In the By Sea Percolators

The Orange Band has had the luxury of so many by-sea experiences during Exploration. While there are still a few trips and outings left in the weeks after Spring Break, we took some time this week to read about the aquatic topics that the kiddos found interesting and intriguing. Enjoy the Orange Band’s recent research!

Coral Reef Damage

By Amiya

Record temperatures in 2015 and 2016 have caused significant damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is the biggest living organism in the world and can be seen from outer space. The reef stretches 1,400 miles off the coast of Queensland, in the Coral Sea. Coral are typically brightly colored, but when water temperatures get too hot, they become white. This is called bleaching, and it occurs when coral get rid of the algae which they use for food.

Bleached coral are more likely to get diseases, and they can take multiple decades to recover from bleaching. The Great Barrier reef has experienced significant bleaching before, in 1998 and 2002, but it only affected about 60 percent of the reef during both of those incidents. Currently, 90 percent of the reef is affected, and it is still experiencing bleaching in 2017.

Terry Hughes is a scientist in Australia. He helped to lead a study which showed the effect of global warming on coral. He has been observing, from above and underwater, the Great Barrier Reef’s bleaching. As summer comes to an end in the southern hemisphere, Hughes is hoping that the weather cools down in the next few weeks, and that it won’t be as warm next summer. “It broke my heart to see so many corals dying on northern reefs on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016,” he said. The world’s nations met in Paris in 2015 to discuss climate change, and they have agreed to try to limit the average warming to 3.6 degrees fahrenheit per year.

Polar Bear Research

By Lucy

Did you know that Polar bears are going into villages in Alaska to look for food? According to an article, Melting sea ice brings polar bears and humans closer together, the reason is the sea ice polar bears hunt on is staying melted for longer, so they are going to villages and getting into their food supply.

As the article states, “the more humans and bears interact, the greater chance there is that someone or some bear will get hurt.” For example if a human came to close to the polar bear and the polar bear felt threatened they might attack. Or if a polar bear came on to a person’s property or near their house people might try to scare the polar bear away or get rid of them and end up hurting the bear in the process.

Native Alaskans have ice cellars that they have been using for over 100 years to store whale meat called  muktuk. But recently polar bears have been getting into them and eating their food supply. A nonprofit group called Defenders of Wildlife gave the Alaskans special stainless steel food containers and so far they have been successful, but polar bears are still lingering longer than usual.

The sea ice is melting faster because of our use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, as well as deforestation. Not only does this affect the polar bears but it affects us too. I think we should avoid using these as much because it is endangering many species including humans. Not just because of global warming but as I stated before it is causing animals and humans to come closer together and the outcome is not always good.       

What dolphins have been going through since humans started paying attention to them

By: Charlotte Jewell

Getting close to dolphins was a bad thing, but feeding them is a bigger problem than we think! The core of the problem was (and still is!) is tourists. Tourists probably don’t know or if they do know, they don’t care don’t care.

First of all feeding them is a federal offense, it can also change the dolphins behavior. Feeding them tells them that they can go close to boats, it also shows their offspring to beg instead of hunting. According to Amber Kuehn, who works for the Coastal Discovery Museum and also leads dolphin research excursions, “Dolphins don’t taste their food,They swallow it whole; they’re lazy like people are.” Dolphins are creatures that eat live food, they don’t usually eat canned food, like sardines. They usually eat herring or mackerel, without human bacteria on it. According to a Kuehn, “Fish are their source of fresh water so dolphins that eat human food can become dehydrated and eventually die.”

Dolphins may seem cute and cuddly but their have been several incidents where people have gotten hurt just by trying to feed dolphins! According to Wayne Mcfee, research wildlife biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Charleston, “We’ve had numerous instances of people being bitten by them, and these animals have anywhere from 80 to 100 sharp, conical teeth.” Another problem is Sea World in San Diego. Sea World has been basically  torturing dolphins and other sea life! Humans have pretty much taken over the world. seriously. Dolphins are related to humans, why should we torture them when we don’t like being tortured! Dolphins have their own life! We shouldn’t disturb their lives! They are living creatures!!!


By Roman Stadler

Some of the most important texts in history are the dead sea scrolls. Some goat herders found a cave in the desert called Judean in Israel. There were some teenagers who found bottles sorted into rows and that had some text in it. The text had a series of paper the jars that the found it in. According to the Washington Post, they were so old that some of the writing was not there and disintegrated. “They found the oldest writing known to humans.” The Arab explorers found the 12th scroll and it was written in hebrew and a few were written in greek and Aramaic.

The scrolls were 2,000 years old. Some of the scrolls were broken up into small bits and even though they were small the can be sold for a lot of money. People found the scrolls with some of the torah in it and the Ten Commandments. The torah is a scroll in judaism and it is all in Hebrew. It is the book that Jewish people read on shabbat.  And also one of the most important archeological discoveries of the 20th centuries.   In 60 years we’ll have a new first cave. Some of the caves had arrowheads and knives and different artifacts in the caves. Israel antiquities authorities told the archaeologists to go to the Qumran cave and protect the scrolls from the looters. It is a race as more looters are looking for more pieces of the paper. According to the Washington Post, “Finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered.”

What causes the tide in the ocean

By Jeevan

Tides happen when the moon’s gravitational pull pulls up the water onto the shore. Why does the tide come and go?  When the earth rotates the moon’s gravitational pull pulls on part of the earth then when the earth rotates it pulls on the other part of the earth. Are the tide’s the same everywhere? No if the earth was perfectly round and all water  the tides would be the same.
There is still a lot to learn about tides.   

