wanted to use cardboard as our roofing material, but we couldn’t find any panels that were the exact size of our roof area. We worked through this constraint by designing tiles for the roof. To help determine how many tiles, and what size to cut them, the roofing team had to identify factor pairs of the roof size. What’s the largest size tile piece we can cut from the cardboard sheets we bought, and how many cardboard sheets will it take to cover our roof?

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Audrey testing out The Most Dangerous Writing App.

Of course, we also took time this week to set our NaNoWriMo goals, analyze stories, and write! Each student set a personal goal for how they’ll be using their time during NaNoWriMo, and we’re working together to help one another through this journey. Some students experimented with using The Most Dangerous Writing App to help with this. The app is designed to encourage writers to just keep writing, and if they don’t, the app deletes their text. We’ll have all of December to edit our work, but for now students are encouraged to turn off their inner editor.

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Ella sewing our curtains.

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Our cozy writing nook from below.

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Our cozy writing nook from inside.

Redesigning our upstairs bandspace into a cozy writing nook got our band thinking about shelter and home. We talked about how people seek out shelter as they move by land. Next week we’ll explore what causes people to move by land, and the effect that movement can have. 

The Launch of By Land and NaNoWriMo

After an amazing week in the Mendocino Woodlands, the Teal Band had to come back to the reality that is Brightworks and the start of a new arc and the launch of NaNoWriMo. They began their week with a visit from Piper’s father Evan, who shared his process of writing children’s picture books. The story of writing his first book, shared with the band ways to look to their personal experiences for story ideas, even if the story takes you to a fantastical world where animals talk, drive trucks, and hold down jobs. During the remainder of the week, the band looked at elements of writing, character development, and plot lines. They mapped out the plot of Evan’s Giraffe Rescue Service, seeing it as a rollercoaster, with the climax of the story peaking at the top of the first hill.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by Evan, as he reads his book 'Giraffe Rescue Service' to the Teal and Blue bands.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by her dad, as he reads his book ‘Giraffe Rescue Service’ to the Teal and Blue bands.

Using 'Giraffe Rescue Service,' the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Using ‘Giraffe Rescue Service,’ the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear from a few members of the Mission District and Bernal Heights’ Hispanic communities. They shared their connection to Alex Nieto and his story in preparation for those attending Loco Bloco’s play, “On the Hill: I am Alex Nieto.” They also shared stories of others in the community, many of whom are greatly affected by the gentrification occurring in San Francisco. This is not always an easy conversation to have, but it is an important one that we will continue throughout the year and for years to come.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

On our way to catch BART on Wednesday morning, we took a slight detour down Clarion Alley. This alley sits between Mission Street, a street that still holds on to much of its original Mission District roots, and Valencia Street, one that has seen a lot of change due to gentrification. It is home to numerous murals painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project. We took the time to stop and look at a few that addressed struggles of San Francisco and the changes its facing as its population continues to grow.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

On Thursday, we really began to look at the “movement of education by land,” a concept we will be focusing on this arc. We started our journey into this exploration by watching the documentary “On the Way to School” (trailer is below.) It follows four groups of children around the world on their often dangerous and long journeys to get to school. When asked to reflect on the children’s experiences, Selina wrote:

I think that a lot of children across the world have to make long journeys like this to get to school because a lot of towns don’t have enough resources to have a school. So they send their children on journeys to other bigger towns that can afford to have schools. I think that the reason that the parents want them to go to school is that they didn’t get a chance to have an education…I think that the reason that these kids want to go to school so much, even though the journey is so treacherous, is because they are all very poor, and this opportunity to learn can not only make them happier but let them get a job that can support them and their families. Even though these journeys are hard, I think that school is something that is so amazing to these children that they would do almost anything to go to school.”

While we are not passing elephants, riding horses or walking upwards of four hours, each of us makes a journey to school everyday and we will be looking into those journeys, how they affect us, and the effects they have on others and the planet.

