#bwxcredo rollout

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year everyone! Last spring Justine helped the students form our first iteration of the Brightworks Student Council. Together they created a questionnaire that went out to each member of the school and in the Hive we worked together to answer questions like: What do you enjoy most about BWX? When do you feel supported at BWX? What makes you feel safe at BWX?

The responses were reviewed and condensed into our first version of the Brightworks Credo that was presented to the staff in August. During our setup weeks, the staff worked together to solidify language that would reach community members of all ages which we lovingly named our Credo, a set of 10 values we hope all members of the Brightworks family can work towards. Throughout our first month of school each band worked to present each point of the credo to the whole school during morning circle and an encore performance in the Hive during snack time with the Yellow band presenting the Hive’s work at the Orchard.

We try to do the best we can whenever we can.

We co-author our learning and are here to participate and learn from each other.

We welcome and explore new ideas, perspectives and beliefs.

We take care of our school space and share materials so that we can learn together.

We treat ourselves and others kindly.

We build relationships that are protective and flexible to ensure that everyone feels accepted without conditions or fear of judgement.

We see each other as individuals and understand that our experiences impact how we learn and what we need.

We give the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge intent.

We listen to understand how our words or actions impact others and take steps to support each other.
We give props. ‘Cause it feels good when we do things.

What a way to kick off the year. This year we will use our credo as our group agreements in the Hive. We have also turned our doors into our wall of fame covered by the faces of our wonderful community. We are looking forward to planning our puppeteering day with Indigo, art with Violet, stop-motion with Amber, and so many more exciting cross-band experiences this year!

Wildlife in the City

Bernal Hill

The Yellow Band visited Bernal Hill as one of our first trips to a large green space in the City. Bernal has a resident coyote, so we looked for signs that it lives here.

Yellow Banders found signs alerting us to coyotes in the area.

We can do it!


We attempted to see if we could find Brightworks from here.

Breaks were necessary, it’s quite a climb to the top!

May stopped to rehydrate and take in the view.

In the end, Yellow Banders found some scat that they believed to be from a coyote. Could be!

The Yellow Band was left with a lot of questions after visiting Bernal Hill. Where could the coyote’s den be? What does it eat? Thankfully, we have our own resident coyote expert here at Brightworks and invited her to present her findings on the Bernal coyote.

Freddie explained that many people mistake coyotes for carnivores, but they’re actually omnivores here in the City eating anything they can find, including trash. She also explained how some coyotes have traveled quite far to live here, and some people have even shot video of coyotes crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin. It is suspected that the coyote on Bernal lives in some dense brush near the bottom of the hill. That’s not where we expected!

As we continue to explore nature and how we interact with it in the City, we’ve come to a few conclusions as to why coyotes might be going to such great lengths to live here, but not before having a little fun with a math provocation by exploring the speed at which coyotes travel.

First, we started with what we know: Coyotes run about 43 mph at full speed which is approximately 63 feet per second. The length of our block from 18th to Mariposa is 466 feet. So, how fast could a coyote run the length of our block at full speed? We know that most likely when coyotes travel they’re not going full speed, so we figure if they’re going that fast then mostly it’s to get away from something or to hunt.


May records how she breaks up the numbers to add them. Kiddos generally liked to add 63 (or double it) until they got close to 466. Each time they added 63 they added another second to the time it would take a coyote.

Yellow Banders concluded it would take about 7 seconds for a coyote to run the length of our block. We discussed the reasons why coyotes would be traveling into or around the City in the first place and were reminded of what we know about animals and their habitats. Kiddos explained how animals need food, water, and shelter to survive, and that if coyotes are looking for one of those things then most likely they’ll travel. Finding more territory was a topic of discussion as well. With human populations rising and more green spaces disappearing, kiddos realized that coyotes might often feel cramped and in need of new territory.

Animal Habitats at The Randall

We checked out the Randall to learn more about animal habitats and how animals adapt in the City. We discovered that many of these animals were in our own backyards or neighborhoods.

Sylvester and May learn about how wildlife has adapted to urban life in San Francisco.

Animal Research

Yellow Banders are beginning to learn about research and how to record their findings. We really enjoy Non-Fiction books and articles, maybe we’ll be able to write some of our own!

