Yellow Band: By Sea, First Weeks

The students of the Beehive are ready to hit the high seas!

We dove right into several different explorations around the idea of transportation by Sea, I’ll run through a handful of them. We got started studying the stars, both building a constellation as an afternoon project, and studying how sailors navigated when out on the open seas. We’ve been doing a lot of experiments around buoyancy–weight, density and water displacement–in order to build small crafts that float, and maybe even carry heavy and dense cargo like rolls of coins. We has an awesome all-school field day, focusing on building a kind and inclusive community here at school! Oh, and we started reading Hemingway! Really!

First off, the constellation project and related celestial navigation explorations. What the heck does it even mean to build a constellation anyway?! I don’t know, that’s why I posed it as a project! One thing we often talk about when selecting projects for both the Tinkering School and Brightworks is that a good project is like a keyhole: it may seem narrow in focus at first, but upon further examination opens up to a world of possibilities and expressions. The constellation is just that! It immediately conjures an image and connection to the real world. There are loads of stories to tell around the stars–just ask the Greeks! Plus, none of us have ever built a constellation before, so there will be loads of neat problems to solve and science to learn along the way.

Right off the bat, the constellation group decided that we wanted our constellation to be rooted in real science: show the magnitude of the different stars, convey their different distances from earth, and demonstrate the connection to celestial navigation. We started with reading some from H.A Rey’s book, The Constellations, which combines facts about stars with star maps and the Greek myths that go along with many well known constellations. When we got to the part about light years and the stars different distances from earth, we did some perspective drawing, showing a chair from two different angles. This helped us wrap our heads around the idea that constellations that are very familiar to us, like the Big Dipper, would look totally different if we stood on a different planet.

These astronomers are drawing this chair from two different perspectives. Afterward, we analyzed our drawings, pointing out the features we emphasized in from our first perspective and our second.

Here is Nolan working hard on his second drawing of the chair!

After doing some research, and nailing down our priorities in what we’d like to get across by building a constellation, we were ready to get to work! We decided that we needed a ‘Night Box,’ for the stars to live inside, and that we wanted to build both the Little and Big Dippers, because one includes Polaris–the North Star–and the other points to the North Star. So, If you can find one of those two constellations, than you can figure out where you are! Then, we decided that we wanted the whole thing to be about as tall as the clock on the wall (which turned out to be 7′). Then we got down to the nitty gritty!

Sylvester explains to May and Dash why the chops stop means that we don’t need to have a line drawn on our wood in order to cut.

A regular fixture during morning choice time has been some type of exploration around buoyancy: what types of things float and why? After exploring some different materials like wood, metal and plastic, and defining what we meant by ‘float’ anyway (if you push it down into the water, it doesn’t come back up), then we got started trying to build some type of craft that would carry a roll of nickels.

Wood floats really well! But metal maybe doesn’t, and the empty plastic water bottle floated, but the one filled with water didn’t. Hm.

Balloons became popular flotation devices because we noticed that air really really floats. But, they didn’t end up working that well to build boats because they were really hard to stabilize–the nickels always flopped over to the bottom and sunk!

Nicole had been doing some origami at choice time, so Reyahn decided to try out his paper boat to see how many nickels it would hold. Not quite a whole roll, but it did hold 25 which was the most a craft held that day!

Then we had field day! During our in-service week, we talked a lot about school culture, and wanting to take a moment to emphasize kindness and caring for each other. An all school community Friday field day seemed like a great chance to have some band-specific communication and teamwork focused activities, but also mix up all the bands to emphasize how much we care about each other. Thank you so much to Jay, Nathan, Justine and Evan for organizing and facilitating! And thank you to the Magenta for offering some great activities too!

 

Ally shows Phoebe and Sakira how to twist up their t-shirts to get them ready to tie-dye.

May and Sakira inside the parachute.

Nathan led the Yellow Band in a communication focused activity similar to river crossing. In this activity, the group has to figure out the order that they can step on the different squares, Nathan knows the sequence, and only tells them ‘Yes,’ or ‘No!’ One person tries at a time, but as the group figures out the path, they can help each other! And, they’ve got to remember those kind ways to offer help and advice!

