Yellow Band: by Sea, weeks 11 & 12

The last few weeks have been so much fun! As the crow’s nest and tugboat started to wrap up, we didn’t quite have enough time to start some new projects from scratch. But, we started an exploration that we hadn’t gotten to yet–lighthouses and shipwrecks. Because why not?

As long as people have been traveling and transporting, boats have been wrecking along rocky shorelines and invisible reefs and in bad weather with low visibility. And, as long as boats have been wrecking, people have been trying to figure out different ways to protect sailors and mariners from unseen dangers. With lighthouses, bells, foghorns, and even fires burning from beaches humans have tried to light the way toward safety. And, the Bay area is a great place to explore some of these physical structures and research their successes and failures.

At Pt. Bonita light in the Marin Headlands. Most recommend!

At Lands End, where we could see the wreck of the Frank Buck, Lyman Stewart and Mile Rock, where the SS City of Rio de Janeiro all wrecked.

One piece of this exploration was light itself: how does it work, and how can we magnify it to light the way on dark nights? We spent some time playing with lenses and color in order to explore some of the properties of light.

We tried to separate black ink into it’s component colors, but it turned out our black markers were actually very dark blue.

Then, we made spinners with each color of the rainbow. We observed that if we could spin them fast enough, the colors would blend together to look white, like light!

And of course we took a few lenses outside to experiment with focusing light.

Another piece of this exploration was architectural: how can we build a tall tower that is also strong enough to stand up to pounding waves, unrelenting wind and rain?

Oscar thought he’d simulate a tall cliff by the ocean by building his lighthouse tower on a stool. This also gave us a great way to test and see how strong his structure was!

Sakira quickly realized that she’d need to add layers of blocks to her structure in order to make it stand up to the wind (aka her hand).

Solin carefully drew the tower that she and Reyahn built together in her journal.

Oscar then enlisted Emilio and Devlin to help him reinforce his initial simple designs with layers and layers of blocks. They also decided to keep their tower short, because it was already on top of a tall rock.

After our trip to Pt. Bonita, we realized the sheer magnitude of the number of shipwrecks around the Golden Gate (around 300!). Some quick internet research revealed that we could get pretty close to a few of these wrecks by taking a trip out to Lands End. So that’s just what we did!

We got there right on time for low tide! In this photo, you can see all that remains of the Frank Buck–its steam engines–poking out of the water.

We hurried down to Mile Rock Beach, to get as close to a few wrecks as we could.

Countless ships have met their fate along these rocks, and the stretch from Seal Rock to Fort Point has been especially deadly.

And we climbed around a lot too! We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

Oh, and we stopped by for a quick walk through the labyrinth before heading back to the bus.

This week, we focused on researching and experimenting with a particularly damaging type of shipwrecks: when oil tankers wreck and leak crude oil into marine environments. We started to learn a bit about the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, which left a lasting impression for many. The entire school has been talking about how to be more responsible with our waste–from being mindful that we put our trash into the proper bin, to ways we can minimize waste–so this turn in the exploration fit right in. Plus, some of the chemistry experiments we got to do were really messy and fun!

Devlin and Reyahn work on making a boom to contain some ‘crude oil’ in their tin tray.

Oh no! The oil was able to sneak across Emilio’s boom!

Cleaning up oil spills is hard! Emilio tried to make a boom float on the water, but although the cardboard could soak up oil, it didn’t keep the oil from sneaking across to the ‘clean’ water.

And now we’re already getting ready for Expo! Stay tuned!

By Sea: Expression, In Full Swing

For the past few weeks, Orange Band students have put their time, energy, and hearts into Expression projects for the Movement of Things By Sea Arc. This, our third and final arc, definitely has a culminating feel to it. Projects truly seem to build off the year’s experiences–not just the Exploration work of this arc, but the previous arc’s project work, as well. And, so, without further ado, please enjoy the By Sea Arc Projects of the Orange Band!

Fur the seals

By Charlotte

My project is a podcast about northern fur seals, I chose it because I like fur seals and it relates to the by sea arc because northern fur seals live in the sea! They travel by sea around a quarter of the world!

