The journey to Angel Island

The week before spring break took us on a journey to Angel Island and through the lives of the Chinese immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s. On Monday, the Teal and Violet bands studied historical documents pertaining to the Chinese living in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the rest of the US, such as the Cubic Air Ordinance and the Chinese Exclusion Act. We also examined a number of historical photographs of Chinatown, observing the traditional clothing and hairstyles, as well as the lack of women. Exploring these documents and photos, the two bands began to piece together what it was like to be a Chinese immigrant at this time and all the various ways in which the white government was working to make their lives increasingly difficult in hopes of driving them out of San Francisco and the United States altogether.

Using historical documents and photos, the Teal and Violet Bands uncovered the history of the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco.

To continue building our math skills needed to calculate density, we took an afternoon to review long division with decimals in the quotient (that’s the answer to a division problem for those that it’s been too long to remember.) It’s entertaining to see how much everyone dreads long division and worksheets until that moment when it all clicks and they can’t wait to solve the next problem. That feeling of success and accomplishment is pretty amazing.

Sometimes a worksheet is necessary.

After finishing The Dragon’s Child, we walked through the story of Gim Yep. Written very much like a diary of sorts, we recalled the people, places, and events he wrote of, along with the emotions he experienced throughout. This conversation built perspective around his life and experiences. It allowed the bands to put themselves in Gim’s shoes and the shoes of others he encountered. It began to lay the foundation for the historical diaries they are currently working on.

Talking through the events, emotions, and characters of The Dragon’s Child.

On Thursday, we took the ferry to Angel Island to visit the Immigration Station. It was incredibly powerful to see the detention barracks in person after reading about the experiences of the immigrants in The Dragon’s Child and in the historical documents. We saw firsthand the tight quarters they were forced to stay in, the small outdoor spaces they were allowed to walk in once a week, and the stories carved in the walls in the form of poetry. Many observations were made about the number of people forced to sleep in one room and the poor quality of the bedding they were supplied with. Being in the space created a real sense of empathy and perspective, and started a number of conversations around the historical diaries they were beginning to plan. It is a big leap for them to put themselves so solidly in someone else’s shoes, but it is something they are ready to challenge themselves to do.

Seeing the bunks and the belongs in the detention barracks really began to put the immigrants’ experiences into perspective.

The Angel Island Immigration Station detention barracks and dock.

The stories of the immigrants are right there on the walls in poetry.

 

Sailing, Squid, and Monterey Bay

The Teal and Violet Bands have been sailing full steam ahead (wow, the number of water-related puns are unbelievable) these past two weeks. We have dedicated ourselves to studying sailing and beginning to explore marine biology.

In preparation for our sailing trip on the Bay, we spent a day with the crew at The San Francisco Sailing Club. They taught use how to tie a number of important sailor’s knots, including the bowline and figure eight. By the end of the lesson, there were a number of the kids tying the bowline with their eyes closed or even behind their backs.

A lesson on knots and sailing from the crew at The San Francisco Sailing Club.

Learning to tie bowline knots.

They explored the parts of a sailboat and the number of different sailboats there are, based on the number of masts, placement of masts, and sails. Since sailboats rely on the wind to move them forward, it is important to understand the placement of the sails in relation to the wind and the intended direction of the boat. To learn this, the crew taught the bands about points of sail.

As a sailboat relies on wind, a sailor most know the points of sail.

Following our field trip to the sailing club, the bands worked in groups to expand their understanding of the points of sail. Each group was tasked with making a simple 3D interactive model, made mainly out of cardboard, that would allow the user to position both the boat and sails depending on the wind and intended direction of the boat. It’s pretty incredible to figure out how you can use the wind to sail almost into it, but they’ll tell you, not directly, we don’t want flags for sails.

Creating models to teach the points of sail.

Points of sail models act as interactive teaching tools.

To begin our exploration into marine biology and in preparation for our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we took a dive (yet another water pun) into the lives of those of the phylum Mollusca, specifically squid. We explored what traits all mollusks share and explored the main classes of mollusks before focusing on the anatomy of squid. We discussed adaptations (chromatophores – skin coloring) and methods of movement (jet propulsion using a siphon.)

Exploring the phylum Mollusca, specifically squid.

Feeling a bit creative, the Teal and Violet bands painted their own giant squid. Hopefully soon, we’ll have an entire sea of creatures swimming over the dining room.

