Building, flying, graphing, constructing, eating

These last two weeks have seen iterations two and three of our tetrahedral kite. After reflecting on kite one, the Teal Band knew they needed to solve the problems caused by so many string connections which loosened during flight, as well as address the time factor it took to construct the kite. After some hands-on exploration of the materials and online research, it was discovered that the string could be eliminated completely by simply inserting one end of the straw into the end of another, three times over, and closing off the shape to create a triangle. With the time spent studying tetrahedrons, the band quickly saw ways to create one tetrahedron using only two triangles and building off of others to create the other two faces. This method cut down on construction time greatly, allowing them to build a kite in about one day instead of three.

Selina spent a lot of time building and exploring our new tetrahedral structure.

Another issue that arose with the initial kite was how delicate the tissue paper was. The band wanted to improve on its performance and after some research, which also included trying out mylar, they settled on Tyvek. The Tyvek was found to be an incredibly sturdy material and was quite easy to affix to the kite’s straw structure.

Tyvek proved to be a much stronger material than the original tissue paper.

Iteration #2 saw a move from tissue paper to Tyvek in order to improve on the strength of the materials.

Unfortunately, the afternoon we chose to fly our second iteration up on Bernal Hill, the wind was incredibly strong and it wreaked havoc on our kite. The amazing thing was that it continued to fly even after the straws began to pull apart from one another. While it initially felt like a failure, a reflection on the kite’s construction, materials, and flight brought to light the successes and next steps.

Kite #2 after attempting to fly it on an incredibly windy afternoon on Bernal Hill.

Kite #2 after attempting to fly it on an incredibly windy afternoon on Bernal Hill.

The band decided to keep the basic design and construction methods the same for the third iteration, which included two kites. The biggest overall change that was made included taping the straws together at their connection points. Huxley was incredibly interested in seeing how the scale of the tetrahedron also played into its stability. This is how the second kite came to be. The straws were cut shorter, creating smaller tetrahedral structures. The band also decided to use mylar from emergency blankets to create the sails for this kite and continued to use Tyvek on the other, larger kite. Jared and Huxley were luckily able to salvage a fair amount of Tyvek from the second kite to use on the third.

Two different materials were used for the third iteration of the kites. The larger kite still used Tyvek, while the smaller kite used mylar.

With the completion of our two third iteration kites, we took them to Ocean Beach in hopes of finding a good ocean breeze to send them soaring. Our sunny San Francisco October days certainly seem to have it out for us now. There was zero wind. The band made multiple attempts to get them off the ground, racing up and down the beach. Neither of them made it very far into the air, but the movements they did make give us hope for a successful future flight.

Aurora and Selina put the finishing touches on the smaller kite at Ocean Beach. Bamboo rods helped keep the kite’s structure.

Jared and his mom worked as a team to try and get the larger kite to fly. Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t on our side and with no wind, it didn’t fly.

When we weren’t building our kites or attempting to fly them, we were “playing” with paper airplanes. The Teal Band experimented with a number of designs and eventually found “The Moth” to be a stable and sturdy plane. Once the planes were built, we discussed multiple ways we could test their flight and measure particular outcomes. We measured distances flow, heights thrown from, length of flight time, wing surface area, and multiple other constants and variables. After selecting a constant and a variable, the data was measured and recorded in a table, then transferred to a graph. One observation that really stood out to the band, was how much thrust (how hard the “pilot” threw the plane) played a part in the plane’s flight path and distance flown.

Working with paper airplanes allowed us to look at the forces of flight, along with controlled experiments and graphing.

Working with paper airplanes allowed us to look at the forces of flight, along with controlled experiments and graphing.

Charts and graphs were created using the data collected from the planes’ flights.

The redesign of the bridge between the Teal bandspace and the library has moved into its construction phase. Once it was decided that the bridge needed to incorporate some storage space, the band worked to design a shelving system that will eventually hold their “favorite books.” Observing Amanda’s shelf she built for the shop provided inspiration, leading to construction drawings, measurements and cut lists. Using all their building skills, the Teal Band was able to cut all 2x3s for the shelf and begin carefully assembling it so that it is completely square.