Greeks By Sea

By Phoebe

“Poseidon at Sea”

Hello, have you ever wondered about Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea? Poseidon has two brothers, Zeus and Hades. Zeus rules the sky while Hades rules the underworld, and Poseidon rules the sea.

Poseidon’s symbols of power are  the trident and the horse. He married a  nayade, a girl whose life source depends on the ocean named Ameritrade. Poseidon is the second most powerful Greek god. The Greeks believed that to cross the Mediterranean, a sea in the Greek area, you would need to make a sacrifice to Poseidon unless you wanted for your boat  to sink and you to drown. Poseidon liked white bulls most of all. The Greeks also believed that Poseidon could make earthquakes  with his trident.  This is very common for Greek gods to act selfish and picky. As the article, Myths and Legends, explains, “Like the sea he can be calm and quiet at times, and then raging and violent.” This basically sums up Poseidon’s  natcher.

Poseidon is said to have an army of cyclopes and a war chariot pulled by hippocampi, fish tailed horses.  Once, Olympus was attacked by giants and Poseidon fought and killed a giant named Polybotes.  Poseidon can be helpful like when he helped Zeus send the evil Titan lord Kronos  to Tartarus. Poseidon does not enjoy the company of his brother, Zeus. One time he, Athena, and Hera wanted to take over and make the Olympian council to make fair.   These three Greek gods had the idea of not just Zeus ruling but all the Olympian gods ruling with equal power. In the end they were not successful. Poseidon wanted everything to be fair but being the second most powerful Greek god  he did not always get fair. Now that you see that Poseidon is fantastic you should make a sacrifice to Poseidon next time you go on the water.

Animals in Strange Places

By Justin

Several million years ago the Isthmus of Panama (a thin strip of land in between North America and South America) formed causing the Great American Biotic Interchange, when land animals could cross from North America to South America.

The Isthmus of Panama

Some experts think something similar is happening in the arctic. A team of experts led by Seabird Mckinnon wrote a paper that explores what they call faunal exchange. Faunal exchange is when animals from multiple different places are able to travel to other places and become invasive species. The paper looks at the increase of animals found in the wrong ocean recently and says that the reason for this is global warming in the arctic. Is says that normally animals can’t swim through the arctic because of sea ice. This is the same for birds, except they can fly over the ice, but the paper says that because of the sea ice, they can’t dive for food. But the paper says that global warming is melting the sea ice, making paths for animals to follow. This could have dramatic effects to the environment including changes to the food chain.

But some people don’t like the paper. “Some people might feel that this paper is not loaded down with evidence – they’re basically talking about 10 or 20 species that have been seen out of their geographic range – but they make a good point,” said Larry Crowder, science director for Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions. (He was not involved with the paper). “If there hasn’t been a gray whale in the Atlantic in 200 years and now there is one, that’s a change,” hHe added. Kristin Laidre, a principal scientist at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center said that the ideas in the paper aren’t new to the scientific community. “I think in the kind of ecological studies that consider the consequences of ice loss, the idea that species in the Pacific may become more connected with species in the Atlantic [or vice versa] isn’t really a new idea.” Kristin Laidre was the head author of a paper that was about arctic marine mammals and how they are dealing with climate change. The paper also realizes the likelihood that arctic animals will move towards oceans that they aren’t supposed to be in. A good number of the animals mentioned in Kristin Laidre paper are also mentioned in Seabird Mckinnon’s paper. Pacific auks and Atlantic northern gannets have both been spotted in the wrong ocean along with a gray whale spotted off the coast of Israel. These sightings have increased in recent years, and I am looking forward to see what would happen if polar bears showed up in New York for example. I want to see if they would change color or not, and if they would all be put in the zoo.

What Floats Our Boats? Exploring Density and Buoyancy

The Balclutha is a 3-masted square rigger; 301 feet long and clocking in at 1,689 tons – how in the world do such ships not simply sink to the bottom of the ocean? Much less carry cargo?


Just how does a massive ship, made of steel and wood, manage to stay afloat? The Orange Band began their explorations into the ideas of buoyancy and vessels at the Hyde Street San Francisco Maritime National Park Association. The kiddos had an opportunity to assist in the build of a Bevin’s skiff (a small rowboat) and take a spin in a completed skiff out on the San Francisco Bay!

Boat construction begins with drawn scaled, iterations from multiple angles – this reminded the Orange Band of their processes during project time.

The Maritime Park crew work with high school students from Downtown High to build Bevin’s skiffs. This skiff, being built over a skeleton to support and maintain the shape, is about halfway done.

Progress on the boat must be slow and methodical – here, Lucy, Charlotte, and Phoebe apply adhesive – liquid cement – to the newly attached plank.

Lucy is just the right size to fill in holes with the cement adhesive from the inside of the support frame.

Meanwhile, Justin, Roman, Amiya, and Jeevan pushed off for a trip around Aquatic Park in the Bevin’s skiff, learning the commands for rowing a small boat.

Maneuvering in the water took coordination (with the rower in front or behind you AND at your side) and good listening skills. Glenn, our captain in the skiff, called out directions to keep the rowers and swimmers in the water safe.

Lucy holds her oar, waiting for Captain Glenn’s next direction.

It was a gorgeous day on the Bay – we had spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge as the fog began to roll in over the city.

AND got to experience the thrill of sea-life in the wold: sea lions playing in the Bay!