Fingerpainting our own squid.

We spent Monday morning getting our hands dirty (and a bit stinky) dissecting squid. We explored the exterior and interior anatomy, locating a number of parts including the gills, beak, gonad (yup, we could differentiate the females and the males,) ink sac and pen. It was pretty incredible to dissect the eyes as well, locating and removing the spherical lens. Squid dissections are pretty exciting because they also end with a delicious treat, fried calamari. The entire school was excited to enjoy it with us.

Exploring the interior anatomy of squid.

Bonus treat from squid dissection: fried calamari.

On Tuesday, we journeyed down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a lesson on the adaptations of a number of invertebrates that live amongst the waves. They looked at how the sand star and urchin have adapted to protect themselves in coastal areas, regularly beaten by waves, using small suction feet. They also explored how organisms such as sand crabs and anemones use the movement of the waves to their benefit of acquiring food. After our class, we got to take in all the incredible exhibits at the aquarium. Make sure to read to the bottom for a view of my favorite.

Exploring the adaptations of the sea life that live and thrive among the waves.

On Thursday, we got out on the water with the San Francisco Sailing Company. We all piled onto the 28′ Santa Maria and set sail for the Golden Gate (unfortunately, the fog kept us from making it all the way to the bridge.) As we navigated the waters, the crew would regularly quiz the bands on our point of sail. It was truly impressive how many of them really understood the concept. During our trip, we came across a square sail replica tall ship, rode the quake of a number of larger boats, and traveled under the Bay Bridge.

Sailing with the San Francisco Sailing Company.

And I shall leave you with the reason I love visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium…the jellyfish.

 

Teal Band Launches into the By Sea Arc

The Teal Band launched right into The Movement of Things By Sea Arc this week. We began the week with a mind map of where the exploration phase of this arc will take us. Our large topics of study will include Immigration Stories, especially those who came through Angel Island in the first half of the 1900s, Marine Biology and Ecology, Density and Buoyancy (I expect they will all be able to spell buoyancy by the end of the arc,) Sailing, and  Sailing Cultures. 

Teal Band’s By Sea Mind Map of the Arc

We began reading The Dragon’s Child by local author Laurence Yep. The story is a fictionalized biography of Yep’s grandfather’s and father’s emigration from China to the United States via Angel Island when his father was only nine years old. Through this story and the stories of many others who came through Angel Island on their journey to America, the Teal Band (along with the Violet Band) will build empathy and understanding of their immigration experiences. In a couple of weeks, we will visit the Angel Island Immigration Station with the Violet Band, where these people were detained for weeks, months or even years at a time before being allowed into the country, and write our own historical diaries from the experiences we’ve read and heard stories of.

Reading Laurence Yep’s The Dragon’s Child

Much of our exploration will be done alongside the Violet Band this arc and we launched that partnership with an exploration into the relationships of mass, volume and density. Working together in teams, they found the mass of five different items, ceramic tiles, steel nuts, pvc pipes, wood and water, as well as their volumes using displacement. After finding and recording this data, they graphed the volume and mass (whoops! didn’t get a picture of the finished graph,) discovering they found the density of each item. They concluded that those objects that float had a density lower than water and therefore a slope less than that of water (which they found to have a 1:1 ratio of mass:volume.) This discovery allowed them to hypothesize where other objects and liquids, such as oil, would fit on our graph.

Teal and Violet worked together to explore the relationships of mass, volume and density.

After reading about the immigration tests required of the Chinese and Japanese looking to enter America through Angel Island, the Teal Band asked to be tested for entrance into the band space. They took time to interview one another, asking questions about siblings, favorite colors, and favorite animals. They also took note of the bandspace, particularly the number of specific objects in the space. When given the test on Wednesday morning, even our visitor looking to join us at Brightworks next year wanted in it.

Question: Would you have been able to remember exactly what your teacher was wearing the previous day when you were eleven years old?

Teal Band interviewing one another and studying up for their Teal Band Immigration Test.

On Thursday, the Teal Band took their exploration to Ocean Beach. We talked about how incredibly fortunate we are to live so close to this amazing body of water. We brainstormed data we could collect over the day, such as types of water vessels seen, times they were spotted and if they were headed inbound or outbound from the Golden Gate. We also took time to listen to the stories of those that crossed that vast ocean on boats, looking to start a new life on “Gold Mountain,” aka America.

