Beehive Beginnings

Hello Everyone and welcome to the first Red Band blog of the year! You did it, you’re here. We’ve made it through our first two weeks of school and are chugging right along. We have welcomed a new set of collaborators to the #brightworksbeehive, the Red Band! Other characters include, the Yellow Band (last year’s Red minus Quinn *side note* we all miss you), Piper, Nathan, and me, Nicole. Before we dive into our year of connections, beginning with coin, I thought I’d share a bit about how we ended up here and what’s going on.

#brightworksbeehive crew

This summer I became a certified yoga and wellness teacher and am over the moon to share these practices with our community. One of my favorite moments was watching my team, The Shining Conquerors, help each other do a head stand, it was amazing! I also attended the elementary training of Responsive Classroom with Nathan, Mary Catherine, Melissa, and Rachel. My favorite moment here was our last day when we all shared what we thought Responsive Classroom was before we came and what we think it is now that we’ve completed our week. I was happy to hear that I was not the only one who really just wasn’t sure what kind of magic it held and again, am pumped to bring a new set of tools to the Brightworks family.

All of this summer excitement had me dreaming up big dreams and with the support of our wonderful Beehive and Shop crews (and my nieces too) the courtyard and library each got a bit of fairy dust for us all to enjoy. Now back to the beginning, a day in the life.

Teaching and learning to play Wild Craft

The bees of the Hive are getting to know each other, watching and talking to one another, asking for reminders of names, and help with what is happening, where to go, and how to do it. This is amazing because this is my job and Nathan’s job, and Piper’s job. Our days begin with a morning meeting: a greeting- a hello by saying your name or someone else’s, a share- like your favorite lunch, an activity: we’ve been learning different ways to breathe, and a message: “Happy Friday Red! It’s breakfast for lunch in the Orchard today and Orange will be stopping by before park.”

snack time, the second most important meal of the day

Snack is next and so important, we get to eat together and talk about our food, our interests, and what’s on our minds. After we have center time and using Responsive Classroom practices we are interactive modeling each material: how to use it and how to put it away. The kids rotate through three activities each morning then head out for park with Nathan, Daniel, Kimberly, and the Blue Band. We’re all eating lunch together in the Hive this year too.

Piper reads, One, before our group agreements meeting

We ease into our afternoons with some quiet time, AKA I just ate and need to lie down for a moment while I listen to a story. Then we’ve had choice time. Here you’re likely to see past centers pop up allowing the kids to really dig in to their morning explorations or flutter from place to place. The most dramatic and grande reveal so far has been the library and while we are still learning how to pace ourselves at school we spent our last four afternoons cuddled up in the pillows, couches, and chairs. Then it’s time to say goodbye for the day and get ready to do it again.

Friday afternoon Elephant and Piggie time

Our first two weeks also helped us discover our group agreements for the year based on our hopes and dreams, the steps we need to reach those goals, and ways to support each other until we reached: 1) stick together, 2) make a plan, 3) listen and take turns, and 4) be safe. These all-encompassing agreements will help guide us throughout the year

Be sure to follow along with our adventures here on the blog and on Instagram with @bwpma, @bwx_nathan, and bwx_nicole for all things #brightworksbeehive and #sfbrightworks.

Symbols of Value

Amber Band out on a mural walk in the neighborhood.

This year we’ll be taking a closer look at how we’re all connected—by coin, cloth, and city. To kick the year off with coin, we’re considering what we value most. The band began by discussing our hopes and dreams for the year. We then considered what agreements we might need in place to help us achieve those hopes and dreams, and organized those agreements into categories. The final iteration of the agreement synthesized their ideas into a concise, affirmative, and important list to guide our work together.

The band broke into two groups to brainstorm agreements to support our hopes and dreams for the year.

We decided to publish the agreement in the form of a mural. This got us thinking about our environment around the school, and how murals around our city impact their environments. We made close observations of the murals around the neighborhood, and used those obsesrvations to define the criteria and constraints for our mural. The band calculated the surface area of the wall where we planned to have the mural displayed, and used conversion techniques to determine how many gallons of paint would be needed to cover the square footage of the wall.

An expert muralist visited the band to share feedback on designs.

Once our plan was under way we started translating our agreement into symbols. The neighborhood is full of murals by artist Sirron Norris, and we got the chance to talk with him about his mural process. “This is hard work!” Sirron reviewed our group agreement, and shared with us how it was going to be difficult to think metaphorically about such big concepts as “try to learn, treat others the way that they want to be treated, and respect materials”. After a few rounds of brainstorming symbols, the group had narrowed it down to three main concepts. 

