Being Human

Over the past few weeks the Red Band dove into a study of the human body. We started with the largest organ, your skin, and continued our organ study with the help of some guts:

To aid our study of anatomy we read about different systems in the body: skeletal, muscular, vascular, and digestive in Head to Toe, What’s Inside?, and Who Has What?

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We continued to explore the weird and amazing things a body could do while exercising our senses. This study allowed us to imagine a world where our senses could be superhuman, aside from the obvious ability to have all superhuman powers, of course. Superheroes and powers take many forms as we learned from Molly Lou Melon. The Red Band also focused on disability awareness: What would you do if you could not speak, see, or hear? What if you could not walk or write? We were also hosted at Creativity Explored where we toured the studio, spoke with the featured artist, and created an original Red Band mural.

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Prior to our visit to Creativity Explored the kids held a thoughtful and considerate conversation about judging other people. We set the standard, No Judgements, for our visit. By continuing this study I hope to continue this idea with the kids and help them incorporate it into their daily lives and interactions with one another.

March ended with a trip to the Exploratorium with Orange where we experimented with sight and sound, social behavior and feelings, and organisms and ecosystems.

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Upper School Sex Ed

Last week, the upper school spent the entire week on a comprehensive sex ed curriculum. We made up the curriculum, of course, but it hit the following key points:

– what happens to bodies?

– what is sex?

– what is gender?

– what is consent?

– what goes on in puberty and after? why?

– how to be healthy and safe

 

The first couple of days, we split the kids into unique groups. Phillip and Simons worked with half of them on understanding sex, gender, sexuality, and components of those things regarding mental and emotional levels. Willow and I took the kids and talked about biological changes and expectations in bodies and health regarding these changes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we broke up into girls and boys Q&A sessions. On Wednesday, the girls got together with the female collaborators and boys with boys. On Thursday, we switched! So girls went with the male collaborators and boys with the females.

The questions were so thoughtful and helpful. It was a really wonderful week.

If interested, you can check out the sex q&a document for the upper school here. 

It was one of my favorite weeks teaching, to be sure.

Violet Band: Robotics Update

The Violet Band has been deep in their robotics courses. We’re studying how robots are ways to think and learn more about humans and human brains.

We started by understanding the difference between fearful and aggressive motions – or when sensors are programmed to move away from light or to move toward light. Having slight differences in the programming changes the way a baby bot moves dramatically.

We advanced to learning about how our brain connects with nerves and sensors in our own bodies, and how to use that information to create signals and responses in robots.

On Thursday last week, they started creating their own baby bots.

Some of the kids are choosing to do robotics projects for their choice projects! Stay tuned…

Blue (+Upper School): Let’s Talk About Sex

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Fact.

This week was pretty uncomfortable. But in that discomfort, some amazing things happened.

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Similar to the Upper School Band Swap, during this week, the Upper School mixed things up in order to teach Sex Ed.

On Monday and Tuesday, the students got a crash course in physical anatomy+body changes and in the mental+emotional aspects of sex and relationships. The Bands were paired up (Teal+Blue, and Indigo+Violet) and they spent the mornings hanging out with co-teachers. Rich and Oberski teamed up to talk biology, and me and Phillip co-taught sex/gender/sexuality and consent. 

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While I can’t personally speak for Rich+Oberski’s sessions, some wonderfully rich conversation happened with the kids, Phillip, and me. We established group norms, talked about how uncomfortable our discussions might be, and also created a safe space for the students to ask candid and honest questions without fear of being judged or of their privacy being violated. In a school that’s constantly being documented and observed, this was sometimes a tall order. (…And it also meant that I didn’t take many photos this week, and I didn’t post to Instagram much.)

Creating a safe and non-judgemental space for the kids to learn comfortably about a delicate (and usually stigmatized) topic also meant that the Collaborators had to be open and welcoming in their answers. We carefully, considerately, and honestly answered sometimes very personal questions about our own private relationships.

And on Wednesday and Thursday, we did just that in formal sessions.

