The Blue and Green Bands have been talking about the Rule of Thirds when taking photographs. Phillip reported, “Several students are interested in the historical implications of photographs and the more current methods of manipulating images digitally. Almost students are interested in taking better photos.” What better way to improve at something than to do a lot of it? Both bands went on an adventure yesterday to Glen Park Canyon to practice their new skills and learn about nature and landscape photography while focusing on taking pictures that emphasize lines.



aidan pic

(photo credit to Aidan)



(photo credit to Frances)

The Orange and Indigo Bands headed out to the Cliff House on Tuesday to see the giant camera obscura out on the edge of the continent. While they were there, they ran into Chris Honeysett, who is a photographer who uses wet plate collodion prints for his photos – one of the earliest forms of photographic development.







The Yellow Band visited Pier 24 on Tuesday. Pier 24 is a museum dedicated solely to photography. Right now they have a couple of exhibits that explore found photographs and the modern way of taking pictures. The kids were immediately drawn to the room filled to the brim with pictures uploaded to Flickr in one day.


(photo credit to Norabelle)


As with every arc, each band approaches the topic with their own flair, modes of inquiry, and topics of study. Since Gever’s official declaration of the Photograph arc last Wednesday, the Brightworks kids have started their exploration of the Photograph through photo safaris, camera obscuras, and studying the contents of a single photo.


The Red Band was invited to investigate what was depicted in a photo that Shawna put up in their bandspace. She writes,

“I taped a “mystery photo” to our easel and provided oil pastels for the children to add onto the picture…. By Friday, all of the white had been filled in with color and shapes. Sadie and Isaac both postulated theories as to what it was. Sadie said it was a giant pillow fight, which she remembered from seeing it before.


“Isaac said it was a crowd of people in a room with a flag pole. He could see the people’s heads. When I asked him what all the white rectangles were, he thought maybe they were white shirts. When I told him what Sadie said, he at first laughed, but then, looking closely, he said, “Yeah, it could be a giant pillow fight!” And he laughed again.


“It was indeed a mass pillow fight, which convened on Valentines Day. I found it in an old San Francisco Magazine spread. I look forward to continuing this game with the children with different photos every week.”

Last week, the Orange Band began constructing a giant camera obscura in the bottom part of their bandspace. Mackenzie writes,

“When the question inevitably arose of how big the hole should be, Quinn ran to his Chromebook and started researching. Bruno, Huxley and Ben joined him the following day watching videos and reading articles about camera obscuras. Quinn discovered that a big hole let in more light while a small hole allowed for greater focus. Because of this we began with a hole the size of a pin.


As you’d imagine it was too small to project an image on the opposite wall, but Lola held a paper up to the hole and discovered that it was indeed projecting an image. This gave the group the gust of excitement and energy they needed to finish the project. While Quinn, Selina, Huxley and I were outside taping cardboard, we could hear the squeals of excitement coming from inside as the image projected on to the wall. This is our first iteration, we still have plenty tinkering to do with the material, size and shape of the hole.”


The Green Band launched into photo safaris and have been snapping like crazy. Amanda was impressed by a conversation they had as a band yesterday:

“Today we began our inquiry by listing all of the reasons to take a photo, and the conversation quickly evolved into jobs that use photographs, ways in which photos affect us, varying levels of importance of a photo. By the end of our conversation, each one of us had pieced together a beautiful reflection to answer, “Are photographs powerful? Why? How?”


“But even this question, in itself, is up to interpretation. A picture of my family, for example, is important to me, but not many others. Versus a picture of, say, the moon landing – something that permeates through the masses, pulling similar emotions or reactions from an entire population. What separates these photos? Just significant events? Strife? Surprise? Survival?”


We are excited to share more of the kids’ photographs as the arc goes on!

community friday number 1

Today, a group of guest bloggers (Mackenzie, Kaia, Frances, and JP) took these photos during our Community Friday morning activities. We love Community Friday – it’s a morning of exploring different modes of expression, talking to people we don’t usually get to see during school, and a place to show passion and dedication to things you love, and share them with the community.






DSC00739Anthony talked to a student about what a great day it is


Amanda, Grace, Kaia, Ally, Lucy and Julian under took a sewing project to decorate the green bandspace!



Sadie in Action


  Lucy, Nolan, Ally and Shawna are in the art studio sewing fabric for pillows and forts.




Amelia helping prepare lunch!


