The Yellow Band Continues to Explore Seeds

Oat math, Seedfolks, hanging gutter planters, and NaNoWriMo.

The Yellow Band has been busy exploring seeds.

We began our days exploring the math concepts of estimation, averages, and time by way of Gever’s oat seed. The task: find out how many oat seeds need to be peeled for one cup of oats and how long will it take. Estimates on how many oat seeds make up one cup ranged anywhere from 3,622 to 5,500. Recognizing that it would take them many hours to count that amount of seeds, they decided upon each counting how many they had in a tablespoon, taking an average of each band member’s quantity, and multiplying that by the 16 tablespoons it takes to make up a cup. Strategies for counting possibly hundreds of seeds popped up quickly. Soon enough everyone was grouping their seeds in groups of either fives or tens. After counting and taking an average, we found that a cup would have approximately 3,680 oat seeds in it. It’s pretty amazing to think that one of the estimates was only 58 seeds away!




Oat math

After our work around the quantities of seeds we began to look at it in terms of time required to peel the oat seeds. Estimates to peel one cup of oats ranged from one and a half hours to five hours. We brainstormed strategies for figuring this out without having to actually peel 3,680 oats. We also realized that the rate at which we could peel the oats might fluctuate over time due to improving our skills (faster) or tiredness (slower). We decided to time our peeling for two different quantities: 10 oats and 20 oats. We found that when we peeled 20 oats we did improve our time ever so slightly, so we decided to take the average of our total time for both quantities. We quickly found that we were way off with our estimates. According to our work, it would take around 15 hours 38 minutes and 24 seconds to peel all those oats. More than three times our longest estimated time!

Oat math

One afternoon we took a walk over to the Potrero Hill Community Garden with the Green Band. After exploring the gardens for a bit, we gathered together to begin reading the book Seedfolks. Each chapter covers a story about each of the characters contributing to a community garden in Cleveland. We talked about the themes of change and community that wove throughout the stories.  We found ourselves embodying those themes when we helped the garden coordinator with some clean up and by bringing in the compost bins. She kindly thanked us by sharing some of her lemon verbena that we dried and made tea with the following morning.

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Early seed arc

Potrero Hill Community Garden

Wanting to take a closer look at the process of germination, we created a seed jar. We chose a variety of seeds, including pumpkin, forget-me-not, beet, California poppy, carrot, squash, and cornflower. We talked about what might sprout first, shoots or roots, the majority said shoots, and took guesses as to which seed might germinate first. After three days our first seed germinated. It was the cornflower and it was the roots that sprouted first. The poppy seeds weren’t far behind in germinating and by the end of the week, the only seeds that showed no sign of germination were those of the forget-me-nots. The roots of a number of them had also buried their way into the paper towel they were growing on.

Seed jar



Seed jar germination

Seed jar germination

Seed jar germination

Looking to grow more plants in our band space, we decided to take advantage of our vertical space and created a hanging window planter out of rain gutters. We had to take measurements of the window, draw out our plans, cut down our gutters, plan our plantings, find a way to hang it, drill holes for drainage, fill them with soil, and plant our seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have everything from lettuce to poppies growing in our space.




Window gutter planter

Window gutter planter

Violet Band: 3D-Printing and Drone-Flying and Vegan Week

This week is Vegan Week. Violet Banders are taking turns planning and prepping vegan lunches for each other.

We also updated our drone-flying schedule and rules. And we have music club! And we’re reading Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods.

Last week, we went to Noisebridge. Some of the Violet Band has been frequenting Noisebridge Hacker Space to make use of their 3D printers. Laurel wants to create a Bulbasaur planter. So far, the crew has had to not only repair the 3D printer, but also get it to connect with their info to print.

When we went as a band, we were focused on 3D printing Bulbasaur as well as fixing / building a new computer.

As a side engineering project, here’s a jelly-bean dispenser:

Blue: Seed Week 3, Call/Answer

The work we’re really doing at 1960 Bryant Street is a Call and Answer.

The Call often takes the form of an exploration, expert, experience, or lesson. The Answer is a way of cementing that Call into something practical that we take the time to cherish. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the Call from the Answer. None the less, both sides of this coin are required for a memorable education experience.

This week, the Blue Band had an overwhelming number of Calls and Answers!