The first steps in constructing the bridge wall included sketching out a shelving system. Amanda’s shelf served as inspiration, though it didn’t come with instructions.

All the proper tools were used to make sure the shelving components would be nice and square.

Anyone who puts in this much work deserves something special. For that reason, after attempting to fly their kites at Ocean Beach, the Teal Band got to have tostadas at my house. They were definitely enjoyed. Who knew a band of 10 and 11 year olds could go through a jar of jalapeños? I do now.

Our special experience for the week included tostadas at my house after our morning trip to the beach.

 

All Abuzz in the Orange Band

 

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Orange Band field trips around the SF Bay offered countless reminders and inspiration to DO

The past weeks in the Orange Band have been filled with adventures out in our communities, as well as  journeys inward. Students have taken trips, small and large, examine what it means to work, explore, and know each other as learners and individuals. The time has flown by as we continued our community building, workshop building, and dives into the smaller things that move by air!

 

Our Communal Table

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Time and again, the table continues to be a project that requires the assistance of many – it is certainly NOT a job for one. Charlotte works on a support beam with the help of Justin and Lucy.

Orange Band’s workshop build has focused on the communal table, now in its final stages. With thoughtful determination and focus, students have added onto and strengthened our frame, as well as continued to work through with great perseverance on the trickier aspects of the plan. Often, this meant a day’s work in the shop resulted in simply realigning one particular beam. Even more often, the movable leg extension prototype or plan could not be used and it was back to the drawing board…again…for the third or fourth time! At times, it seemed as though the work was infinitesimal – or even nonexistent. And yet,  in attending to the small detail of a misplaced screw, or another iteration of the leg extension, students were also practicing and honing that critical skill of grit. As psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth writes in her book Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, “grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.” In the Orange Band, despite setbacks and frustrations, students have continued to work on our communal table with as much love as they had when they began in September.

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Checking and rechecking measurements – Is the table true? Do the supports address the needs of the table?

 

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Lucy’s carefully measured and cut framing pieces (above) for the movable tabletop can only be put into place with the help of her band members. Jeevan, Roman, and Justin lend hands and clamps.

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Complicated plans call for complicated tool rigging! Charlotte and Phoebe work with Evan to construct a drill that can do that job.

 

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Will THIS iteration of the movable leg extension be the one that works? Phoebe and Charlotte can only try it out and see if it works!

 

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Cut and measured – the tabletop needed only a few (or four) adjustments before it fit.

 

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With a table top cut and measured, the blackboard finish can finally be applied. Nora adds her mark before it gets covered completely.

Geometry Explorations

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This arc, the math focus continued to be on making sense of geometry and the math hidden in triangles, quadrilaterals, and pentagons. Orange Band students kept hands on the manipulatives as they sussed out the secrets of polygons. The prevalence of pattern blocks in the band space should not discredit the math being tackled! As Stanford professor Jo Boaler reminds us, “visual mathematics is an important part of mathematics for its own sake and new brain research tells us that visual mathematics even helps students learn numerical mathematics.” Using manipulatives can help make the more abstract mathematical properties concrete and within our grasp.

To this end, we have dug into the properties of polygons; created proofs to find the sums of interior angles; investigated the ways that shapes do – and don’t – create patterns; and used these conjectures and understandings to interrogate further what we know about geometry. 

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By using what we learn about one shape, say, a triangle, we can make new understandings about others, such as hexagons.

 

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Orange Band students test out how a variety of regular polygons tessellate, or cover a surface by repeating with no gaps or overlaps.

Charlotte found another regular polygon in her trapezoid tessellation - the hidden hexagons!

Charlotte found another regular polygon in her trapezoid tessellation – the hidden hexagons!

 

Justin's tessellation within his tessellation brought to mind the artwork of M.C. Escher.

Justin’s tessellation within his tessellation brought to mind the artwork of M.C. Escher.