Ronin and Dash discuss with Nathan how bald eagles could face some obstacles when finding food if they aren’t able to find enough fish. If people continue to over-fish, the bald eagle may not have a consistent food source in the future.

Khalilah uses the information she highlighted in her resource about raccoons to fill in the information on her graphic organizer. Graphic organizers are a great way for kiddos to organize information before writing research in paragraph form.

Abir chose to learn more about coyotes saying, “One lives by my house!”

Calvin also chose to learn more about coyotes. It’s been a popular subject since our visit to Bernal Hill.


Yellow Banders also wrote fictional stories from the perspective of some of the animals we’ve been learning about.  To really get into character, they pretended to be their chosen animal while I opened and closed our front gate to pretend the sun was going down or coming up so that all the animals would have a chance to come out.


Thanks for reading, and keep on the lookout for wildlife and green spaces in your neighborhood!

Cloth Update and Tool Training

The hive has been so lucky to have Daniel Gill, a master puppeteer, visit the hive once a week to make different kinds of puppets and show us how to tell stories with them.

Last week, Daniel brought some marionettes!

This week, Daniel taught us how to make our own marionettes.

Now that we’ve begun tool training, we can begin to work on our second iteration of the puppet theater.

Speaking of tool training, Sylvester shows us proper eye protection while using a clamp.

Before the tool challenge, we practiced using the drill to make holes and drive screws. We’re working hard on keeping control of the drill and using two hands.

Dash loves drilling holes!

This week, our tool challenge was to build a cube using drills, clamps, and your team.

Just because you’re not using a tool doesn’t mean you can’t help. Calvin held wood for his team so it wouldn’t slide around so much while driving screws into it.


In other news…

We began writing “small moment” stories about things that happen in our lives. A small moment isn’t a big long story about your day or the trip you took on vacation. A small moment is one part of your day, like breakfast or going to the park.

Khalilah noticed she needed a better spot for writing so we started finding comfortable writing places around the band space where people could work.

Ronin is writing a story about New Zealand.

Dash is writing about moving into the Sunset house. He’s really excited about his families’ new home.

We’re also exploring place value and addition during centers. For this activity, kiddos are building structures from base-ten blocks and adding them up.



Yellow Band: Coin, Week 5

Remember last week when I said we had something very exciting in the works? For my last week here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering, the Yellow Band and I decided to do something fun, exciting and meaningful. Out with a bang, as they say!

Christian carefully carves his potato stamp coin.

May carefully spreads ink onto her potato stamp coin.

Kit and Icee help clean up from our potato stamp center. Thank you!

Faris tries out his 3 cent potato stamp coin.

Great work, Faris!

As you may remember from last week’s blog, the Yellow Band spent has been learning about children in different countries, thinking about what’s important to us, and what’s important to them. We discovered that though these kids might eat different foods from us, get to school differently, wear different clothes and live in different types of houses, on the inside we all have a lot in common.

Then, we read some news articles about Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico, flipped through an issue of Faces Magazine, and read about the island’s potential to become the 51st state–because there’s a lot more to Puerto Rico than Hurricane Maria. We talked about how the children in Puerto Rico wouldn’t be able to return to school for weeks, if not months, and brainstormed ways we could help them out. Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean, what we could do? Answer: BAKE SALE!

Khalilah signs the letter we wrote to send along with our donation.

Oh my goodness! This was such an exciting possibility! And, what a great way to use our bandspace’s little kitchen for the first time. Everyone got so pumped. We went about our daily business, planning bit by bit. We decided we should have one sale on Friday, and maybe another on the night of the Fall Potluck. We knew we needed to make a few kinds of things–something vegan, something nut-free, something gluten-free, and something with anything. And this is the menu we chose: vegan cupcakes, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, nut-free brownies, and Nathan’s special banana bread, yum! We also decided that everything should cost $1.50, because that’s how much stuff costs at Daiso 😉

On Thursday we finally got to start baking! We measured, stirred, and cracked; we poured, scraped and spread. It was marvelous! And while the kiddos were away at the park, I tucked everything into the oven, just to make sure the bandspace smelled irresistible when they returned.

