Green Band Explores Heart as Metaphor for Identity

What better Arc to start off the 2018-19 school year with than the Heart Arc? It is the arc of love, friendship, romance, centrality, identity, strength and life! In our first few weeks of school, the Green Band has been analyzing the heart on both a biological and metaphorical level. Through the lens of heart as identity, Greenies have engaged in a number of explorations and exercises that have allowed us to bond and get to know each other as a band. I can say without hesitation that the Green Band already feels like a family.

Green Band’s name stories

For one of these exercises we created Identity Icebergs, in which the surface of the iceberg shows what one can see on the outside (brown hair, nose ring, tattoos—don’t worry, that one is mine), and below the surface we wrote traits one would only know if you got to know us (lives alone, has 2 cats, has ridden a motorcycle—again, me). Another exercise involved discussing our communication styles. We talked about different communication styles through the metaphor of animals. What might it mean to be a tiger, eagle, turtle or wolf communicator? And which style resonates with you? We also worked in pairs to fill in Buddy Venn Diagrams as a way to get to know one another. Students asked silly questions like “if you were a dessert, what dessert would you be?” to see what they had in common and what what they felt differently about.

Greenies work on Buddy Venn Diagrams to get to know each other.

Another way we have jumped into the arc topic is by analyzing art and asking ourselves “what is at the heart (center) of this piece?” During our first week of school, we took our question to Clarion Alley, and evaluated the murals there. As a band, we found and wrote about murals that advocated for same-sex marriage, mourned the loss of small business pushed out of the neighborhood, paid respect to nature, and advertised the use of Narcan during times of emergency. In addition to naming what was at the center of each piece, Greenies had to back up their answer with evidence from the mural.

Soleil taking notes on a mural in Clarion Alley.

Combining our heart mural analysis work with our identity work, Greenies each came up with a symbol or illustration to represent what is in their heart. Their only restriction? It could not be the traditionally shaped heart. Inspired by heart-spark-rainbow themed pins made by Teal Band Collaborator Melissa, each member of the Green Band drew out their idea on GoogleDraw, and then used the Glowforge to laser cut their designs with the help of Loren in the shop. For some of us, it was our first time using the laser cutter, which was very exciting. Next step is for students to turn their laser-cut items into pins or earrings so they can wear their heart “on their sleeve,” so to speak.

A Week of Keith: Hip-Hop, Graffiti, and Legality

Last week, the Green and Orange bands got a tour of  the RESPECT: Hip Hop Style & Wisdom exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. The multi-sensory exhibit covered music, fashion, dance, art, literature and even transportation as they connect and relate to hip hop culture, Black history, and in some sections, directly to Oakland. (I highly recommend the exhibit, if you can’t already tell.) While there were many different elements to the show, the two bands participated in a rich and insightful discussion with our DJ-tour guide, Alex, as he probed us to question the meaning and purpose behind the various different pieces and their connection to city life. One of the features of the exhibit that seemed to speak to the students most was this idea of street art/ graffiti. Because the kids know that painting or writing on someone else’s property without permission is illegal, there were mixed responses to the idea of graffiti. We were left pondering a couple questions—do we consider graffiti to be art? and is the intent behind it justified?

Aaliyah looking at an interactive “graffiti’d” wall at the RESPECT exhibit in Oakland.

Now cut to Rachel at home, reading in bed with her cats, at the late hour of 8:15 PM on a Thursday. The book she’s reading is Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement, which was recommended to her by Lisa of Orange (oo…full circle). In the book, the reader gets a view into the brilliant but tumultuous lives of Jean-Michele Basquiat and his long term on-and-off girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk. The book is a mix of third person narrative, verse, and personal accounts from Suzanne herself (I highly recommend the book, if you can’t already tell). It also discusses both Basquiat and his contemporary Keith Haring’s relationships to graffiti and street art. Reading their stories inspired me to bring their work into the Band Space, so I did!

Guapa sitting on my library copy of “Widow Basquiat” by Jennifer Clements, at 8:45.