It only takes a bit of imagination to see the SF Bay at the height of its shipping era; just a little squint and the right light and it is teeming with boats of all sizes, once again!

*Meanwhile, Back at the (Brightworks) Ranch*

The Orange Band was raring to get out on the water again – or at least begin boat construction of their own designs. But we had to take a giant step back before setting sail. Before we could jump into building boats in our shop, we needed to become familiar with the science behind what allows any substance float on water.

So, the kiddos were presented with a series of items: ceramic, wood, steel, and plastic. Their task was to measure the volume and mass of each set of items, graph the data, and then compare that to water.

Finding the volume of irregularly shaped (or non-rectangular) objects is tricky – unless you use the water displacement method, credited to the Greek mathematician, Archimedes.

Jeevan works to carefully measure the volume of wood blocks – first in displaced milliliters – and NOT include the tip of his pencil in his data collection.

Justin uses the scale to calculate the mass of the steel in his bag. A big takeaway from this activity was clarifying the difference between mass (how much matter an object is made up of – a constant) and weight (a measurement of the force of gravity on an object)

Phoebe measures the mass of the ceramic tile pieces multiple times to ensure an accurate reading. Good practices for data collection!

Lucy and Charlotte divide the work in finding the volume of multiple items.

Once our measurements had been double and triple checked, kiddos graphed the data and observed four lines with very different slopes. Then the Orange Band measured and graphed the volume and mass of various amounts of water. With little deviation, the data collection revealed that water’s volume and mass are equal in value!

This information, graphed, gave a clear picture of which items would float (wood, with a line slope smaller than water’s) and which would not (any item with a line slope steeper than water’s). The work gave the students an opportunity to see WHY we graph – and brought to light the formula for density (density = mass/volume) and its relationship to buoyancy. Next up? (Small) Boat Building!

Next, kiddos were given a challenge: build a boat out of  a 12″ x 12″ piece of aluminum foil that holds the MOST mass. While the constrictions of the challenge were met with some resistance (Couldn’t we just add toothpicks? Or use some tape?), they provided an opportunity to work within controlled conditions and compare their results!

Charlotte and Phoebe discuss their options for the foil boat challenge.

Like the more complicated Bevin’s skiff, Orange Band’s foil boats began with a sketch!

Roman works on his second iteration of the boat hull. It was a challenge to ONLY use a single sheet of foil for each boat.

How high should the sides of the hull be? What is the best shape for the bottom?

The pinched, oval-shaped hull was a popular choice. Kiddos discussed the need to make their boats “water-dynamic,” able to cut through the water with ease.


Amiya and Jeevan’s crafts were able to hold the most mass (over 300 g) – in addition to the shape of their hulls, they paid careful consideration to how they filled the boat, balancing the washers inside their craft as they added more.

These forays into how vessels carry mass that is greater than the crafts, themselves, set the stage for the Orange Band’s next explorations: What are the factors that affect the success of such crafts?

Next on the docket: deeper dives into density and shape of hulls and ships.

The Orange Band still has some more work to do in understanding the “how” and “why” of by-sea movement – at least before we take our designs out to the big blue waters…

Lest we encounter such dire catastrophes at sea, as Amiya envisions!


“Dear Ma and Pa

The ship has set sail for Oregon to rebuild the city. I hope Nana, Nona and Papa are doing great and I have a few stories…” Deckhand Crew Member Phoebe

“1906, April 22

Dear Mother and Father,

As you have heard, I have been taken on a ship…the Captain calls it “being shanghaied.” The people seem nice, except Mr. Llyod, he is the first mate and is in charge of discipline. You may be wondering, ‘how did I get tricked?’…Well…we (notice I said WE) followed this “Mr. Hawkins.” He told us that there was a ship we should see. So we followed him and he gave a sheet. Now at the time I had no idea what this sheet was and really did not care, but now I realize that I was signing a very important document.

I miss you soooo much,

Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte”

“Mr. Hawkins told us of the Joyful life onboard, and the fine pay.  Yet, the second we set foot on the ship I knew we had been shanghaied.  We were forced to work on the ship with the strict first mate, Mr. Llyod and the not completely sane cook/doctor Onion. (Who became Princess Onion under circumstances I will get to later).  The only thing that stopped this voyage from being a complete nightmare was The Captain.  He was firm but kind.” Ronan Rigger Crew.

“Then on the poop deck a man look and said in a stern voice, ‘Whats this!’ Hawkins walked up at the front of the line.

‘Sir, you said you needed a crew,’  said Hawkins.

‘Not little childern!’ said Mr. Lloyd, ‘You are all green but we are going to turn you into sailors.'” Deck Hand Mate Sadie

“My first day of work on a ship was hard. We even swabbed the decks, which I, personally, think is the coolest job on this ship.” Quartermaster Crew Member Jonah


My group was with Onion our first task was to swab the deck.  Swabbing was fun but getting the water was hard because the buckets full of water where super heavy and they splashed all over us.” Gita Quartermaster Crew

“Today was fun but tiring! I loved all of the acting and the characters! My favorite character was Dr. Onion! My favorite thing I did today was raising and lowering the dory, eating dinner, and washing dishes. I liked my day!” Boat Crew Member Soleil


“I got the job of the boat crew and had to lower and raise the dory and did the dishes every meal.” Roman Boat Crew

“My experience here was challenging but also fun.  The sky and the breeze are so calm.  I can hear the ship saying stuff to me. It sings me lullabies in my ear.  I hear the seals singing shanties. I love this a lot.  I love the Balcutha.” Deckhand Mate Sadie

“We had to raise and lower the ensign and kept bell time.” Pheobe Deckhand Crew.