One of the ways the Teal Band will be looking at these journeys to school is by collecting data using a school wide questionnaire. On Friday morning they brainstormed a number of questions they felt would lead to strong explorations and provocations, and created a Google Form. They are interested in comparing the journeys of the students of Brightworks to those of their parents.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

We wrapped up the week with a bit more work on our bridge storage wall. They worked as a team to support one another as they constructed the frame and cut and attached the shelves. Progress is being made.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 1

Wait a minute, it’s only been a week?

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

This may be the Tinkering School in me talking, but I really love the way things click for kids when the scale of a question is turned way up. So, for several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the enormous things that humans move around the world. Not enormous amounts of things (yet), but rather things that are massive, heavy, take up a lot of space.

Like Stonehenge, or those big trees in Mendocino. So, we started this week pondering how people long ago moved things that are just so huge.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Not to mention that all of our hands and bodies don’t even fit around the rock!

Rock relocation, day 1.

Rock relocation, day 1.

This idea must have really gelled with the kiddos in the Beehive, because when we introduced our next building projects, many proposed that we use wheels to make something that would allow a kid to lift another kid. This led to some great explorations around simple machines (with some help from Bill Nye), not to mention enriching our ongoing discussions about how to move that darn rock.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

Kiddos knew that wheels would be very helpful to move the rock, but one suggested that we shouldn’t use casters to build a cart because the ancient Britons that built Stonehenge would not have had wheels (that was a freeby!). Luckily, another Yellow Bander suggested that we use some type of cylinder, so we headed to the shop to see what we could find. Answer: PVC.

When Day 2 of rock relocation got underway, after a reminder to make sure to use ready calls before lifting the rock (ouch…), we managed to move the rock a grand total of about 16 inches–off the stage and onto the cork floor. It took so much teamwork, patience and sticktoitiveness, and then we were pooped.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Phew. After all of that effort, we took a break to watch a short video explaining the point of all this. Humans move enormous things by land all the time. Along the way, they encounter loads of problems to solve and the persevere so that they can get the thing to where it’s going.

Joe Vilardi of BudCo Enterprises is one of those people. You may have noticed him in that video, working on the installation of Sequence at the SFMOMA. I reached out to him weeks ago, hoping for the kiddos to have some type of interaction with this expert rigger. And he was down! Thanks Joe!

So, on Thursday, we moved the rock as far as we could–which happened to be the top of the entryway stairs.

Then, on Friday morning, we went to SFMOMA to see the Sequence in person–feel the scale of such an undertaking–and write questions for Joe.

"What's the heaviest thing you've ever moved?"

“What’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever moved?”

"How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?"

“How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?”

"How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?"

“How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?”

You can see more photos of this week in the flickr album!

NANOWRIMO

NANOWRIMO, short hand for national novel writing month, is a time in which students put their inner editor on the shelf and write their stories.  November is upon us, but luckily the Blue Band won’t be embarking on this ambitious venture empty handed. For the past month the Blue Band has been planning out their novels and getting hyped about writing.  They have drawn pictures of their main characters, given them hopes and dreams, fears and obstacles.  They have studied texts like our read aloud, The Extraordinary Tale of Ordinary Basil, to understand better the elements of plot.  They’ve learned about Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and used this to interpret stories they’ve read and guide their own story. They have made sketches of their settings and they have been learning the art of dialogue. With this road map to their story they will be ready to set out into the wilderness of their imaginations!

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We’ve also been learning about what it means to be an author.  The Blue and Orange bands attended LitQuake at the public library where they met authors and listened to them speak about their craft.  They spoke about everything from where they get their inspiration to how many different drafts they wrote before their books were published!

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The whole group couldn’t wait to get back and read the books they had gotten from the event.  Some students even got their books autographed! It’s great to see everyone getting so amped about reading and writing stories.

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This week we had a visit from Piper’s dad, Evan Sagerman, a published children’s book author.  He read us one of his books and then explained the process he went through to get his work published.  It was impressive to see just how many drafts he went through before he settled on the best way to draw his giraffe!

