Violet Band: An Unbelavable Night

After several weeks of work and planning, tonight is the big night! Students in Violet Band partnered with different charity organizations over the course of the year to help support and give back to Bay Area communities. Through their work, they were inspired to put on…


An art auction hosted by the Violet Band to support Lava Mae, a nonprofit in the city that turns retired muni buses into mobile shower stations.

For information and tickets, you can see more here:


Welcome to An Unbelavable Night! 

The High School students at SF Brightworks, in collaboration with Lava Mae, present an Unbelavable Night: an art auction to help benefit San Francisco’s homeless population. 

Lava Mae is a nonprofit working to redesign decommissioned SF MUNI buses into state-of-the-art sanitation and shower stations for those without access to these resources. Brightworks partnered with Lava Mae earlier this year to help support their volunteer efforts, and together we want to give back to the city. 

Our Unbelavable Night will be held at the new Brightworks campus extension at 1920 Bryant St. 

Join us for a night of drinks, snacks, and music while viewing and bidding on exquisite student and professional art pieces from around the Bay Area. All proceeds from the silent auction and event will go to supporting Lava Mae’s mission to bring cleanliness and dignity to the people of San Francisco. 

Tickets are available by donation. Donations are also accepted the night of. 

See you there! 

Upper School Sex Ed

Last week, the upper school spent the entire week on a comprehensive sex ed curriculum. We made up the curriculum, of course, but it hit the following key points:

– what happens to bodies?

– what is sex?

– what is gender?

– what is consent?

– what goes on in puberty and after? why?

– how to be healthy and safe


The first couple of days, we split the kids into unique groups. Phillip and Simons worked with half of them on understanding sex, gender, sexuality, and components of those things regarding mental and emotional levels. Willow and I took the kids and talked about biological changes and expectations in bodies and health regarding these changes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we broke up into girls and boys Q&A sessions. On Wednesday, the girls got together with the female collaborators and boys with boys. On Thursday, we switched! So girls went with the male collaborators and boys with the females.

The questions were so thoughtful and helpful. It was a really wonderful week.

If interested, you can check out the sex q&a document for the upper school here. 

It was one of my favorite weeks teaching, to be sure.

Violet Band: Robotics Update

The Violet Band has been deep in their robotics courses. We’re studying how robots are ways to think and learn more about humans and human brains.

We started by understanding the difference between fearful and aggressive motions – or when sensors are programmed to move away from light or to move toward light. Having slight differences in the programming changes the way a baby bot moves dramatically.

We advanced to learning about how our brain connects with nerves and sensors in our own bodies, and how to use that information to create signals and responses in robots.

On Thursday last week, they started creating their own baby bots.

Some of the kids are choosing to do robotics projects for their choice projects! Stay tuned…

Band Swap – Psychology

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

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

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

Once submitted, each project earns an individual button!

Check out my button for psychology:

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

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

Blue+Violet: Upper School Band Swap Week 1


The Upper School did something revolutionary this week: 

  • The Blue Band went to Rich.
  • The Teal Band went to Phillip.
  • The Indigo Band went to Oberski.
  • And Violet Band went to Simons.

In the morning, each Collaborator taught a 5-day mini crash course in a particular subject related to the Human Arc. In the afternoon, the Bands got to work on reflections or projects or homework related to that crash course, as well as spend a little bit of quality time with their usual Collaborator. With that said, I can tell you this about Blue: they got to learn about the human anatomy and body systems and health and body maintenance. They ate it up. They were super excited each afternoon, and could tell me all sorts of weird and interesting facts and names for things that I have only surface knowledge of. What a great opportunity for these kids — each of the Upper School Collaborators are experts on divergent topics and this has been a chance for us to nerd out and really shine!

Here’s a really brief visual recap of what Rich and Blue nerded out about:




Meanwhile, we started reading Lord of the Flies, and Blue has started to run with the idea of recreating the story with each of the Band members as characters in the narrative. Kaia polled the Band and asked about the story line. What would your role in the society be? Would you die in the story and if so, how? And then Clem started designing the island. And everyone, of course, started designing their individual sleeping quarters. We had a pretty productive conversation about the advantages of not separating the girls sleeping area from the boys sleeping area — especially if we are a society that is concerned about safety and protecting one another from predators at night. In the end, we decided we could handle sleeping in the same area.


And then, Felix started to learn how to design video games using a program called Unreal Engine 4. As of the end of this week, we have a draft of Blue Band Lord of the Flies the Video Game: complete with a patch of grass, lots of rocks, and one sleeping area complete with fire. Whoa! I would have never predicted this.


And then, in the mornings, I hung out with the Violet Band. (Equally whoa!)

They got to experience a crash course in civil rights from a social/critical, and not always historical perspective. In this really, really, quick introduction, we talked about:

  • How US law gets changed by politicians.
  • How US law gets changed by the people (through sometimes violent protest).
  • The intersections of how women gained rights, how African-American folks gained rights, and how gay folks gained rights.
  • And, I think most importantly, how law defines who we consider fully “human” and who we do not.


All this chat was heavy, heavy, and sometimes hard. We had to acknowledge our power positions and also try to talk about the issues and not always the people.

The really quick week ended on two important notes:

  • The beginning of individual projects that involved researching laws, digesting them in their as-is state of a bill template, and then writing a law yourself using the template that US lawmakers use for bills on the Senate or House floor.
  • And, we got to visit the Kadist Foundation for a guided tour of a racially charged, really powerful, exhibition of art by Hank Willis Thomas.

