Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 8 & 9

Welcome back! It’s only been 9 days since getting back from winter break, but it feels like we’ve already done so much interesting work. We’ve started our expression phase group projects, and started some Yellow Band specific exploration that connects to one of those big building projects.

ALL OF THE RAIN.

As the whole school embarks on expression this time around, the focus is on the details. Throughout the rest of the school, kids are working on declarations, meeting with the admin team, and making plans for the rest of by land. Over in the Beehive, we reminded the Red and Yellow bands that we make declarations for each project that we work on together! On the first day of any project we make designs together and talk through a plan for how we’ll accomplish our goals. And this time around, we explained, we’ll also need to think about any special materials we might need and present our project idea to the administration as well. In other words, we had our work cut out for us! Nathan announced that he’d be working on a gondola, and I announced that I’d be working on a covered wagon, and we got to work.

Reyahn tinkers with gondola mechanics.

Reyahn and Sakira work on initial covered wagon designs.

Sylvester and Ronin work together on making some 10′ long pieces to make the length of the wagon. One of our goals is to make the wagon a historically accurate size!

Oh, and, the Yellow Band is going to hit the trail! Following our study of fractions, I asked the kiddos to make themselves some spinners–one with 50/50 chances, one with 25/25/25/25 chances, and one that’s weighted to guarantee an outcome. Then, I told them that we’d soon be embarking on a cross-country adventure. And they’d get to choose which adventure they’d like to go on! Would they like to prospect for gold in California? Become a lumberjack in Oregon? Claim some cheap land and start a farm near Santa Fe? Or, would they like to escape to freedom in the north on the Underground Railroad? Each Yellow Bander made their choices, then tested out their weighted spinner, to see if it would work in their favor.

Sakira wanted to travel to New York on the Underground Railroad. So, she gave this choice about 1/2 the space on her weighted spinner.

We also bound little booklets to use as travel journals!

The gang, illustrating covers for their trail journals.

Morning choices have been jam-packed with fun activities as well. I started to delve deeper into the book Bridges and Tunnels by Donna Latham. We checked this book out from the library at the very beginning of the arc, and I just took a closer look this week–bad choice! This book is amazing! Not only does it talk about the history of engineering, but it’s packed with fun and simple experiments for us to do together. We read a bit, then chose an experiment to test what we think about the strength of different shapes.

First, we made lots of paper triangles. Then, we stacked National Geographic magazines on top of the triangles. We chose the magazines because each one very close to the same size.

The next day, we tested folded paper squares. Based on our work in the shop, all of the kids expected the triangles to be stronger, but this wasn’t necessarily true of the paper shapes.

And, we recorded all our data in a table. The next shape we’ll test will be a circle–no folds!

Oh my goodness–and this is barely half of everything we did this week! There was work forming letters, reading our book club books, exercising across the our bodies’ midline, and a trip to the community garden for Class Meeting. We’ve got so many good things going.

Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 5 & 6

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

Fractions, parts of a whole. Here in the Yellow Band, we are each an important part of the whole. But, we’re not each exactly the same, unlike the equal parts we’ve been dividing shapes and quantities into.

Nolan tries to add pattern blocks to his design, while keeping the proportions of blocks the same. He needs to have 1/2 of the design one color, 1/4 of a second color, and 1/4 of a third color.

Oscar, on the other hand, thought about area when figuring out how to divy up color in his design.

Last week in Class Meeting, we read the book They All Saw a Cat. It’s all about perspective–everyone sees the cat differently, yet each of their perspectives is beautiful in it’s own way. This idea has permeated a lot of our different explorations, from sharing thoughts and problem solving strategies for vitamins at Morning Meeting, to solving problems at Class Meeting, to writing based on our book club books.

Reyahn works on writing a postcard home, taking on the perspective of Elmer Elevator from his book club selection, My Father’s Dragon.

“Hey, Jenny here!” Sakira’s two postcards home so far as Jenny, from School for Cats. Her voice really shines through in these short notes, and she’s tried to incorporate both Jenny’s hardships, and excitement to be at her new school.

What’s more, our study of the Pony Express led us to an exploration of native peoples of North America. It was important to me to bring the kids’ attention to the ‘discovery myth,’ the idea that the west was discovered by the European settlers as they moved across the continent. A lot of the texts we read about both the emigrants and the Pony Express included this type of language. So, we’ve been spending some time trying to learn about the plains tribes, especially the Sioux, and using resources from the indigenous perspective whenever possible. Oh, and it also informed some of our math-art connections and vitamin work–of course!

Abir carefully folded his paper, then painted in the shapes he had created. Folding first helped us make symmetric designs composed of geometric shapes, inspired by the parfleche paintings on buffalo hides many plains tribes made.

Oh, AND, we started new projects! Nicole is working on a 3D map, and Nathan is working on a fence styled after a fence the Bees fell in love with in Mendocino.

Solin and Dash work on assembling a section of the fence. The group’s goal is to make the fence both collapsible, and walkable–like a balance beam!

Nicole helps Abir, Sylvester and Quinn trace California from the projector, the first step in making a 3D map of California.

This past week, we started giving the kiddos in the Beehive more choice in the morning activities. So, we now have Hive-wide choices 3 mornings and 3 afternoons each week. Our goal is to take cues from the kids, notice the skills and areas each child feels confident, so that we can build from there with each Red and Yellow Bander. Expect to see more pictures and captions about students from both bands, as I’ll get to work with the Red Banders a lot more moving forward!