 

The final tessellations: original, irregular designs of our own creation.

The final tessellations: original, irregular designs of our own creation.

 

The Smallest Among Us

The exploration of the movement of things by air is a daunting one. People have been fascinated with our own flight for thousands of years, tracing back from ancient mythology to not-so-distant plans for planetary colonization; technology has only heightened the speed, distance, and ease with which we travel by air. 

The Orange Band’s investigations into that which moves by air took on a much smaller scale than human travel. Students began to study a creature that rarely enters our frame of mind – unless one flies into our midst: bees! While people have been intricately intertwined with bees for centuries (the ancient Egyptians were beekeepers and honey devotees), only recently, we discovered, has the physics of bee flight – a clumsy and inefficient effort – been explained.

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Orange Banders try out what it feels like to BE the bee at the Oakland Museum of California exhibit, Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact.

As we began to think more deeply about bees, it became clear that people’s interest in the tiny insect was always connected to how bee populations – the decline of them, to be specific – affect us. After digesting this stark reminder of people’s less than altruistic nature when it comes to the natural world, Orange Band students took a look at the importance of a bee and the critical first twenty-one days of a bee’s life. With colonies collapsing worldwide due to parasites, pesticides, and climate change, the plight of the simple bee has far reaching repercussions. Our research led us to a citizen science project tracking yet another honey bee parasite, Apocephalus borealis: ZomBee Watch.

Jeevan and the ZomBee Watch crew constructed a zombee trap in the hopes of gathering infected bees.

Jeevan and the ZomBee Watch crew constructed a ZomBee light trap in the hopes of gathering infected bees.

The Communities Around Us

Koi gazing at the Oakland Museum of California.

Koi gazing at the Oakland Museum of California.

Part of our time together this arc has been spent exploring our surroundings – the immediate spaces and places we can walk to, as well as those at greater distances. Our forays in and out of the neighborhood serve to inform our understanding of how we relate to the world around us. Treks to the neighborhood community garden with the Blue Band offer a chance to take the same roads (a park at Park time somehow seems different from a park during the school day!) with new eyes – perhaps eyes that spy moss with a tardigrade lurking in it!

Blue and Orange bands took a small trip to go on a water bear hunt.

Blue and Orange bands took a small trip to go on a water bear hunt.

Our travels also give us a chance to see the breadth of our City, as we discovered on a recent trip to the Exploratorium. MUNI rides through San Francisco offer countless opportunities to see the people who live and work among us, as well as appreciate the special beauty of city landmarks peeking behind hills and around street corners. To say nothing of the fun and magic of museums like the Exploratorium, where we dove into the Sound and Light exhibits, as well as a jelly bean or two. 😉

How is it that water seems suspended in midair in this globe?

How is it that water seems suspended in midair in this globe?

Orange Band wielding control over nature: tornado making!

Orange Band wielding control over nature: tornado making!

When what we see doesn't match up with what we expect.

When what we see doesn’t match up with what we expect.

Throughout these explorations, Orange Band students also continue to delve into sharing more and more of each other. How is it that in only a few short weeks, we seem to know so much about one another? How are we already so apt at anticipating reactions and allies in our endeavors? New friendships and old have sprung up and strengthened through this arc. Often evidenced in the quiet moments of writing and reflection time, the bus rides across San Francisco, and, of course, Friday Personal Shares.

Nora shared her Minecraft mansion to a rapt Orange Band.

Nora shared her Minecraft mansion to a rapt Orange Band.

Charlotte and Phoebe are so often working together, comfortable in each other's company.

Charlotte and Phoebe are so often working together, comfortable in each other’s company.

Friday shares give Amiya a chance to bring in a passion of his for the band to admire.

Friday shares give Amiya a chance to bring in a passion of his for the band to admire.

Golf is a hobby of Roman's that he was eager to share with the band.

Golf is a hobby of Roman’s that he was eager to share with the band.