“We just got fired from a boat. I’m so glad it was awful. The oatmeal  was soggy. The bed’s were hard as a rock. And the blanket’s thin as paper.” Lily Deck Hand Crew 

“The job of the rigger crew is to raise the bosun’s chair and assemble the block and tackle.” Charlotte

“The sea gulls are crying. The boat is groaning. The sea lions are yowling. The water is flowing, a cool night it is.” Rigger Crew Mate Charlotte.

“The Balclutha will dock in Oregon soon.  I am going to escape then and come home.  I have to go now because my break is over, so goodbye for now.  I am looking forward to seeing you after I escape.” Boat Crew Amiya

“Then we needed to raise Lisa on the bosun’s chair and tell her what to buy us and give us. This was the fun part.” Boat Crew Member Roman

“We put Lisa on a swing high in the air and demanded lots of things in the end we got most of what we wanted.” Quartermaster Crew Member Gita

When the voyage was done, we sang and said Farewell.” Boat Crew Member Soleil

Declarations & Expression: Project Time is Upon the Orange Band

Throughout the exploration phase of the By-Land Arc, the Orange Band has studied the movement of people and things, notably, but not exclusively, our food. A thread that runs throughout all of our explorations is people’s work to amplify their own efforts for a greater result.

Orange Band students brainstormed the ways that we explored concepts by-land and found a through thread in innovation and advance towards an amplification of human ability

When we wanted to move farther or more than we could carry, we turned to stronger beasts of burden. Later technological advances led us to vehicles of greater and greater advancements in speed, ability, and complexity. 
Even in looking at our food, we are constantly looking to get more from our plates. The ancient porridges of ground wheat and water became, by accident, the starter for the first breads, food of greater nutrition and value.
At this stage in the students’ career at Brightworks, students are presented with a challenge, and constraints, within which students have the room to be creative and innovative in their response to the challenge! We spoke of the counterintuitive phenomenon constraints can actually encourage and breed creativity in a way that no boundaries might not.
The Challenge:
With the idea of amplifying human effort for greater results, Orange Band students were challenged to make a machine that amplifies the work that one turn of a hand-held grain grinder yields by 2, 5, or 10 times.

Kiddos experimented with the grain grinders, testing the strength needed to grind barley, prior to designing machines to meet the challenge.

Such a challenge necessitated an (ongoing) exploration of simple machines, and a greater understanding of gears and gear ratios. The research began in earnest and Orange Band students worked individually and in partnerships to craft articulate, well-thought out declarations for approval.

Phoebe, Charlotte, and Lucy devoted their energies to step-by-step conceptualization of how they would realize their project ideas.


Jeevan consults Huxley for feedback in how to make his ideas clearer for the reader.

In response to the challenge, Orange Band students’ ideas ranged far and wide!

Phoebe and Charlotte took a page from our brainstorm at the beginning of Expression and decided to turn to animal labor as a way to amplify human effort:

We will make a hamster powered energy barley grinder with gears to amplify Cloudy’s (the hamster) efforts on her wheel. Our desired product is a working hamster wheel that will amplify human efforts to make flour.

Charlotte and Phoebe’s project build – the first iteration


Gever and Charlotte discuss their next steps in their attempts to make wooden gears on the band saw for the project.

Roman decided to meet the challenge using a vehicle–a remote-controlled truck, that is!

I would like to see if a remote control truck can power the grain grinder. I will have to make a loop for the car to turn around on, and I will have to connect the car to the crank. I will make the loop 2 1/2 feet in diameter so the car will have room but make a foundation. I will remove the handle and replace it with a bolt I’m going to have the bolt attached to the grinder and not the handle so then the car will move the bolt and not the handle.  I want to be able to compare how much grain is milled after  2, 5, or 10 loops of the remote-controlled truck.

Roman worked through multiple iterations and prototype versions of his project before signing up for an approval meeting.

Justin opted to focus on the power of the grinder itself, exchanging the object to be ground up for a sweeter option:

 In order to meet the challenge [given] I will create the Gearatron-o-matic 90211, a machine that will be able to increase the power of the grain grinder using gears to increase torque or speed depending on how strong the grinder is already. If it is already really strong I might increase the speed, but that decreases torque so I probably won’t do that. On the other hand increasing torque decreases speed so one turn might not do much, but it will mow through almost anything.

Justin created sketches of his project ideas from multiple perspectives – leading up to the green light!



Embodying the mantra that Brightworks embraces (“Everything is interesting!”), Jeevan was inspired to take the idea of amplifying human efforts into a new direction: gardens and irrigation:

I will amplify human effort to water plans, by making a rain machine which will make it a lot easer to water plants  so you just have to  turn on the hose and it will be raining in your garden and all the plants will be watered.


Another idea that the Brightworks disciple adheres to is that we are the school that says, “yes!” to the passions and interests of the students. When the Movement of Things By Land arc began, both Lucy and Amiya felt particularly inspired to explore their deepest interests: animals and cars, respectively. Being a place of learning that encourages such self-identified pursuits, Lucy and Amiya set off on very different paths than the rest of the band.

Amiya’s sketch belies the complexity inherent in making a working manual transmission!


My desired product is a working manual transmission made out of Lego bricks. To meet the challenge, I will research manual transmissions and how they work. To address the challenge, I will make a working manual transmission out of Lego. I want to do this project because I want to learn how a manual transmission works, and I would like to put it in a big Lego car after this arc is over.