Cut back to Brightworks. The Greenies spent this past week studying Keith Haring. (I decided to start with him over Basquiat because I felt his art style would be more accessible for our first Artist Study. He was also able to more seamlessly straddle the high art world with the street art world than Basquiat, given his privileged position as a white man, which is discussed in Widow Basquiat. We will study him next.) During the week, we looked at Haring’s artwork, listened to his interviews, watched an 80’s news segment about him, and read two different sources about his life, including a picture book written by his sister. The kids used these various sources to discuss his art style, as well as what we felt his values were and what made him so unique as an artist. We learned that while he did make a lot of money selling his artwork, he also continued to make his art accessible to all—including by drawing in public places, like at subway stops. At the end of the unit, kids journaled about whether they feel it is ever justified to do something illegal. While we had mixed responses, not all art-related, one student wrote, “Keith Haring drew on blank sections in the subway. It was illegal, but he had good intentions. He wanted to let everyone see and enjoy his art.” 

The Greenies looking at examples of Keith Haring’s art.

Greenies Innovate and Design to Address Basic Human Needs

Expression is just around the corner, and the Greenies have been working hard on a number of different projects since the last time we spoke (you read.) Since the beginning of the Arc, Greenies have written essays on character development, studied volume, learned how to use Google Earth and Google Maps to do measurements for their scale landmarks, and gone on a number of different field trips.

The Green Band at the SF/Marin Food Bank.

One of the Explorations we’ve continued to work on throughout this Arc has been our study of homelessness. In my last blog post, I discussed the inspiring presentation Doniece Sandoval did for Brightworks about Lavamae. Since then, the Green Band had a toiletries drive and made small gift bags to hand out to the community, as well as taken field trips to the SF/Marin Food Bank where we bagged rice, and to Glide Memorial Church to serve lunch. (Fun fact, Glide buys most of its food from the Food Bank!) The Greenies also have come up with their own innovative ideas to help the homeless.

Our finished toiletry bags to give out to the community.

We started this project by asking ourselves “what are our basic human needs?” The Green Band brainstormed and came up with hygiene, shelter, clothes, food and water. Students voted on which of these basic human needs they’d like to dive deeper into, and then were put into pairs based on their interest. Each pair researched other gadgets, nonprofits and inventions that address their specific need, and then came up with their own innovation!

Charlotte and Griffin paired up to work on hygiene. It was a little challenging to come up with an idea as good as  Lavamae after seeing the amazing Lavamae presentation. However, after learning that homeless people often have to travel all over the city to make it to various medical appointments or services, the pair decided that they wanted to come up with an idea that not only addresses personal hygiene, but also addresses medical needs. They ended up creating a prototype-model of a double decker bus where one floor would be a small medical clinic, and the other would be for showers and bathrooms— “a one stop shop” as described by Griffin.

Griffin and Charlotte working on their double-decker bus prototype.

For shelter, Piper and Liam are working on a “mini-home on wheels for the homeless.” They designed and are building a trailer that would fit a standard bed frame and mattress and would be on four wheels. This idea would allow for the home’s inhabitant to not only have a comfortable, roofed mini-house, but would also be transportable. While Liam has taken charge building the shelter’s structure, Piper is adding her personal design finesse by sewing a blanket to make the house more of a home.

Piper and Liam work with Evan on their shelter design.

To address the need of clothing, Phoebe and Gita came up with “Project Foldable Coat.” They designed a coat that would be able to fold and zip up into a backpack. The wearer would not only be able to store their belongings, but also stay warm. The pair decided to demonstrate their invention in the form of a movie-advertisement. Instead of making an actual foldable coat, they used the magic of film-editing to show off their creation.

Gita and Phoebe get ready to film for their backpack-coat movie. Phoebe wears Project Foldable Coat’s logo.

Aaliyah and Lucy were assigned food and water as a combined human need, and did research on innovations for both. For their own creation, they decided to focus on water and it’s cleanliness. Knowing that iodine is used to purify water, the pair came up with an idea to make easily accessible iodine jugs. They made a slideshow to present their idea model. By pressing the button on the jug, consumers would be able to add drops of iodine to their water. These jugs would not only be free, but be placed around the city (or wherever needed) so that clean water would be accessible to all.

Aaliyah and Lucy working on their iodine-jug slideshow.

Needless to say, this project has really highlighted the Greenies’ creativity, collaboration skills, and critical thinking abilities. If we are lucky, we can get these ideas patented and really put them out there in the real world!

Hop Aboard the City Arc Tour Bus!

Welcome readers, to our first City Arc blog post of the year! I’ll be your tour guide as we check out what’s been going on in the Green Band so far. The Greenies are hard at work on various City explorations, so if you follow me I’ll show you what they’ve been working on!