As we gear up for a gathering at the end of this first arc, it is a marvelous thing to reflect upon how far we have come together! With this unique group of individuals setting the foundation for the arcs to come, I know I can’t wait.

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Yellow Band: by Air, Week 4 & 5

There have been downs, but also ups…

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use--with a view!

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use–with a view!

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

The last few weeks, our skill building math and science work has built toward the launching of a weather balloon and payload, equipped with a camera set to film our trip to near space. This has been a huge undertaking, in collaboration with the Blue Band. Hence the radio silence.

First, we dropped eggs, trying to figure out how fragile an egg is, and developing strategies to record our data.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Then, we moved on to egg protection strategies, working up from dropping our eggs first at table height, and finally from the roof!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut a slit in the pool noodle from the inside, so that she could nestle the egg inside--cozy!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut the pool noodle into segments and then reassemble, so that she could nestle the egg inside–cozy!

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Devlin puts some finishing touches on his pentagonal prism, making sure to secure the egg in place with tape inside the box, his innovation for protecting the egg.

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Reyahn’s egg drop package gets dropped from the roof. And the egg made it!

All of this was to get a feel for how our package would drop to earth, and how we would protect the delicate technology inside. Our goal, after all, would be to take pictures on the earth from the stratosphere, and we didn’t want out camera to get smashed upon reentry!

This was a fun, silly and practical introduction to our project. Then, we moved on to some of the other challenges of our launch: figuring out how much our payload would weigh, calculating the volume of helium necessary to lift the payload and carry it far enough–but not too far, and planning for tracking down and retrieving the package, so that we could see the pictures we took. We decided that these three problems would make three teams. Blue would take on calculating the helium and constructing the payload, and Yellow would predict the path of the balloon, and plan for retrieval.

But first, Josh Myers (Calvin’s dad!) came in as an expert on high-altitude ballooning (HAB). Thank you SO MUCH Josh!

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

And we got to work! The Yellow Banders started small, first laying out our block, and comparing the distance across the block “as the crow flies” (aka the hypotenuse) and around, that a human would have to walk.

Sakira points out Charle's Chocolates on our map of our block.

Sakira points out Charle’s Chocolates on our map of our block.

While proving a relationship between the length of the two sides and the hypotenuse was super hard, we were able to make the connection to our flight: the “crow flies” distance, or hypotenuse, was a metaphor for the path our balloon would travel. The two sides of the block, that a human would walk, represented our driving distance to retrieve the balloon. And they would be very different.

Each morning, we worked with a map showing the predicted path of the balloon. Using the scale, Yellow Banders predicted about how far the balloon would travel. Then, they highlighted the roads we would travel on the map, and measured about how far we would travel.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

And then, the day arrived. We had prepared all we could prepare; it was time for the rubber to meet the road, as my mom would say. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the day. Please check out our Flickr to see more (and video too!).

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough--but not too far!

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough–but not too far!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun when hydrogen atoms collide!

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you would have thought so from Sadie's calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you wouldn’t have thought so from Sadie’s calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon--what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon–what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Tom Sachs Exhibit

The Ambigo Band has been curious about space travel, and so we took a trip to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to see Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Europa. We noticed how Tom Sachs combines seemingly unrelated objects in his work, and considered ways we might blend science and art in our own Mars habitat here at Brightworks. To share more about our project, and this inspiring trip, Oscar has volunteered to be our guest blogger for the week. Here’s what Oscar saw, and some connections he made to what we’ve been working on at Brightworks.

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Today was pretty fun (not actually today, by today I mean October 4th), Amber Band went to YBCA to see the Tom Sachs’ exhibit. When we got there Megan told us to find one piece of art that we really liked, and write how the artist (Tom Sachs) combined science with “silliness”.