Part of the declaration process is seeking out and identifying potential experts to consult during Project Time.


Wolf – Pygmy Rabbit – White Tailed Deer – Polar Bear


The challenge that I have to adress is to make a board game about animals that walk on land. The game will also be a little bit educational. The players might learn about the four animals involved in the game.  I will meet the challenge by making a board game about animals walking  on land. In my board game there will be cards that have setbacks and advantages depending on your animal. Each player will be a different animal ether a polar bear, a wolf, a pygmy rabbit or a whitetail deer. Each player starts at a different place on the board depending on where that type of animal lives, but all the animals are trying to get to one place. I chose this project because I like animals and board games.

Clearly, we have been nothing short of a whirlwind in the Orange Band, with these declarations and projects up front and center!

But our time this arc phase has not only been in the realm of declarations and projects. Our mornings have been filled with explorations in opportunities for math in the day-to-day contexts of the most unlikely of places: pet food stores!

Using the context of price comparison, students have been developing an understanding of ratios, how ratio tables work, and the ways that fractions are added and subtracted in real-life situations. Working within carefully crafted scenarios, kiddos have been exploring with visual math and manipulatives to build and further their conceptual understanding of big ideas using models.

The “landscape of learning” that students move through and within during our current explorations of fractions, decimals, and percents. The rectangles represent landmark strategies students use; the ovals show the big ideas; and triangles illustrate the models students use along the way.


Lucy and Phoebe use visual representations of fixed ratios of dog food ingredients (linking cubes of different colors) to keep fractional proportions accurate.

Charlotte takes the time to write and draw out her understandings. Careful note-taking and representation of the concepts become resources to return to as the explorations continue.

Amiya uses multiple ways to represent his work throughout the context exploration.

As the weeks continue, students will navigate the landscape for learning, moving from one model or strategy to the next as the big ideas become more and more clear!

NaNoWriMo is Never-Ending (and we love it!)

To celebrate the *official* last day of NaNoWriMo, Charlotte and the Orange Band grate chocolate for hot cocoa treats.

Lucy and Phoebe take turns, grating as much chocolate as possible to fuel their writing fires.

Justin and Roman combine their efforts for a faster and greater) yield.

Amiya and Jeevan prefer hand graters – slower, but less likely to result in a shredded finger.

Though we have left the month of November, and all that novel-writing that comes with it, we are still reveling in the work that NaNoWriMo inspired and yielded. Even as we march towards the beginning of a brand new year (Welcome, 2017! We can’t wait for you!), Orange Band students are still contemplating the characters, settings, and plot twists that filled our time together.

Computers and notebooks remain an Orange Band focus, even though November has come and gone.

Jeevan works on self-editing his novel- dialogue and paragraphing have been big focuses.

The inspirations for our novels are varied: previous NaNoWriMo projects, our favorite authors and stories, each other’s work and ideas, and the stories we wish were in print, but simply haven’t been written…yet! Throughout the work on character, setting, and plot, however, we have come to realize that most stories have a shape to them. Orange Banders looked at how the venerable and prolific author, Kurt Vonnegut, visualized these shapes. Afterward, students created their own story shapes, and we saw that our stories and style of story-telling varied just as widely as our inspirations!

In addition to goal setting for word counts (which nearly all Orange Band students have met or exceeded!!), kiddos set goals for the impacts their novels make when they are released into the world. Some of the Orange Band NaNoWriMo goals are:

  • Jeevan: I want people to know what they see may not always be the truth.
  • Lucy: My goal is to show that polar bears are awesome.
  • Roman: My goal is to make my novel a great story to read and to share it with my family.
  • Charlotte: My goal is that I want to get little girls out of their princess dresses, and get them to see the true princesses–and get them to BE like true princesses without magic.
  • Amiya: My goal is to make people laugh.
  • Phoebe: My goal is  to show that dead people aren’t really dead, and that you might not kill someone by dropping a knife on them, so don’t try!

From the inspirational to the macabre, Orange Band NaNoWriMo projects will have it all!

NaNoWriMo even infiltrated student blog post topics…

NaNoWriMo, by Amiya Das

My Nanowrimo story is about two brothers, one brother’s friend, Betty, and a very old treasure. The story begins in 1851, when John Devell goes from New York City to Placerville, CA, to find gold during the California gold rush. He finds a lot of gold, and hides it in a cave near Placerville. Unfortunately, he gets on the boat back to New York City, forgetting his treasure, and he doesn’t remember until it was too late. He makes a treasure map and gives it to his Great-Grandsons, Robert and Edward just before his death. Robert is drafted for The Second World War in 1940 and is reported missing in action in 1942. His plane crashes in the French Alps, but he moves back to Chester, Nova Scotia in 1953. Edward lives there, until he rediscovers his copy of the treasure map in 2016, and decides to go on a road trip with his friend Betty. Robert rediscovers his copy, and he goes on a road trip too. They meet just after leaving Chester, and decide to race to Placerville.

NaNoWriMo Reflection, by Roman Stadler

NaNoWriMo was a great writing opportunity. I wish we can have it forever because it’s that fun.  One reason why NaNoWriMo is fun is because on Wednesday, November 30, we had NaNoWriMo the whole day and it was also Pajama Day. our class sipped hot chocolate while writing our stories. I would get sugar crazy so I would get more ideas in my brain to write about. We also had a  super fun time writing because we got to make our stories up and write whatever came to our minds. Everyday after lunch during quiet time we wrote NaNoWriMo. I loved writing NaNoWriMo in peace and quiet because I can concentrate better. My word goal was 2,001 and I have 2,010 right now. I am super excited because I accomplished my word goal. If you ever get an opportunity to write a story, use the NaNoWriMo process because when you reach your goal you will feel like you are proud that you accomplished a difficult and complicated story.