And then back to work! Another of our choices these first few weeks has been to read and visualize Hemingway’s classic short novel The Old Man and the Sea. This is one of my favorite books, I’ve read it many times, so it was a clear choice for a novel for us to get into because, you know, don’t dumb it down. That being said, sometimes I have to artfully rephrase things a s I’m reading. But anyway, it’s been great! It’s an excellent story of companionship and perseverance, there is a lot for us to unpack as we read. We’ve had excellent conversations about the difference in the relationship between the young boy and the old man, and the young boy and his father, carefully analyzing the descriptions as we go by making drawings to show what we’re hearing. On a given day, we probably only read 2 or 3 pages because there is so much rich detail to sift through.

Khalilah’s illustration of the old man’s bed and his dreams: his bed with newspapers for sheets and rolled up trousers for a pillow, and his dreams full of lions.

And, of course, we’ve kept up with our morning vitamins because MATH. So far, I’m loving the math of the sea–there is so much interesting stuff to do! Our first exploration is connected to our work on the constellation, the idea of celestial navigation. Did you know that much of our calendar, number system, and organization of time is based on an ancient system that wasn’t even in base 10?! True story! The basis for 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. and 360 degrees in a circle is the Babylonian base 60 number system! So, we’ve been learning how to count like a Babylonian on our hands, and how to record numbers like the ancient Sumerians would too! It’s kinda tricky, but a great way to stretch our brains, thinking flexibly about numbers.

But first, we had to really nail down how we use our hands to count to begin with. And we went into a lot of detail, in order to emphasize metacognition and reflection. Some kiddos start on their thumbs and work out, others start with their pointers and end on their thumbs. And, we all different ways to count up to bigger numbers–some counted by 5s or 10s, some used one hand for 1s, and the other for bigger quantities. Interesting!

And then we started to practice counting like a Babylonian! They used their hands in a really interesting way, counting each joint on their fingers and using their thumb as a pointer. That way they could count up to 12 (aka one dozen!) on one hand, and keep track of dozens on their other hand.

Armed with an understanding of where the degrees on the compass came from, we went up to the field to start doing some of the basics of navigating. Because, if you’re trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going, you’re going to need to know how to use this tool!

Using compasses up at the field!

Oscar and Sakira used a pencil as a pointer, which Emilio then followed with his eyes to check their degree readings for accuracy. We measured from the center of the field the location of the Bay Bridge, Bernal Hill, Sutra Tower–just to name a few!

Nolan and Reyahn kept their compass on the ground and measured from there. I asked the kiddos to first take two measurements on the same thing–one of the goals on the field–first from the south fence, and then from the center of the field. We’ll use these measurements to talk about the relationship between the angle and the distance next week, but I have to figure that out a bit more first!

More more more to come!

Bouyancy and Row Boats

Week 1 and 2

As one of our first field trips the Blue Band went to the aquatic park to learn how to both row and build a boat.  It was a beautiful day to be out on the water.

Week 1 and 2

Excited by the experience of rowing in the bay the band was a buzz with aspirations of  building their own boat. Before diving into that ambitious project we had to better understand why things float.

Week 1 and 2

“What are the qualities of something that floats?”  This is the question that launched the Blue Band into an exploration of buoyancy.  To answer this question our intrepid young scientists have rolled up their sleeves, formed hypothesis, tested those hypothesis and of course gotten wet in the process.

Week 1 and 2

The first experiment: Will it float?  The Blue Band found objects around the school to drop into water.  First they made their predictions about whether the object would float and why then they tested their objects.  There were some surprising findings.  Despite predictions, a heavy paintbrush, whose bristles were cased in metal, actually floated.  My heavy thermos that is made of metal also floated.  These surprises helped the young scientists revise their definition of what floats.  They had discovered that there were three important variables:  size, weight and shape.

Week 1 and 2

In our next experiment we endeavored to find out if there is a relationship between size and weight.  We had been using graphs to find patterns in data so we decided to collect and graph some measurements.  In four teams of two the students weighed bags of wood, ceramic, PVC and steel. Then, using the Archimedes principal of displacement, they figured out the volume of each material.

Week 1 and 2

They graphed these points and discovered that their data points formed a rough line.  Upon discovering this relationship we put a name to it: Density.  Things that are small and heavy are more dense than things that are big and light.

Week 1 and 2

Interpreting the graph the students discovered that the wood was less dense than the water, where as the PVC, steel and ceramic were more dense.  The wood was the only material that floated!  One of the qualities of something that floats is that it is less dense than water.