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This is a picture of the art piece I wrote about. It is called Mission Control and it was made in 2007, here is the link to the site that I found this picture on. It is a picture of a panel of screens, all showing live feed from cameras in different places in the museum. I don’t really know why Tom Sachs made this, but I think that it’s really cool to see what people are doing regularly, and then what they do when they know that they are on camera. A lot of the art that Tom Sachs made was very strange and weird, so on the cameras you got to see how people reacted to the art. At Brightworks we are making a HAB (Habitat) kind of like the one in The Martian. One of the things Megan told us to write about was how the art we chose might have inspired us on a approach to building the HAB. I think that our mission control should look a bit like this, with a bunch of cameras showing live feed on what is happening in the HAB.

Indigo Student Post: Kaia


Last Friday was a celebratory end to our explorations on kites, from making, flying , and testing them to spending time on the finer details of designing them. Our exploration culminated in the hanging of the Ice Dragon Kite, a symbol of Indigo Band that represents each of us in the whole.

Drawing, painting, and finishing the kite took time and practice. We reviewed geometric principles of circles, triangles, angles, and kites. We reviewed how to correctly use a compass and read a protractor accurately. We applied these skills directly in designing geometric patterns to make up the body of the kite and in constructing the panels themselves. We also talked about the waste that was created when making a circle and other methods for being conservative with our materials.

Below is a blog post from Kaia explaining her process of designing and building her section of the dragon kite:

 

“Last week we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with my band (Indigo) and our neighboring band Amber, to practice our visual thinking strategies to help us with the following weeks. In the same week, we started exploring kites and experimenting making our own. That Friday, we went to Bernal Hill and tested them out.

Last week, we agreed that we should  make a decorative dragon kite. Each band (Indigo and Amber) would make there own dragon. In order to do so, we reviewed the basics in geometry, on the whiteboard and on Khan Academy. We practiced how to find the area, circumference, radius and diameter of a circle. We learned what formulas to plug your numbers into. For example to find the area of a circle, you square the radius then times it by pi. We will need to know this because the most important part of the dragon kite is its body, which is made up of cardboard circles. It is important to know how to calculate the area so that we know how much material we need and how much is being wasted. That was probably my favorite thing we did so far. I really enjoy getting a concept and being able to practice it without any mistakes, and being able to explain it well enough. It means I’ve learned it.

Back to the dragon kite, we are still in the process of of making the body, which involves making geometric shape design inside the circle that we each have so carefully made. To do this we are using protractors, compass and calculators. Earlier in the week we learned how to use these tools, and how to find the right angles for the shape you want to create. For example, if you wanted to make an nine sided shape (nonagon) you would first draw the radii of the shape, facing towards the top. Then you would divide the number of sides you want by 360, since we are working with a circle. What ever answer you get is the angle you want. You would get 40 in this case.

Next, you take the protractor and line it up with the line you drew at the beginning. Once you find the 40, mark it. Then draw a line from the mark to the middle using a ruler. Do the same thing but every time just line the protractor up with previous line you just made. After you got nine lines, connect them from the edge of the circle. Ta da! Nonagon!

In my design, I have two nonagons, one square and one triangle. I have them overlapping in different ways to make a cool design. Now all I have to do left is to make it pretty. On monday, we read this poem called “I Am From” by George Ella. It’s about where the writer was from, what his house looked like, his family, all starting with, I am from. We all rewrote this poem with our own stories. We are supposed to incorporate this into our dragon kite design, by drawing each thing from our poem in the spaces between the shapes.

One of the parts asked for two family members, and I put my two guinea pigs, Milou and Musli. They’re in the bottom right part of the square. It also asked for a plant that connects with you in some way. I chose a ginkgo tree because it used to be the tree that lived outside my old house. Lastly, it said to describe your house, and I put dark wood, because that’s the first thing you see when you walk in. There are many more but I’m not going to explain them all.


I think the most challenging part of this project was not getting confused with all of the numbers, shapes and angles. We did this exercise to make the ring to support the circle frame. You had to find the area of the circle, the ring, the smaller circle, the square and how much was being thrown away. All doing this by knowing these three numbers, the square was 12 by 12, the radii of the big circle had to be six and had to be one inch thick. This would have been easier IF, I had taken better notes. And didn’t get carried away with writing my peers names in cursive.