Plants: The Call
The Blue and Orange Bands took a trip to Plant Warehouse! While there, we walked around in their urban jungle, asked a lot of questions, and also purchased some plant babies to later care for in the classroom. When selecting a plant, the Blue Band was encouraged to ask as many questions as possible of the expert staff. What is this plant? Where does it grow best? How should I care for it? What type of container should it live in?

Plants: The Answer
Once back in the bandspace, everyone spent the afternoon researching their new plants. After all, who is going to care for them during Thanksgiving and Winter breaks? Amanda is. How am I going to know what to do? They all made me some handy guides to caring for their plants, which included facts and tidbits that I might not otherwise know. Which researching, we also learned quite a bit about the different plants, including that Felix bought a hot pepper plant (spiciness confirmed).


Raisin in the Sun: The Call
We are nearly finished with Raisin in the Sun, and everyone is still pretty excited about how the story is progressing. We had some great conversations this week, which included a pretty lengthy discussion on housing discrimination laws and the current Air BnB discussions here in San Francisco.

Raisin in the Sun: The Answer
To answer this call, we had a cost of living calculation session this week, where we mapped out the differences in the cost of products between 1959 and 2015. Once we found the costs, we calculated the percentage of increase due to inflation, and then graphed out the differences so we could see the increase visually.


Printmaking: The Call
During a particularly distracted afternoon this week, Blue Band had to take an unplanned walk around the neighborhood to clear our minds and let off some steam. During our walk, we ran across Aesthetic Union, a printmaking business a few blocks over. Even though the business was closed, one of the owners saw us peering in the window and let us all in for a quick tour of the space. While wandering around the shop, we got to see the printing presses in action and check out some of the artwork they are replicating.

Printmaking: The Answer
We’re been printmaking on Friday mornings nearly the entire year, and this week was no different. Every member of Blue Band is at a different place in their print projects. Some were printing for the first time, some are now working on a six-color piece, and still others have launched into various side projects based on what they have learned so far. The highlight of this week: we learned that taking a break from a practice doesn’t necessarily mean your body isn’t continuing to learn. Audrey was so surprised when she printed the first color of her new print, and her technique improved one hundred fold since the last time she inked!

And from that, the only logical conclusion: time isn’t necessarily a factor, but you definitely need to bookend learning in order to experience growth. The Call needs an Answer.

Orange Band: Seed, Week 3

To start, sprouting seeds

Reading, dissecting, playing, exploring

Planting sprouts at last.


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Sadie carefully takes apart the sepals and ovary at the base of one of her flowers.


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Isaac and Sadie playing dominoes with multiples of 2 scoring.


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Ramses, Gita and Emilio working on illustrations of their characters for our NaNoWriMo projects with help from MB!


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Ramses and Tesla with the plants they chose at Plant Warehouse.


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Planting our sprouts in dirt. Thank you for sending in the egg cartons!

We’re Going On a Seed Hunt

Welcome to the Red Band’s exploration of seeds. During our first week of this new arc we identified the needs of a seed: water, air, sun, and soil. We went on a neighborhood seed hunt and sorted our findings by: seeds, seed holders, and leaves and flowers. Our second quest for understanding seeds came by way of dissection.


We read From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer and learned about the life cycle of a pumpkin. Next we measured, weighed, and drew observations of our pumpkin. The time finally came for us to slice it open and find out what was inside. Once the pumpkin was split we added to our drawings and labeled what we saw: skin, flesh, pulp, seeds, and stem. We continued to dissect gourds this past week and compared a warted gourd to our pumpkin observations. Though I handled the cutting of the larger pumpkin, the kids took on the task of sawing through the tough skin and flesh of the gourd noting, “It’s hard to cut.”


We are still working at our first thoughts on what a seed needs to grow. This week we tested cut leaves to observe their relationship with water and air. We confirmed that plants need air to breathe once we saw bubbles form on a large smooth leaf. After observing a small smooth leaf for two minutes we saw no relationship. Two minutes with a small fuzzy leaf also showed no relationship but the kids observed that it felt softer after its bath.


We had the opportunity to visit Slide Ranch in Muir Beach. This lovely working farm welcomed us for a day of hands-on appreciation for people, plants, and animals. Our teacher, Reesha Rabbit, introduced us to sweet goat named Amber who let us milk her. We met turkeys and worked on our turkey calls. In the garden we learned a lesson on respect: how to show it and how to ask for it. We tasted herbs and vegetables before visiting the ducks. We quietly quacked a song for them to enjoy which we now call, “March of the Nutquacker”. Finally we met one protective rooster and many different types of hen. And we were able to hold and observe a freshly laid bumpy egg.