“If steel sinks, why can a ship made from steel float?” Next the young scientists looked at how shape effects an object’s ability to float.  They were given a lump of clay that sunk and were asked to create a shape that could float.

Week 1 and 2

Next they were given tin foil and challenged to make a vessel that could float the most pennies.  They made two iterations and graphed their findings.

To bring together all of our explorations, the Blue Band watched everyone’s favorite mad scientist, Bill Nye, explain buoyancy to us.  Bill’s message: Things float when the water they displace is greater than or equal to the weight of the thing.  This time the blue band designed their own experiment to test this claim.  They decided to fill beakers to the brim with water, drop objects in to the water and compare the weight of the water that splashes out with the object.  They discovered that the things that sunk weighed more than the water that was displaced and the things that floated weighed equal to or less than the water displaced.

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Equipped with a better understanding of buoyancy, the blue band has a new challenge in front of them!  They are building boats from cardboard and plastic that will float at least one person.

 

Shanghaied!

“Dear Ma and Pa

The ship has set sail for Oregon to rebuild the city. I hope Nana, Nona and Papa are doing great and I have a few stories…” Deckhand Crew Member Phoebe

“1906, April 22

Dear Mother and Father,

As you have heard, I have been taken on a ship…the Captain calls it “being shanghaied.” The people seem nice, except Mr. Llyod, he is the first mate and is in charge of discipline. You may be wondering, ‘how did I get tricked?’…Well…we (notice I said WE) followed this “Mr. Hawkins.” He told us that there was a ship we should see. So we followed him and he gave a sheet. Now at the time I had no idea what this sheet was and really did not care, but now I realize that I was signing a very important document.

I miss you soooo much,

Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte”

“Mr. Hawkins told us of the Joyful life onboard, and the fine pay.  Yet, the second we set foot on the ship I knew we had been shanghaied.  We were forced to work on the ship with the strict first mate, Mr. Llyod and the not completely sane cook/doctor Onion. (Who became Princess Onion under circumstances I will get to later).  The only thing that stopped this voyage from being a complete nightmare was The Captain.  He was firm but kind.” Ronan Rigger Crew.

“Then on the poop deck a man look and said in a stern voice, ‘Whats this!’ Hawkins walked up at the front of the line.

‘Sir, you said you needed a crew,’  said Hawkins.

‘Not little childern!’ said Mr. Lloyd, ‘You are all green but we are going to turn you into sailors.'” Deck Hand Mate Sadie

“My first day of work on a ship was hard. We even swabbed the decks, which I, personally, think is the coolest job on this ship.” Quartermaster Crew Member Jonah

 

My group was with Onion our first task was to swab the deck.  Swabbing was fun but getting the water was hard because the buckets full of water where super heavy and they splashed all over us.” Gita Quartermaster Crew

“Today was fun but tiring! I loved all of the acting and the characters! My favorite character was Dr. Onion! My favorite thing I did today was raising and lowering the dory, eating dinner, and washing dishes. I liked my day!” Boat Crew Member Soleil

 

“I got the job of the boat crew and had to lower and raise the dory and did the dishes every meal.” Roman Boat Crew

“My experience here was challenging but also fun.  The sky and the breeze are so calm.  I can hear the ship saying stuff to me. It sings me lullabies in my ear.  I hear the seals singing shanties. I love this a lot.  I love the Balcutha.” Deckhand Mate Sadie

“We had to raise and lower the ensign and kept bell time.” Pheobe Deckhand Crew.

“We just got fired from a boat. I’m so glad it was awful. The oatmeal  was soggy. The bed’s were hard as a rock. And the blanket’s thin as paper.” Lily Deck Hand Crew 

“The job of the rigger crew is to raise the bosun’s chair and assemble the block and tackle.” Charlotte

“The sea gulls are crying. The boat is groaning. The sea lions are yowling. The water is flowing, a cool night it is.” Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte.