That being said, next time I will take my notes in a more orderly fashion and make it easier to read for the sake of my teacher (and me!). I think that will help with my thinking process and help me understand what I am doing, and hopefully help me become an improved learner.”


Following the creation of the panels, we spent the afternoons last week creating a head for the dragon, figured out how to hang it, and finishing up some minor details. It now hangs beautifully in front of our band space! Big thanks to Kaia for authoring a wonderfully detailed post.


Thanks for reading!

Phillip

 

 

Learner Engagement, Intrinsic Motivation & the Brightworks Homework Policy

Lets talk about homework, or in the case of Brightworks, lack of homework. img_0802

The case against homework first flared up in 1900, led by the Ladies Home Journal. Back then the magazine described homework as “A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents” and claimed that children were “permanently crippled” by the pressure of schooling and homework. It urged that children under the age of 15 should not be in school more than four hours per day and should not be assigned any “home study”.

Since then there have been many debates about the value of homework, as our schools became increasingly focused on standardized tests as measures of achievement. For instance, some studies indicate that homework in high school improves achievement on standardized tests.

Recently, a public school teacher in Texas sent a note home to families stating that she would not be assigning any homework this year. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/23/health/no-homework-letter-trnd/ Instead, she urges them to do the things that are proven to correlate with student success. “Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get to bed early.”

Which leads one to wonder – what is the measure of success if the outcomes are not quantifiable? img_0666

At Brightworks, we measure success by levels of engagement and interest. We measure success by improvement in critical thinking skills, ability to identify a problem and endeavor to solve it. We approach skills development as necessary to engage in our interests and higher order cognitive learning.

At Brightworks, what that teacher in Texas has just discovered is what we have known all along, that homework often keeps kids away from the things they need most to learn and grow: social engagement, trusting relationships, exercise, communing with nature, playing music, reading for pleasure and having down time.

One of our gurus on the topic of homework is Alfie Kohn http://www.alfiekohn.org/homework-myth/ , who writes extensively about intrinsic motivation and its role in learning. Kohn sums up the Brightworks homework philosophy best when he states, “The more one understands about learning, the less inclined one is to support homework. ” and “Homework persists in part because of adults’ distrust of children and how they’ll spend their time if given a choice.”img_1501.jpg

So, if we at Brightworks have a no homework policy, why do you so often see your children intellectually engaged and task oriented at home? They are reading the class novel assignment, on google hang outs with their classmates preparing a presentation or skypeing with an expert. They are calculating the distance to Mars, figuring out how to recreate a human skeleton out of recycled materials, writing a persuasive essay about why they want more field trips.

In short, the students at Brightworks are intellectually engaged in what interests them long past the six hours they spend on Bryant Street. No need for memorizing spelling words. Kids want to spell the words needed for that blog post or essay correctly, to get their point across. No rudimentary and rote math practice because they are practicing their math skills as a means to an end(how many straws are needed to get that tetrahedral kite to fly?) not as an end unto itself.

img_0599Since Brightworks families never have to ask , “Do you have homework?” or “Did you finish your homework?” I’ll close with a few replacement questions to find out what is engaging and of interest to your child at school.

  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  • Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  • What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  • Who made you smile today?
  • Which collaborator would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  • What challenged you today?
  • Did anyone push your buttons today?
  • Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
  • What did you do today that you are proud of?
  • What was your biggest challenge today?

(Questions gleaned from the world wide web)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Magenta Visit to the Hiller Aviation Museum

Field Trip Blog, Part II

Last Thursday, in the afternoon, the Magenta Band went to visit the Hiller Aviation Museum. We saw all of the museum exhibits and also completed an hour-long flight simulation program. Below are pictures from this part of the field trip and students’ descriptions of their afternoon experiences.