For this second half of the week, Oberski+Lindsay+Me teamed up to host a 90-minute panel discussion, and Rich+Phillip did the same. All week, we had encouraged the kids to anonymously (or not) submit questions that they had related to sex and relationships. We compiled all the questions, discussed our answered to them in a staff meeting, and then hosted an open Q&A with the students. On Wednesday, the girls hung out with the girl panel and boys with boys, and then on Thursday we swapped (adult boys+student girls, adult girls+student boys).*

*Also, point of clarity on all of this: we chatted a long time about the division of boys/girls for the Q&A sessions and the way that division problematizes some of the binary thinking that we had been dismantling in our conversations all week. By and large, we acknowledged that it caused problems to split the kids like that, but also ultimately decided on the division based on shared anatomical experience of body changes and puberty.

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We talked about a lot things and answered a lot of questions this week. We addressed things like body changes, masturbation, virginity, consent, sexuality, gender identity, feminism, body image, sexual health (physical+emotional), porn, and also where to go for answers to questions as they arise, and whatever point in your lifetime they arise.

Without digging too deep, I think that’s really the takeaway from this week: where to go for answers to questions as they arise.

By thoughtfully and explicitly creating a safe space for kids to ask honest questions without judgement, we learned a lot about ourselves, the capabilities of this school, and about the students. They are deeply and critically thinking, curious people. And they have lots of questions.

The one thing that I kept thinking about and trying to emphasize with Blue and with everyone, all week, was that sex is a topic that we as an American culture have been taught not to talk about. If we’ve been taught not to talk about it, and have a question about it, sometimes it’s confusing where or how we can safely find an answer. The last thing that I would want for any of these students (or for anyone) is to go searching for the answer in the wrong place or to find the wrong answer. This week was about creating a space where it was okay to ask, and where we weren’t going to lead them down a wrong path.

In fact, we also demonstrated that sometimes the answers to certain questions are different for different people. And that’s okay too. We don’t all look the same. We don’t all think the same. And in relationships, that’s tricky. Half the battle is recognizing those differences, and the other half is making sure that you’re taking care of yourself while considering the safety and feelings of others.

And with that, I think that Upper School did a great job at teaching sex ed.

Orange Band: Human, Week 7

I was so glad to have everyone back this week–we missed you Tesla and Emilio!

At Pace Art + Technology on Thursday. Thank you to our parent volunteers, it was a great day!

At Pace Art + Technology on Thursday. Thank you to our parent volunteers, it was a great day!

We started the week with some baking, then wrapped up our Lower School book Clubs with a tea party Tuesday morning and our Wednesday afternoon journal entry, went to Pace Art on Thursday, then did another of Herve Tullet’s art workshops for children on Friday morning.

Monday morning, we got ready for our day in character on Tuesday. Kids thought about questions that others might have  for the humans that we read about in the biographies we read for our book club discussions. Kids were so excited to do this–some even copied their questions and answers onto notecards so they could practice.

Sadie's questions and answers about her biography, a book about Anne Frank.

Sadie’s questions and answers about her biography, a book about Anne Frank. She thought it must have been hard for Anne to say goodbye to all of her friends and family when she went into hiding.

Wowee, these kiddos really did it with their costumes! We had an Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, 2 Rosa Parks, a Martin Luther King, Jr., a Thomas Edison and an Amelia Earhart. There were leather jackets, wigs, stripes, glasses, colored hairspray, suit jackets, ties and face paint. On Monday afternoon we baked cookies and made finger sandwiches with ingredients that we got on a walk to Rainbow last Community Friday afternoon. Yum!

Isaac and Oscar scoop up handfuls of vegan snickerdoodle dough, then roll them in cinnamon sugar.

Isaac and Oscar scoop up handfuls of vegan snickerdoodle dough, then roll them in cinnamon sugar.

Tuesday morning tea party!

Ramses/Albert Einstein finishes up making a sign for the gluten free sandwiches.

Ramses/Albert Einstein finishes up making a sign for the gluten free sandwiches. Ramses asked that amazing question, “How can I help?” so many times this week!