“The Balclutha will dock in Oregon soon.  I am going to escape then and come home.  I have to go now because my break is over, so goodbye for now.  I am looking forward to seeing you after I escape.” Boat Crew Amiya

“Then we needed to raise Lisa on the bosun’s chair and tell her what to buy us and give us. This was the fun part.” Boat Crew Member Roman

“We put Lisa on a swing high in the air and demanded lots of things in the end we got most of what we wanted.” Quartermaster Crew Member Gita

When the voyage was done, we sang and said Farewell.” Boat Crew Member Soleil

The Sea & Me

The Amber Band has been taking some time to make personal connections with the sea. To help with this, we worked with community artist Sierra Reading to learn about how she is helping others make personal connections through art-making. We participated in one of Sierra’s projects, Candle Conversations, where each student passed around a candle to share in a discussion while the wax dripped onto a cloth. As students passed the candle, they shared out intentions for the new arc, and let go of some of the things that they wanted to leave behind. Both Amber Band and Indigo Band got to participate in their own Candle Conversation, and we came together to explore indigo dye as a symbol of strength when we then dyed our batiked cloth.

Audrey and Oscar are carefully dipping the cloth in the vat so as not to disturb the indigo fermentation. It’s important to keep as little oxygen as possible from getting into the mixture.

Ambigo explorations of indigo as a symbol of strength with community artist and educator Sierra Reading.

During the By Sea arc we’ll be getting more opportunities to collaborate as Ambigo on excursions. We went to the Aquarium of the Bay to learn about our local marine life. Students worked in small teams to record observations on estuaries, ecosystems, and conservation strategies. Each student then chose an animal to research further. Making the connection to our San Francisco Bay got us thinking more about conservation efforts, and how we might do our part to keep the Bay healthy. We decided to adopt drains around the school! This presented a design challenge for us: build a device that will help you safely cleanup the drains in our neighborhood. Each week we’ll visit our drains to keep them free of leaves and debris to manage stormwater and minimize flooding in SF.

Ambigo visits the Aquarium of the Bay

Ella, Norabelle, and Owen are playing in the tide pools.

Rhone, Oscar, and Corin exploring under the bay.

We got up close with sharks to learn how they are an important part of the San Francisco Bay.

Taking our connections to the sea a bit deeper, we’ve been asking ourselves: What is our relationship to the sea as residents of California, and how might people living in other parts of the world relate to water differently? Just 5% of California was drought-free a year ago, and today it’s 91% drought-free! We took some time to simulate the Oroville Dam’s use of the emergency spillway by calculating how long it would take to fill a fish tank. The band had to find the volume of the model dam, the water flow rate, and determine their margin of error. We read more about the Oroville Dam, the recent history of the California drought, and American water usage. We decided to track our own water usage, and we analyzed that data.

Amber Band collected data on how much water we use in a day, and then made approximations for that water usage in gallons using USGS data.

How long will it take to fill the tank? Well, after calculating the flow rate of the water pump, the volume of the fish tank, converting cubic inches into gallons, and determining their margin of error (20%, Oops!)… they found that the pump outputs around 62 gallons an hour.

 

Next week we’ll continue exploring our personal connections to the sea by getting out on the Bay in kayaks, touring Angel Island, creating short film adaptations of the novels we just finished on the immigrant experience, and tracking our personal history on what brought our families to the Bay Area. We’ll also start looking at the physics of water, asking questions to find out what we need to know more about water to better understand our relationship to it.

 

Teal Band Launches into the By Sea Arc

The Teal Band launched right into The Movement of Things By Sea Arc this week. We began the week with a mind map of where the exploration phase of this arc will take us. Our large topics of study will include Immigration Stories, especially those who came through Angel Island in the first half of the 1900s, Marine Biology and Ecology, Density and Buoyancy (I expect they will all be able to spell buoyancy by the end of the arc,) Sailing, and  Sailing Cultures. 

Teal Band’s By Sea Mind Map of the Arc

We began reading The Dragon’s Child by local author Laurence Yep. The story is a fictionalized biography of Yep’s grandfather’s and father’s emigration from China to the United States via Angel Island when his father was only nine years old. Through this story and the stories of many others who came through Angel Island on their journey to America, the Teal Band (along with the Violet Band) will build empathy and understanding of their immigration experiences. In a couple of weeks, we will visit the Angel Island Immigration Station with the Violet Band, where these people were detained for weeks, months or even years at a time before being allowed into the country, and write our own historical diaries from the experiences we’ve read and heard stories of.

