choose your own day

Monday brought clouds and rain, but also brought a hands-off approach to the kids choosing what they wanted to do with their school days. We sat down in bands and made plans for what each of the kids wanted to do for the day, and off they went to do and make and create. I hope you aren’t stunned when I say that the noise level was low and everyone was focused and engaged in their activities of choice.

Many kids continued to build the frame for Kid City.

choose your own day

choose your own day

choose your own day

Others made advertising posters for the play that they’re working on.

choose your own day

Or discussed the next moves.

choose your own day

More construction.

choose your own day

choose your own day

Gever brought in two huge boxes of fabric scraps when he picked up the Juki (the super-powered industrial sewing machine that can sew through multiple layers of heavy canvas or take your finger off, whichever is more appropriate). The fabric came in handy today – the kids made costumes or draped themselves in material.

choose your own day

choose your own day

choose your own day

choose your own day

Working on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and game coding.

choose your own day

Making and creating.

choose your own day

choose your own day

choose your own day

choose your own day

garden or build

We’ve officially been in school for a whole month! We’re amazed and grateful that we’ve come this far, and so quickly. What an incredible month it’s been, too. Today Mackenzie and I took a group of kids to the Potrero Hill Community Garden (my first field trip!) while Chane and Josh took charge at the school and helped out with building projects and declaration work.

Mackenzie told a story about the Goat Lady of Potrero Hill on the snack break during the walk to the garden.

garden or build

Intrepid bug catcher.

garden or build

At the garden the kids used egg cartons marked with adjectives like “stinky,” “spiky,” “beautiful,” and “spicy” to take small samples of plants to share with the group.

garden or build

garden or build

garden or build

garden or build

garden or build

Sharing discoveries.

garden or build

garden or build

One of my favorite parts of the day: Aidan stood as still as possible amidst the swirling bees at their hive in one corner of the garden. He held a tiny blossom in his outstretched fingertips, waiting for a bee to land and collect the bounty from the flower in his hand.

garden or build

Mackenzie challenged everyone to a Sense-o-challenge where they had to smell a secret leaf or two in her hand, then find the plant in the garden where the leaves had come from.

garden or build

On the overpass going to and from the garden, the kids stopped to wave at the cars and trucks zooming under them. The drivers waved and honked back!

garden or build

The visitor of the day: Petey, Chane’s charge for the weekend and a dog with no fear of kid-handling.

garden or build

Sofia built a chair for Petey – also used for humans.

garden or build

Flopping.

garden or build

Examining the bird that the kids found on the sidewalk yesterday (yes, everyone washed hands right after holding it).

garden or build

Building a racetrack for matchbox cars.

garden or build

The tallest construction project of the day, of course, was the frame for Kid City. It’s becoming more and more clear that the spaces that each kid will get in this place are positively enormous.

garden or build

garden or build

One month in and still going strong. And so many great things to come.

framing, and an excess of paint

Construction in forms large and small framed this day. The older kids spent the morning constructing the frames of the two-story Kid City while the the younger kids headed to San Francisco General Hospital’s construction site just a few blocks away from our little school. Mix in a little paint and you have a day.

The foundation at the hospital went down three stories! Aidan assured me that this “isn’t too deep,” but they saw the crane moving things around so fast!

framing

Setting out 2x4s back at the school.

framing

Zada helped align the wood for strong joints and a steady Kid City frame.

framing

Connor concentrated on the task at hand.

framing

Theo helped Audrey with her play and assured me he would soon know the secrets of time travel (right, Theo?)

framing

A quick break at the park before the younger kids came hurrying back to school.

framing

After lunch, Kaia prepared her feet for a record in strides.

framing

Coke took a break to read in the library – now located in the office area, thanks to Melanie and Kristie’s hard moving work.

framing

Gever worked with Henry on some gaming code and Isaac wrote more in his tale of zombie mayhem, while Stewart and Theo continued to explore the world.

framing

What can you discover from the footsteps of the kids at Brightworks?