Other Orange Band kiddos looked to the coming end of the arc to focus their blog posts:

Future Field Trip, by Lucy Rubenstein

I think that we should go to the zoo! One reason is that it is the by land arc and there are lots of animals there that walk on land. The zoo is pretty big to so we would be walking all day, and  we would be moving by land. Also there are lots of cute animals there. It is important to realize that  the zoo is just really fun to go to anyway. For this reason I think we would all probably enjoy it and we would learn about animals that walk by land.☺

As the Expression phase of the By Land arc looms, Orange Band students also contemplated possible projects.

Expression Project, by Justin Bebee

For our by land arc I am going to turn the entire earth into a bluetooth speaker. And I am going to study how sound travels by land. But mostly turn the entire earth into a bluetooth speaker. And then I can play annoying music to the whole world. And since the music is coming from the earth, they wouldn’t be able to tell who it is. That would be so cool. Then we could play clapping, and people will think that the clap is happening. That would be funny.

Still other Orange Banders considered our future endeavors–in our band space, and Brightworks, as a whole.

My Persuasive Blog Post, by Charlotte Jewell

I think we should redo the table that we built and make it only white board because people keep scratching it and it hurts my ears. Our table than we have now has whiteboard and blackboard, I think that we should redo the actual board part because it does not fit correctly either like you could fit it this way but you couldn’t fit it that way. I think we should use shower boards instead of foam because when people flip stuff or when you don’t have a clipboard and your pencil goes through the paper and then it goes through the table it would damage the table, I think we should also paint the table (or the unfinished book shelf, if you didn’t know we were working on a bookshelf, we are making a bookshelf because our old bookshelves back came off so we have to make new one if ). I think we should paint the table Orange (because our band is orange and I like orange or we can paint it blue).

A Persuasive Blog Post, by Jeevan Bhatia

I think that Brightworks should teach a different language. Languages have a lot of different things behind them, for an example, a culture. A language doesn’t just teach you  language it can teach you a different syntax and new culture. You can learn how to write and read in a different way. I mean, Brightworks teaches a lot but not like this.  Communicating in different languages is something that you can use for a lot of different reasons, for an example, in an emergency. If someone that knows about the emergency is the only one that can help in the emergency, and  only speaks one language and that language is not the one you know, then what?  What  happens if no one is there that can help?

I speak 3 languages English, Spanish, and Mandarin fluently. I use to speak Spanish a lot better than I do know. When I was younger I spoke 5 languages.  When I first came to BWX I asked a lot of people if they spoke any other languages and no one spoke any other languages. I  mean one or two people spoke one or to other languages but not really fluently. I  can speak Hindi a little bit but not fluently. Anyway learning a language expands your Brain.

Don’t eat Hershey’s, Nestle & Mars Chocolates!, by Phoebe Pringle

Do you want to know how Hershey’s, Nestle & Mars get the kid slaves in the first place?

Let’s back up. Hershey’s, Nestle & Mars uses kid slaves in Africa to harvest cocoa beans. You know, I’m ten. A kid my age would be on a cocoa beans farm harvesting cocoa beans.  If the kids if need to go to the restroom they have to go on the roof or in a cup. Now back to the top question: Hershey’s, Nestle & Mars bought or kidnaped the kids. To conclude don’t eat or buy from Hershey’s, Nestle, & Mars.

As we say goodbye to 2016, we hope the Orange Band has given you something to reflect upon…Happy Holidays

Follow that Food!

Ah, November; what a month you’ve been, already!

This month has been nothing but nonstop action since it began. Indeed, the Orange Band  has hit the ground running since we returned from Mendocino last month: exploring San Francisco, where our food comes from, and, of course, NaNoWriMo!

Mendocino Memories - filtered light and the scent of redwoods

Mendocino Memories – filtered light and the scent of redwoods.

The movement of things by land is yet another vast undertaking for the Orange Band students. We saw, early on, that the interests and ideas we bring to the table make for a variety of possible projects and dives, big and small.


As a way to focus our energies and efforts, students began and in-depth and up close look at an essential part of our daily lives: food. We began the arc with a field trip to Pie Ranch, a thriving, working farm located in Pescadero. Pie Ranch’s food education program experience offered the Orange Band a first-hand look at one very special source of local food. Kiddos explored the multi-crop farm, its animals (pigs and goats and cows, oh, my!), and helped the farmers transition the crops and land as it began to settle in for a winter’s “sleep.” We celebrated a solid morning’s work in the fields with a delicious chili and cornbread lunch, topped with homemade herbed butter — nearly 100% of our meal was supplied by Pie Ranch! Does pulling the veggies out of the ground necessarily make them that much more tasty??

The fields were filled with color even at this late stage in the growing season. Orange Band kiddos helped the farmers remove irrigation tubes from finished plots.

The fields were filled with color even at this late stage in the growing season. Orange Band kiddos helped the farmers remove irrigation tubes from finished plots.


Amiya, Lucy, and Phoebe harvest the still plentiful crops.

Amiya, Lucy, and Phoebe harvest the still plentiful crops.


Roman can't resist tomatoes, right off the vine.

Roman can’t resist tomatoes, right off the vine.


Did you realize that beans grow in pods??