Isaac, Sakira, Zada, Natasha, and Isaac joined Lili in the art room making collage creatures.




Oscar and Travis played Magic the Gathering


day one of year four

It’s always a beautiful sight to see the kids arriving at school on the first day, seeing them exploring the changes, greeting friends and making new ones, and walking around dewy-eyed with excitement at their new home away from home.




Morning circle.






Red Band.


Blue Band.


Green Band.


Indigo Band.


Yellow Band.


Orange Band.



back to school

Brightworks is back in session for our fourth school year! We’ve arrived with style and a foundation of great spontaneous curriculum, solid collaborators, staff, parents, and students who are jazzed to get back in and get started. The place was humming this morning as new and returning students and their families checked out the changes to the space, said hello, and got acquainted with our staff. But before today was a summer of hard work and planning, particularly in the whirlwind of these last two weeks before school started. The space went through some major changes and between staff working long hours and parents volunteering during the long weekend, we got everything in place. Here’s a look at the work in process:













year four arc topics

Next year’s arc topics are:




The photograph is an instant captured with a mixture of electrical, mechanical, optical, and chemical technology. The light that it captures cannot be seen until it is bathed in chemicals or processed by a computer, yet the image that is revealed can only truly be understood, appreciated, made sense of, by a person. Each frozen moment, a slice of time, reveals hints of what happened before and carries implications of what comes after – a story told in a single frame. Photographers have captured the best and worst of humanity, created infamous hoaxes, and revealed the biggest mysteries. Though there may come a day when face and object recognition algorithms will be able to project and extrapolate from a single frame the way that we do, and the connection that we make with a powerful image is personal and unique to each of us.

​The book is a collection of pages bound together. In essence; a physical representation of the thoughts of a human being, the tangible implementation of telepathy, words arranged in a specific sequence designed to put an idea into a strangers mind.​ The revolution of moveable type revolution, started in China almost 1000 years ago and later adapted by Gütenberg, accelerated the rapid spread of ideas and narratives (locally and globally). Books have proved remarkably long-lasting as artifacts, and centuries of their effectiveness can be seen in the hundreds of examples of history changing manifestos and tomes. Books have been banned, embraced, and banned again. They have been esteemed and reviled; pages filled with words arranged in such a way to move the heart and mind.

The movie is a sequence of still frames played in sequence to simulate motion – it combines the technology of the photograph and structure of the book to create something altogether new. It is a story told in scenes and moments, visual by nature and emotional in delivery. An on-rushing train drove audiences from their seats in the earliest experiments and when talkies were first introduced, audiences would argue with the characters on screen – reality suddenly became mutable on a massive scale. The spectacle and the intimate drama both became popular. Movies defined culture in countries around the world.

What ties these things together is the simple idea of story. Where would you start if you set out to explore the idea of a photograph? With Louis Daguerre in the 1840’s with his incredibly toxic chemical processes that involved chlorine, bromine, and, to fix the image, bathing the plate in mercury vapors? Or perhaps you would consider that the act of composing a photograph might be analogous to writing a book or movie and that cropping, dodging, burning, and the pantheon of darkroom and desktop effects are likewise analogous to editing? Or that the pages of a book could each be works of art and that taken together they are like frames in a movie? Or…?

What also ties each of these topics together is that they each deserve a lifetime of exploration. While that could certainly be said for any of the recent topics (salt, fairness, clock, mirror, etc), these are particularly expansive and each present a soaring and sometimes treacherous mountain with no obvious or singular approach. So we come to the crux of the challenge of 2014/15; for each of the collaborators to find a path that makes sense of the mountains. We chose story as the connective thread because it unifies the three without dwelling on the technologies or the minutia, which, in the same way that measurement tied 2013/14 together, is not meant to exclude deep dives and rich digressions but rather to act as a touchpoint and easy place to call home.

year three at brightworks

Every year I’ve tried to sum up the whole of the parts that make up a year at Brightworks, and I’ve discovered that it’s actually mostly impossible. What I do know how to say is that this year, we made progress in defining who we are and what we do in a more supportive environment than we’ve ever had. The kids grew in their self confidence and ability to question, we put systems in place that lasted the whole year, students developed greater trust in each other and their collaborators – and we are more Brightworks than ever. We are made up of the sum of the parts – kids, staff, parents, siblings, friends, supporters – and are solidly and wholly a community and a family.