framing

Jennie – our friend and carpentry and kids’ tool education extraordinaire – showed Audrey how to use the chop saw.

framing

Kai helped Mei stabilize her sawing so she could start building a table for her flower shop.

framing

Logan started to construct submarine that will never sink.

framing

Ben had plans of his own…

framing

Clementine and Jennie work on sturdy joints on a shelf for Clementine’s Kid City shop.

framing

Connor and Ben measure on the diagonal to square the frames for stability.

framing

Setting the frames upright.

framing

An experiment in tracing footsteps gone to the extreme – paint everywhere!

framing

Quinn composed a poem for Sofia after she fell in the paint slide:

framing

We’re painting a painting for painting the painting.
A painting was painting a painting.
She was a painting that was painting a painting.
She was painting who was painting a painting of painting that a painting can painting so well.

-quinn.

framing

“Brightworks,” Josh said, “is where clean clothes go to die.”
Norabelle, Zada, Kaia: you’ve proven this correct. It will not be the last time.

framing

challenges

Today was a day filled with different kinds of challenges. Isaac came to school with a pair of blacked-out goggles on as an experiment with blindness, which prompted other kids to blindfold themselves. Later in the day they worked on a building challenge to create a structure that could hold the weight of the three collaborators. At the end of the day, everyone (almost everyone!) wrote a sentence or two about what they learned today.

challenges and plans

Experimenting with blindness.

challenges and plans

Someone wrote, “I learned how to take advantage of a blind Isaac.” In general, though, all the kids were extremely helpful and respectful of Isaac’s challenge. They were at first in disbelief at his blindness, asking “Can you really not see?” before they realized that they had to help him out for the day to be a success.

challenges and plans

The beginnings of a strong structure. Lola said, “I holded on to the wood really tight and it almost slipped. It slipped when people were drilling.”

challenges and plans

“I learned not to drill with one hand,” Coke said.

challenges and plans

Challenges for the day included steadying the structure you were working on so that you could make strong joints.

challenges and plans

Kaia said, “I learned how to build a strong and steady structure. I learned not to touch the nail after it’s been drilled cause you’ll get burned like I did today.”

challenges and plans

Norabelle said, “I made little foxes and I built a house with it.”

challenges and plans

Bruno said, “I learned to make something really strong.”

challenges and plans

Logan explained, “I liked making a half raft out of wood. I mean I’m half done with it. I’m really no close to the raft because I only have one paddle down. It is 1 foot thick and 5 inches.”

challenges and plans

Some of the boys made small floating rafts with the lightest materials they could find in the supply boxes.

challenges and plans

challenges and plans

“I learned that Scratch is really complicated,” Henry wrote. He’s been working on learning gaming software for his project.

challenges and plans

Hooray! The structure was strong and sturdy enough to hold the weight of Mackenzie, Josh, and Chane! This is really important, as buildings in Kid City have to be strong enough to hold three adults’ weight as well. We talked about all the strong shapes in their structure.

challenges and plans

Natasha said, “Finally I had a chance to use the drills. I never knew that I was so strong and could build strong stuff.”

challenges and plans

Gever, Ben, Connor, and Isaac returned from Home Depot in San Rafael with a truckload of building materials for Kid City.

challenges and plans

Sofia said, “I stayed home from the park.” But she unloaded 2x4s by herself!

challenges and plans

Ben wrote in best-guess spelling, “Never coa in farnt,” (Never saw in front of someone).

challenges and plans

Zada wrote, “I learned how to make a good declaration.” Gever approved many declarations this afternoon with a red OK.

challenges and plans

Audrey said, “I read a lot and I used building magnets. I worked on my declaration and I finished it. I want to open a clothing store. First I’m gonna sell accessories, and then I’ll sell other things.” During aftercare, she and Clementine put on a play about twins running away to NYC to go to acting and karate school.

 challenges and plans

One student wrote, “I had good teechers to help me doow good thigs.” An example of curriculum prep at Brightworks: Josh painting his feet. I love this school.

challenges and plans

planning kid city

With a day of tool use under their belts, the Brightworks kids started getting to work learning more about the materials and sizing requirements they need to build Kid City, as well as their individual projects.

