A week of neighborhoods, communities, the Castro, buffalo wings and Lava Mae

What is it about your neighborhoods that we cherish most? What would we find in our ideal neighborhood? What services support our communities? These are just a few of the questions that the Teal and Violet bands are answering with their neighborhoods and community creative project. There are parklets and libraries being designed, town squares being re-envisioned, new neighborhoods being proposed, as well as favorite hills and beaches being modeled. Along with their design responses to the task, they are also exploring the possibilities and capabilities of the Glowforge.

Our exploration of community took us to one neighborhood that is home to a community of people that San Francisco is well known for supporting, the LGBTQ+ community of the Castro. We walked the streets of the Castro listening to the stories of LGBT rights activist and co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Cleve Jones. Cleve helped Harvey Milk get elected when no other openly gay man had succeeded in California. After Milk was killed, Cleve inherited his famous bullhorn and used it to lead some of the most impassioned marches in gay history. That quilt you might have heard of, honoring lives lost to AIDS, that grew large enough to blanket the entire National Mall in Washington DC? Cleve Jones started it.

We expanded our knowledge of Harvey Milk’s and Cleve Jones’ roles in the LGBTQ community of San Francisco, the number of marches held in the Castro, and the messages many of the architectural and design choices are making. These include the large windows of the Twin Peaks Tavern and the LGBT Center, with both spaces making the statement that this is a community that should be and will be seen. We also had the luck of being invited into the Human Rights Campaign Store, which we learned stands in front of the last square of the old Castro sidewalk, containing some of Harvey Milk’s ashes.

We visited the San Francisco LGBT Center whose mission “is to connect our diverse community to opportunities, resources and each other to achieve our vision of a stronger, healthier, and more equitable world for LGBT people and our allies.” After a presentation of their services and stories of their strong role in the LGBT community, along with a question and answer session, we toured The Center and talked about its architectural design and visibility in the community.

Prior to the walk through the Castro, the Teal and Violet Bands looked at the history and meaning of the rainbow flag, also known as the LGBT or Gay Pride flag. Throughout the walk, each band member took photographs of various elements of the Castro, from building fronts to cars to flowers to signs. Using their photos, everyone created their own rainbow flag, representing each color with imagery made up largely of that color.

Our exploration of iconic foods from different cities took us to Buffalo, New York for some delicious buffalo wings. We discovered that the first plate of wings was served in 1964 at a family-owned establishment in Buffalo called the Anchor Bar. The wings were the brainchild of Teressa Bellissimo, who covered them in her own special sauce and served them with a side of blue cheese and celery because that’s what she had available. We worked together to prepare and the chicken and sauce, as well as slice up the carrots and celery that accompanied the wings. Thankfully no one came close to 2018 Wing Bowl champion Molly Schuyler’s record of eating 501 wings.

Our string of upcoming expert speakers began with Doniece Sandoval, founder and CEO of Lava Mae. Doniece shared her story about how a chance encounter with a homeless woman she acknowledged led her to dream up and make real showers and toilets on wheels to deliver hygiene and restore dignity among homeless in San Francisco. We also learned of her multiple reasons for not seeking government funding. These reasons included being able to tell those who don’t want their tax dollars being used to care for people they believe do not deserve their help, that their money isn’t doing that and as a way to continue to innovate when and how Lava Mae wants without governmental red tape. Doniece was able to recognize a great need in the city and work to make a solution a reality.

Exploring Neighborhoods and Enjoying Some Food

 

We began our exploration of neighborhoods and streets with an exercise in mental mapping. Working step by step, we drew from memory the streets radiating out from our homes, then layering on information including street names, homes of those we know, businesses, green spaces, and stop signs. Throughout the activity, we began to recognize what it is we find special and valuable about the neighborhoods we live in. We finished off the activity by thinking about a memory we experienced in a location somewhere on the map we had just drawn, such as where we learned to ride a bike, where we witnessed a car accident, or where a friend who has moved away once lived, and illustrated the memory within our maps.

Thinking about our iconic hilly streets of San Francisco, we launched an exploration of grade (also referred to as slope). We took to the streets of nearby Potrero Hill with levels and measuring tapes in hand to record the rise and run of a number of streets in order to calculate the grade. Calculating the grade of a street requires the understanding of a number of math concepts and skills including rise and run, division, decimals, and percentages. Using the data collected and the calculated grades of the streets, the students later worked with Rich on graphing their slopes and changes in slopes, before moving onto replicating streets with 3D cardboard models.

