Foundry Day!

Today we wrapped up the Coin Arc by casting our coins! (Demar and Griffin were very missed!) Students got to cast their coins using the Brennans’ foundry outside of 1960 Bryant. Liam’s dad, Matt, taught us a lot about the foundry process, aluminum, the melting points of metals and more. He expertly helped the kids turn their purple styrofoam molds into beautiful shiny silvery “coins.” Below are some pictures of our process!


Step 1- Safety! Matt introduces the foundry to the Green Band.

Step 2- Melting aluminum. Piper puts an aluminum soda can into the foundry. We had to wait for the aluminum to become completely liquid. Aluminum’s melting point is 1220 degrees F.

Step 3- Putting the styrofoam mold into a pot of sand. Matt helps Phoebe fill in the negative space of her mold with sand before burying it in the pot.

Step 4- Pouring the liquid aluminum. Matt transfers the melted aluminum in the crucible to the molds in the sand. When poured, the liquid aluminum will take the place of the styrofoam mold, and the styrofoam will vaporize.

Step 5- Removing the aluminum. Lucy pulls out the now-hardened aluminum mold from the sand and places it in a bucket of water to cool it.

Taa daa! Gita’s cat.

Piper’s initials.

Phoebe’s triton.

Lucy’s penguin.

Charwhal’s N for narwhal.

Liam’s raccoon.

Movies, and foundries and budgets—Oh my!


With only one half-week left of the Coin Arc, Greenies have been busy wrapping up a number of projects. For the past few weeks, students have been planning and filming their History of Money movies, preparing styrofoam casts to be made into aluminum coins in a foundry, and studying the realities of having a minimum wage job in San Francisco.

Gita, Lucy, Charlotte and Demar getting their costumes and props ready for filming.

Based on the book The History of Money: From Bartering to Banking by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura as well as some articles we read on the same subject, Greenies are working in two groups to make short movies about the history of money. Students created a storyboard, wrote a script, planned and created costumes and props, and are now in the throws of filming. Editing is the next step and we will hopefully have a world premiere of our movies for families next week!

Piper delights in watching Liam film Griffin take a walk down the “red carpet.”

Over the summer, Liam and his family built a mini foundry that they’ve been upgrading and modifying in order for the Green Band to make aluminum coins. The actual casting and melting will take place during the last week of our arc, but students have been busy designing their coins and carving their molds. Pulling from the identity work we did earlier in the arc, students started by reflecting and sketching out designs they would want on their coins to represent themselves. Designs were then simplified in order to fit the styrofoam molds and show up when casted. Rachel’s friend Rachel the Artist (and puppy Ozzy) came to BWX with some professional tools to help us carve the styrofoam. Kids got to use a soldering iron and Xacto knives.

Carving their styrofoam molds to make coins.

Our big final project for the Arc has been our study of minimum wage. After listening to a podcast and reading an article on the debate surrounding minimum wage in our state and country, Greenies each picked a minimum-wage profession to role-play for the rest of our Arc. (We have 4 restaurant hosts/hostesses, 1 cashier, 2 home care aides, and a dishwasher.) Many kids were shocked to hear that the average federal income is barely over $7.00. Students write journal entries from the perspective of these workers, research the positions, and next we will calculate their daily, weekly and monthly income and try to create a budget.

With all these new projects coming up, it feels as if the Coin Arc has just flown by. Nonetheless we are super bumped for Cloth! We’ll report back soon.

First Green Band Blog Post!

The Green Band at Clarion Alley.

In the first two weeks of school, the Green Band focused on identity work and getting to know one another! With three new students, a new collaborator and a newly renovated band space, Charlotte, Demarcus, Gita, Griffin, Liam, Lucy, Phoebe, Piper and Rachel tackled different ways of representing our inside and outside selves.

Some Identity Icebergs.

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 Rachel’s), and below the surface we wrote traits you would only know if you got to know us (lives alone, scared of the dark, stubborn).

Rachel Marino helping Green Band organize their mural.

To prepare for our collaborative band mural, we took a walk to Clarion Alley in the Mission and studied some of the different murals. After doing a few more identity activities, we each came up with our own image or symbol to embody our interests, strengths and personalities. These images will make up our band mural. For technical support, we got some help from Rachel’s artist friend, Rachel (with puppy Ozzy.)

We hope you enjoyed our first blog post! More to come soon.

Altruism, Greed and Skulls

What an exhilarating week!  We’ve been detectives, anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers.  All in the pursuit of big questions like, “What sets humans apart from other species?” and “Are we fundamentally motivated by competition or altruism?”