Welcome to the tour!

To the left, you’ll see the historic Bernal Hill, and to the right, the De Young Observation Tower. Both locations have been sites of inspiration for poetry writing in the Green Band. That’s right, folks, the Greenies have been studying poetry! Not only have we sought out different landmarks to inspire us, but we’ve also been studying poetry in the band space. We’ve read and listened to some famous poets such as Langston Hughes and Frank O’hara, as well as those we don’t immediately think of, like Eminem, to expand our understanding of what constitutes poetry. We’ve also been studying literary devices including similes, metaphor, alliteration and our favorite—onomatopoeia—and finding them all around us, in music, prose, poetry and in our conversations! Next step for the Greenies? In conjunction with our reading of Crossover by Kwame Alexander—a narrative book told completely in verse—Greenies will be writing their own narrative poems.

Aaliyah, Lucy and Gita writing poetry at the De Young.

As a tourist, I’m sure you guys appreciate a good map. If you take a close look in our Band Space, you’ll probably notice that Greenies do too! Not only do we have a world map, but we have maps of Brightworks, created by the Greenies themselves for our study of scale! Each student picked one area of the BWX warehouse—band spaces, the kitchen, office, library etc., measured the space and furniture, and then drew it to scale on graph paper. Each student chose their own scale to draw their space to, but when we put our drawings together, we realized this was a problem that prevented us from making a truly realistic map! What a learning experience. Next up in our study of scale, Greenies will be picking a SF landmark to recreate in 3D to scale. This time kiddos will have to choose a scale together so that we can make a realistic model of the city.

Griffin’s scale drawing of the library.

Ladies and gents, as you may have noticed on this tour, there are a lot of homeless people throughout the city. Because homeless people are a part of the SF community (although not always treated as such) and add to the culture of the city, it seemed appropriate that we would study the city’s homeless population. In addition to asking ourselves “What are the factors that cause homelessness?” we are also wondering “How can we help homeless people?” We started our study listening to a KQED podcast on first topic, and then watched a presentation by the founder of Lava Mae (and Tamasen’s mom), Doniece Sandoval on one way to address the latter. Moving forward, Greenies are going to break into pairs to study different issues facing the homeless community, and come up with ways to try and help the issues, much like Ms. Sandoval did.

Ms. Sandoval’s presentating on Lava Mae.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Green Band’s City Arc. Check back soon to learn more about our explorations!

Greenies calculate “The True Cost” of cheap labor in garment factories

While the Green Band is in full swing working on their Expression Projects, we’ve also continued a part-time exploration of cloth by studying garment workers and factories. Our study of garment workers was inspired by the documentary, “The True Cost,” which we watched the week before Winter Break. This documentary about the clothing industry specifically analyzed the environmental, social, and economic effects of “fast” fashion. The 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh was a huge focus of the documentary, with footage of the building’s wreckage and interviews with garment workers and the factory owners. Students were outraged to hear the mistreatment and working conditions many garment workers face.

Promotional poster for the “The True Cost”

The week we returned from break, the Greenies started to collect data on where our clothing comes from. Over the course of a week, we checked the tags of our clothing each day and collected data from other bands. We then graphed our data.  We found that China is the biggest manufacturer of our clothes by a long shot, making double of what Vietnam makes, which was the second largest manufacturer on our graph. The Greenies were surprised to find out Bangladesh was not one of the highest places considering we had heard so much about the garment factories there.

Gita, Lucy and Phoebe check out our new Band Space map.

To continue our mathematical analysis of the clothing industry, each child chose one country to calculate the incomes of their garment workers. The countries were Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. Based on this slightly dated 2010 article, students took the hourly income of a garment worker from these counties and calculated their daily, weekly, monthly and annual income based on a 10-hour day, 7-day-a-week schedule, which we found is a pretty average schedule. We then graphed their monthly incomes. We found that in general, factories in Latin America paid their garment workers much more than those in Asia. A garment worker in Colombia, which was the highest paying country out of the ones we chose, makes about $325.00/month. We compared this to a garment worker in Bangladesh (the lowest) who makes under $50.00/month.

Our poster showing the monthly income of garment workers in our selected countries.