In an effort to get to know neighborhoods in San Francisco we might not spend much time in but have been major players in our iconic history, we walked over 6 miles from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square, up Hyde and down Lombard, through North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, and to the Old Mint to bus back to Brightworks. We discovered a number of connections to history through food, especially our famous San Francisco sourdough and it’s starter, along with the names of neighborhoods such as North Beach having actually been a beach on the north end of the city.

Taking a bit of food history home with us from our walk through Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, we researched the history of cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew that was invented by the San Francisco Italian fishermen of North Beach in the late 1800s using whatever seafood was left over from the day’s catch, before learning to cook it. Connecting the San Francisco food traditions, we soaked up the broth of our cioppino with San Francisco sourdough.

We rounded out our week of neighborhood exploration with an exercise known as “Question Formulation Technique” to prepare us for our neighborhoods and community creative project using the Glowforge laser cutter. Using the prompt, “We desire to live in neighborhoods that fulfill our needs and wants,” the students worked in groups to brainstorm as many questions as they could that will provide them with answers that will inform their designs. They will individually be narrowing down this list to three driving questions to guide their designs of a neighborhood layout, community building or resource.

We also invite you to follow us on our exploration of ‘City’ on our new Google Site.

From the History of Fashion to NaNoWriMo

We began our exploration of the history of fashion and historical events that have influenced fashion trends, with a sort of clothing trends through the centuries and decades.

After recording our personal observations of the various fashion trends, we discussed how we saw history’s impact on clothing. One thing that stood out in regards to women’s fashion was that we saw more suits or male influenced business attire in those decades affected by war such as the 1940s and 1960s when women were having to work, and a return to more “traditionally feminine” clothing in the 1950s when women tended to be back to their role of housewife.

We’ve begun weaving, but it isn’t all just fun and crafts. Rich has turned weaving into a math provocation. After creating their looms, the band calculated how much yarn they would need to complete their personal weaving projects.

Sometimes we take a moment to work on something unrelated to the arc. After learning about Jacob Thompson, a nine-year-old boy with Stage 4 high-risk Neuroblastoma, the Teal Band decided to make his wish for Christmas cards come true. These kids have such huge hearts.

Jonah crafted a pop-up card.

Jacob’s favorite animal is a penguin and Natalie put her wonderful drawing skills to work immediately.

What would the Cloth Arc be without an exploration into pattern making? After watching a video on pattern making and creating a step-by-step list of the process, the Teal Band set out to make patterns for an item of their own clothing.

After creating the pattern, the band was tasked with calculating the area of their pattern to figure out how much fabric would be needed to create their garment. They explored the various shapes that made up their shirt pattern and the formulas used to solve for these areas.

My friend Tiff, a costume designer and maker, came in to share her story and work with the Teal Band a number of others. We learned that she sewed her first successful dress at just age nine and has been designing and making costumes professionally for almost thirty years. We were certainly interested to hear about her time making a number of costumes for the Hamiton touring cast.

Viggo jumped at the chance to be turned into a living paper doll in one of Tiff’s costumes. We learned that she loves costume design because it’s often just that much more fun than your everyday garment.

They began a chemistry lab with Rich on Friday, making their own soap. (Check back for a more detailed story of this lab from Rich.)

And I can’t forget NaNoWriMo. They are writing every spare moment they have, that’s on top of the time set aside just for NaNoWriMo. I’m pretty certain they would be happy writing all day, every day if  I let them.

Sometimes it’s nice to get out and write in a new setting. This week, NaNoWriMo took us, and our friends in the Violet Band, to Maxfield’s Cafe. It’s pretty special and empowering to be writing next to a big table full of adults working on their own NaNoWriMo novels.

Cloth Stories

To begin the Cloth Arc, the Teal band has started with what they know best, themselves, looking at the stories their clothing tells.

Our clothing says a lot about us. It gives others a sense of our identity. Through the telling of our Cloth Stories, we looked at what our clothing also says to us. Our clothes have incredible stories to tell.

To begin our process, the Teal Band selected an item of clothing or cloth (or few) to record its story. Sometimes the story focused on who gave it to them. Sometimes it was what it reminded them of. Sometimes it was just how it made them feel.

The Teal Band took filming seriously and made sure they were happy with their filming location and backdrop. It’s pretty awesome when eight opinions can come together as one.