This morning, we talked as a group about the dimensions of the two-story Kid City, with big rooms on the first floor and smaller rooms on the second.

planning kid city

Then they headed over to the foundation and measured out their spaces on the floor. The kids’ houses are going to be huge!

planning kid city

Band time.

planning kid city

planning kid city

planning kid city

The kids worked on their declarations and made sure they got Gever’s OK stamp so they could move forward with their projects.

planning kid city

After snack it was time to lay down the outlines for Kid City structures.

planning kid city

Some worked on getting certified to use the tools. Audrey explained drilling holes to Chane: “If you slow down the drill at the end, you can get through the hard parts.”

planning kid city

planning kid city

The collaborators presented the kids with a building challenge: construct the tallest free-standing structure possible. The tall structures taught them about making good joints when they build.

planning kid city

planning kid city

Elizabeth did an incredible job teaching the kids to use one-point perspective in drawing. Some used two or even three-point perspective!

planning kid city

planning kid city

Planning.

planning kid city

planning kid city

planning kid city

Tall structures must have strong joints – or they fall!

planning kid city

At the end of the day, Gever did a quick demonstration of load-bearing physics.

planning kid city

The kids were shocked when the wood broke under stress, but even more impressed when it held!

planning kid city

The beginnings of something amazing.

planning kid city

extra, extra!

Though the channel was hard to find, Brightworks was nevertheless featured on the NBC Bay Area 7:00 news last night! Check out the interview, featuring Connor and Zada in the studio and our full gaggle working with tools earlier in the day, right here.

The cameraman brought his gear during the afternoon tool practice and did some filming.

a visit to NBC

Zada and Connor blew off some steam in the Green Room.

a visit to NBC

Getting microphone-d.

a visit to NBC

a visit to NBC

The interview!

a visit to NBC

a visit to NBC

a visit to NBC

a visit to NBC

Relief at the end. We all agreed that it was a far shorter experience than we thought, but so much fun!

a visit to NBC

practicing with tools

We’re all really excited over here at Brightworks because the first day of the Expression phase has come! The kids are so ready to break out the screws and wood and start building their city and working on their very first projects for what we know will be a huge portfolio of work someday. But we start small, with one project at a time: it’s all in the doing.

Anthony and Camille worked all day Sunday to lay down the foundation for Kid City in the corner of the school.

practice with tools

When the Brightworks students arrived Monday morning, it was all tools, all the time. Everyone grabbed eye and ear protection and traveled between three different stations to practice using the tools that will soon become their extra limbs during Expression and beyond.

practice with tools

Inside, they drilled holes and drove screws with Chane and Sean.

practice with tools

practice with tools

practice with tools

practice with tools

With Mackenzie, they sawed pieces of scrap lumber with handsaws.

practice with tools

practice with tools

practice with tools

Outside on the sidewalk, they practiced hammering nails with Josh. While nails aren’t the joiner of choice at Brightworks – they’re too hard to remove – it was an excellent exercise. We calculated that the 20 Brightworks kids used more screws in a matter of hours than 150 kids used at Maker Faire earlier this year.

practice with tools

practice with tools

practice with tools

practice with tools

More drilling…

practice with tools

practice with tools

More sawing…

practice with tools

practice with tools

More hammering.

practice with tools

practice with tools

Every day the space that Brightworks lives in changes – some days more dramatically, others more subtly. It’s always exciting to see what new piece of artwork will go up on the walls, how the room dividers will be arranged, what kind of lunch table we’ll be sitting at… now we’re excited to see the changes in the buildings that go up and the changes in how our students treat tools and start to learn their secrets as they discover their abilities to build big!

practice with tools

Remember to check out more photos on Flickr!