Fun fact: They are the second most furriest animal on earth! They have 300,000 hairs per square inch. The males live to be 10 years old then they die, whereas the females live to be 20-27! Females are much smaller compared to males: females get to be 4 feet long and males get to be 6 feet long and longer!

My goal for this project is to teach people about northern fur seals and inspire them to help them rebuild their population. I want to help people understand the importance of just one animal, because it can change other animals that we depend on! We need to help fur seals, and other animals that can depend on animals that are crucial to humans.

P.S. My project will cost… about… maybe $999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999.99 plus tax and other things like that.

P.P.S. Nah… it is worth more than that. Maybe $999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999.99 uhhh that does include tax but it doesn’t include getting a special box for it. And maybe an extra large car… no… truck. And you’ll need two… no… three. Anyway, it is TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!

P.P.P.S. Oh and you can get it on eBay. It costs more on eBay. But you know, it is TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!

The argonauts waste a lot of valuable time struggling

By Lucy

The Argo on the set

My project is a stop motion of the Argo’s journey. Phoebe and I are working together to create this film. We chose to make a stop motion about the Argonauts and their journey because we both love Greek mythology and thought it would be fun to make a stop motion. Our project relates to the by sea arc because the Argo was a Greek ship that sailed across the black sea to Colchis to retrieve the golden fleece for Jason’s home town Iolcus. Our project has value because the story of the golden fleece was first told over 2,000 years ago and phoebe and I are retelling it in 2017 and it started in 200 BCE! Our  project is probably going to teach us about the Argonauts and stop motion we will learn to work well together and other stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Phoebe and I painting the set

Jeevan By Sea

My project is a hovercraft. I chose this project because I thought it would be a challenge to hover something over water. Water is not flat, hard, still, or smooth. My project relates to the by sea arc because it is a hovercraft that hovers over water. Water is a different surface than land. In water everything has to be even so it doesn’t tip over. You cannot make a land hover craft and put it over water. It would tip over. My project will teach me a lot about balancing airflow and air pressure. Instead of making something that goes in water, and is affected by water I am making something that goes over water, and  is still affected by water. I made a land hovercraft and I put it over  water and it tipped over. I tried it multiple times but nothing changed. At the beginning of the arc we went on boats. All the boats we went on had to displace their own weight in water. I wanted to make something that could go on water without displacing their own weight in water. That’s how I decided to make a hovercraft.

Project Defense

By Amiya

Me practicing filming with a green-screen

For my project, I am making a shipwreck documentary  featuring the Andrea Doria and the Titanic. I am aiming to make the video at least 15 minutes long. I chose this project because I am fascinated with accidental and mysterious shipwrecks, and I would like to know more. I also have never made a documentary before, so it will teach me some new skills about filming and editing video. Originally, It was going to be drawing animations with the Titanic, Lusitania, and Andrea Doria, but I did not get enough project time in the first two weeks. Now, even with more project time, I will have to do a few drawings, but only for the wrecks and Lego stop motion for the sinkings. 

Me drawing the wreck of the Titanic

Though part of the reason I chose this project was because I really like drawing, I am still excited about the project. The two shipwrecks that I am doing are my favorites because not only are they very famous, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding their sinkings. Even today, scientists can only guess about exactly how the Titanic sank since no one took any pictures or video of it sinking. The Andrea Doria was filmed sinking, but still there are some things that scientists do not know. This project is worthy of my time as it is something that I am very passionate about, and when I have a choice, I choose to work on my documentary. As I mentioned before, I have never made a documentary, so this is a chance to learn new skills such as editing film. This project is related to by sea because it is about ships that sank, which used to move by-sea, and are now part of the ocean.

Me meeting with my expert

THE ARGONAUTS SHALL NOT DIE… WELL MOST OF THEM ANYWAY

By Phoebe

I love the idea of supernatural beings controlling nature. The ancient Greeks made myths up so they could explain natural phenomenon that they could not explain.  My project is a stop motion about the Argo and its journey. Lucy is working on it with me.  I chose it because I like Greek mythology it’s also  one of my favorites myth and it’s by sea.  I will learn what I can in a few weeks deadline. We are not making the full film because it would be too much work in few days.