We have also entered National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a time for all writers to commit to working on and publishing one piece of writing. For the Red Band, we are working on our own picture books. We discussed the different forms these books may take: words and pictures, pictures only, and pictures with dialogue. We are focusing on the five elements of  story: characters, setting, theme, plot, and conflict. So far, we have chosen our characters and are placing them in a setting. If you would like to learn more about this experience or sign-up to participate at or


Yellow Band: Our Exploration into Seed is Growing and So Are Our NaNoWriMo Novels

It’s amazing to think that we have completed our first arc, are already two weeks into our exploration of Seed, and have launched into NaNoWriMo.

We began the arc by exploring the idea of seed and plant as food. The grocery store and the farmer’s market both provided perfect locations for scavenger hunts. At the grocery store they worked to find seeds you drink, seeds that are baked into something, seeds you can spread, seeds with caffeine, seeds in a can, and many more ways to consume or use seeds. The farmer’s market gave them a place to search out seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of all kinds. Not only did we search out these plants parts, but we bought a representative of each (seeds-corn, roots-carrot, stem-celery, leaves-lettuce, flowers-squash blossoms, fruit-tomatoes), split up into groups to study and dissect them, shared our learning with each other, and then created and enjoyed a delicious salad out of them.










In the first week we also took a closer look at seeds through the dissection of corn kernels and peas. We observed the differences between the two types of seeds: monocots (one cotyledon – corn) and dicots (two cotyledons – peas). We studied and researched their various parts, learning about their functions.






Week two took us into the launch of NaNoWriMo, Slide Ranch, and self-watering planters. The creative juices have been flowing and the Yellow Band has been begging to stay in from park to continue working on their novels everyday. There are talking berries, an ant named Snail and a snail named Ant, kings and princesses, and a bunch of newts all named George. They are constantly supporting each other, helping one another brainstorm plot twists and character names. Sneaking a peak at their stories whenever I can is the highlight of my day.

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Our trip to Slide Ranch took us to a working farm where we milked a goat, saw a whale in the distance, fed chickens and learned about their egg laying, played in the “fennel forest” and ate fennel “gum,” and relaxed in the vegetable garden while listening to the book A Seed is Sleepy.

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

As a way to create an observation nursery in our band space, we built self-watering planters out of recycled plastic food containers. The planters were created by drilling holes in the bottom of a smaller container and threading yarn or string through them. The smaller container was then slowly filled with soil, as to make sure the strings or yarn were spread throughout, and then seeds were planted. The larger bottom container was filled with water before placing the smaller container and its lower dangling strings or yarn into it. The goal is for the water to travel up the yarn or string and seep out into the soil, slowly self-watering the plant. We will continue to observe and track the growth of our plants throughout the arc.

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Orange Band: Seed, Week 2

We are in the groove. I love looking through my photos from a whole week because I get to remember all the good work we did!

We started out by building some foundational knowledge about seeds, flowers and pollinators. Kiddos have expressed the most interest in the idea of symbiosis, or the mutually beneficial relationship between plants and creatures.

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Emilio and Oscar loved researching bees and butterflies together!

We kept up with routines like math and literacy skill building time. We had to reorder our number line after it got blown off our table by a lovely ocean breeze, and we started talking about symmetry. Kiddos have also jumped into NaNoWriMo work! It is so exciting to hear about their story ideas, and help them sculpt them into a finished product.

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Oscar and Tesla working on making symmetric designs using pattern blocks.


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Sadie carefully plotting out the sequence of her story.

We went on a great field trip to Slide Ranch! This beautiful working farm was a great place for us to go on a nice hike, talk about the interdependence between creatures and plants, and pretend we were bees for a bit. Thank you to our instructor, Jordan River for her patient guidance, action- and info-packed learning! It was great the way she encouraged us to get dirty and learn something new.

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Who wants a shot of fresh goat milk right into their mouth?!


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It’s so important to go with the flow of kids’ silliness! Here we are acting out a goat’s multiple-stomached digestive system. Don’t forget about those last few steps: some energy becomes milk, and the rest gets pooped out!

What a week; on to the next one!