Our stories and storytelling styles not only shared the story of our clothing but also shared our personalities and passions.

Sometimes that cloth item took on the form of a purse to carry all her favorite goodies, or a stuffed whale that reminds him of his family, or a sweatshirt from one of his favorite places and times in his life.

Human proportion is a big part of clothing and design. The Teal Band has been working with Rich to learn about drawing and proportion. It gets even more exciting when the math lesson starts. Is your head actually 12.5% of your total height?

And what is the human form without clothing in the Cloth Arc? Once they learned to draw a proportionate human form, they also learned about drawing different types of clothing. Aurora is ready to design her own dress line.

Have I told you already that the Teal Band is a creative bunch who love to draw?

Thanks to Rich, we have a new generation of fashion designers in the making.

Just in case you are interested in seeing where Cloth might take us this arc, here is our incredible brainstorm.

And NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!!! Planning has been a ton of fun.

The Coin Arc Was a Valuable Experience

It’s pretty incredible when you take a six-week journey with eight 11 and 12-year-olds through an arc entitled “Coin” and you spend the majority of your time talking about personal value and social currency. We explored symbols of value, both those which are recognized by the masses and those we find value in individually. We wandered through the streets of the Financial District and the galleries of the SFMoMA. Taking advantage of the high supply and low demand for Giants game tickets, we took in a baseball game and a collection of baseballs. We designed our own dollar bills after exploring those from all around the globe. We found math in money in everyday life and even more when traveling the globe, converting international currencies. And as all middle schoolers enjoy, we shared our opinions and formulated arguments…just ask them if they think America should get rid of the penny.

Here is a visual journey of our Coin Arc exploration:

Exploring US Currency

Building our note-taking skills.

Along with our drawing skills, which the Teal Band certainly has.

Discovering new figures in history.

Recording what we find in creative ways.

Taking a moment to listen.

And listen some more.

Recording our thoughts and reflecting on our learning.

Finding patterns and creating order.

Making observations.

Working as a team.

Sharing with one another.

Working through multiple iterations.

Creating a final product.

Exploring our past.

Putting ourselves in that past.

Exploring old things that are new to us.

Taking note of what we see.

Continuing to hone those drawing skills.

Sending one another messages.

Just going for the ride.

Taking a moment to have some fun and take it all in.

Discovering that we really can learn anywhere we go.

 

 

Finding Value All Over the Place

The Teal Band began their second week of the Coin Arc exploring US dollar bills in pretty much every way they could think of. Hearing there is an owl hidden in the corner of the one dollar bill, the band called on Rich to lend them a dissection microscope to take a closer look. They all agree they saw one.

We tried a number of techniques to look closer at the security thread in the $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills. The band looked for all the anticounterfeiting techniques used in the bills they were examining. These included the security thread and watermarks, as well as unique serial numbers.

We recorded details of each bill we examined, including mottos, symbols of value, and drawings of people and places.

Sometimes we even became the old, white men we found on the bills.

Reflecting on the symbols of value we found on the dollar bills the previous day, we went on a scavenger hunt for them and other symbols of value in the Financial District along with the Violet and Amber Bands. We certainly found a large number of eagles adorning the massive buildings, housing everything from banks to Starbucks to gyms.

We learned about William Alexander Leidsdorff, a West Indian immigrant of African Cuban ancestry. He built the City Hotel, the first hotel in San Francisco, and the first commercial shipping warehouse, along with becoming San Francisco’s first treasurer.

Leidsdorff was also one of the earliest supporters of San Francisco’s public school system. He was good with money and knew where to put it.

Continuing to look beyond just monetary currency in regards to symbols of value, we stopped to observe and take rubbings of our Zodiac signs in front of a Wells Fargo bank. It’s interesting to find out how different people value their Zodiac sign and the qualities attributed to them.

Moving on from the Financial District, we took our exploration of symbols of value to the SFMoMA. We found value in the artwork we encountered, especially those focused on sound. We valued the calm, meditative qualities of the bowls beautifully chiming as they came together in Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s clinamen. Many of us even discussed how we could build our own at Brightworks.

Exploring a number of other works of art in Soundtracks, we reflected on how much we value our ability to hear. It is amazing to explore a piece of art, both silently and when accompanied by sound.