    

My Cardboard Boat

By Roman

My project is building a cardboard boat. I chose this project because I wanted to have a boat, a fun time, and a cool project. This project relates to the By Sea Arc because I get to go out on the water and feel proud about accomplishing building a boat in a short amount of time. Also I will tell my family that I built a boat and make them proud. The value of this project is building a boat that doesn’t sink and getting more into boat building. I will test the boat in a pool or a river. Another value is that I can build a boat in a survival situation and I could save my life from that. I think this project is important because I will have project that connects to this arc.

Roman carefully cuts paddles out of plywood on the band saw

Band saw practice breaks up the cardboard construction

 

My Arc Project

By Justin

I am making a boat out of coroplast and wood for my project. The sides are made out of coroplast and the bottom is made out of wood. It is 8 feet long and 2 feet 6 in wide. It was supposed to have a motor originally but it is not going to. I am going to take it to Jenner to test it. I think that building a boat is a good by sea project because we use boats for crossing water. It is a good project because I will learn about building and waterproofing structures and I will get a boat.

Feedback from Fresh Eyes

The By Sea Arc has got us working double time on our expression projects. Each week a new iteration is due, and we’ve been taking time on Fridays to get feedback from the Brightworks community. This week students shared their second iterations with the band, and got feedback from someone in our community that was less familiar with their project. To encourage constructive feedback, we used the prompts: I like… I wish… What if… These prompts have come in handy for us before as a way to get feedback on works in progress, and it helps students to see their work from someone else’s perspective.

 

Oscar has been working on an underwater evolution simulation, and now has the simulator working autonomously. He gave a demo to the group to show how the creatures grow, and got some feedback to add more branches to the creatures.

 

Audrey has been collecting samples of ocean water, bay water, tap water, and distilled water to analyze what type of microbes might be living in it. She hopes to use that analysis to determine how that might help us understand the potential for life in the water on Mars. She’s planning to continue conducting experiments, and will consider ways to display her samples together so that they can be compared side by side.

 

Rhone’s second iteration is building off of the 24-hour boat kit he designed for his first iteration. Now he’s trying to figure out how one might survive for up to a week with just those items. So far, Rhone has designed a DIY water still out of the water bottles in the boat kit. His still removes the salt from seawater by collecting evaporated fresh water in the top bottle. Unfortunately, the process is VERY slow, and won’t make enough water in time for anyone to survive off of it for a week. Rhone got some feedback to think about harnessing heat to speed up the process, and to start thinking about solutions for sourcing food.

 

Norabelle has been working on seascape paintings, learning new painting techniques, and experimenting with various media. Seeing all the works side by side, the group was able to see the different styles she’s been inspired by. For her final iteration, she’s considering some feedback from the group to work bigger.

 

Declan has been charting out the plans to sail the boats we worked on earlier in the arc. He’s had some roadblocks around where, when, and how we can sail these boats. In spite of those roadblocks, he’s come up with a plan for how we might sail to Angel Island. He got some feedback to add specifics to the chart about when we’ll be sailing the boats, and how long we’ll be out on the water.

 

Felix has been working on an underwater music video. He got to share the unedited footage with the group on Friday. The group was mystified and delighted by the world he’s created for this underwater shoot. Since neither Rhone nor Felix can hold their breath underwater for the full five minute music video, his next steps will be to stitch the shots together and edit in the audio.

 

Khalia is working on a scale model of one of the rooms at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Khalia got feedback to share the scale ratio somewhere in her display so that people looking at the diorama could get a sense for the size of the actual room.

 

Earlier this week Elijah got some feedback that he would need to build more riggings to support the mast. After talking with a few experts though, he realized that the mast was actually quite strong with the foot in place. He demonstrated the strength of the mast by getting the boat on its side just by pulling on the mast.

 

Ella missed our feedback session on Friday, but she did get a chance to get some great advice on her podcast project from none other than Sarah Koenig! This photo was captured from behind the glass door of the music room where Ella was using some audio equipment to record the feedback from Sarah. Ella learned she’ll need to orient people right away to the story behind her podcast, to make it personal and intriguing.

 

Of course, each student will get to choose which feedback they want to incorporate, if they want to incorporate it, and how they want to do it. Students are using the guiding questions they came up with to stay focused on what they had originally set out to explore in their project. They’ll have one week to incorporate feedback, and come up with their final iteration. The arc is flying by, and it’s so exciting to see these expression projects take shape!