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Evan Sagerman’s publisher also asked him to write a three sentence description of his story, the kind you find on a book jacket.  The Blue Band took a shot at describing their own stories in three sentences or less.  Though these stories are liable to transform and grow in the coming month, here is a rough sketch of what each of the Blue Band will be writing in the coming month:

Gita

“Elliana is a nice girl who loves her dog and just wants some friends. When she goes to school, it is too bad that Jessica wants only herself to be friends with Alma and Alejandra.  Will Elliana only have her dog to count on for her life or will she stand up to Jessica?”
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Ramses

“There was a boy named Ramses and he was a normal boy.  He made friends with a vampire boy.  They are looking for a jewel that turns vampires back to humans.  There is a evil villain vampire killer who is in their way.”
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Ronan

“Clavis Carmine lives in a three story mansion on top of candlewick hill.  Clavis might seem like an ordinary boy and for the most part he is, but one thing made him stand out: a small gem…”

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Soleil

“Tahani doesn’t have time for her inner love of science.  What happens when she decides to make her science experiment at Hamiton Middle School in Jacksonville?  Tahani wants everything living to be respected but the science experiment goes crazy.  While she is at it she goes on adventures.  One adventure involves talking candy!”

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Sadie

“Katie Storm is 13 and she lives in London.  Katie just wants to see her dad again, but she gets on a train and has to do a bunch of trials.  The train is not an ordinary train. This story doesn’t have a happy ending!”
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Isaac

“I’m writing a fan fiction about Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.”

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Tamasen

“This is a story about a girl who goes to look for her lost parents.  On the way she has to face poof the villain who is a small puff ball.”

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Lily

“My story is going to be a graphic novel about a girl who looks really dark but is really optimistic and a boy who looks really bright but us super pessimistic.  They go on a camping trip together.”

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I can’t wait to see all of these stories come to life over the next month!

 

Animals by-air

This past arc, the Red Band explored the concept of animal flight. We researched both mammal and insect wings, their construction, placement, and function through a series of investigations. By transferring our new skills from kite construction, the kids created wing models using wooden dowels as bones or insect cuticle. After observing birds at our neighborhood Petco, the kids attempted to imitate wing movement by attaching magnets or paperclips to paper wings. The kids then created their own, taught others, or followed directions to fold paper airplanes. By examining their flight we defined the terms: flying, floating, and gliding to add to our #kiddictionary. We then compared the migration of the monarch butterfly and the albatross, the farthest travelling bird and insect with the largest difference in size and wingspan.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird's flight problem.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird’s flight problem.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Following our explorations, the Red Band completed their first project brainstorm where ideas ranged from revisiting past projects such as the wing models, create a school kite or build a mini-airplane before choosing to create adaptations for flightless animals both with or without wings. We started by identifying a problem: Some animals do not or cannot fly and creating a solution: design wings or means of flight for flightless animals. We each set to work choosing a wingless or flightless animal: an elephant, a girl, a giraffe, an underground dragon blob, two dogs, a penguin, and a chicken. The results varied from tiny insect wings to bird wings to jetpacks and larger ears to aid the animals’ flight. For some added encouragement, we took a trip over to the San Francisco Zoo to observe some of our animals up close. The kids all stretched their imaginations and motivation to truly bring to life their solutions.

#bwxredinthewild

#bwxredinthewild

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A band that weaves a web together… sticks together

Just in time for our first arc gathering, the Red and Yellow bands also wrapped up their cockpit and wave machine projects. Each afternoon the kids choose one collaborator-led project to participate in; since the start of the year we have completed a bench and planter box for our entryway. The collaborators and kids are working in a two to three week long timeframe to expose kids to the Brightworks project process and best practices. We will take our new project guidelines to help us work on our first by-land projects, a carwash and a machine to harness our people-power. Stay tuned for more #brightworksbeehive news.

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currently on display in the hive

currently on display in the hive