We spent April answering one very interesting questions about cities: where does water come from and go? Come follow us on our water journey:
We spent April answering one very interesting questions about cities: where does water come from and go? Come follow us on our water journey:
Hi everyone! As with all things at brightworks Blue Band started City by reflecting and asking questions. Here are are initial efforts to find the answers!
What city is the biggest? How can we find out?
Students were given a table of tool options (string, centimeter and inch cubes, rulers and grid paper) and asked to come up with a stategy to find the perimeter and area of cities they were curious about. We ran into the challenges of using difficult scales and keeping track of lots of numbers.
How can maps help us answer questions?
On the suggestion of another collaborator we tried to solve the famous Bridges of Koenigsberg problem: how can we walk across all seven bridges without going over any bridge more then once? The students eventually realized the task was impossible, but they concluded finding out we can’t do something is just as interesting as discovering we can, even when it feels really frustrating. It was also a fun challenge in creative map making using different materials.
Where does water go?
Students have expressed a lot of interest in water this arc. We started by estimating how much water we got in SF each month on average over the last 5 years. It was a nice chance to evaulate our perceptions and start to think about how we can measure rain. It’s also been very rainy this week, so certainly a useful time to think about H2O
We then went on a journey as water and reflected where water goes and how it gets there. We went from animals to the ocean to clouds to moutains to streams and into the ground. On Monday we are going to share the story of our journeys with yellow band who has also been exploring water in our city.
Our latest exploration was wondering about how water can change along it’s journey and what it can pick up along it’s way. We gathered a collection of our favorite liquids and learned how to find their pH.
Blue Band has launched into cloth by thinking about the stories told by items made of cloth. We started by thinking about the practical aspect of cloth by touring Joshu + Vela, a leather and canvas bag manufactor in the Mission. We learned about all the tools used to cut and prepare leather:
This machine makes impressions to add lettering or designs to leather.
This machine cuts leather.
We also learned about the process of manufactoring bags from making inrpiration boards to trying various samples before coming up with the final designs. It was great to see a real world example of editing and iterating!
We then tried our own hand at working with leather:
Last week we transitioned to thinking about how cloth helps create items with purposes that go beyond the practicle. In Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt by Barbara Smucker students learned how certain patterns of quilt have been developed to tell cultural and sentements stories. In the Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco we learned about the significance of passing down a keepsake within a family for multiple generations. During project time students started their own quilt squares and pillow case projects:
Today we went to see portions of the AIDS quilt project that are on display at Grace Cathedral. Students noticed how friends and family had rememberd their loveones by including meaningful images and fabrics.
Today saw the fruition of an ambitious project! The blue band went to Stow Lake to test the boats they built from cardboard and plastic. The beauty of this project is that even though both boats ended up as piles of card board slush, everyone came out of the experience feeling like they had done something great.
My goal as an educator isn’t to prepare the next generation of boat builders but rather to foster the skills that will help these kids turn their aspirations into reality. In this project we were breaking down and reflecting on the qualities of good teamwork and leadership.
We started this project with a couple of team building challenges. The blue band had to work together to crack the code of this matrix. They discovered that the missteps they made were important information. They had to work together to track and convey the proper order of steps to unlock the puzzle. In another team building challenge the students had to stand in a tight circle and pick up pieces of paper far out of their reach. They discovered that to be successful they had to physically counter balance each other and use their words to communicate.
Referencing these challenges the group built a rubric of qualities that makes up good team work. Here is the list they came up with:
Because we were working in a new medium with a dangerous tool, we sat down with a cardboard master, our very own Willow. He gave the students techniques to cut cardboard safely and effectively with a box cutter. Thus prepared, the blue band was split into teams and got started sketching and modeling their ideas.
After a day of creating models the teams came together snap together their separate ideas. First they looked for similarities in their designs and then they figured out what other features they should include. This process of turning individual ideas into a collective vision is really difficult and requires a high level of communication, flexibility and good will. I was impressed by the way both teams built upon each other’s ideas
When the teams had settled on designs they got to work cutting and taping together their boats! A mantra for those easily distracted was, “How can I help?” For those who were trying on leadership roles, they practiced seeing people’s strengths and passions and finding jobs that leveraged those strengths.
Ronan and Isaac applied the laws of buoyancy that we’d been discovering in order to calculate how much weight their boats could safely carry. They calculated the volume of their boats and figured out the weight of the water it would displace. They predicted that both of the boats would be able to carry over a thousand pounds of weight. Theoretically, these boats could carry a couple of 9 and 10 year olds with no problem.
Their final step was to wrap their boats in plastic to protect the cardboard from turning to slush.