Expressing Themselves By Sea

Already three weeks into the Expression Phase, the Teal Band is full steam ahead on their projects. We’ve experienced chemical reactions, learned research techniques, discovered how helpful handwritten notecards are on a day when the internet is down, crafted, experimented and done a lot of writing.

Piper: So far I have made things–sea themed stuffed animals and soaps with little turtles in them– to sell to raise money for sea turtles. And handed out flyers so people know about it.  I have worked on making a book that’s going to talk about sea turtles and what they do. I hope that everyone will come to my craft fair at Umpqua Bank (24th St – Noe Valley) this Saturday. The banker is buying enough ice cream for 200 people, and says he’ll run out and get more if we need it!

Piper’s stuffie sea creatures for her sea turtle rescue fundraiser.

Nora: This morning, I was going over my paper and was disappointed to find it was way too short and I did not have enough information on the fish that lives in sargassum (if you want to learn about that you can read my research paper on expo night,) So, Melissa found some information on it which I looked over and we figured out the Sargassum fish is related to the angler fish (which i am kind of obsessed with I did a blog post, a model and a Prezi on earlier in the year) so I was very excited about that turns out I really like that kind of fish.

Nora’s sargassum seaweed models in clay and felt.

Huxley: I have done the chemistry and figured out that my super-corroding alloy has (in terms of the hydrogen it can produce) an energy density 13 times than that of a non-rechargeable lithium-ion battery! I have also created a design to implode hydrogen safely.

Huxley’s hydrogen measuring system. He’s gone through loads of vinegar.

Selina: My algae seem to be growing according to my expectations. I had a jar of plain seawater that I put a little fertilizer in. I checked on it today and it there was algae growing. This proves that if we were to dump iron ore into the ocean, as I am theorizing, algae would grow.

Setting up Selina’s algae experiment.

Jonah: I have been working on connecting my smaller gear to my big gear. The gearing is so that I can make it so that when the big gear that is connected to the water wheel spins enough to make the smaller wheel that is connected to the generator. I am going to work on the second iteration of the water wheel today.

Jonah’s first iteration hydropower plan.

Aurora: Moving forward in my project, I’m learning about the challenges of building shipping container homes. I would also like to learn about the different shapes of shipping container homes. Lastly, I would like to learn about how different architects are getting around the challenges of using shipping containers as homes.

Aurora has begun laying out her shipping container home.

Jared: I have done a lot of research and I have started to receiving emails from my experts. So far, besides doing research, I have begun working on my mini-documentary using iMovie.  Melissa has helped me organize my notes and helped me a lot.

Jared has been doing a lot of research on dolphin communication.

Patrick:  These last weeks before expo are always the hardest because you always like “Oh, this project is horrible compared to everyone’s projects.” I think I did well, for something that I’m not good at focusing on. I still need to do 1/3 of my project in a week. So, this should be fun.

Patrick is up to 13 followers following his fiction on RoyalRoadL.

Freddie: I feel and little stressed but I am finishing up my research paper. I am going to have a talk with Willow to start to help me with my drawings as I have already sketched them out. I’m ready to be done but my research paper needs a little more work and I feel like I am having writer’s block right now but hopefully I get it done in time.

Freddie is researching, writing and drawing about buoy and acorn barnacles.

As a little break from all their project work, the Teal Band enjoyed a lesson on dyeing natural fibers (silk) using natural dyes. They boiled cabbage and fig leaves to create their dyes. Exploring a bit of chemistry and pH, they played with their colors by dipping their dyed silks in different acids and bases.

Learning to dye silk with natural dyes from cabbage and fig leaves…with a bit of math and chemistry added in. Thanks Sierra.

Writing away and posing for pics with Mr. Manatee for the yearbook.

Yellow Band: by Sea, Weeks 9 & 10

This week, let’s check out some of the work we’ve been doing on our projects! Two of our bigger, group projects this arc have been a tugboat and a crow’s nest. Because BOATS.

Reyahn, Quinn and Calvin all work hard on mounting the top of the level of the bow.