Did you realize that beans grow in pods??

Our final bit of work: flavoring homemade cheese with fresh herbs and flowers Orange Band students picked from the fields.

Our final bit of work: flavoring homemade cheese with fresh herbs and flowers Orange Band students picked from the fields.

And yet, most of our food — found in our homes and in Brightworks — is not so easily traced back to one source farm. Even though the list of stores our families shop at include more farmer’s markets and co-operative markets, where our food comes from is often mysterious and unknown. More often we are concerned if the avocados in the produce department are at that *just right* ripeness, and not how these fruits always seem to be available to us when guacamole cravings set in.

Where we shop truly does make a difference in terms of knowing where our food comes from.

Where we shop truly does make a difference in terms of knowing where our food comes from.

Orange Band students set about to find out just where the items we so cavalierly toss into our baskets or reusable grocery bags actually can be traced back to. Students chose a recipe to track down and we set out, maps in hand to help keep track of just where our food comes from: to a local franchise in the Brightworks neighborhood, a gigantic national supermarket, and two farmer’s markets. What was especially striking was the breadth of difference between the different markets. At one store, we were able to identify the state produce or meat came from (or city of production, if a dry good). At another, we were simply informed of the country the product was from. This certainly highlighted the disconnect we often have from our food, unless we take specific steps to get closer to what ends up on our plate, such as shopping at local farmer’s markets. At both the Civic Center market and the Ferry Building, we were able to identify the farms our fruits, veggies, and meat originated from. What a difference!

Perusing the stands at the Civic Center Farmer's Market.

Perusing the stands at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market.

Of course, the next logical step was to make the delicious meals we had been researching to such great lengths.


Roman and Jeevan prep for the mashed potatoes, while the NY strip steak sits, waiting to be cooked.

Phoebe and Charlotte help to get the band space ready for the "Bandsgiving" feast.

Phoebe and Charlotte help to get the band space ready for the “Bandsgiving” feast. On the menu: fruit salad, ham sandwiches, guacamole, steak, mashed potatoes, and chocolate sheet cake.

Can't handle the wait! Must eat now!!

Can’t handle the wait! Must eat now!!

Amiya's grandmother's cake was delish!

Amiya’s grandmother’s cake was delish – especially with fresh whipped cream!

As a capstone to these weeks of getting ever closer to our food, Charlotte and her mom, Kiki, gave us an even more intimate experience with our food: two ducks from the Jewell’s own home to be prepped for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Orange and Teal bands were all hands in!

The two ducks were beautiful to behold.

The two ducks were beautiful to behold. Kiki held out the wings for all to admire.

The labor intensive and fascinating activity included scalding the ducks to prepare them for plucking. Plucking and sorting the feathers was the most time consuming, and perhaps the most relaxing–once we got a handle on how to pluck the outer feathers, we were able to deftly leave just the soft, soft down to be removed.


The final step was to gut the ducks, a task Kiki did with an ease that many of us carnivores and omnivores do not possess. It was so special to be able to see what the meat we eat begins as, post slaughter — and it is not wrapped in neat plastic packages, to be sure!


Throughout this food investigation, and the looks into where our food is moved from into our personal lives, students began reading acclaimed food writer Michael Pollan‘s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat. As students began digging into Pollan’s investigation of the Industrial food chain, the source of most of our food in much of the country, we contemplated the True Cost of the food we eat. Just how frugal are we being when we buy tomatoes at $2.99 a pound at our local Safeway (an oxymoron?), as opposed to $7.99 a pound from the Farmer’s Market? Why is our food system so reliant on a mutation of a grain (corn)? What does it mean to buy and eat responsibly in today’s industrial food age? These questions will continue to loom over us as we read and investigate further!






All Abuzz in the Orange Band



Orange Band field trips around the SF Bay offered countless reminders and inspiration to DO

The past weeks in the Orange Band have been filled with adventures out in our communities, as well as  journeys inward. Students have taken trips, small and large, examine what it means to work, explore, and know each other as learners and individuals. The time has flown by as we continued our community building, workshop building, and dives into the smaller things that move by air!


Our Communal Table


Time and again, the table continues to be a project that requires the assistance of many – it is certainly NOT a job for one. Charlotte works on a support beam with the help of Justin and Lucy.

Orange Band’s workshop build has focused on the communal table, now in its final stages. With thoughtful determination and focus, students have added onto and strengthened our frame, as well as continued to work through with great perseverance on the trickier aspects of the plan. Often, this meant a day’s work in the shop resulted in simply realigning one particular beam. Even more often, the movable leg extension prototype or plan could not be used and it was back to the drawing board…again…for the third or fourth time! At times, it seemed as though the work was infinitesimal – or even nonexistent. And yet,  in attending to the small detail of a misplaced screw, or another iteration of the leg extension, students were also practicing and honing that critical skill of grit. As psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth writes in her book Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, “grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.” In the Orange Band, despite setbacks and frustrations, students have continued to work on our communal table with as much love as they had when they began in September.


Checking and rechecking measurements – Is the table true? Do the supports address the needs of the table?



Lucy’s carefully measured and cut framing pieces (above) for the movable tabletop can only be put into place with the help of her band members. Jeevan, Roman, and Justin lend hands and clamps.


Complicated plans call for complicated tool rigging! Charlotte and Phoebe work with Evan to construct a drill that can do that job.



Will THIS iteration of the movable leg extension be the one that works? Phoebe and Charlotte can only try it out and see if it works!



Cut and measured – the tabletop needed only a few (or four) adjustments before it fit.