For the next two weeks we have skulls on loan from the academy of sciences.  We’ve been using these skulls to explore questions of what make us human.  We started by looking at the teeth of several different animals, including us humans.  We ate different food to try and make hypotheses about the functions of our different kinds of teeth. An important observation was made about how canines, which are used for ripping, are pronounced in animals that eat meat.  We have far less pronounced canines than other omnivores.


Patrick and Lola shared a theory that this is because we use tools to cut our food and fire to cook it.  Perhaps one of the things that distinguishes us as a species is that we cook.  This is an idea that Michael Pollan expands upon in the first episode of his new series Cooked.  We watched and discussed this show as a follow up to our exploration of skulls.  Another theme emerged during this documentary is how much food creates community.


Some of the most exciting and engaged moments we had this week happened as we explored how cooperation and sharing define us as a species.  We started this exploration with a BBC documentary with anthropologist Alice Roberts called What Makes Us Human.  In this documentary behavioral scientists create a situation in which chimps have to cooperate in order to get a reward.  Each chimp only helps to the extent to which they get a reward and don’t help the other partner if something goes wrong.  However, when they recreated this experiment with human toddlers they found that the young kids would share their reward if they had worked together to achieve it.  This launched an exploration that included two provocative games that modeled social pressures and difficulties that occur around sharing and cooperation.  There are more in depth descriptions of the rules of these games on the Exploratorium website.  These games were responsible for some of the more heated and interesting discussions that we had all week. Fortunately we’ve got more games like these to play and reflect upon in the coming weeks.  Another source of interesting conversation came from the ted talk The Science of Greed.  


It is always exhilarating and exhausting to visit the Exploratorium and I think it is always best to go with a purpose in mind.  Their science of sharing exhibit fits so perfectly into the themes that we are exploring in this arc.  Students got to play games that modeled the tragedy of the commons, the freeloader phenomenon, the prisoner’s dilemma and other activities that revealed biases and stereotypes that we hold.  They recorded information regarding the decisions they made and their feelings around their decisions and those of the their partner. This coming week, we will be able to reflect upon our experiences with each activity.


We have enjoyed the feedback we have been receiving from a number of families around the blog posts being written at home and the opportunities it has created to have family discussions around what we are learning and what your child is interested in this arc. We truly look forward to reading their posts over the arc now that they have more freedom around the prompt and direction they choose to take with their blog post each week.

Next week we will be continuing our look into what makes us human by studying some neuroscience.  We will be dissecting sheep brains!

Let the Novel Writing Begin


National Novel Writing Month or “Nanowrimo” is a time when students get to lock up their inner editor and let their imaginations run wild.  The month of November is given over to writing.  Focusing on quantity over quality, students write to reach a word goal and win bound copies of their story.  During December and January the students revise their work into a publishable form.  The delight on students faces when they receive their bound copies is a wonderful thing to behold.

The past two weeks the Green band has been reflecting on what they love about stories and analyzing the structure of the novels they admire.  They have been inventing main characters, figuring out the driving motivations of those characters and the inventing obstacles those characters will face over the course of their journeys.  They are mapping out the rising and falling action of their plots so they are prepared to get writing on the first day of November!  Next Tuesday we will begin our week with an Nanowrimo writing party.

Green Band: Back to School and Better Than Ever

What a wonderful group of kids!  What an exhilarating start to the year!

This first week was a deep centering breath before we dive into this new year.  We took time to get to know each other as the quirky wonderful creatures we are and create a thoughtful list of group agreements.


To give us something to chew on as we formulated these agreements, the group played a game that required them them to work as a team to solve a problem.  They had to listen to each other to negotiate strategies.  Our debrief of this game fed our brainstorm on how we want to treat each other.



Here are the five group agreements that we distilled from dozens of postit notes and much insightful conversation:


It’s one thing to talk about group agreements and another thing to really embody them.  I left some things in our band space unfinished so that the group could have a mini project in which they could practice problem solving and good communication.


This started in the shop with a lesson from Sean on how to ask for and offer help.  His nugget of wisdom was to take a moment to ask what a person is doing and if they would like help before jumping in with your suggestion.  


The kids practiced asking for and offering help in a mini challenge.  This challenge required them to become familiar with the shop and some of the tools they will encounte there.


The band also read an article from a wonderful book, “Problem Solving 101” by Ken Watanabe that described different approaches to problem solving.  The kids reflected on how they approach problems and what makes a good problem solver.



As the group worked together to make our band space more functional and beautiful there were opportunities to learn from each other, practice resilience in the face of setbacks and think through some challenging logistics.


I am so excited about this group of kids and the new year we have in front of us! 

Trudy teaching the boys how to sew!