To wrap up our study of garment workers, the Green Band jigsawed articles taken from the Clean Clothes Campaign website. The Clean Clothes Campaign “is a global alliance dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.” The articles we read covered topics such as living wages and severance pay, working hours and overtime, unions, health and safety, and gender discrimination. Students split up these articles, practiced their close-reading, highlighting and note-taking skills, and then presented the most important points of the articles to one another (this is what we call jigsawing.) We learned that while the working conditions for garments workers is often horrendous, the workers and their allies are doing what they can to fight and improve the lives.

Notes on the Clean Clothes Campaign articles.

Cloth & Religious Identity: The Greenies Study Islam

The Green Band’s latest read aloud is “Does My Head Look Big In This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The book tells the story of Amal, an Australian-Palestinian teenager living in Melbourne who decides to start wearing the hijab (“veil”) full-time. As a Muslim, Amal is in the minority at her new school and in her community, and the book, told from her perspective, talks about the ways in which the people around her respond to this very visible symbol of faith. This connection between cloth (the hijab) and identity has lead to a study of Islam in the Band.

While the majority of the Green Band identifies as being secular or atheist, the kids have done an amazing job following our Norms for Talking About Religion. These norms, inspired by this Teaching Tolerance article, allow for respectful and open-minded discussions of religion. For many students, this was the first time learning about religion in an academic setting.

Using a number of Newsela articles (our favorite resource), students studied the history of Islam and Muhammad, the Five Pillars of Islam, the purpose of the hijab, the frequently perceived connection between terrorism and Islam, and the tremendous amount of prejudice that Muslims face on a daily basis. The Green Band also took a visit to the Islamic Society of San Francisco and got to experience what it feels like to be in an urban mosque and learn a little more about the religion from our guide Khaled Ghaleb. We learned that Islamic art doesn’t contain images and consists primarily of geometric shapes and patterns. Students observed individuals coming in and out of the space, and although nobody had been in a mosque before, it was undeniable that everybody felt “peaceful, calm, and quiet.”

Our study of Islam culminated in students doing a short reflection on how their lives connect to the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahadah- faith, Salat- prayer, Zakat- charity, Sawm- fasting, and Hajj-pilgrimage to Mecca. Students were able to find commonalities between traditions and aspects of their lives and those of the Muslim faith. I am very proud of the work that the Greenies did in our study of Islam!

Weave Been Busy!

It’s hard to believe it’s already the last week of Cloth Exploration! With Expression just around the corner, the Green Band has been busy learning new skills, strengthening old ones, and thinking critically about the role clothing plays in culture and presentation of self. With Aaliyah Hinds as the newest addition to the Band, the Greenies have jumped head first into an exploration of weaving/”looming.”

Greenies work on building their frame looms in the shop.

In addition to finishing up our “uniform” sewing projects, the Greenies were fortunate enough to be visited by a number of professional weavers who taught us how to use various different looms. Tien Chiu, a programer turned professional weaver and friend of Liz’s, came and shared her knowledge of weaving and showed us how to use a floor loom. Travis Meinholf, Sierra’s artist and educator friend, came in and taught a few bands how to backstrap weave, which became a favorite amongst some Greenies. Kate Colwell, a doctor and weaving teacher and friend of Piper’s family, came in to teach an exclusive lesson to the Green Band. She set up a number of table looms and a back-strap loom, and taught the kiddos how to use them and how to bind off. Kate also taught us that there are only two real rules to weaving—put on the warp hard and the weft soft. Many thanks to our weaving experts!

Kate Colwell shows the Green Band how to use a table loom.

Students were given cardboard looms (donated by the generous Indigo Band), on which they practiced weaving techniques. Some kids creatively used rulers as weaving swords and wooden chopsticks as shuttles. Although not the sturdiest, the cardboard looms were used to create weave after weave, with Greenies often choosing to weave during read aloud and quiet time.

Liam and Griffin using rulers and chopsticks to weave on their cardboard looms.

The Greenies then took their passion for [woven] fashion to the shop, where each student created a frame loom using wood, screws, and wire nails. Generally following this how-to, shop-expert Evan lead us in this endeavor. Students each made a different-sized frame loom to fit their needs, Charlotte even made a backpack to carry hers in! With their upgraded looms, Greenies even brought them on our field trip and wove on the bus, impressing and shocking other passengers.

Charlotte, Charlotte’s loom and Aaliyah on the bus to Levi’s.