The kids made quick impulse drawings in response to the main ideas we distilled down from our larger agreement list.

We explored symbols further by getting out around the city to make observations of symbols of value. We went on a scavenger hunt around the Financial District first to record symbols, and assigned a value to each. We then went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to look at the ways artists use symbols to assign value. Students sat with one work of art that symbolized something of high value to them. Many were mesmerized by the piece Clinamen by the artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot because they felt that it provided a quiet and calming space, something the group all really valued.

Huxley made rubbings of symbols we found around the Financial District.

Reggie found a plaque in the Financial District of William Leidesdorff, a West Indian immigrant of African Cuban and San Francisco’s first city treasurer.

 

Back at Brightworks, the band worked together to come up with a consistent color palette before they jumped in to start painting. This sparked conversations around identifying patterns in symbols. Researcher and educator, Jo Boaler, has found that brain pathways light up when we visualize with numbers, and shares new research that shows how when we’re thinking of numbers as symbols and visualizing those numbers, we make new brain pathways. We practiced working with math examples through a color coding system.

After many iterations and collaborative sketches, the group voted on their favorite design for the final mural. Felix’s sketch distilled all of our ideas down to focusing on respect for self, others, and our environment.

The band projected Felix’s drawing onto our wood panels to trace for the final mural.

 

We worked with a limited color palette to unify our design.

Once we started painting, the mural started coming to life!

This week we’ll continue to discuss our personal definitions for value, and exploring what it means to be rich. We hope to have the mural complete after a few more finishing touches to add detail. The mural will go up as a symbol of the agreement we made as a band to respect ourselves, each other, and our environment. This theme of respect will stay with us throughout the work we do together as we tackle epic projects and go on awesome adventures.

Yellow Band: Coin, Weeks 1&2

Welcome back everyone! We’ve had a wonderful first few weeks in the Beehive. It’s been so much fun to see all of our returning Red Banders (now in Yellow!) and welcome our newest members of the Brightworks family into the Red Band.

Calvin, Abir, Sylvester and Kit stay cool by playing in the water table in the courtyard of the Beehive.

I know this is going to sound out of character, but things have been moving super s-l-o-w. Nathan, Nicole and I have carefully and intentionally introduced routines, norms and materials in order to teach these kiddos simply how to be here at school with us. Things that I might otherwise squeeze into the first two weeks, we’ve spread way out. This way, we have plenty of time to practice each skill as we add them and revisit materials frequently before moving on.

Pattern blocks are one of our favorite materials! We’ve been exploring some of the many possibilities of these blocks in our morning centers. Here Sylvester shows the vertical structure he tried to build using the blocks.

And Abir wrote his name with cuisenaire rods! I love how he replaced a few blocks with equivalents made up of a few blocks. That skill will come in handy later!

May is painting! We’re hoping to have a whole lot more painting this year!

At the beginning of this week, we started to get out some of our favorite board games. Here, Khalilah and Calvin face off in chess. Great job you two!

We’re also just getting to know each other! Dash and Isis take some calls at lunch.

Over the summer, Nathan and Nicole attended a workshop on the Responsive Classroom model for social and emotional learning in elementary classrooms. I used this model in my previous school. so it’s been great to work alongside them to make our classroom more cohesive in our approach to the flow of our day, how we introduce new materials, and how we handle misbehavior. We start our days with morning meeting, then move to centers. After park and lunch, each band usually reads a book together at quiet time. Then, our afternoons are choice time. Instead of moving through timed centers, Red and Yellow banders can go deeper into an activity they explored in the morning.

We also tried coin rubbing. Sylvester shows a coin that came out particularly well.

We also introduced a coin counting and trading game that we’re calling ‘Funny Money.’ Roll the dice, and collect the number of pennies indicated. Trade for more valuable coins if you want! Try to make it to a dollar! Here, Dash checks the dice, and records his roll.

Oh! And we went on our first field trip! Since it’s the Coin arc and Daiso is only 3 blocks away, I decided I should let these lucky kiddos choose their own school supplies. I went in advance to scout out the options and prices, and decided on a budget of $6 for each kiddo to choose: 1 journal with lines, 1 journal with blank pages or grid, one pencil bag, and a pencil sharpener (if you can find it). This trip was such a blast! I would definitely do this again, why not?

Ronin searches for the perfect pencil bag.

We found the cat stuff!

May hunts for the perfect last thing.

Abir the bargain hunter was able to get a pencil sharpener and a set of push pencils in addition to his notebooks and pencil bag!