Reading Laurence Yep’s The Dragon’s Child

Much of our exploration will be done alongside the Violet Band this arc and we launched that partnership with an exploration into the relationships of mass, volume and density. Working together in teams, they found the mass of five different items, ceramic tiles, steel nuts, pvc pipes, wood and water, as well as their volumes using displacement. After finding and recording this data, they graphed the volume and mass (whoops! didn’t get a picture of the finished graph,) discovering they found the density of each item. They concluded that those objects that float had a density lower than water and therefore a slope less than that of water (which they found to have a 1:1 ratio of mass:volume.) This discovery allowed them to hypothesize where other objects and liquids, such as oil, would fit on our graph.

Teal and Violet worked together to explore the relationships of mass, volume and density.

After reading about the immigration tests required of the Chinese and Japanese looking to enter America through Angel Island, the Teal Band asked to be tested for entrance into the band space. They took time to interview one another, asking questions about siblings, favorite colors, and favorite animals. They also took note of the bandspace, particularly the number of specific objects in the space. When given the test on Wednesday morning, even our visitor looking to join us at Brightworks next year wanted in it.

Question: Would you have been able to remember exactly what your teacher was wearing the previous day when you were eleven years old?

Teal Band interviewing one another and studying up for their Teal Band Immigration Test.

On Thursday, the Teal Band took their exploration to Ocean Beach. We talked about how incredibly fortunate we are to live so close to this amazing body of water. We brainstormed data we could collect over the day, such as types of water vessels seen, times they were spotted and if they were headed inbound or outbound from the Golden Gate. We also took time to listen to the stories of those that crossed that vast ocean on boats, looking to start a new life on “Gold Mountain,” aka America.

Taking in the great Pacific Ocean which we learned from Gever covers almost half the planet.

Bonding at Ocean Beach as they listened to immigrant stories and The Dragon’s Child

As always, the Teal Band had to build a fire and have a fire naming ceremony. Thanks to Freddie’s bacon fat fire starters, the fire was named Porky. After story time and fire chants, the Teal Band took a walk down the beach where they found another body of water up on the beach. They wondered if it has always been there or was a result of the recent rains. They also wondered about how deep it is. Luckily, they stayed dry and no one found out the answer to that question.

We wrapped up the week with a day on the field. We had been explicit all week about the importance of kindness, both towards others and yourself. Friday morning, we joined Jay, Nathan and Evan on the field to play a few team building games. They had to work together to strategize and support one another in order to be successful. Some Teal Banders found their voices as leaders, while others were happy to sit back some and support the team. It was wonderful to hear them cheer one another on and listen to everyone’s ideas.

As a part of “Kindness Week,” Teal Band played a few games out on the field to build on teamwork.

Just a heads up! We have a number of exciting field trips ahead of this month to truly explore The Movement of Things By Sea.

We have a busy month of field trips ahead of us.

Moving From Land to Sea

The By Land Expo Night was such a blast! We got to celebrate all of the hard work from the arc with the Brightworks community.

The Amber Band celebrating with friends and family at Expo.

Elijah and his mom on the ladder he built.

Audrey sharing a demo of her moss on Mars experiment.

Before Expo though, each student shared more about their process through their presentations. They talked about all of their iterations, the experts that helped out along the way, the good times, the bad times, and all the ways their project helped them to understand the movement of things by land in their own unique way.

Rhone presenting on his drift trike, and sharing out the struggles he faced when he bent the axle of his trike.

Oscar talking about the problem he identified in the LARP cart, and how that inspired him to design a mobile LARP Armory.

Declan sharing all the iterations that happened throughout his process, and the challenges of working with copper for his steam engine catalyst.

We took time before presentations to practice many times. We also practiced each other’s presentations with a round of “presentation karaoke”, an improv game that has the presenter sharing slides they’ve never seen before. Practicing our presentations got us talking about the expectations we had for each other’s presentation and exhibition of work, some worries about stage fright, and how we could all support each other as a band.

Audrey presenting on Rhone’s drift trike process in a round of presentation karaoke.

I made little drawings of each student’s project on worry stones as a way for them to feel ready for their presentations.

Of course we took time to celebrate too. The Magenta Band welcomed us in for a post-presentation party, and we watched Finding Dory on the Thursday after Expo Night.

Magenta Band, Indigo Band, and Amber Band celebrating after all the presentations were done.