Despite the mathematical modeling that predicted the boats could carry thousands of pounds, everyone was dubious of these boat’s ability to actually float. Before leaving for Stow Lake almost everyone predicted disaster. The boat will flip over, the walls will cave in, they will sink!
Because the kids had envisioned all the ways that these boats would fail, the moment when Soleil and Sadie stepped into their boat for the first time was met with shrieks of delighted disbelief. As they pushed off into the lush green waters of Stow Lake the crowd of on lookers accumulating on the banks cheered.
The second boat was just as much a success.
As Gita and Lily glided out onto the lake passerby’s stopped to ask the kids left on the bank what the heck was going on. What kind of strange and amazing school is this that sends students out in homemade cardboard boats!
It was a beautiful day to paddle on the lake.
After 15 minutes or so of leisurely paddling both boats started to take on water from tears in the plastic. Sadie and Soleil were able to paddle back to the bank before they had taken on too much water.
Lily and Gita, however, got stuck in some trees and weren’t able to paddle back to shore. I had to make a rescue on my surfboard!
Whether they felt upset or exhilarated by their experiences in the sinking boats, the sailors and their teams met the challenge with bravery and compassion. Later, having changed into dry clothes, the band gathered over hot cocoa to appreciate each other for the contributions they made to this ambitious project. They reflected on the part they played in their group and ways they would like to grow as a team member. A toast to the blue band who met with challenges and didn’t lose sight of the most important thing: each other!
As one of our first field trips the Blue Band went to the aquatic park to learn how to both row and build a boat. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water.
Excited by the experience of rowing in the bay the band was a buzz with aspirations of building their own boat. Before diving into that ambitious project we had to better understand why things float.
“What are the qualities of something that floats?” This is the question that launched the Blue Band into an exploration of buoyancy. To answer this question our intrepid young scientists have rolled up their sleeves, formed hypothesis, tested those hypothesis and of course gotten wet in the process.
The first experiment: Will it float? The Blue Band found objects around the school to drop into water. First they made their predictions about whether the object would float and why then they tested their objects. There were some surprising findings. Despite predictions, a heavy paintbrush, whose bristles were cased in metal, actually floated. My heavy thermos that is made of metal also floated. These surprises helped the young scientists revise their definition of what floats. They had discovered that there were three important variables: size, weight and shape.
In our next experiment we endeavored to find out if there is a relationship between size and weight. We had been using graphs to find patterns in data so we decided to collect and graph some measurements. In four teams of two the students weighed bags of wood, ceramic, PVC and steel. Then, using the Archimedes principal of displacement, they figured out the volume of each material.
They graphed these points and discovered that their data points formed a rough line. Upon discovering this relationship we put a name to it: Density. Things that are small and heavy are more dense than things that are big and light.
Interpreting the graph the students discovered that the wood was less dense than the water, where as the PVC, steel and ceramic were more dense. The wood was the only material that floated! One of the qualities of something that floats is that it is less dense than water.
“If steel sinks, why can a ship made from steel float?” Next the young scientists looked at how shape effects an object’s ability to float. They were given a lump of clay that sunk and were asked to create a shape that could float.
Next they were given tin foil and challenged to make a vessel that could float the most pennies. They made two iterations and graphed their findings.
To bring together all of our explorations, the Blue Band watched everyone’s favorite mad scientist, Bill Nye, explain buoyancy to us. Bill’s message: Things float when the water they displace is greater than or equal to the weight of the thing. This time the blue band designed their own experiment to test this claim. They decided to fill beakers to the brim with water, drop objects in to the water and compare the weight of the water that splashes out with the object. They discovered that the things that sunk weighed more than the water that was displaced and the things that floated weighed equal to or less than the water displaced.
Equipped with a better understanding of buoyancy, the blue band has a new challenge in front of them! They are building boats from cardboard and plastic that will float at least one person.
“Dear Ma and Pa
The ship has set sail for Oregon to rebuild the city. I hope Nana, Nona and Papa are doing great and I have a few stories…” Deckhand Crew Member Phoebe
“1906, April 22
Dear Mother and Father,
As you have heard, I have been taken on a ship…the Captain calls it “being shanghaied.” The people seem nice, except Mr. Llyod, he is the first mate and is in charge of discipline. You may be wondering, ‘how did I get tricked?’…Well…we (notice I said WE) followed this “Mr. Hawkins.” He told us that there was a ship we should see. So we followed him and he gave a sheet. Now at the time I had no idea what this sheet was and really did not care, but now I realize that I was signing a very important document.
I miss you soooo much,
Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte”
“Mr. Hawkins told us of the Joyful life onboard, and the fine pay. Yet, the second we set foot on the ship I knew we had been shanghaied. We were forced to work on the ship with the strict first mate, Mr. Llyod and the not completely sane cook/doctor Onion. (Who became Princess Onion under circumstances I will get to later). The only thing that stopped this voyage from being a complete nightmare was The Captain. He was firm but kind.” Ronan Rigger Crew.