Dash helps Kit level off one cup of flour.

Calvin carefully measures out 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Oh my goodness, when I told Sylvester to put the soymilk in the refrigerator, ‘wherever it would fit,’ he accidentally put it in the freezer! Here he is cutting open the container so we can melt the soymilk on the stove. Mistakes are welcome!

Sometimes you’ve gotta get creative when it comes to giving everyone a job. Here, May dumps in flour one scoop at a time. Then, Ronin raises the mixing bowl. Finally, Faris turns on the mixer and watches until all of the flour is incorporated. Repeat! Great collaboration you three!

On Friday, we could hardly contain ourselves! All of the things we made looked sososo good, but we knew we needed to wait till the bake sale. We put finishing touches on our cupcakes, cut the brownies into bars, and arranged all of the cookies on a baking sheet. After a quick dance party, it was finally time to set-up for the sale!

May and Ronin went next door with me to get our table ready and ask Justine for some quarters from petty cash so we could make change for folks.

Meanwhile, back at the Beehive, Kit and Icee spread icing onto the cupcakes and sugar cookies.

And then it was time for the sale! Thank you so much to Nicole for helping make change for eager purchasers while I went in for closing circle!

We almost sold out of everything!

Luckily, there were a few cupcakes and cookies left for us to relish in the success of our bake sale when it finally came to an end.

And oh my goodness we blew right past our modest goal of $50! We raised a whopping $84.50!!!

We donated the money raised to UNICEF’s operations in Puerto Rico. The money will go toward providing medication, clean water, shelter and food to children in need.

And that’s the story of the bake sale. The story of the bake sale is also the story of the Yellow Band’s exploration of Coin this arc. We approached this arc topic as historians, anthropologists and philosophers, considering the origins of money, the different types of money used by different civilizations throughout history, and the purpose of money. We emphasized throughout that money is a tool, and around the world folks lead very different lives, yet on the inside we have a lot in common.

Okidoke my friends, we’ve come to the end. It’s been really, really real. Nothing will ever be like my time here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering; I’ve welded with 8 year olds, built a child-sized, see through model of the human body (and filled it with felt, paracord and lego guts), contemplated friendship, travelled the Underground Railroad and California Trail, and so much more. Now, I’m travelling just down the street, please come and visit at CCA.



Yellow Band: Coin Arc, Weeks 3&4

What is important to you? What do you think is important to folks living on other countries? What are some of the things humans have historically used as a means of exchange? Why? What makes a piece of paper worth 5 or 10 or 100 dollars?

Abir works on filling in a venn diagram comparing himself with Anu, from the book This Is How We Do It.

During our first Class Meeting, we read Kevin Henkes’ great book Chrysanthemum, then took a moment to share our name stories. Some kiddos were a little shy to share at first, but when I asked Ronin if his name was connected to Japanese samurai tradition he opened right up!

Those are a few of the questions we’ve been contemplating the past few weeks. As we get deeper into Coin, get accustomed to our bandspace and routines, we’ve started to go deeper into some arc-related topics. We’ve even started to think about value: where it comes from, what we value and what others value. As we go, we continue to practice our routines–morning centers and afternoon choices, getting ready for park, using the library–and have even incorporated some arc-related activities as we build and expand on our competencies; we even started Writers’ Workshop and Class Meeting!

Kit explores the different values of the cuisenaire rods–my favorite math tool!

One of the first books we read together this arc is called The Story of Money, and while some of its concepts are a bit outdated, it outlines the transition from barter economies to money-based economies. (Although there is some question now as to whether there ever truly were entirely barter based economies!) This story based explanation of the emergence of mediums for exchange like salt, shell beads, barley and silver, and then the transition to coins and finally paper money really helped the Yellow Banders connect these dots. By the end of the book, we could all confidently say “The Chinese paper money had value because the people were ordered to use it!” This was the first step into some of our next conversations about value.

Ronin’s venn diagram starts to show some of the differences between his life here in San Francisco and Kei’s life in Japan. He’s pretty sure she likes Pokemon too though!

