Band Swap – Psychology

The past month, the middle school and high school bands have been rotating between collaborators. Each member of the Upper School team wanted their kids to have access to certain similar elements of “human” – early civilizations, body systems and maintenance, civil rights, and psychology. These four subjects were decided on because, well, they’re important (duh!) but also because the kids have explicitly expressed interest in these areas over the course of the year.

Instead of the traditional single-collaborator dive into each one of these, it made more sense for each teacher to specialize in an area and have the kids cycle through.

We designed a week-long crashcourse in each area, with a small culminating project at the end of each session. The notes, reflections, work, and projects would be physically entered into a portfolio due after the entire wheel. As it’s Spring Break currently, the students are wrapping up each of their projects and getting them ready to submit.

Once submitted, each project earns an individual button!

Check out my button for psychology:

The course questions for psychology were amended for each particular age group, of course, but went as follows:

  • what is psychology? why is it hard to study or learn about?
  • what are “knowns” about psychology? what are trends enough they’re truths? (focused on cognitive development and stages in developmental psychology!)
  • how do we learn these “truths”? is there anything we disagree with about them? what are the ethics of studying them?
  • how do we behave? what do we want to know? can we design a psychological study to figure it out?
The culminating project for the psychology course was to design an independent social study to answer a research question of interest to the student. Ideally, if one of the kids wants to turn it into an arc project, they now have the time to perform their study and analyze the data. But, if not, at least they have practice thinking critically about the ethics and development of a psychological study.
And, because the Exploratorium has an exhibit all about social studies (specifically, not the curricular arena) and sharing right now, we were even able to go and play out several of these experiments!
The other projects were: to create a full-scale ancient civilization with all the key components; to research and then write a civil rights bill that would impact groups of people today; to write a love letter to a system of the body and explain why it’s so remarkable.
We get back to school on Monday! I can’t wait to see their work.
Oh, and then we jump into sex ed. ~~

Blue+Indigo: Upper School Band Swap Week 3


Oh Hey, Indigo Band!

It was week 3 of Upper School Band Swap, I had a great week hanging out with you. We talked about so many unexpected things and in such deep and productive ways. In fact, Wednesday was the best day ever. For realz. No joke. Seriously.


Let me tell you why Wednesday was the best day ever.

During the Band Swap, on every Wednesday (#hellagayday) I have been doing a 90 minute crash course in same sex marriage history. Starting in 1962 with the first state to legalize homosexual acts in private, I try to demonstrate how state laws effect federal laws, how federal laws blockade progress and how state in turn find ways around the blockades. Using the lens of same sex marriage is just a tactic to help explain all of these other really complicated  inner workings of the US government and legal system. This content is just a way for us to talk about how laws shape humanity, and how humanity sometimes fights back.

This past #hellagayday started much like the others. I drew my timeline on the board, we watched a video, and chatted. And then something unexpected and magical happened — all of these simple historical provocations sparked all of these other things for the Band. And suddenly, we went from talking about Gavin Newsom’s political stunt in 2004 to talking about polygamy, to talking about trans rights, to talking about gender as a spectrum, to talking about sex as a spectrum, to talking about what happens if a baby is born with both sets of genitals.

Indigo, you had serious, thoughtful, complicated, and beautiful questions about what it means to be human in 2016. We had in depth, critical, and respectful conversation about all of these things (and more). This is what it means to be an educator at this school: having the freedom to productively tangent, explore ideas, be flexible and excited, and above everything, be genuinely interested.

I could have continued this conversation for an additional 90 minutes. I could have been sitting in a college classroom. I could have been chatting with a group of friends on a Saturday night.

So, heartemojis to you, Indigo!


Meanwhile, the rest of the week was an interesting lesson (for me!) in what it means to be a teen human in 2016:

Did you know that pretty advanced technology is just a simple part of every life for these humans?
No big deal. It’s totally normal to video conference an assessment meeting, or to record yourself doing your homework assignment, upload it to YouTube, and then embed it into a Google Slides presentation for when you’re absent.


Also, safety has been an interesting topic of conversation this week.

I spent the week wearing safety goggles because in a fit of excitement, a pencil was thrown in during the morning check in. This has sparked all sorts of conversation, including what it means to “consent” to something, how tools can be used inappropriately as weapons, and also the difference between play and fighting and what can happen when the lines are blurred.


And this happened:


Also, as uncool as they sometimes might pretend it is, our penpals are on our minds.

Blue is having some pretty interesting conversations with their mystery East Bay friends. Some folks are writing under pseudonyms and presenting them fictional stories, while others are asking some intriguing questions. It’s rumored that our friends in Oakland are interested in having a picnic with Blue, and we are working out the details.


With that, here’s to another week!

Band Swap rotates me back with Blue this week, so it’ll be interesting to close out this curriculum with some familiar faces.

What a (topographic) Relief!

Hard at work

As we near the end of the Rock Arc, I realized we have the time to do one more project if we all help out. One of the ideas that came up was to make a relief map from a topographic map of San Francisco. To do this, we had to find a suitable map, pick the right materials, and take turns with each job.

Yesterday, Ally and Lucie spent a good amount of time making a scale model of our large map. They cut out the layers of small map to estimate how much cardboard/wood/foam board we would need. If we had enough, foam board would be the best because it’s light and easy to cut.

Ally and Lucie prepare the model

Ally and Lucie prepare the model

The end result was really cool and got everyone excited. Even the layers of paper looked great. Imagine what a 48″x48″ version would look like!

San Francisco, looking pretty

San Francisco, looking pretty

After we had the pieces, the kids figured out we would only need four 48″x48″ sheets of material, so we could use the foam board that I have. Lucie and Ally finished the model, so they were the first to start tracing the layers for our larger version. Once they finished, Evan and Amelia traced the next layer (101-200 ft in elevation).

The next day, Ally started cutting out her outline of the city while Amelia and Evan finished drawing. This took a little practice because they are using my hot knives to cut out the map. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically an X-acto blade on a soldering iron. The knife cuts the paper and melts the foam which gives you great control and clean cuts. By the end of the say, all the layers have been traced. Hopefully tomorrow we can assemble!

Cassandra and JP cut away

Max Traces

Amelia Cutting

Meanwhile, the rest of the band was working hard adding their research topics to the group timeline. Each student was assigned a topic (sea levels, animals, human ancestors, plants, etc) and had to add 8-10 of these to our timeline. Hopefully we’ll finish this timeline by the end of the arc!

Timeline Progress

Timeline Progress

Upper School 2 Mars

Today, we went to Mars.

Did some basic astronaut training, first.

Debriefed at Mission Control: there’s a station on Mars and a replacement team coming to swap them out, the Mars Control team and the Spacecraft team.

Got into position, and took off.

Our mission was successful!


Yea, space!