The bridge – which I didn’t know was possible, even after looking at the designs and hearing the engineering discussions and examining the math that the oldest band did during this arc – is up! It’s sturdy enough to support weight and there are only a few gaps that need filling on the stairs. The band will be giving a presentation on their project in the morning to tell us all about their process, struggles, and triumphs.
On Friday, we closed the school because of a water shut down, but instead of calling it a day, we called it an Exploratorium adventure! We met the kids down at the Embarcadero to visit our friends at the Exploratorium’s new location. A foggy morning outside, a crowded museum filled with kids from the city, and explorations abounded. The day became sunny and the kids didn’t lose any energy even after lunch, and we all left happy and contented, our minds buzzing with the possibilities of returning for more in-depth study.
I asked the staff members who were there to tell me their favorite parts of the day – see below!
Phillip said, “My favorite part of the Exploratorium was watching the kids’ curiosities come alive. We’ve been working so hard on a project that is past it’s inquisitive stages that it was a great time for us to relax and learn by observation and interactions. My personal favorite experiment was the double mirror that combined my face and Christie’s face. So weird!”
Shawna reports that the Hummingbirds had a circle conversation about the Exploratorium this morning. Largo said, “I was surprised at how many creatures there were. The old one didn’t have as many creatures. I was watching all the water creatures and the rats. There was a crate of mosquitoes. I put my hand in to test if the mosquitoes like the scent.”
Lucy said, “There was a video screen of these people saying “yes, no, maybe, this one guy was annoying because he kept saying ‘I don’t know.’ Aurora and I kept asking them so many questions.
“We liked the girl the best! she had better responses,” Aurora reported.
Shawna said, “My personal favorite was when Lucy, Aurora, and I spent probably 30 minutes under the pinboard, side by side looking up and making flashy designs with our fingers and hands. The girls did all sorts of different tests with each other and they became determined to find and then pull down a stuck pin they could see from the top. Also it was a very “Reggio” experience – letting the kids lead, being in super small groups and sharing a intimate experience where the adults’ role truly was to observe, help scaffold when the time was right, and wonder and marvel alongside the children.”
Josh said, “My favorite part was Ramses’ commitment to a polite cinema. SHHHHH! Also, there was a beautiful fluctuation between learning alone and exploring the nuance of an exhibit (nearly an hour spent at a single exhibit), and the love of learning in a social environment and sharing things with your friends (nearly an hour spent looking for Lola, to hang out with and share the coolness of the pin table exhibit).”
“I liked that Natasha, Clem and Lola couldn’t resist tinkering, even with a professionally made exhibit,” Sean said. “They played with the bubble screen for about thirty minutes immediately before lunch. At lunch, they began to wonder about using different circumference and rings…so they took (with permission!) coffee cups from the cafeteria, removed the bottoms, and thus created bubble wands in two new circumferences!”
The best part of my day was watching the kids, not necessarily participating in the exhibits. I loved seeing them interact with all the big ideas and experience pieces of the whole. My group was great at staying together and calling each other over to look at something cool. They took their time, didn’t feel like they had to see everything in the whole museum, and displayed awesome curiosity and energy for a busy place!
Gever had two stories to report. He said, “Rhone spent some time exploring the composition of colors and shapes made by his hands and body when lit by three primary colors. While we watched anxious adults pushing their children along to try and ‘see everything’, it was a pleasure to wander the museum at our own pace and linger as long as we cared to. Often, just as we were about to leave and exhibit, either Rhone, Jacob, or Nicky would discover something new and we would be glued to the spot for even longer.”
“A mirror-box proved to be an excellent provocation to spark the a discussion of the nature of infinity and whether or not there are any real infinities in our universe,” he said. “Not the infinite possibilities of monkeys banging away on typewriters, but actual, uncountable, infinities of things. We still aren’t sure, but we agreed that there certainly some very large numbers of things out there (planets, atoms, sand).”
Mackenzie said, “I was with Bruno, Ben, and Quinn. They loved the spinny table with rings. We played there for almost forty-five minutes. Bruno was really into building marble runs in the Tinkering Studio. We returned there twice. They all did a great job taking turns choosing exhibits and sharing interests.”
We’re really excited to take advantage of the relationship we have with the Exploratorium and get our kids out there more often, interacting with both the big science ideas that relate to our arcs, as well as being a part of the wider San Francisco school community. What an amazing day!
The megaband’s bridge is almost finished! Last week the band spent every day constructing, painting, and discussing their bridge-lifting approaches.
Phillip writes, “The closer the bridge comes to completion, the fewer hands need to be working on it so we split into a morning crew and afternoon crew for bridge work. The team not working on the bridge has been writing a detailed blog post about the construction process as well as finalizing our presentations on bridge research and building ideas.
