BWXRed by-sea

Welcome to the by-sea arc explorations of the Red Band. We started our journey traversing the seas by submarine. The kids and I took on the task of creating bottle submarines that would dive and surface. Our initial problem was to sink a plastic bottle using coins, straws, binder clips, balloons, and tape which the kids tested in our sink or float tub.

Quinn and Abir worked together to sink their bottle by filling it with coins, paper, and water.

Applying what we learned from these tests, the kids set forth to sink their bottles which proved harder than we thought. Once the kids reflected on their work they found attaching heavy items to the bottles was not enough to counter the buoyancy of the bottle, rather filling the bottles with water was the most successful route. Employing what we learned about submarines and their ability to dive and surface, we set to work with our same materials to create our own ballast tanks. The final solution was to attach straws and cut out hole to encourage the bottle to fill and release water! Success!

Khalilah cuts out two holes in her submarine

To celebrate our  hard work Red and Yellow traveled across town to visit the U.S.S. Pampanito at Pier 45.

Onboard the U.S.S. Pampanito

During our journal reflection the kids shared that being on the water was not their favorite experience so we have set sail on our own virtual boat trip. Two weeks ago we packed up our stuffies, clothes, money, toothbrushes, food, and sleeping bags and set sail from San Francisco to Panama City. It was all smooth sailing until we hit a storm off of the coast of Guatemala that snapped some of our lines leaving us with just one sail.

Abir tracks our course up to the unavoidable storm!

Luckily we reached our final destination and were able to get our ship repaired and set sail through the Panama Canal to Haiti where we came eye to eye with a tsunami, yikes! Our quick-thinking crew quickly turned us round and set course toward Puerto Rico with our Uniform flag hoisted to let other ships know they were heading into danger.

Sylvester, Abir, and Quinn review the international code flags to determine which message we should send to other ships.

Make sure you’re following along #brightworksbeehive to see where our next adventure takes us or to watch tugboat and crow’s nest come to life.

Time flies when you’re having fun

Welcome back to the Red band blog! Our second arc began with an exploration with movement around our community. The Red band covers quite a bit of land and water each day during their journey to school. Some of us take cars, BART, or our two feet to get to school each day and we all walk up and down our block to spend time in both the Hive and Orchard. In order to track this movement we began our by-land study with mail. We asked how many days it would take to send a letter from 1920 Bryant to 1960 Bryant Street. We measured from our door to the post office and back and the distance between our two doors. Our 20 minute walk took three days by mail. If we are so close, how could it take so long? We mapped our experience then added our homes to the map. Creating a scale with our hands we found who lives closest and furthest to school and everyone in between before we sent ourselves a letter home. Based on our predictions we expected this to take anywhere from two to seven days for our letters to reach us.

Quinn uses his hand to measure the distances from BWX to our homes

Letters home going in with the stamped letters

November also brought National Novel Writing Month to us. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this but the Red band loves animals and some of our favorites happen to travel by land: banana slugs, foxes, wolves, hedgehogs, zebras, cows, coyotes, and reindeer. Writing a novel is a pretty tall order when you’re learning to write so the band took a new approach, we would write a play starring our motley crew of animals. The kids set out to write a puppet show filled with animal journeys and encounters, then created another new entry for themselves filled with masks, stuffies, and costumes. To help our story building we went to the Cal Academy to visit two reindeer, Velvet and Tinsel, the farthest traveling land animals. These two particular reindeer, we learned, travel via horse trailer to spend some time in San Francisco. While our play transformed into the movement of tiny humans building a kid-sized puppet theater for themselves, complete with gold curtains and a hidden door, we will mark it as a success and continue to unfold the animals’ story.

Khalilah creates a Fennec fox

Sylvester and Dash help sew up their costume and puppet

The movement of mail inspired us to take a closer look at the vehicles that help move people and their things. We started by continuing the mail route via trains. We studied the movement of trains by dissecting their parts. Our attempt to create our own train cart ended with a disassembled engineer box, but led us to the Railway Museum searching for answers on how these are constructed and what powers them. Then a lesson on combustion came with a visit from Rich, a model engine, and a big flame.

Rich explains the necessary elements for firing a combustion engine

We learned about the evolution of street cars in SF and why the 38 is such an important bus line today

The Hive has been buzzing with projects all year; by-land has given us the opportunity to explore simple machines and pulleys, car and bus washes, topographical maps, and fences. Up next we have a covered wagon and Lego-hauling gondola – so stay tuned.

We’ll see you at Expo Night!

Animals by-air

This past arc, the Red Band explored the concept of animal flight. We researched both mammal and insect wings, their construction, placement, and function through a series of investigations. By transferring our new skills from kite construction, the kids created wing models using wooden dowels as bones or insect cuticle. After observing birds at our neighborhood Petco, the kids attempted to imitate wing movement by attaching magnets or paperclips to paper wings. The kids then created their own, taught others, or followed directions to fold paper airplanes. By examining their flight we defined the terms: flying, floating, and gliding to add to our #kiddictionary. We then compared the migration of the monarch butterfly and the albatross, the farthest travelling bird and insect with the largest difference in size and wingspan.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird's flight problem.

Abir and Dash team up to solve their paper bird’s flight problem.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Sylvester and Dash discuss technique while Calvin consults on a design.

Following our explorations, the Red Band completed their first project brainstorm where ideas ranged from revisiting past projects such as the wing models, create a school kite or build a mini-airplane before choosing to create adaptations for flightless animals both with or without wings. We started by identifying a problem: Some animals do not or cannot fly and creating a solution: design wings or means of flight for flightless animals. We each set to work choosing a wingless or flightless animal: an elephant, a girl, a giraffe, an underground dragon blob, two dogs, a penguin, and a chicken. The results varied from tiny insect wings to bird wings to jetpacks and larger ears to aid the animals’ flight. For some added encouragement, we took a trip over to the San Francisco Zoo to observe some of our animals up close. The kids all stretched their imaginations and motivation to truly bring to life their solutions.