Taking in the great Pacific Ocean which we learned from Gever covers almost half the planet.

Bonding at Ocean Beach as they listened to immigrant stories and The Dragon’s Child

As always, the Teal Band had to build a fire and have a fire naming ceremony. Thanks to Freddie’s bacon fat fire starters, the fire was named Porky. After story time and fire chants, the Teal Band took a walk down the beach where they found another body of water up on the beach. They wondered if it has always been there or was a result of the recent rains. They also wondered about how deep it is. Luckily, they stayed dry and no one found out the answer to that question.

We wrapped up the week with a day on the field. We had been explicit all week about the importance of kindness, both towards others and yourself. Friday morning, we joined Jay, Nathan and Evan on the field to play a few team building games. They had to work together to strategize and support one another in order to be successful. Some Teal Banders found their voices as leaders, while others were happy to sit back some and support the team. It was wonderful to hear them cheer one another on and listen to everyone’s ideas.

As a part of “Kindness Week,” Teal Band played a few games out on the field to build on teamwork.

Just a heads up! We have a number of exciting field trips ahead of this month to truly explore The Movement of Things By Sea.

We have a busy month of field trips ahead of us.

Violet Band! 

Greetings from the north side of the mayonnaise factory’s “middle structures”, aka Violet Band headquarters! Natalie, Keyen, Clementine, Jacob, Harper, Zev, Sutchat, Trudy and Rich are happy to share that the new year is off to a exciting start, and the ball is rolling (or should I say the rocket is flying?) on By-Air. Over the past couple of weeks we have been getting to know each other, our bandspace, the school, Collaborators and peers.

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Day 1. The students enter their new bandspace, and are greeted by the ultimate real-world problem solving exercise: the assembly of an Ikea office chair…

 

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Introduction to hand-eye coordination

 

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“By-Air” student generated brainstorm

 

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Preparing for the library…

 

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Travel around the city with them and you really get a sense of why they’re called “bands”.

 

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Introduction to working with cardboard…

 

 

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The Violet band makes geometry compasses out of cardboard.

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Our first construction of the year was…kites! We began our builds by doing research on different types of kite design. Craft books and the internet offered a bunch of different designs, and each member of the band chose a design that was to their liking. Each design was different, and a few students chose to see how a scaled-down mini-kite version might do. Our building materials were rice paper, bamboo, string, and glue. Working with the materials was a challenge themselves, the delicate paper, HOT glue, and tangly string all gave us opportunities to practice our patience (with the materials AND our fingers).

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More prepping of the bamboo…

 

The Violet band was not the only band to partake in a kite making adventure, and were joined by the Red and Teal bands on Bernal Hill. With the sun bright and the wind strong, our hopes were high. After climbing to the top of the hill, we all began to launch our kites…or at least try really hard to launch our kites… At the end of the day, only a few of our kites took to air, a few did imitations of a washing machine spin cycle before crashing into the Bernal churt, others fluttering a few breathless moments before dropping to our feet. However, the process was fun in itself, for attempting a launch became a cooperative effort between a person holding the kite, one with the string, and a third to film the experiment. Oh, and the view wasn’t that bad either.

The Bernal Hill International Kite Proving Grounds.

 

Teal Band’s group project reaches new heights, and inspires us all…

 

…and this is how we learn the most…

 

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Back at Brightworks, we troubleshot why certain kites flew and others didn’t. An exploration of the forces affecting a flying kite, led us to an interest in calculating the surface area. Tinkering around with the idea led the students to discovering the equation for calculating the surface area of a triangle, and with this newfound knowledge, they were able to calculate a kite’s surface area. Scoring that goal with ease, the students were ready for another challenge. We brought another dimension into the mix, and they were off calculating the surface area of three-dimensional objects. A brief digression led us to explore how one calculates the gallons of paint needed to cover the exterior of a house (taking into account all windows), a concept we will use to better understand wing design as we move beyond kites next week…

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The theme of kites has entered our literary world as well. We are reading the youth novel, Dragon Wings, by Laurence Yep. The story follows a young boy named Moonshadow from his village in China to San Francisco at the beginning of the last century. A stranger in a foreign land, the boy has to confront and understand the hardships of life in a foreign land, building a relationship with his father, and the technology that might allow him to fly as his father’s kites do. Class discussions about the book quickly move beyond exploring characters and particulars of the story, and venture into a land that addresses questions about society, sparked by comments such as; “I can’t believe they did that back then”, and “that’s so messed up”.