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From Max Mercier: Walking into the Hiller Aviation Museum, if you love planes, is like walking through the gates of heaven. There are full-size planes and scale models everywhere, and it’s suffocating in the best way possible. Helicopters, jetpacks, parts of airliners, stunt planes, drones, they have it all. But by far my favorite thing about the Hiller Aviation Museum are the simulators. Aside from their main educational simulator, they have a Boeing 777 simulator, which you use to attempt a landing at SFO. I sat down in the comfortable leather chair, put my hand on the throttle and grabbed the yoke. Immediately I noticed just how sensitive the 777-300 really is. Even touching the yoke too forcefully caused a noticeable change in heading. I rose up to a higher altitude, flew over downtown Millbrae, and got myself lined up for final approach. At this point, I had three people gathered around me, saying things like “You’re not gonna make it!” and “You’re too far left!” But I kept my going. I pulled back the throttle, brought the plane to an airspeed of 170 knots, lowered my flaps down to 30 degrees, and held it steady as the runway got closer and closer. I finally brought the throttle all the way down, lifted the nose up, and set my back wheels on the runway perfectly. It was at this point where I questioned if music is what I should be focusing on right now—that landing was not too shabby.

From Ian: It was a cloudy day, and we were rushed up the stairs onto the cold metal bleachers. The instructor waved his model airplane frantically about, describing the dangers of flight. He described his stories of past pilots who had crashed flying inverted and sharing the controls with friends. Abruptly he stopped the discussion to explain how you “can’t fly like James Bond.” Gripping the controls with both hands, he gave a demonstration wagging them back and forth with a smug look on his face. Then, gripping them with one hand and another hand over the throttle and mixture controls, he proclaimed: “This is the correct way to fly!” With this, the conversation was over, and we were instructed to grab “flying buddies.” I grabbed my comrade Aidan, and we were hustled over to the cockpits. Starting the flight, Aidan flew gracefully in the air but, lacking the speedy decision making of a real pilot, he handed the controls over to me. After a short time, we immediately descended into a dive with me at the controls. We flew inverted after a short time. We heard a rattle from the engine, and we were stalling. Drifting towards the ground, I pulled back and recovered gracefully.
The instructor then grounded the aircraft, exclaiming that he would “never fly with us at the wheel.” Aidan got out of his seat in a sluggish fashion, clearly angry about my flying technique. “Back to the bleachers!” the instructor yelled about how the plane had to be “one inch from the runway and the dashboard of the plane,” and no more than “70 knots.” Then we went back into the air. Now at a course to land at the runway, Aidan was not listening to the instructor and disobeying the 1-inch command. At a course faster than 70 knots, he started his landing not center on the line. He touched down, skipping the white line and careened toward the side of the runway. We changed seats, and I was instructed to land at the runway. With graceful maneuvers, I moved from side to side to meet the white line. As I touched down on the line and turned off the engine, my task was complete.
sFor a final time we met at the bleachers, the instructor describing what he called a “bonus ride.” This ride went past the Bay Bridge and over Alcatraz and then under the Golden Gate. The flight was short, and back on the ground, he giddily pronounced us real pilots.

From Max Mayman: As Cory stared out the cockpit, a single drop of sweat fell from his chin onto the yoke. The rumble of the Cessna 172 was loud in his ear along with the radio he held next to him. As I watched Cory, I became the commentator: “We now see Cory approaching the landing strip… We have seen a very overly aggressive approach to the previous landing strips in other tournaments, but, this being the finals, we have to see if he will still make this mistake.” In his head, he repeated “70-1,” “70-1.” This was the line that Cory’s instructor had told him before the flight. “You must stay at 70 mph at all times when approaching the landing strip, and you see one inch under the runway in order to land safely.” His instructor’s words echoed in his brain as he closed his eyes. Pushing the yoke down, Cory started to descend. The rumble of the plane shook the insides of the plane around. Cory lowered his speed as the Cessna’s wheels touched the ground. He did it! In celebrations, Cory put on the throttle and started doing doughnuts. This was a monumental day for Cory.