A band that weaves a web together… sticks together

Just in time for our first arc gathering, the Red and Yellow bands also wrapped up their cockpit and wave machine projects. Each afternoon the kids choose one collaborator-led project to participate in; since the start of the year we have completed a bench and planter box for our entryway. The collaborators and kids are working in a two to three week long timeframe to expose kids to the Brightworks project process and best practices. We will take our new project guidelines to help us work on our first by-land projects, a carwash and a machine to harness our people-power. Stay tuned for more #brightworksbeehive news.


currently on display in the hive

currently on display in the hive

A few of our favorite things

Welcome to week four everyone! The Red band is at the helm this week authoring our blog as we learn about the writing process. We started with a lesson on captions: the words that talk about the picture #kiddictionary. Each kiddo chose one or two pictures from our week to caption and add to their journal. Enjoy!


MEZRiNG ALBUTZHROZiZ WiNZ /Dash “Measuring albatross wings”




Me aD ROOn MaF/ Khalilah “Me and Ronin doing math”


“Dash drawing wings with Nathan.”/ Sylvester


me and may are reading. /Ronin






“Here I am writing the word bird like Khalilah. After I drew a great big bird.”/ Quinn

“Up to the Highest Height”

I can’t believe it, but it was only the second week of school. The Red band has tackled a new school and learning between two different spaces. We continue to learn more about each other every day while we embark on our study of – The Movement of Things: By-Air. This week we began with a brainstorm session around important concepts to cover during this arc. Some ideas were: wings, wind, air, flying, soaring, and flapping.

Kite week taught us many lessons on the importance of stick-to-itiveness, problem-solving on the fly, and testing our theories.


 Our week started with our vitamin on symmetry. After reading Let’s Fly a Kite: Symmetry by Stuart J. Murphy, the kids were charged with creating their own symmetrical kite out of pattern blocks. We continued to explore symmetry with some cardboard shapes and rubber bands and symmetrical painting in preparation for the week’s challenge of constructing a kite.


The kids began by creating drawings of their kites on 8.5″ x 8.5″ paper, then scaled up to 3′ x 3′ butcher paper patterns. We used tape, Tyvek, wooden dowels, and polyethylene tubing to create our kites.


Our final step was to venture to Bernal Heights hill and test our creations.


And with some perseverance and observation we had many crashes, mends,  and one high-flier!


Happy New [School] Year

Hi Everyone,

If we’ve not yet met I am Nicole, the Red Band Collaborator. This year we can be found up the block at 1920 Bryant with Nathan, Piper, and the Yellow Band. We are all thrilled to work in this new space together and continue to build it out with the two bands.


This was an exciting week as we explored and settled into the space. We brainstormed goals for ourselves for the year, both personal and shared, to help create our group agreements. We read Ish by Peter H. Reynolds to help frame our thinking around the people we would like to be and how our actions affect others. Our week was filled with activities to get to know one another, such as our people scavenger hunt and people mapping.



We learned about and have practiced the daily routine together, including morning circle and lunch spent up at 1960 Bryant. This included learning about morning “vitamins”, multi-disciplinary skills work that allows each kid to work through a problem on their own then share out their process during a group discussion. Our afternoons will be largely dedicated to arc and project work with the kids choosing between two different project offerings. Our first projects are aimed to improve our bandspace entryway. I am helping a crew create outdoor seating while Nathan is working on garden beds.


We ended our week with a round of show and tell. My favorite part of this activity is learning about the things that are important to each kid and let me tell you, it was a wide range: from home gardens to family heirlooms to hopes and dreams of owning a pet.


It was a jam-packed week and I can’t wait to see what week two brings. If you would like to follow along find me at @bwx_nicole on Instagram and on Flickr at SFBrightworks.

Have a lovely weekend,










Express Yourself

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The red band wrapped up exploration with a few very special trips to get them thinking about how to express what they have learned throughout the arc. We took a drive down to Menlo Park to visit Pace Arts and their current exhibit, “Living Digital Space and Future Parks” by teamLab. This visit helped a few of our bandmates decide to work on a video game project for expression. Our last visit was to our neightbor KQED. We learned about radio and television and visited the newsroom. After this trip, we had a bandmate choose to create a video project.

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The red band has continued to visit and care for our plants at The Benches garden. While we wait to see if our peas will continue to sprout or die off we have been using the garden to work on our reading and speaking fluency with reader’s theater productions. So far we have read The Little Red Hen and The Tortoise and the Hare.

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Throughout Human we have continued to work of our seed project, a snack bar/slide. If you can remember we had the working parts to hang out underneath (minus a floor and windows), a ladder to climb up (though the kids wanted to add rails to the top for safety), and a wooden slide (ouch, splinters). So we set out to correct these features and we cannot wait to share it with you all soon.

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The kids have added a small mural on the side to tie it into the human arc and we had our first bake sale. For our bake sale we set out to make something the whole school could enjoy (vegan, gluten-free, and delicious) so we settled on cookies and created our shopping list with estimated cost sheet. After we paid back the school for the money we borrowed we had a profit of $17 which the kids have decided to donate to the Violet band’s fundraiser.


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The projects that emerged from human took a wonderfully unexpected turn and we are all giving 100% to learn more about the science of perfume, creating video games, and producing videos and look forward to sharing it with you soon.