Gever is our in house expert on bridge raising, so he worked with a small group on Thursday discussing best methods for getting it up there, carefully leading students to the right conclusions with great guided questions and student generated drawings.
By the end of the day Wednesday the bridge was nearly complete, but we found ourselves rushing to meet an early deadline. Max ended up losing control of the drill in an almost-disaster that caused us all to step back, circle up, and discuss the importance of finishing safely and well, rather than on time.
We spent most of Thursday afternoon suited up in Tyvek suits painting the tar out of our bridge as it will be easier to paint on the ground than up in the sky. Hopefully we should have her up by today or tomorrow!”
The Hawks have continued their quest for the best-built chair! They’ve learned some new things from Sean about square joints, created second iterations of their first designs, and studied chair designs.
Earlier last week, Mackenzie set out the two iterations of chairs that the Hawks had built. She writes, “Presented in this way, their growth as builders and designers was obvious, though not always linear (some things were improved in the second chair while others may have been lost). Nonetheless, their effort and mastery can be seen in the flush joints, square corners and greater stability of these new chairs. Not to say that there is not room for growth, but there is something about seeing how far you’ve come to compel you to take a step further. In a school with out letter grades these moments where learning is made visible are paramount.”
With Sean, they learned about using dowels and glue to create more polished furniture joints. He gave them three basic rules to follow: making the joints true (flushed and aligned), square (at a ninety degree angle) and precise (to a quarter inch, based on their design). They drew new designs for chairs to scale with architectural rulers and labeled the doweling points to have a clearer guide for construction. Mackenzie reported that they worked extra long and hard to build new skills of precision to make everything just right.
They visited the parklet outside of Arizmendi Bakery in the Inner Sunset to talk about aesthetics and ergonomics with the architect who designed the benches – Quinn’s dad Jack! He discussed the process he went through and the constraints of space. The Hawks measured the chairs and the parklet space to check the accuracy of the blueprints, leading to a spontaneous lesson in converting inches to feet.
After presenting budget proposals to Ellen and Gever on Tuesday, the Hawks visited MacBeath Hardwood, a lumber supply store that stocks beautiful wood and woodworking tools, to pick out and buy lengths of poplar for their new chairs.
They also visited Sean’s former workplace, where they talked to Forest of Varian Design, a furniture making company, Greg, a cabinet maker, and Toph, a retired rocket scientist turned luthier (which is a stringed-instrument-maker).
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, Forest told them. That’s how you learn!
The Rulers arc has been structured much differently than the other arcs we will have this year, both because of its short length and its goals of building community and building awareness of what Brightworks is as a school and how it works. This doesn’t mean, however, that projects aren’t at the heart of the experience during Rulers – each band is taking their own approach to a shortened Expression phase with big group projects guided by their collaborators.
The Hummingbirds’ project has moved in the direction of figuring out the best way to bring a band pet into the school. Because they had planted a woolly pocket garden on the wall along the window, they were excited about the idea of an animal at school (a bunny was the first idea) while being conscious of allergies that make furry creatures not an option. They decided that a turtle would be the best kind of pet to add to their bandspace and have since embarked on a journey to figure out how to make that happen. With Shawna’s guiding hand, the Hummingbirds have asked questions, done research in the field, talked to experts, and thought about the responsibilities of having a class pet, as well as incorporated their explorations of turtles in arc-related animal pursuits with measurement, science, math, and art.
Shawna explains it best in her incredible documentation of their process and experiences. She writes, “With the idea of a pet reptile in our classroom, the children listed many things we needed to know and to do before getting the pet, such as learn what it likes to eat, what it needs in its home, how to handle it, if anyone is allergic to it, and the children even went so far as to decide how to introduce their new pet to their school community: they want to host a school “tea party” with refreshments (some from our garden, of course) and a puppet show!
“I was inspired by their sense of industry as well as how fast their minds were thinking ahead: one possible proposal was that we get six small turtles to solve the potential conflict inherent in only having one pet to name (who gets to decide its name?).
I suggested that we first needed to look into cost and space requirements, as well as how much responsibility we’d take on for feeding and cleaning, before we get attached to the idea of multiple pets!”
They visited Petco and learned about the different kinds of turtles available and looked at pricing for all the materials they need. Having worked through many of these questions, the Hummingbirds are ready to begin the declaration process to propose adding a turtle to their band.
Last week Lili and her band worked with Sean to explore how the size of fish fins impacts their speed. She writes, “We thought about how to analyze data in order to understand the relationship between the surface area of different fins and a fish’s capacity for drive, lift, and stability.”
They experimented with their own ability to create the same type of drive, lift, and stability as in the fish by creating fish fin darts and launching them off the mezzanine to see how their choices affected their flight.
They went to the California Academy of Sciences to look at the fish in the aquarium and took notes and made diagrams of the fish that displayed the best of all three characteristics.