“Then on the poop deck a man look and said in a stern voice, ‘Whats this!’ Hawkins walked up at the front of the line.
‘Sir, you said you needed a crew,’ said Hawkins.
‘Not little childern!’ said Mr. Lloyd, ‘You are all green but we are going to turn you into sailors.'” Deck Hand Mate Sadie
“My first day of work on a ship was hard. We even swabbed the decks, which I, personally, think is the coolest job on this ship.” Quartermaster Crew Member Jonah
“My group was with Onion our first task was to swab the deck. Swabbing was fun but getting the water was hard because the buckets full of water where super heavy and they splashed all over us.” Gita Quartermaster Crew
“Today was fun but tiring! I loved all of the acting and the characters! My favorite character was Dr. Onion! My favorite thing I did today was raising and lowering the dory, eating dinner, and washing dishes. I liked my day!” Boat Crew Member Soleil
“I got the job of the boat crew and had to lower and raise the dory and did the dishes every meal.” Roman Boat Crew
“My experience here was challenging but also fun. The sky and the breeze are so calm. I can hear the ship saying stuff to me. It sings me lullabies in my ear. I hear the seals singing shanties. I love this a lot. I love the Balcutha.” Deckhand Mate Sadie
“We had to raise and lower the ensign and kept bell time.” Pheobe Deckhand Crew.
“We just got fired from a boat. I’m so glad it was awful. The oatmeal was soggy. The bed’s were hard as a rock. And the blanket’s thin as paper.” Lily Deck Hand Crew
“The job of the rigger crew is to raise the bosun’s chair and assemble the block and tackle.” Charlotte
“The sea gulls are crying. The boat is groaning. The sea lions are yowling. The water is flowing, a cool night it is.” Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte.
“The Balclutha will dock in Oregon soon. I am going to escape then and come home. I have to go now because my break is over, so goodbye for now. I am looking forward to seeing you after I escape.” Boat Crew Amiya
“Then we needed to raise Lisa on the bosun’s chair and tell her what to buy us and give us. This was the fun part.” Boat Crew Member Roman
“We put Lisa on a swing high in the air and demanded lots of things in the end we got most of what we wanted.” Quartermaster Crew Member Gita
“When the voyage was done, we sang and said Farewell.” Boat Crew Member Soleil
At Brightworks we have certain traditions in the beginning of a new arc. Gever always gives a presentation that covers the scope of the arc topic and the bands always have some sort of brainstorm where they map out their interests. Given that the Arc is By Land, I was expecting that my students would want to make some sort of vehicle, but no! When we sat down to brainstorm the Blue Band expressed an overwhelming interest in studying how early people migrated across continents and how the First Peoples in North America lived.
In the past weeks, the Blue Banders have explored the most basic of by land transportation: Walking! What circumstances and mutations led to humans’ ability to walk? We uncovered some answers in the documentary The Origin of Us by Dr. Alice Roberts and in the copious books we brought back from the library. We learned that walking upright also freed early human hands to create tools.
We were visited by three experts in the evolutionary relevance of flint knapping! Last year Selina, Huxley and Freddie made a documentary about this very topic. In the process of making this documentary, they learned how to make stone tools.
After establishing safety guidelines and explaining how obsidian shatters in what is called a Hertzian cone. Huxley, Selina and Freddie showed the blue banders how to make their own obsidian and chert flakes.
The Blue Band got to use their creations to slice through cordage and cut an apple. Giving them some insight into what it may have been like to rely on stone tools of their own creation.
The Blue Band has started a new novel study to accompany our study of First Peoples. Sees Behind Trees, by Michael Dorris, is a coming of age story about a nearly blind boy who learns to use his other senses to find his place in the tribe.
This beautifully written book has been a great resource to us as the band writes their novels. We’ve been savoring the rich language, noticing how the author builds suspense, and keeping track of all the different ways to say, “said”.
So much about reading a novel is about empathizing with another person’s experience. To connect with the main character in our story’s experience we’ve been playing games and taking on challenges that put us in our own senses. At Potrero Hill community garden the Blue Band lead each other on blindfolded sense walks. Ramses gives Ronan sprig of mint to taste and Isaac leads Sadie down the trail.
To delve deeper into what it might be like for our main character we turned to one of my favorite podcasts Invisibilia. This episode tells a story of a blind man who explains how other people’s expectations of him helped him to see. Because his mom expected him from a young age to do all the things a person with sight to do he developed a way to navigate the world just like everyone else.
What a wonderful path these kids chose. I’m excited to continue exploring it with them!