And don't forget about Math Workshop! Isaac, Emilio and Oscar working on a centipede based on a repeating pattern we designed together during math workshop on Tuesday afternoon.

And don’t forget about Math Workshop! Isaac, Emilio and Oscar working on a centipede based on a repeating pattern we designed together during math workshop on Tuesday afternoon.

After a great morning at the garden on Wednesday, working on clearing pathway we started last week, we came back to school and wrote an entry in our journals about how we are similar and different from the historic humans we read about. I haven’t had a chance to read all of these entries, but I know we have some troublemakers, deep thinkers and adventurous kiddos here in the Orange Band.

And Thursday we went to Pace Art + Technology in Menlo Park to see the cool Living Digital Space exhibit. It was so fun! Here are just a few pictures, and make sure to check out the Red Band’s flickr to see more.

The exhibit is based on our interaction with physical space. Artists created digital art pieces that change based on your proximity. So, Oscar reached out toward this giant cube of LEDs to watch the wave of his hand effect move across the sculpture.

The exhibit is based on our interaction with physical space. Artists created digital art pieces that change based on your proximity. So, Oscar reached out toward this giant cube of LEDs to watch the wave of his hand move across the sculpture.

Reyahn paints flowers with his hands.

Reyahn paints flowers with his hands.

Sadie and Solin let the projection move across their bodies.

Sadie and Solin let the projection move across their bodies.

Friday morning, we tried another of Herve Tullet’s Art Workshops for Children, this time painting with music. I felt really prepared, with a piece of paper taped to the tables for each person, a playlist, and pallets of paint. Kiddos would move from one painting to the next, musical chairs-style, with the music, painting based on what they heard and felt. The best laid plans though…

After reiterating that each kiddo should add on to the previous artists’ work when they arrived at a painting, we ended up with a couple finished paintings that truly represent the work of each Orange Bander. Better luck next time!

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Saw some interesting uses of the paintbrushes during this workshop! Here, you can see that a few students used the handles to scrape away paint and reveal the colors underneath as a way to add to this painting that had been covered by another student with just one color.

And in this painting, you can see the swirls, dots, layers and scratches of each artist--the goal!

And in this painting, you can see the swirls, dots, layers and scratches of each artist–the goal : )

Blue: Systems and Stereotypes

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This first week back from spring break and last official week of Exploration, Blue dove deep into thinking about systems and stereotypes.

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On Monday and Tuesday, we had a visiting Teaching Artist from Southern Exposure Gallery, Claire Rabkin.

Backstory/Gesture to the Near Future
Robby Herbst is an artist who makes art about games. Over the next few months, Southern Exposure will be hosting a few events that feature his work and also place him in conversation with other Bay Area artists and critical theorists. Claire is working with area students respond to Robby’s games by hosting workshops where we play the games and then create our own. The material generated from the workshops will also be in a youth exhibition at the gallery.

What?! This is such an awesome opportunity for the students Brightworks! I connected Claire with Blue, and some amazingness happened.

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To get warmed up, we played one of Robby’s games called Grabster. Grabster is a lot like Twister (it uses the same game board), but with two exceptions. The game board is cut into pieces, and each of the colors have a civil right inspired label on them: free speech, safety, jobs, education.

The game also starts a lot like Twister, except some of the rules are ambiguous. Can we move the pieces? Sure. Can we prevent other people from touching the pieces? Sure. Can we form alliances and make enemies? Sure.

During the first few minutes of the game, craziness ensued! Folks ran off with the game board, and on the chaos of the barrel-ridden cork floor, kids were barricading themselves off, chasing one another, and also tucking the game board in their pockets. After this initial explosion, it became evident that the game was less fun than originally thought. Once a pod of people had at least one of each color game piece, the interaction was basically over. No one cared anymore if everyone had access to all four colors.

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After much critical discussion of what made the game fun and not fun, we used Robby’s formula to make our own games: Find a system in society that has distinct rules, and then use those rules to create a board game of our own.