Nicole and a group of Red and Yellow Banders get ready to cut their big circular deck for the crow’s nest.

Nathan started this arc with a big interest in tugboats because of the way that they are ‘helper boats’ in a harbor. These busy little boats are the experts of a port or harbor, tugging bigger boats in and out, and directing traffic through sometimes busy waterways. Which obviously goes perfectly with one of our favorite sayings over here in the Hive, “How can I help?”

Nolan drives in some screws to attach the bow to the hull of the tugboat.

Working sometimes meant squeezing into some tight places! Here, Reyahn helps attach the bow to the hull.

One morning, Emilio and Quinn headed over to the Orchard to cut a trapezoidal piece of plywood for the deck of the bow.

It was really important to the Red and Yellow Banders that they be able to go into their tugboat, and that it looked like it was above the water, like in real life. This meant that they would need to build a super strong frame to support a floor for a few people to stand on at once. And that meant they would need to use lots and lots of flat brackets. And they really really did it! Even though about 2 weeks of work consisted of just installing these brackets, they really stuck with it.

Khalilah cuts open a big cardboard box to use as the skin of the tugboat.

And now it looks like a boat!

The folks in the Red Band have spent some time learning about the international flag signal code, so Nicole was interested in building a mast of a boat to hang a flag from. And if we’re building a mast, we should probably just build the platform to stand on so that we can spot storms, other ships and even land from far away. Ya know, a crow’s nest! As we worked out our design, we knew we would need to use something in our space as an anchor, otherwise the crow’s nest would need too big of a footprint in order to be stable. One day, paging through the David Macaulay book Underground, I realized that one of the big columns in our space would be perfect. They go down into the basement, making them just like the mast on a ship! This, plus a few tips from Gever (compress anchor beams to the column using ratchet straps, just like when building a treehouse!), and we were ready to turn our ideas into reality.

May and Ronin work together on assembling the wooden beams that we’ll anchor to the column in our space.

After doing some initial work on the wooden beams, we were ready to hold them up and compress them into place!

Then, we got to work on a rope ladder so that we can get up into the crow’s nest. Here, Oscar cuts a branch into 14″ sections to use as the rungs of the ladder.

After struggling with a few other knots, Sylvester decided we should try the constrictor hitch to tie together the rungs of the rope ladder. And he was right! This knot works great with the tree branch we found to use for the rungs.

These two projects are so close to being done we can almost taste it! Kiddos are already asking if the crow’s nest can be a permanent part of our landscape, and I think it may be so well built that maybe we can say yes!

By Sea Declarations

All of the proposed Amber Band project declarations have been approved! Throughout the exploration phase of the By Sea Arc, we took a closer look at our relationship to the sea. We researched the ways each of us arrived in the Bay Area, and toured the Angel Island Immigration Station; collected and analyzed our personal water usage data; adopted drains in our neighborhood, and designed devices to help keep those drains clean; got up close to sharks at the Aquarium of the Bay, and heard an elephant seal serenade at the Marine Mammal Center. We kayaked in the bay, surfed in the ocean, slept on a submarine, and built boats. Now in the third week of the expression phase, students are building on what they learned in the exploration phase through their own expression project. Last week students shared declarations with Gever and Liz for final approval, and here’s what was proposed:

Ella and Norabelle visited Galería de la Raza to see how artists think about water, and how they present water related issues.

Ella

On the afternoon of May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine off the south coast of Ireland. Within 20 minutes, the vessel sank into the Celtic Sea. Of 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,198 people were drowned, including 128 Americans. My great great great great grandfather was one of the survivors and after that he went totally crazy. 

For my project I want to do a podcast about how surviving the shipwreck effected him and his family.

In the final week of boat building, Amberites still managed to get their declarations approved. Felix gives a thumbs up after meeting with Gever about his underwater music video.

Felix

My desired product is a surreal cinematic music video that is all shot underwater. I’m using Rhone as the character in the video. Since Rhone and I are both humans, I will create a chart that times how long we will need to be under to shoot a shot.

This project will be a challenge for me because I will have to figure out how to bring things that shouldn’t be underwater, underwater. I will have to figure out how to keep us from floating or drowning. This project will be worth my time because I have had this idea for a music video all being shot underwater in my head for a year, and I’ve finally found the right opportunity to film it.