From Cassandra: At the Hiller Aviation Museum, there are models of some of the Wright Brothers’ planes. One of these planes, built of white cloth and wood like the original, sits directly above the entrance hall. Inside there are mostly younger planes, along with a few old gliders. But next to a model flown by a motorcycle racer just a few years after the Wright Brothers, there’s an alcove with three televisions and an airplane simulator. There are no modern controllers, just two sticks attached to a black box. It was, after all, the world’s first airplane. The plane started out in the air over an unrecognizable city, farther up than the real version ever went. As I flew over skyscrapers and CGI landscapes, a few things were obvious about this early airplane. Seeing something in the distance, to my left, I tried to turn the plane towards it. To my surprise, the plane barely moved. On my second try, the plane moved far enough for the plane to be on my right, and almost tipped over. I S-curved over to the tower, failingly attempting to get towards it. I missed by over a mile, but right in front of me I saw something blue. I did not know what it was, and I still do not. The blue building, low and flat just over the hill, seemed far more interesting than the bland buildings behind me. It was only then that I realized that I was falling. At first, I had been high over the tops of the buildings, but when I skirted past the tower I was half way down. There simply wasn’t enough altitude to get over that hill, and see whatever CGI creation waited in that blue building. I attempted to pull up, before releasing the final failure of the world’s first airplane. It could not fly up. I crashed into a tree, and the simulation reset.

From Josh: After exploring the Hiller Aviation Museum, as a group we were led into the Restoration Shop part of the building. Imagine a workshop with pieces of wood and metal, some in the shape of airplane wings and tails, and some just in long sheets; saws of all sorts standing around in parts of the large, but cramped space; filing cabinets with small metal nuts, bolts, screws and nails along with others that I have yet to know the name of. Milling around or a few 50-60-year-old guys, conversing about planes and enjoying themselves to their heart’s content while rebuilding and restoring planes.

From Justin: This Thursday we went to the Hiller Aviation Museum. At the Hiller Aviation Museum, we got to experience a flight simulator. We went through an introduction to flying planes, then got to fly them ourselves. My partner Ally challenged me to do flips in the plane. I accepted the challenge and pushed the right rudder and moved the wheel to the right and started the spin. The plane started to spiral downwards; then, as I got close to the water, I stepped off the rudder. I skimmed across the water and straightened the plane out. Ally attempted to spin twice and crashed both times. This was the best part of the Hiller Aviation Museum for me.

From Malia: Ever wanted to run around in a plane without being handcuffed by the flight attendants? Ever wanted to see what the cockpit of an airplane was like in the 70s? When walking into the Boeing 747-100, I saw empty seats with out of date blue red and white stripes. The seats were much bigger with more cushioning than the slim ones there are now. There were only four seats per row, unlike the packed planes trying to fit as many seats in one row as possible. The exhibit is only the front of the plane, so this could be due to first class. The personal screens on every seat back were nonexistent.

From Cory: Yesterday we went on a field trip. I love obvious sentences. The field trip was really fun. Did I mention that I love obvious sentences? All memes aside, it really was a quite enjoyable and educational experience. The part that made the biggest impression on me was when we arrived at the Hiller Aviation Museum. The museum had all sorts of really awesome exhibits, and we even did a really cool flight simulation program, so I’m pretty much an expert pilot at this point. Feel free to hire me. The coolest thing at the museum in my opinion was a huge screen that had Google Earth showing on it. It had the whole Earth globe, and you could use this controller to fly around and zoom in on places. I found the United States on the world globe, and zoomed in until I found San Francisco. From there I was able to find Redwood City, where I live, and I was able to spot Sequoia High School by looking for their sports field. I pass by that school on my bike route every morning, so I was able to trace the roads back to my house. It was really amazing, being able to zoom in and see my house, and my backyard, and my patio and chicken coop, and know that I got there just by zooming in from space. So this means that if I was flying around in space, I could find my house without too much trouble. I think that’s pretty crazy. Not just pretty crazy. That’s amazing! The whole trip was really awesome, and I learned a lot from the wind tunnel and Hiller as well.

Next field trip: Ropes Course next Monday!