With a table top cut and measured, the blackboard finish can finally be applied. Nora adds her mark before it gets covered completely.

Geometry Explorations


This arc, the math focus continued to be on making sense of geometry and the math hidden in triangles, quadrilaterals, and pentagons. Orange Band students kept hands on the manipulatives as they sussed out the secrets of polygons. The prevalence of pattern blocks in the band space should not discredit the math being tackled! As Stanford professor Jo Boaler reminds us, “visual mathematics is an important part of mathematics for its own sake and new brain research tells us that visual mathematics even helps students learn numerical mathematics.” Using manipulatives can help make the more abstract mathematical properties concrete and within our grasp.

To this end, we have dug into the properties of polygons; created proofs to find the sums of interior angles; investigated the ways that shapes do – and don’t – create patterns; and used these conjectures and understandings to interrogate further what we know about geometry. 


By using what we learn about one shape, say, a triangle, we can make new understandings about others, such as hexagons.



Orange Band students test out how a variety of regular polygons tessellate, or cover a surface by repeating with no gaps or overlaps.

Charlotte found another regular polygon in her trapezoid tessellation - the hidden hexagons!

Charlotte found another regular polygon in her trapezoid tessellation – the hidden hexagons!


Justin's tessellation within his tessellation brought to mind the artwork of M.C. Escher.

Justin’s tessellation within his tessellation brought to mind the artwork of M.C. Escher.


The final tessellations: original, irregular designs of our own creation.

The final tessellations: original, irregular designs of our own creation.


The Smallest Among Us

The exploration of the movement of things by air is a daunting one. People have been fascinated with our own flight for thousands of years, tracing back from ancient mythology to not-so-distant plans for planetary colonization; technology has only heightened the speed, distance, and ease with which we travel by air. 

The Orange Band’s investigations into that which moves by air took on a much smaller scale than human travel. Students began to study a creature that rarely enters our frame of mind – unless one flies into our midst: bees! While people have been intricately intertwined with bees for centuries (the ancient Egyptians were beekeepers and honey devotees), only recently, we discovered, has the physics of bee flight – a clumsy and inefficient effort – been explained.


Orange Banders try out what it feels like to BE the bee at the Oakland Museum of California exhibit, Bees: Tiny Insect, Big Impact.

As we began to think more deeply about bees, it became clear that people’s interest in the tiny insect was always connected to how bee populations – the decline of them, to be specific – affect us. After digesting this stark reminder of people’s less than altruistic nature when it comes to the natural world, Orange Band students took a look at the importance of a bee and the critical first twenty-one days of a bee’s life. With colonies collapsing worldwide due to parasites, pesticides, and climate change, the plight of the simple bee has far reaching repercussions. Our research led us to a citizen science project tracking yet another honey bee parasite, Apocephalus borealis: ZomBee Watch.

Jeevan and the ZomBee Watch crew constructed a zombee trap in the hopes of gathering infected bees.

Jeevan and the ZomBee Watch crew constructed a ZomBee light trap in the hopes of gathering infected bees.

The Communities Around Us

Koi gazing at the Oakland Museum of California.

Koi gazing at the Oakland Museum of California.

Part of our time together this arc has been spent exploring our surroundings – the immediate spaces and places we can walk to, as well as those at greater distances. Our forays in and out of the neighborhood serve to inform our understanding of how we relate to the world around us. Treks to the neighborhood community garden with the Blue Band offer a chance to take the same roads (a park at Park time somehow seems different from a park during the school day!) with new eyes – perhaps eyes that spy moss with a tardigrade lurking in it!

Blue and Orange bands took a small trip to go on a water bear hunt.

Blue and Orange bands took a small trip to go on a water bear hunt.

Our travels also give us a chance to see the breadth of our City, as we discovered on a recent trip to the Exploratorium. MUNI rides through San Francisco offer countless opportunities to see the people who live and work among us, as well as appreciate the special beauty of city landmarks peeking behind hills and around street corners. To say nothing of the fun and magic of museums like the Exploratorium, where we dove into the Sound and Light exhibits, as well as a jelly bean or two. 😉

How is it that water seems suspended in midair in this globe?

How is it that water seems suspended in midair in this globe?

Orange Band wielding control over nature: tornado making!

Orange Band wielding control over nature: tornado making!

When what we see doesn't match up with what we expect.

When what we see doesn’t match up with what we expect.

Throughout these explorations, Orange Band students also continue to delve into sharing more and more of each other. How is it that in only a few short weeks, we seem to know so much about one another? How are we already so apt at anticipating reactions and allies in our endeavors? New friendships and old have sprung up and strengthened through this arc. Often evidenced in the quiet moments of writing and reflection time, the bus rides across San Francisco, and, of course, Friday Personal Shares.

Nora shared her Minecraft mansion to a rapt Orange Band.

Nora shared her Minecraft mansion to a rapt Orange Band.

Charlotte and Phoebe are so often working together, comfortable in each other's company.

Charlotte and Phoebe are so often working together, comfortable in each other’s company.

Friday shares give Amiya a chance to bring in a passion of his for the band to admire.

Friday shares give Amiya a chance to bring in a passion of his for the band to admire.

Golf is a hobby of Roman's that he was eager to share with the band.

Golf is a hobby of Roman’s that he was eager to share with the band.

As we gear up for a gathering at the end of this first arc, it is a marvelous thing to reflect upon how far we have come together! With this unique group of individuals setting the foundation for the arcs to come, I know I can’t wait.