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In true Brightworks fashion, this prompt that was supposed to fill two afternoons turned into a week-long exploration of board game prototypes. The Blue Band split into three groups and each group developed a wildly different game. They are still working on their projects, and I’m excited to share that the materials will be hung in the gallery at Southern Exposure. (More info to come as we get closer.)

Meanwhile, have I mentioned this is the end of the Exploration phase?

(Declarations. Human Arc Projects. Elaborate Flowcharts.) While thinking about games, Blue is also deep in brainstorming…

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…to be continued.

Orange Band: Human, Week 6

And we’re back–almost all of us at least!

Our field of flowers!

Our field of flowers!

This week’s highlights were a workshop with Claire Rabkin, a guest artist-educator from Southern Exposure, a group mural project, and brainstorming project ideas.

A few weeks ago, Amanda Simons let me know that an artist with SoEx is leading workshops with mostly middle-school-aged kids based on the work of the artist Robby Herbst. Herbst’s work has to do with rules and systems, and uses kids’ understanding of games as an entry point to encourage them to notice the rules and systems that govern the world around us. She and I met with Claire, and put our workshop on the calendar.

Claire modified her workshop to work with the Orange Banders’ developmental level and it was so great! First, we thought about Rules and Play, and made drawings describing what these two ideas mean to us. After drawing, we noticed lots of words on the Rules side, and lots of playgrounds on the Play side–even though the Rules side drawings often described games!

Gita, Sadie and Ramses work on drawings on the 'Rules' side of the paper. In a few weeks, our doodles and game will become a part of an exhibit at Southern Exposure! Details to come!

Gita, Sadie and Ramses work on drawings on the ‘Rules’ side of the paper. In a few weeks, our doodles and game will become a part of an exhibit at Southern Exposure! Details to come!

Then, Claire led the kiddos through a game developed by Herbst called Grabster. Grabster is a lot like Twister, but each colored circle has a word on it describing a type of resource we think everyone should have access to (education, , , ) and the circles are loose, not connected together on one mat. So, when you’re playing, you can grab, steal and hoard the dots in order to have them available when that color is spun. This play is intended to give kids’ an emerging understanding of what it’s like when resources are hoarded and not accessible to all, when the rules we think we all play by are broken by a few.

Finally, we brainstormed a system from our daily life and the rules that govern this system: our food system, what to do when someone gets sick, morning routines, just to name a few. The kiddos decided to play a game based on getting sick–it was hilarious!

Ramses had an allergic reaction to some tomatoes, so he went to the pharmacy to get some benadryl--in the game we created about getting sick that is!

Ramses had an allergic reaction to some tomatoes, so he went to the pharmacy to get some benadryl–in the game we created about getting sick that is!

In a few weeks, Claire will assemble all of the student work from workshops she’s led around the Bay Area and exhibit them at Southern Exposure. Details to come!

For spring break last week, I went to New York to visit friends and family. While I was there, I got a really cool book on leading art workshops with children by the artist Herve Tullet. I really like the structure of these workshops because the emphasize artistic elements like color, shape and line over technique and figure. What’s more, kiddos mostly create together, whether working on one large mural, or each contributing to smaller pieces in musical chairs style movement. On Friday, we worked together on a mural called ‘Field of Flowers.’ To create an abstract, full mural with depth of field, we just drew circles and dots, and we used oil pastels for their rich and solid colors. We moved around a lot, and took breaks to stand up and look at our work to see where we needed to add shapes and colors. We added on to others circles and dots, and waited until the very end to add stems. On the DL, another student MIGHT decide to use our mural as the background for a mural project she’s been working on!

Sadie stands up to get a better look at our mural, and see where we need to add color and shape.

Sadie stands up to get a better look at our mural, and see where we need to add color and shape.

Oh, and we brainstormed all of these project ideas! We can’t wait to hear Emilio and Tesla’s ideas when they get back too though.

The beginning of a expression project brainstorm. Note: 3D bodies using our packing tape sculptures!!!

The beginning of a expression project brainstorm. Note: 3D bodies using our packing tape sculptures!!!