As we begin to think about some explorations by sea, we took some time to mind map out all of our curiosities. Questions bubbled up like: How do fish interact with humans? How does water exist on other planets? How does our food get here? Next week we’ll begin by getting up close with some marine life, considering some conservation efforts we might want to help out with in our own Bay Area backyard.

Amberites mind mapping possible explorations for the By Sea Arc.

Yellow Band: By Land Expo

We made it!

Chowin’ down at our trail lunch! Read on to hear about the menu.

Across the country, that is. Oh, and all the way through the By Land Arc.

Solin and Ronin working hard to finish up some stabilizers on the the wagon hoops.

For lack of better words, HOLY CRAP. We did so much during this arc! We moved really heavy things, moved hundreds of things, studied simple machines and the scientific method, dug deep into 19th Century North American history, and built, built, built along the way. During Expo Week(s), all of these strands come together in such a beautiful way, and By Land has been no exception.

Thank you so much to all the families, the Blue and Magenta Bands for coming to support us during our presentation!

Let’s start with the Trail Picnic. A few weeks ago, I proposed the idea to Nicole and Nathan. Thankfully, they were amenable, and we all agreed that it would be super fun to make food together and then eat it in a little picnic style lunch. On the calendar it went. Along with it, of course, a trip to the grocery store a few days before. With this date on the calendar to look forward to, our work chugged right along. The buzz of approaching expo presentations adds a bit of pep to everyone’s step; the end is in sight, are we going to finish?

We kept on rolling the dice in our Emmigrant Trails board game, and kiddos started to make it to the end! Here, Sakira works on an illustration of the farm she’d like to start upon arriving in upstate New York.

Abir and Oscar work on installing the tongue of our wagon. We had to use a bolt instead of screws so that the tongue would be able to move and ‘steer’ the wagon.

For many of the Yellow Banders (and a few Red Banders as well) our board game really tied all of our strands together this arc. Not only did we make it ourselves, but the element of both chance and choice coupled with the history made the game fun and engaging in a nail-biting, heart pounding kind of way. Even though the Red Banders didn’t make trail journals and play the game with us, they were deeply interested in the process. Working on the wagon in the afternoon was a great chance for us to share the things we learned, weaving us together as the Beehive even more.

Oh no, Emilio pulled the cholera card! It’s a good thing he also picked up some medicine for the disease that killed tens of thousands of emmigrants while at Fr. Bridger! Emilio had been moving slowly through the game, so after leaving Ft. Bridger he also chose to take Donner Pass–yikes! Winter was fast approaching, and he knew he needed to take a shorter route, so he decided to go for it.

Below: phew, Oscar’s cat didn’t get cholera! Also, Oscar, you brought a cat with you?!?!

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Oh, and the wagon! Wow that wagon was huge! But also, it was the real size, which I think was really impactful for the kids. Like I talked about in one of my last few posts, this project really beautifully wove together our bigger picture goals with day to day work and play. Each day, our planning check-in consisted mostly of teamwork reminders: How will we communicate with each other while we’re working? How should we use the tools in our space and around others’ bodies? What should you do if you find yourself without a job? The Red and Yellow Banders knew what would come next in terms of construction, it was their design after all!

Abir developed a beautiful strategy for finding the middle of the front end of the wagon–the spot to attach the wagon tongue. First, he measured a certain number of inches from one side, then he made a mark. Then, he measured the same distance from the other side to see if it met his mark. He continued doing this, adding an inch each time until he met in the middle.

Oscar, Abir and Emilio moving the finished wagon tongue into place.

Oscar proposed that we build the wagon hoops like an upside down letter ‘U,’ out of 3 pieces of wood, instead of other proposals that included as many 5.

After initially installing the hoops, we realized that they were really wobbly! So, we started adding stabilizers, relying heavily on those triangles we know make everything better when building with wood.

Then, all of a sudden, it was Expo week. But actually, when you researched, designed, built, redesigned, planned, and built as a team, getting ready to tell people about what you’ve been working on isn’t really hard! I was so impressed with the detailed and thoughtful questions and answers we brainstormed in order to frame our presentation. The kids were clearly ready to get in front of the community and talk.