The next morning, we used pattern blocks to help us add up the prices of our items (and see if we all were able to stay within our budget!).

Finally, we finished up this week with a dance party, because why not?!

2017-09-14 15.14.13

Our Year of Connections, Beginning with Coin

This year we want to dive deeper into what it is we really want to know and to do that, we need to ask questions and seek answers. As a way to begin this journey of questioning, instead of brainstorming ideas around “coin,” we brainstormed the specific questions we are interested in answering. Three full chart papers later, there are still questions not written down here that fill their journals from their personal brainstorms.

The Teal Band is an experienced crew in the shop, even our new additions are experienced thanks to Tinkering experience. While it is important to have a refresher orientation in the shop every year, this experienced crew was ready to take on shop orientation 2.0, the next steps, with Brendon, Gever and Evan.

We received a lesson from Gever on precision cutting on the chop saw. The word of the week at Brightworks is “kerf.” Kerf, the groove or slit created by cutting a workpiece; the width of the groove made while cutting. We now understand the importance of the placement of the blade to our measurement to get proper dimensions. 

Evan spent time sharing new ways to more strongly and cleanly screw together two pieces of wood. These ways of joining wood will take this year’s projects to new levels and I expect to see a lot more countersunk screws.

How can you cut out a path or a complex interior shape on the band saw? With Brendon’s support, we learned ways to explore interior angles that allowed us to get into tight corners. Geometry continues to play a huge part of our experiences in the shop.

Shop orientation 2.0 included cutting mazes on the bandsaw. It’s certainly not as easy as you’d like it to be.

To launch into our reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, we listed off what we know or think we know about Native Americans and middle schoolers, two things that speak to the main character Junior. Throughout our reading of the book, we will continue to look at Junior’s experiences as a Native American from a Reservation going to a “white school” off the rez, and how he values his experiences, his culture, and those in his life.

Along with reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, we are listening to the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. This is Cami’s story of how giving transformed her life when she felt she had nothing left to give due to her illness. The Teal Band will be spending a lot of time this arc looking at the ideas of value and personal currency. Along with listening to the book, the Teal Band is also taking on the challenge of giving 29 Gifts in 29 days and we invite you to join us.

 

Smooth sailing from here on out

Our intrepid sailors have forged on in the unfamiliar seas of the Atlantic Ocean. After avoiding the tsunami outside of Haiti, we set a course towards Puerto Rico, lucky us. During this time the Red band started an investigation on whales. Beginning with the largest species, the blue whale, we studied its statistics then looked to Jeff Corwin to help us understand the human relationship being forged with these animals to better understand them and protect them. While reading about Humphrey the Lost Whale we learned about the migratory patterns of whales and the human impact of noise pollution that can interfere with their journey, or in Humphrey’s case help save them. Our quest to conquer the seas continued as we set sail through the Bermuda triangle, everyone can go ahead and exhale, we made it through unscathed all the way to Georgia.

Calvin guides us through the Bermuda Triangle

During this time, our projects were being fueled by our collective desires to pretend we were at sea with our tugboat and crow’s nest builds. I do not want to spoil the surprise too much for you so I will share that the crow’s nest has been tested and is being reinforced and there is at least one skipper on the tugboat each day. Our hard work got a midway boost when we took a trip over the bridge to Spaulding Boatworks. On this misty morning we made our way over to the marina for a tour of the facilities, tools, and Freda, the oldest wooden sailing boat on the west coast.

All hands on deck aboard Freda at Spaulding Boatworks

 

Following last year’s sex-ed success, the whole school geared up for another round this year. Humans happen to be my most favorite creatures and the topics covered in the Red Band are essential to all humans. We reached from the parts of the body to how bodies are made, feelings and emotions, senses, and relationships.

Red watches Just Breathe

One of the most wonderful abilities bestowed a collaborator is magic-maker. During one of our last goal setting sessions, the Red Band shared they wanted to return to the aquarium so ta-da with some parent-magic off we went to the Cal Academy to visit all of our favorite friends: the penguins, the octopus, seahorses, all the Nemos and Dorys, and urchins and starfish.

Nemo, Dory, Nemo, Dory

All of this excitement carried us through the completion of our tugboat, crow’s nest, finishing touches to the constellation, and the Hive flag. This was a wild ride. We marked the Hive’s first year in the books and was celebrated with the beginnings of tradition as we headed to Stow Lake for the second year to celebrate our hard work. Thank you to everyone and anyone who stopped by to see what we were up to, who came to work with the kids, who said a hello, and made new friends.

Kindness and love hugs.

See you next year!