Khalia and the rest of Ambigo at the Angel Island Immigration Station.

Khalia

My project will tell Chinese immigrants’ stories. I find immigration interesting because it’s cool to see how different people got here. I want my project to make people feel lucky that they didn’t have to go through immigration. At Angel Island people had to sleep in a place where the people were cramped. It’s not something I would want to go through.

On a trip to Rodeo Beach, Oscar decided to transform into a merperson. Perhaps this was the moment he felt inspired to create his own evolution simulator for his expression project?

Oscar

I will make an evolution simulator that creates a description of  underwater plants/animals and their evolutions based on Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, and an ecosystem based on the plants/animals that the simulator created.

This project will be a challenge to me because I want to better understand programming and evolution. I will be able to make an evolution simulation using my programming knowledge, and it will teach me more about evolution.

Norabelle out on the ferry photographing landscapes from the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Norabelle

My desired  finish project is three finished waterscapes of Angel Island using different techniques. This project is challenging because I’ve never tried to do detailed landscapes before and I’ve never painted with extreme detail like I would like to for the painting part of my project

Elijah uses a sander to get the edges of the boat smooth enough to seal.

Elijah

I’m iterating on the boats we built as a band to make them more practical and comfortable. This project is worth my time because It is a great opportunity to learn more about how boats work and how boats are made. This is a challenge for me because I’m building the most out of the 4 of us who are using the boats for expression projects, and I have the least experience building. Also I’m not a big fan of sailing, so this will be good for getting me out of my comfort zone.

Declan, Oscar, and Felix work together to seal the sides of the boat.

Declan

I will use the boats we built to navigate around the Bay Area. I will use a professional chart of the Bay Area to plot our course around San Francisco. I will plan when we will launch, taking into account witch way the wind is blowing, what the tide is doing, and all of the rest of complications that I discover along the way. I will also teach the rest of my team how to sail.

The project I am hopeful to embark on is extremely important to the group’s mission because if the launch time and course are incorrectly judged the results could be catastrophic. We could end up way off course, be hit by a huge container ship, and even drown, to say the worst. However these fates could be avoided if you have someone to make sure everything goes smoothly.  

Audrey is all smiles after getting her declaration approved!

Audrey

Have you ever looked at something in nature and wondered: What is this made of? Me too. So for my project I want to identify chemical makeup of various specimens like water from the bay and analyze their chemical makeup. At the end of the project we will have an easy to understand display to show what I found in the water samples and why it’s there and whether it’s helpful or harmful to the ocean.

This project will be a challenge for me because I’ve never worked in a lab before or dealt with all that much chemistry at all. I want to do this project because I don’t know that much about chemistry and I’m hoping this experience will teach me. It will also further teach me about how to design an experiment and give me more hands on experience with science.

Rhone and Evan are problem solving some of the challenges of sealing the boat.

Rhone

For my project I will be going on a 24 hour sail trip with Declan, Audrey and Elijah. I will be focusing on life support, or as I like to call it “soccer mom”. I will design a boat survival pack that can last one person 30 days on a boat.

I will have to decide what’s necessary to have and what not necessary. (I tend to say just get it all) the boats are a big part of my project and if they don’t move or float or if there is any other problem that will prevent us from going in them we will have to figure it out.

Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 6-8

A few weeks ago, we started to talk about international shipping, the switch to containerized shipping, and the globalization of the textile industry. Yea, you read that right. All this with these 1st and 2nd graders.

Working on a map to visually display the data we collected on where everyone at Brightworks’ t-shirts came from. Read about it below!

The thing that started it all was this podcast, which focuses on the port of Oakland. It tells the story from the beginning, hearing from longshoremen and tugboat drivers, and follows the story all the way through to today, even taking the listener inside a container crane. Because, you see, shipping goods around the world used to be enormously hard, labor intensive work. Ports employed lots of people, because lots of human power was needed to load and unload cargo from the belly of ships. And so, a lot more stuff was made closer to home. Things were trucked across the country. Then, a company called Sealand used the first container. Suddenly, stuff could be loaded in boxes, and those boxes could be put on ships. Instead of each sack of coffee or pallet of cloth being painstakingly loaded, containers could quickly and relatively easily be stacked on ships. Now, all it takes is one operator in a container crane. And so, since shipping is so cheap–so cheap in fact, that the international shipping industry loses money hand over fist–we started getting more and more products made overseas, where labor is cheaper. On that first day, after listening to the first episode of Containers, we took a minute to look at the tags of our t-shirts to see where they all came from. India, Indonesia, China, Guatemala, Vietnam. And off we went.