While I don’t have many good pictures of our presentation–it was dark, I was presenting–I’d like to share a favorite moment: After we opened up to questions from the audience, a Magenta Band member (Ally I think?) asked a great question, and one we hadn’t practiced an answer to. “How did the teamwork aspect of working on the wagon go?” I asked the Red and Yellow Banders who were presenting to put up a quick ‘thumb-o-meter’ to show from thumbs-up to thumbs-down how they felt about working on a team to build the wagon. Immediately, the audience saw an array of thumbs, some up, some down, some in the middle. So, I asked a few kiddos to share some more about their reaction. “Because it’s hard to take everyone’s different ideas and put them together,” May explained with her thumb in the middle. And Quinn appreciated that, “There’s always someone there to help you with a tool if you need it.”

With our presentation out of the way, our focus turned back to finishing up our projects and explorations. A few kiddos were still a roll or two away from the West or North in Emmigrant Trails; we set the goal of installing two hoops in time for Expo Night. With the youngest students here at Brightworks, I think I like having our presentation several days before Expo Night, because after the presentation, they really get it: people are coming to look at our work, and it’s our job to have something we can show and talk about. The work in those last few days is always so focused, kiddos ask me so often, “How can I help?”

Reyahn works on stabilizing the wagon hoops.

Sakira, Nolan and Khalilah became the go-to pros working on the gondola. Here, Khalilah measures the length of the gondola flat on the table, in order to figure out what modifications the team will need to make so that the gondola can be installed on the steps up to the cork floor in our space.

Oh, and we got to start actually getting ready for our trail picnic! Really, what better way to close out the By Land arc than with a celebration around food?! First, we researched what foods the folks on different journeys would have eaten, and learned some interesting things along the way. Like how folks on trails West stored their eggs in their barrels of flour and cornmeal so they wouldn’t break on the bumpy journey. And how folks on the Underground Railroad foraged for much of their food. Former slaves needed to be able to move quickly from one place to the next, and leave no trace of their presence. So, they didn’t carry a lot of food. Instead, they ate greens, roots and berries that they picked along the way. This made for a pretty great menu at the trail lunch, because the food of the Oregon/California Trail is frankly pretty boring, and doesn’t include a lot of fresh fruits or veggies.

Devlin researching foods we should get at the grocery store.

Sakira researching food we should get at the grocery store. I think this is the moment she inferred that along with blackberries, folks on the Underground Railroad may have gotten to forage for other berries too–bring on the wild strawberries and raspberries and blueberries!

And, for one last field trip of the arc, I thought we should do some foraging of our own of course! Where does a kid who grew up in the suburbs learn about what’s safe to pick and eat here in the big city? Mackenzie of course! The Blue Band collaborator gave me a few great tips of things we’d be able to find in any park in the city, so a foraging trip to Glen Canyon Park to hunt for miner’s lettuce and chickweed went on the calendar.

Oh, and of course we should shake some cream into butter while we’re on the bus! How else are we supposed to make biscuits?!

Nolan stuffs a handful of miner’s lettuce into Sakira’s backpack.

Because her backpack full of lettuce is SO HEAVY.

Finally, Expo and Trail Lunch day arrived! Thank you so much to Lisa and Kerry for helping cook and setup in the morning. We made rice, beans and biscuits in the morning with the Red and Yellow Bands. Then while the kiddos were at the park, we put together some fresh fruit, washed our foraged greens from the day before, and put the biscuits in the oven. So many kids asked, “How can I help?” all morning, and even though it was a bit hectic and we had to be very patient and take lots of turns to do everything, it was such a great morning. When the Bumblebees got pack from the park to see all the food laid out on the front table, what a great moment. And then we got to sit outside in our courtyard with the big kids from the Orchard eyeballing our feast as they walked back to school for lunch! I even heard Khalilah tell a few as they passed, “We made all this ourselves!”

Oscar and Khalilah took turns to cut the butter into the flour for our biscuit dough. Did I mention that we used butter and buttermilk we made ourselves?!

Reyahn, Sakira and Nolan were all very excited to work with Lisa, Nolan’s mom. It made for some tricky turn-taking, but I think it all worked out!

Thank you Kerry for helping serve! And thank you Lindsay for joining us!

Now my friends, like I always tell the kiddos, all good things must come to an end, including the By Land arc. I’ll wrap it all up with a few pictures of your children hanging in the air on the pulley machine (aka block and tackle) they built earlier in the arc. Because learning should be playful, and we certainly played our way across continents the past few months.