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We’ve hit the ground running, and I for one am very excited to see what else we create and explore during the remaining weeks of our first short Arc. The students are very interested in exploring how music, sound, disease, and animals move around the world by air. Stay tuned to see how these interests manifest themselves in the weeks to come…

Violet Band: (Second to) Last Week of School

Presentations started this week. The afternoons are full of other bands showing off their hard work. Our presentation afternoon isn’t until next Monday, so we’ve been furiously working to finish our projects and create our presentations and get the space set up (broken down?!) for next week – our last week of the school year.

Jack’s project was to build a robotic arm. He prototyped it out of foam core, and then learned computer-design through fusion360 to 3D print his final iteration. This project evolved into his end-of-year arc project, and it was awesome. To supplement his work, he also researched and wrote a paper on robotic arms and their use in space. Here’s his first prototype (with foam in the background):

Here’s his second:

For her project, Zada researched, interviewed, surveyed people and experts around the country on their understanding of altruism. Skeptical that true altruism exists, she explored the research in an unbiased, objective way in order to analyze and see if humans are truly capable of giving back and being selfless, or if the motive is still self-serving. Zada wrote a research paper to share her findings.

Cyrus’ big project was to learn Python. To do this, he worked through several smaller projects, building off of his knowledge to create the next one. Through Trinket, he started with creating different image generators, with lines, angles, and colors varying for each version. The second project was to understand circles and parabolas, drawing them through code. The final project was to create a self-sustaining conversation. Programming two different voices and randomizing their outputs – but still making the conversation make sense – was the final step on this iteration of his end-of-year arc project. Here’s a slide from part of his work:

Max’s project was to work with the city of San Francisco to help support RC pilots. Currently, the city’s policy bans all flight apparatuses in parks, but he’s trying to update that. In this project, he presented a proposal to the SF Parks and Rec department and was left with a promising, “let’s see what we can do.”

Laurel‘s doing a couple of different projects. For one, she programmed a baby arduino screen to read and mimic human facial emotions. For the other, she’s building a tesla coil. This big, beautiful copper coil that sparks lightning and makes music. She spent weeks on both projects, reaching out to various experts, balancing design and debugging, and building really awesome work. She’s still in the middle of her tesla coil – it’s huge and powerful. Here’s a diagram of how it works:

Cassandra decided to program a “RamsBot” in Trinket. Sitting to chat with her chatbot replicated a conversation with her brother, Ramses. It was perfect. Continuing her long-term project, Cassandra further developed her space-station. After finishing (and creating a model of) the algae-based air filtration system during seed arc, she switched gears and began designing all of the blueprints for her floating city in space. She even built a to-scale paper model!

Sayuri and Josh, of course, decided to do a community building project. They partnered with a local nonprofit organization, Lava Mae, to design a fundraiser. Lava Mae turns old muni buses into mobile shower stations for the homeless in SF. Eventually, Grace and Harry were also added into the project. The night of the event, the entire band helped support the Lava Mae team, and we raised over $1000 from donations alone! The even happened at the very end of the year, and served as their arc project. They’re using the week to wrap up the paperwork and the art deliveries. (See images from the night in the blog post below 🙂

For most of the arc, Harry spent time working on his skin. He went to several weeks of intensive skin treatment and therapy, and was able to come back at the end of the arc looking and feeling great. We missed him so much, but are so happy he was able to work on his “human” ! He decided to share about this journey during presentations on Monday – which is a bold and vulnerable move. I’m really proud of him.

While all of this is going on, everyone is mostly interested in making sure the “Alan Rickman Experience” – a tribute show to David Bowie and Prince – goes off without a hitch next week.

Photos from Unbelavable Night!

Photos from the Violet Band art auction to support Lava Mae yesterday during our Unbelavable Night!

We raised over $1000 in donations alone, and are so happy to give back and strengthen our community with partner (and future BWX family!) Lava Mae.

This was truly an all-hands-on-deck event – from donating art, to setting up the space, to being our guest, to bidding on the goods! We truly appreciated the support and commitment from our school in our hard work. It could not have happened without them.

The Violet Band is so happy to have had this shared experience, and grateful to give back to our community during Human Arc.

And, as an added bonus, people came in from the street and asked if we were a professional art gallery! 8)