Thanks to a visit from the Danish Department of Education, we were handed a few Kroner and told their approximate conversion rate. This spurred an unplanned, but much enjoyed math lesson around converting international currency. Not only did the Teal Band solve the currency conversion problem, but they also got a crash course in decimals and mental math. In the end, they all said they wanted to do more conversion problems. Yay!

Venturing back to the Financial District in the third week of the arc, the Teal and Violet Bands visited the Wells Fargo Museum. We quickly learned that we were standing in the exact location of the very first Wells Fargo bank. The tour guide threw many questions out to the two bands regarding the gold rush and even without any preparation before the trip, the bands proved to themselves that they had a lot of prior knowledge on the subject. Do you know why the gold coins received in exchange for gold nuggets included a small percentage of copper? The Teal Band knew thanks to their lessons with Rich, and some old Rock Arc knowledge…gold is quite soft and pure gold coins would be malleable.

We learned about Wells Fargo’s stagecoach history of carrying money, people and mail across the US. How many times have you screamed, “SHOTGUN!” in hopes of riding in the front passenger seat of the car. Well, if you rode in that seat on the stagecoach, you’d certainly need a shotgun since it was your job to protect the bags of gold and money tucked under your feet.

After all this money talk, who doesn’t value a day out at the ballpark with their friends? The Teal Band certainly values it, especially when tickets are as cheap as $6 a piece. We also value getting the chance to see how our hands compare to those of Barry Bonds.

Thanks to our early arrival, we were able to make our way down next to the visiting bullpen mound. Getting this close to the field and the players afforded us the first two baseballs we collected that day.

Looking out at the small crowd (for AT&T Park standards) of fans out at the ballpark, we got a quick visual lesson on supply and demand. When the team isn’t doing so well and the stands aren’t filling up, ticket prices drop dramatically to get more fans into the ballpark. This worked to get us in there.

By the end of the third inning, the Teal Band had worked together to get enough balls tossed to them by players and coaches for everyone in the band who wanted one to have one. How do you think they upped the personal value of these balls? They got them signed by mascot Lou Seal himself.  What did I value most that day? All those smiles and an usher coming up to me to say she’s never seen such a generous group of kids working together to make one another happy.

The ballgame wasn’t all just fun and games, there certainly was some Coin Arc related activities going on beyond personal value. We completed a ballpark food pricing scavenger hunt that will grow into a lesson on food budgets, as well as lessons on supply and demand and buying power. They are keeping their fingers crossed that the demand remains low and the supply stays high at the start of the season in April so that we can make a return trip to the ballpark at the end of the school year.

 

Our Year of Connections, Beginning with Coin

This year we want to dive deeper into what it is we really want to know and to do that, we need to ask questions and seek answers. As a way to begin this journey of questioning, instead of brainstorming ideas around “coin,” we brainstormed the specific questions we are interested in answering. Three full chart papers later, there are still questions not written down here that fill their journals from their personal brainstorms.

The Teal Band is an experienced crew in the shop, even our new additions are experienced thanks to Tinkering experience. While it is important to have a refresher orientation in the shop every year, this experienced crew was ready to take on shop orientation 2.0, the next steps, with Brendon, Gever and Evan.

We received a lesson from Gever on precision cutting on the chop saw. The word of the week at Brightworks is “kerf.” Kerf, the groove or slit created by cutting a workpiece; the width of the groove made while cutting. We now understand the importance of the placement of the blade to our measurement to get proper dimensions. 

Evan spent time sharing new ways to more strongly and cleanly screw together two pieces of wood. These ways of joining wood will take this year’s projects to new levels and I expect to see a lot more countersunk screws.

How can you cut out a path or a complex interior shape on the band saw? With Brendon’s support, we learned ways to explore interior angles that allowed us to get into tight corners. Geometry continues to play a huge part of our experiences in the shop.

Shop orientation 2.0 included cutting mazes on the bandsaw. It’s certainly not as easy as you’d like it to be.

To launch into our reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, we listed off what we know or think we know about Native Americans and middle schoolers, two things that speak to the main character Junior. Throughout our reading of the book, we will continue to look at Junior’s experiences as a Native American from a Reservation going to a “white school” off the rez, and how he values his experiences, his culture, and those in his life.

Along with reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, we are listening to the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. This is Cami’s story of how giving transformed her life when she felt she had nothing left to give due to her illness. The Teal Band will be spending a lot of time this arc looking at the ideas of value and personal currency. Along with listening to the book, the Teal Band is also taking on the challenge of giving 29 Gifts in 29 days and we invite you to join us.