Symbols of Value

Amber Band out on a mural walk in the neighborhood.

This year we’ll be taking a closer look at how we’re all connected—by coin, cloth, and city. To kick the year off with coin, we’re considering what we value most. The band began by discussing our hopes and dreams for the year. We then considered what agreements we might need in place to help us achieve those hopes and dreams, and organized those agreements into categories. The final iteration of the agreement synthesized their ideas into a concise, affirmative, and important list to guide our work together.

The band broke into two groups to brainstorm agreements to support our hopes and dreams for the year.

We decided to publish the agreement in the form of a mural. This got us thinking about our environment around the school, and how murals around our city impact their environments. We made close observations of the murals around the neighborhood, and used those obsesrvations to define the criteria and constraints for our mural. The band calculated the surface area of the wall where we planned to have the mural displayed, and used conversion techniques to determine how many gallons of paint would be needed to cover the square footage of the wall.

An expert muralist visited the band to share feedback on designs.

Once our plan was under way we started translating our agreement into symbols. The neighborhood is full of murals by artist Sirron Norris, and we got the chance to talk with him about his mural process. “This is hard work!” Sirron reviewed our group agreement, and shared with us how it was going to be difficult to think metaphorically about such big concepts as “try to learn, treat others the way that they want to be treated, and respect materials”. After a few rounds of brainstorming symbols, the group had narrowed it down to three main concepts. 

The kids made quick impulse drawings in response to the main ideas we distilled down from our larger agreement list.

We explored symbols further by getting out around the city to make observations of symbols of value. We went on a scavenger hunt around the Financial District first to record symbols, and assigned a value to each. We then went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to look at the ways artists use symbols to assign value. Students sat with one work of art that symbolized something of high value to them. Many were mesmerized by the piece Clinamen by the artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot because they felt that it provided a quiet and calming space, something the group all really valued.

Huxley made rubbings of symbols we found around the Financial District.

Reggie found a plaque in the Financial District of William Leidesdorff, a West Indian immigrant of African Cuban and San Francisco’s first city treasurer.

 

Back at Brightworks, the band worked together to come up with a consistent color palette before they jumped in to start painting. This sparked conversations around identifying patterns in symbols. Researcher and educator, Jo Boaler, has found that brain pathways light up when we visualize with numbers, and shares new research that shows how when we’re thinking of numbers as symbols and visualizing those numbers, we make new brain pathways. We practiced working with math examples through a color coding system.

After many iterations and collaborative sketches, the group voted on their favorite design for the final mural. Felix’s sketch distilled all of our ideas down to focusing on respect for self, others, and our environment.

The band projected Felix’s drawing onto our wood panels to trace for the final mural.

 

We worked with a limited color palette to unify our design.

Once we started painting, the mural started coming to life!

This week we’ll continue to discuss our personal definitions for value, and exploring what it means to be rich. We hope to have the mural complete after a few more finishing touches to add detail. The mural will go up as a symbol of the agreement we made as a band to respect ourselves, each other, and our environment. This theme of respect will stay with us throughout the work we do together as we tackle epic projects and go on awesome adventures.

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!

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.

Surfspiration

It’s Declaration Week at Brightworks, and while students started brainstorming ideas for their expression projects, we sought out inspiration on surfboards!

Ambigo after an epic day of surfing!

Fortunately for us, Brightworks is just a 20 minute drive to Linda Mar Beach, a perfect spot for any newbie surfer to feel the power of the waves. Most of the group had never been swimming in the Pacific Ocean before, and for many this was their first time surfing. We worked with experienced surfers to learn the basics: protect your head, keep your eyes on the waves, and fall flat.

We lucked out with some pretty perfect conditions, and everyone was able to catch a wave or two. Most of us boogied in, and a few even managed to pop up on their boards.

Everyone found a way to move with the water—on surf boards, boogie boards, and simply body surfing.

Khalia was ready to catch some waves after a one-on-one lesson with Sean.

Owen and Rhone are all smiles after spending the day on the water.

Elijah rolling in with the waves.

Anthony and Amparo grilling up tasty treats.

After a long day of surfing it was great to grill out!

How did we move with the water, and why? Back at school the group took some time to reflect on the time we spent surfing. Many realized how important it was to work with the water, rather than to fight against it. We also discussed the salinity of our blood, and compared that to the salinity of the ocean. We noticed how easy it was to float in our wetsuits, and some talked about regulating their buoyancy with their breath (like the submarines we designed a few weeks ago). The trip was a great way for us to reconnect with the sea before submitting declarations for approval, and diving into our expression projects!

But does it float?

The Amber Band has been taking a closer look at how water works. This week we visited the Marine Mammal Center, played around on Rodeo Beach, and took buoyancy experiments to the next level. All of these explorations gave us a chance to learn more about the physics and chemistry of water, in an attempt to better understand our relationship to it.

We kicked off the first day back from spring break at the beautiful Marine Mammal Center.

We got a chance to see how marine biologists conduct blood tests to learn about the health of the marine life they rescue, and some of the techniques they use to help prepare marine life to go back out into the wild.

After our visit to the Marine Mammal Center, we hiked down to Rodeo Beach for a picnic. We decided to spend the afternoon playing around on the beach. There were tide pools, watery caves, drift wood, and so much more for us to get up close and explore. We took the opportunity to reflect on this spectacular day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Students noticed all the colors in a handful of sand, the warmth of the sun, the sound of the waves, and the smell of salt in the air.

We found some tide pools at Rodeo Beach.

Having lunch on the side of a sea cliff.

Cartwheels on the beach are the best!