In order to start to make some inferences about different values, we would need to learn about the lives of other people though. So, we started reading this awesome book! This Is How We Do It is one of my favorite finds for this arc. I love the way it objectively tells the story of a day in the live of children around the world. Paired with beautiful illustrations, the kiddos were captivated.

In the meantime, we’ve kept up with our routines of centers in the morning, and choices in the afternoons. We’ve explored playdough, painting, tons of different games, and started Writers’ Workshop Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The Yellow Band specifically is starting to learn some decoding strategies, woven through our morning messages at our morning meeting, and taking these skills to our literacy centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This week, we started to learn about closed syllables, consonant-vowel-consonant patterns (CVC).

May brainstorms some story ideas she might like to write about this year. Is that an idea for a space story?

Calvin and Khalilah didn’t waste a minute! They got right to work writing a story about what else, CATS!

We all practiced playing Boggle together, focusing on searching for closed syllable words that follow the CVC pattern. We found some real words and some nonsense words–why not?!

Magnet magic!

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This week finished up with a community lunch served up by none other than our own Sylvester–thank you friend!

Sylvester helps serve up his dad’s special enchiladas–yum!

It’s hard to believe it’s already almost the end of the Coin Arc! Stay tuned for a very exciting plan we have for next week…

Yellow Band: Coin, Weeks 1&2

Welcome back everyone! We’ve had a wonderful first few weeks in the Beehive. It’s been so much fun to see all of our returning Red Banders (now in Yellow!) and welcome our newest members of the Brightworks family into the Red Band.

Calvin, Abir, Sylvester and Kit stay cool by playing in the water table in the courtyard of the Beehive.

I know this is going to sound out of character, but things have been moving super s-l-o-w. Nathan, Nicole and I have carefully and intentionally introduced routines, norms and materials in order to teach these kiddos simply how to be here at school with us. Things that I might otherwise squeeze into the first two weeks, we’ve spread way out. This way, we have plenty of time to practice each skill as we add them and revisit materials frequently before moving on.

Pattern blocks are one of our favorite materials! We’ve been exploring some of the many possibilities of these blocks in our morning centers. Here Sylvester shows the vertical structure he tried to build using the blocks.

And Abir wrote his name with cuisenaire rods! I love how he replaced a few blocks with equivalents made up of a few blocks. That skill will come in handy later!

May is painting! We’re hoping to have a whole lot more painting this year!

At the beginning of this week, we started to get out some of our favorite board games. Here, Khalilah and Calvin face off in chess. Great job you two!

We’re also just getting to know each other! Dash and Isis take some calls at lunch.

Over the summer, Nathan and Nicole attended a workshop on the Responsive Classroom model for social and emotional learning in elementary classrooms. I used this model in my previous school. so it’s been great to work alongside them to make our classroom more cohesive in our approach to the flow of our day, how we introduce new materials, and how we handle misbehavior. We start our days with morning meeting, then move to centers. After park and lunch, each band usually reads a book together at quiet time. Then, our afternoons are choice time. Instead of moving through timed centers, Red and Yellow banders can go deeper into an activity they explored in the morning.

We also tried coin rubbing. Sylvester shows a coin that came out particularly well.

We also introduced a coin counting and trading game that we’re calling ‘Funny Money.’ Roll the dice, and collect the number of pennies indicated. Trade for more valuable coins if you want! Try to make it to a dollar! Here, Dash checks the dice, and records his roll.

Oh! And we went on our first field trip! Since it’s the Coin arc and Daiso is only 3 blocks away, I decided I should let these lucky kiddos choose their own school supplies. I went in advance to scout out the options and prices, and decided on a budget of $6 for each kiddo to choose: 1 journal with lines, 1 journal with blank pages or grid, one pencil bag, and a pencil sharpener (if you can find it). This trip was such a blast! I would definitely do this again, why not?

Ronin searches for the perfect pencil bag.

We found the cat stuff!

May hunts for the perfect last thing.

Abir the bargain hunter was able to get a pencil sharpener and a set of push pencils in addition to his notebooks and pencil bag!

The next morning, we used pattern blocks to help us add up the prices of our items (and see if we all were able to stay within our budget!).

Finally, we finished up this week with a dance party, because why not?!

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