Devlin checking to see where his shirt was made. That tag can tell quite the story!

The following week, we started to look at some data about the Port of Oakland, getting ready to go on a field trip to see it all in person. We work on making graphs and charts about where the goods received at the port typically come from, and what kinds of goods are packed inside all of those containers. Then, we spent a day at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, right smack in the middle of the port, taking a closer look at the container cranes, and watching in awe the amount of truck traffic going in and out, in and out, constantly. So many trucks! So many containers!

We saw tugboats hurrying around the bay.

And so many trucks dropping off cargo, picking up cargo.

And one HUGE ship parked at the port, though we couldn’t tell if it was getting loaded or unloaded.

Then on Friday, it was our turn to lead morning circle. So, we posed a question to the whole school: where did the shirt you’re wearing come from? And the data we collected was really compelling. The following Monday, we got to work graphing our data, making bar graphs and line plots. As we worked, we noticed that close to half of our shirts came from Asia, with Latin America a distant second. We also noticed that none of our shirts came from Europe or Russia or Australia.

Solin working on her line plot of our t-shirt data.

She used t-shirts on her line plot–perfect!

Nolan’s line plot/chart came out very precise and easy to read, great job!

Then, we put our data on the map, using different sized bubbles to show the number of shirts that came from each country.

There was so much great geography woven through this exploration too!

We knew that a lot of the reason that so many shirts came from Asia, which seems very far away, is that container shipping is cheap, and so is labor, but our understanding was missing the human story. So, I went to Newsela, searching for articles about the textile industry. These articles really filled in the story of our t-shirts. First of all, chances are the cotton your t-shirt is made of was grown in the US. You won’t find that on the tag! On top of that, kids might have had a hand in making our clothes! And, women in Bangladesh actively choose to work in the textile industry, because even though it can be dangerous, it gives them freedom to earn their own money and make their own decisions.

Solin read about a change to labor laws that could lead to more children leaving school to work in the garment industry. Advocates worry about children being taken advantage, but sometimes poor families need the money that their children can earn.

That last point really stuck out to us. In our discussions of what we think about the textile industry, most Yellow Banders had a value for affordable clothes, and no discrimination for someone making the shirt here or far away. If the shipping is cheap, why not? People in other countries need good jobs, so why not make clothes? And, people need access to clothes they can afford! Reading these articles (and later listening to the Planet Money episode about two Bangladeshi sisters that work in a garment factory) gave our discussion a lot more depth and empathy. Now we could see that we could both be in favor of affordable clothes, and think that the humans that work to make our clothes deserve to earn a living wage and work in a safe environment.

Sakira and Emilio read about women in Bangladesh that work in textile factories. The women often work in hot, dangerous, grueling conditions–one woman said she tries to make 1,000 shirts everyday! But, leaving their small villages and earning their own money gives them freedom and independence. And, the money they send home significantly improves their families’ lives.

Then, I saw online that this past Monday would be the 4 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. So, I decided we should make our own t-shirts.

At the fabric store choosing fabrics!

Then, cutting out pattern pieces printed out from a free online pattern, and piecing them together like a puzzle.

In the afternoons for Beehive Choice time, we’ve been using a raglan t-shirt pattern to make shirts. Here, Dash helps Sylvester pin on his sleeves.

And Piper from the Teal Band has been coming over to help us–which has been awesome!

The Yellow Band worked on making some custom t-shirt patterns. Here, Reyahn traces Sakira to help her draw her custom pattern.

Nolan works on his custom pattern. Figuring the shape the pattern pieces need to be is pretty tricky!

And, Oscar helps Nolan cut out the fabric using his paper pattern as a guide.

And that’s the story of why we’re making clothes during the by Sea arc. In case you were wondering.