cow eyes

As part of their study of the eye, the Orange Band did a cow eye dissection to get a first hand look at the parts of an eye and the way it functions like a camera.









The Red Band followed suit on Friday.



the optics hall

As happens so often, the Exploratorium is one of the best resources for the arcs at Brightworks. This week, the Orange and Green bands visited the Optics Hall for a deeper exploration of lenses, optics, and eyes as they think about the mechanics of a camera.

The Orange Band went exploring with a focus on the eye, looking at the exhibits that experimented with dialating pupils, saw the white blood cells flowing through the eye, and over-saturated the cones in their foveae. They also observed a cow eye dissection in preparation for their own!









The Green Band went to the museum with a focus on light. Their explorations led them through the light exhibits as a follow-up to a discussion they had on Tuesday about the electromagnetic spectrum and the questions they asked, like: “What determines different colors?”, “Why don’t we feel color when we can feel other kids of light?”, “How is light made?” and “Why don’t I feel light entering my eye?”





Many of their questions were answered – which, of course, led to more questions. Endless curiosity.


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!

marshmallows and mirrors

Mirrors, magnifying glasses, and thermometers in hand, the Hawks ventured outside to conduct a very kid-friendly experiment: roasting a marshmallow using only the sunlight.

The kids played around with which surface to place the marshmallow on it make it heat. Lola suggested a small metal bucket, and Ben and Quinn thought a mirror would be best.


Aurora and Bruno experimented with magnifying glasses to see how the light expanded and condensed on the marshmallow to conduct heat.


Natasha, Lola, and Lucy wanted to double the intensity of the light coming at the marshmallow, so used a set of mirrors to direct light onto another row of mirrors to make things hotter.


Clementine’s idea was to light the pile of tinder below the marshmallow to create a fire that would do the roasting. Mackenzie reports that Ben brought out a glass of water just in case of an uncontrolled burn.


Mackenzie says that the marshmallow never roasted, but it did reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit!


She said that the Hawks had a few ideas about their next iteration: more careful placement of mirrors so the light would hit all the same spot, more magnifying glasses to intensify light, and perhaps a reverse disco ball that would concentrate light instead of disperse it. We’ll have to see what they come up with!



out in the field

A core principle at Brightworks is to get kids out in the world almost as much as they are in school – the world has so much to show and teach us, and we greatly benefit from being in an accessible city with so many resources within our reach. Last week, there was a band missing every day as they found arc-related experiences all over town.

On Monday the Megaband visited the California Academy of Science to see a couple of planetarium shows about the earliest light from the creation of the universe, dark matter, and antimatter. The students’ curiosities were sparked after listening to the third segment of RadioLab’s show on symmetry and mirrors, called “Nothing’s the Antimatter.”

On Tuesday, the Elephants ventured out to the Exploratorium to check out the mirror exhibits there.





Wednesday found the Hummingbirds in Glen Canyon Park, their usual weekly field trip to explore the nearby wild in the city.



On Thursday, the Banditos went with the Hummingbirds to the Mirror Maze at Fisherman’s Wharf.



The Banditos then met the Hawks at the Exploratorium for their own scavenger hunt around the museum.







angles of reflection

To begin their study of angles of incidence and reflection, the Hawks asked, “Does a ball bounce off of a wall the same way light bounces off of a mirror?”

They made a couple hypotheses and came up with an experiment to test them using a ball dipped in paint that would trace its path. They compared the path of a laser pointer with the orange paint ball paths.


As Mackenzie writes, “The group started to see some patterns emerging between the path of the ball and the path of the laser beam. They also began to be able to predict where the ball would bounce to. A new question emerged: ‘What is the relationship between the angle at which light hits the mirror and the angle at which it leaves?’ To answer this we traced the path that a laser beam travels as it enters and leaves a mirror then measured these angles.”

After they measured several angles, the Hawks began to see that the angle of light entering a mirror is the same as the angle at which it leaves!


With this knowledge, the Hawks were given a laser game provocation where they had to orient mirrors precisely enough to hit a fixed target. They had to use what they’d learned about angles of incidence and reflection being equal, and used a protractor to be as precise as possible.




Despite the fact that a traditional trajectory of math doesn’t introduce such skills until the seventh grade, the eight-year-old Hawks used pre-algebra skills to solve the angle challenges in the game, since they only knew the value of one angle. They turned to angle challenges in the abstract – on paper! – and loved wrestling with these problems.


To connect these ideas to a real-world situation, the Hawks visited the Billiards Palacade. Mackenzie writes, “In small teams the Hawks solved problems involving bank shots that put their understanding of angles of reflection to the test.” They used protractors, rulers, and ball launchers to experiment with distances and angles of reflection that would get a ball to bounce right into a pocket







They had some help with queues from a local pool shark!


Their experiments continued with further provocations back at school. Mackenzie writes, “The Hawks were put in pairs each with a covered mirror and a designated spot. Each team had to figure out where their partner had to stand in order to see each other in the mirror.”


They also took inspiration from the Ancient Egyptian pyramid builders who used polished metal to light the tomb walls for painting their murals. Mackenzie placed targets throughout the school and challenged the kids to use mirrors to hit the targets with sunlight, which they traced on blueprints of the school.

The Hawks have been so impressive in their understanding of these concepts and their ability to translate what they’re learning to new situations!