Below, Sayuri is interacting with one of the pieces from the show. When the microphone picks up voices, the projected image (which is a South African Nazi symbol) explodes and dances and becomes unrecognizable.

Speaking up allows for change. Thanks for a great week, Violet!



Violet Band: Human Arc

VIOLET BAND – HUMAN ARC. changes // updates


q: what does it mean to be “human” ?

… and why do we care?


key components:

brave new world

now – march

we’ve already started this (woo!), but how does this book define humanity? how is it depicted in this dystopian society? what is limited, changed? what is present?
race theory

all term

we’ve already started this (woo!), but what is the state of social human interaction, evolution, life today? how does critical race theory play a part in our everyday life? how can we be socially responsible, conscious members of society? how can we use our privilege to help solve problems?


robots and artificial intelligence are a window into our own brains, needs, and design capacity. in a godlike fashion, most robots are created in our own image – whether literally (think about robots through pop culture) or figuratively (they don’t look like us, but they behave like us). in order to gain another perspective on humanity, all of us will view humanity through the lens of robotics – playing with, building, exploring different levels of robots


all the sex ed. you guys knew this was happening.
guided exploration

now – june

small group classes. once a week we’ll meet for math and writing. for some of you, it’ll be mandatory. for others, you can opt-in to enhance your skillset. all of you should plan to explore at least ONE outside option using guided resources. think about it this way: what outside class are you taking to enhance your own humanity?
band shuffle


since not only are we studying views and components on humanity, we’re also studying humans, starting next week you’ll be in a collaborator rotation wheel. every week you’ll spend mornings with a different collaborator, studying a different topic interesting and essential to the idea of human. over the course of the month, you’ll explore different arenas of humanity and collect, compile a working portfolio of your experience, complete with mini projects at the end of each week. your rotation schedule is below:

  • week of feb 29: simons – civil rights (social history, movements)
  • week of mar 7: phillip – early civilizations (expansion, evolution, culture)
  • week of mar 14: willow – human body (system and maintenance)
  • week of mar 21: mandress – psychology (development, experiments, drugs)


a: formal end-of-arc paper on your answer, findings

✨✨✨ should be really good, you guys. ✨✨✨

Violet Band: Brave New World

Jumping into our exploration while still in project mode (Laurel is currently putting the finishing touches on her self-watering arduino planter. Max finished the school’s program of “RotorEd” to train middle and upper-elementary students on how to fly the quad. Grace is painting her reflections of plants. Sayuri is currently re-stringing a violin. Harry is creating a video trailer for his game. Cyrus is writing his project presentation. Jack put the finishing touches on his baby plane. Josh is building a planter to hold young oat plants to feed the cats. Cassandra is culturing algae.) 

The Violet Band started reading Brave New World. As we spent so much time on organic food and genetically modified foods in the seed arc, it was easy to extend into genetics in general, and the transition into modifying human genetics was seamless. We are six chapters into Brave New World.

The initial responses from the group – especially after the early chapters describing the setting – produced some beautiful, analytical, counter-intuitive responses.

Before we jumped into the novel, we tried to define what it means to be “human” as a group. The band settled on three buckets:

– biological factors (opposable thumbs, large brains, bipedal, etc.)

– emotional factors (having and understanding emotions)

– social factors (engaging with others)

Brave New World has brought about very distinct conversations on various elements of humanity, as the humans in their civilized society are decanted in a factory, conditioned to live and love and work in their caste, and satisfied through heavy extrinsic drug use and sex.

I want to make sure they have enough time to dive deeply into the concept of what it means to be human, exploring other areas in this realm as well.

In Brave New World, the characters are about to venture to a reservation to meet the “uncivilized” population, which – as the band hypothesizes – are people who are more like us, whose normal corresponds to our own normal.

The band is keeping a communication journal with me on their reading experience, as well as participating in a weekly literature circle. So far, they’ve mapped out the Central London Hatchery and made predictions about the world, as well as analyzing each of the main characters. Notes from some of their work:

— This society is different from ours, but so far, I don’t see why this ‘dystopia’ is so bad. It certainly is ethically wrong- training babies since conception to fill a certain position. But to the person, it makes no difference. Unless there is a defect in the system and a baby comes out wrong (which there certainly will be, otherwise the story has no plot), the person is perfectly happy doing their job.

— In our world, we are fully grown and matured in about 16-24 years. And while we are growing up, we learn mostly by making mistakes. When you break something, when you lose something, when you hurt someone. All these things teach us while in BNW, they don’t really have those learning experiences.  

— Alphas are given normal levels of oxygen to ensure full physical maturity and full mental capacity, the oxygen supply is reduced the farther down the social construct you go to the point of having epsilons being stupid dwarfs. my question is is it wrong to be forced to do one kind of work when you are sort of genetically inclined towards those working conditions?

— In the Brave New World setting we have been introduced to, nearly the only thing humans today have in common with the humans in London, 632 A.F. are some biological factors. So far there is nothing in the book to suggest that there are people in this society that don’t have opposable thumbs, and proportionately big brains. However, the mentality of the society seems to be centered around consumerism rather than creativity, each person striving only to fulfill their position as a cog in the great machine, pushing limits only in the endeavor of greater mass production of people. 

— In Human 782’s case, it has not and will never reproduce, has never felt emotion, and most likely does not have the will to survive. So is Human 782 human?

— Even in the first few lines, the atmosphere was set up beautifully, but that atmosphere was strangely sterile and overall a little spooky. The last thing I noticed was how even though it was written decades ago, how much of the impact and relevance still remained. That isn’t a common thing, even with actual classics.