We found a jellyfish that had washed ashore.

There’s a whole world in a handful of sand!

Rhone found a small dead fish that had washed ashore too.

Back at Brightworks, we continued playing around in La Petit Mer (the epic test pool built by Indigo Band) to understand buoyancy and density. What do we need to know about density to be able to move through water? We started by designing and building a vessel that could maintain a neutral state of water (does not sink, does not float) while containing cargo weight of 50 grams or more. Once they figured that out, students began pushing those limits by finding ways to move their vessel forward, backward, up, and down—all without using their hands.

Measuring the mass and volume of our vessels to calculate their density.

How do you measure the volume of an oddly shaped object? Water displacement! Phillip showed Ambigo how to measure the water displacement of their vessels in a graduated cylinder to find the volume.

Clem and Audrey experimented with ways to make their submarines “breathe” to control when it floats and when it sinks.

Next week we’ll begin building our very own boat! Ambigo has decided to tackle a seemingly impossible mission by building a boat that will safely carry us to Angel Island. We begin building next week, and hope to have something ready to test in the bay by the following Friday. Before that though, we’ll get a chance to learn more about navigating in the water and “reading the water” on a surfing trip in Linda Mar.

MagAmberGo Overnight on the USS Pampanito

Magenta, Amber, and Indigo (MagAmberGo) spent 17 hours on a World War II Balao class Fleet submarine, the USS Pampanito, to get up close to WWII submarine technology. We built batteries, practiced active sonar listening, simulated buoyancy, made periscopes, and deciphered patrol orders to plot our course.  After our tasks, we had dinner as a crew, and took turns on night watch. The next morning, the group reflected on their stay to consider if they could make it the full 75 days that most submariners would have been asked to do.

If you were asked to stay on the USS Pampanito for 75 days, would you?

“Yeah. I mean, because it’s a submarine, and it’s awesome. I’d rather go jump out of an airplane in the airborne, but I could do it. If it was a more modern submarine I could do it.”—Declan

“I would jump off. Sleep would be the hardest part, especially if there’s snoring.”—Khalia

“I would not because it is so hard to sleep. The beds are super uncomfortable, like plastic.”—Norabelle

“Absolutely not. I hate being on the water for more than five days. The beds were super uncomfortable.”—Elijah

“No. Because they don’t shower, it’s really small, we all have to sleep together in the same room, really cramped together. If I were the captain maybe I would be able to do it.”—Ella

 

“No, I wouldn’t want to be cut off from the world for 75 days at a time. If I were on the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, that would be cool. There’s a library and a museum! Nemo’s got a whole room to himself on the Nautilus.”—Audrey

“No way. I felt seasick the whole time.”—Felix

“If it was out, attached to ropes, and there were other people out there with me, then I would do it. I would not want to be submerged though.”—Rhone

“I think it would be fun. No war, but I could do it for a long time. I really like confined spaces.”—Oscar

“Well, I don’t know, it depends on if we were going to be at war with a lot of other ships or if we were just going to be patrolling another area to observe another enemy. I don’t think I would want to be engaged in combat because we could potentially die. If we were just there observing the area, or just defending our area then, yeah, I think I would in that situation.”—Morgan

“I wouldn’t do it on an old submarine. I would want a new one that is less sketchy, and probably work better. The Pampanito doesn’t work anymore. I hate airplanes, but for some reason it doesn’t scare me to go under water.”—Dash

“No. I almost didn’t do this trip because I have a big fear of submarines. Well, I kind of just wanted to see how I felt on a submarine because I had never been on one, but just whenever I think about them it kind of freaks me out. During the audio tour I was kind of feeling claustrophobic. Then once we got our bunks I was really freaking out because I was on the floor, but I was able to trade it up to a higher bunk. I don’t ever want to see a submarine again.” —Clem

“I wouuuld, but it would depend on how much I got paid. I would probably do it, as long as the crew didn’t snore. I would do it if I got paid a reasonable wage, and I could sleep.”—Kaia

“Nope, I feel like I would be extremely stressed. This is a really unfamiliar space, and I don’t have a good time with that.”—Corin

“If I were 18, during the Great Depression, then yes. Because money. It’s the Great Depression, and I’m 18. There aren’t a lot of jobs. Lack of space and sunlight would be difficult.”—Aidan

“I don’t think any amount of money could convince me to spend a prolonged period of time on there. I think just lack of sunlight, being in a confined space, all of that would be so draining emotionally, I don’t think it would be worth it.”—Zoe

“I feel like possibly if I was, let’s say, in college, and I had nowhere to live. Having free rent would be nice. Especially since Pampanito, or a ship similar size to that, is much larger than most apartments people have in California.”—Max Mayman

“I would not stay on any boat for 75 days. Maybe a kayak, and if I was able to get off to go camping. I would not be on a boat for 75 days straight.”—Liem

 

“You’re pretty much in a black box. The lives on board are either resting in your hands or someone else’s hands. We have a ¼ chance of dying out here. That’s awful! That’s something I don’t want to risk.”—Josh

“I probably wouldn’t, but it wouldn’t be a nightmare. Of course, that’s assuming that there’s no chance of death, no war.”—Cory

“Yes, I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to do some stint in the armed services. Once Trump got elected I also said to myself that I’m not going to enlist until he’s out of office because I don’t want to fight a war that we have no business fighting. Under the right leadership I would. Also, there is a part of me that is drawn to small confined spaces on long voyages. We took a lot of long car trips in a very small car as a family. I think it partially originates from that. I’ve always had thoughts about building a small boat and sailing it around the world.”—Jack

 

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.