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 4

Things are really coming together over here in the Beehive. And also coming apart a bit.

Solin, Sakira and Rebecca working CLOSELY on their morning vitamin.

Solin, Sakira and Rebecca working CLOSELY on their morning vitamin.

At the end of last school year, as the faculty and staff brainstormed arc topics for the coming year, we were sure about one thing: we intended to spend the 2016-17 schoolyear working hard to weave math skill building work into our explorations. Plus, a few weeks before school started, the lower school team (Mackenzie, Melissa, Nicole, Lisa and myself) spent a week at a workshop at UCDS in Seattle learning about how this progressive, project-based school integrates math in theme-driven provocations. In these first few weeks of By Land, it feels like these intentions are becoming reality over in the Yellow Band.

Devlin models an equation with cuisenaire rods. These blocks are an excellent math manipulative, with blocks representing different numerical values in different lengths. Students can line up the blocks to show sums, differences and arrays (for multiplication and division).

Devlin models an equation with cuisenaire rods. These blocks are an excellent math manipulative, with blocks representing different numerical values in different lengths. Students can line up the blocks to show sums, differences and arrays (for multiplication and division).

A few of the important take-aways from this workshop included techniques for incorporating manipulatives into a math practice, ways to encourage skill-sharing and cross-pollination among budding mathematicians, and seeing mathematical reasoning in a wide range of activities–not just computation and arithmetic. So, in the reading I’ve been doing about the history of the Pony Express, I’ve also been taking notes on details that would make great morning vitamins. AKA, Pony Express Math.

Oscar models an equation with cuisenaire rods, then builds a proof for his solution.

Oscar models an equation with cuisenaire rods, then builds a proof for his solution.

We start with a story: “You were riding across the prairie, your mochila loaded up with 20 pounds of mail, when a strong gust of wind blew open the pockets holding all of the letters! Some mail flew out, and scattered in the tall grasses. You had to stop, and discovered that you only had 13 pounds of mail left in your mochila. How much mail was lost?” Each student models the problem with an equation (or number sentence) in their journal, then uses a manipulative to solve the problem. And don’t forget, you’re not done until you’ve shown your work in order to prove to me that your answer is true! In other words, you must BUILD, DRAW, RECORD.

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Rebecca and Sakira BUILT the problems on the simple machines worksheet in order to figure out how the lever and pulley would change the direction of force. And they got to use materials from our very own shop!

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Emilio DREW the story from the morning message, to show his understanding of the Pony Express rider heading from one relay station to the next.

Reyahn and Sakira record their work as they go, practicing adding strings of numbers and using the cuisenaire rods to prove their answers.

Reyahn and Sakira RECORD their work as they go, practicing adding strings of numbers and using the cuisenaire rods to prove their answers.

So far, I’m liking the rhythm of this practice. We start one morning with a story and one problem to practice a targeted skill. The next day, the kiddos practice the skill more, often on a worksheet I make with several similar problems. Each day, we wrap up our exploration by sharing our strategies and insights at Morning Meeting. This is a part of the practice that is really important to me, and that our schedule allows us to prioritize. Not only do these nascent scientists need a chance to verbalize and explain their own thinking, but they need to hear the different and divergent opinions of their peers. Because there are many different ways to solve one problem, and by listening deeply to these varied approaches, we enrich our own understanding.

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Nolan shares his strategy for solving one of the pulley problems with Emilio and Oscar.

Finally, this blog post wouldn’t be complete without sharing one bit of bittersweet news: a member of our Yellow family is moving on to a different school. Our friend Rebecca will still be an important part of the Brightworks community, we just won’t get to see her every day like we’re used to. We got to send her off today with a sweet letter that the rest of us wrote together, and we’re looking forward to seeing her at community Friday clubs and Expo Nights.

Not goodbye, just see you soon.

Not goodbye, just see you soon.

Rebecca made sure to give each of her bandmates a hug this morning!

Rebecca made sure to give each of her bandmates a hug this morning!

Oh, and families, there’s a surprise in the mail for you! Literally!

Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 2 & 3

These past two weeks have been jam packed! Between field trips, projects, and assessment meetings, we’ve been so busy.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We've been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

Reyahn, Emilio and Oscar at the Cable Car Museum. We’ve been studying simple machines and how they help humans move things by land, so the giant pulleys and cables here were a must.

After we finished moving Gever’s rock, we started to study the US Postal Service, because they move massive numbers of things every day. I had this crazy idea that after moving something massive, we should move a massive number of things–like I said, crank the scale WAY UP.

So, I asked Karen–Jack’s mom, and Tinkering School Manager–if she could pick us up 1,000 takeout boxes.

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“Piper, this is ridculous!” proclaimed the Yellow Banders, as they gleefully folded box after box, taking on the jobs of folder, tosser, double and pile pusher. I know it’s ridiculous, that’s part of what made it work!

We started by watching a bit of a short documentary on the Postal Service, then got to work folding the boxes. As we folded more and more, I heard many kiddos discussing possible strategies for moving them. Maybe we could fill up the wagon, and bring the wagon all the way back and forth between the Beehive and the Orchard. Maybe each of us should carry armfuls to the Orchard, then come back to the Beehive for more. But, as the days passed and the pile grew, it became clear that this was not a viable plan. When we got to the part in the documentary about the Pony Express, the light switch flipped.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both just running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

Solin explains our relay system to her bandmates. We had 2 or 3 people in each zone, both running back and forth to pick up and drop off boxes.

It became clear that we needed to break up the distance with relays, just like the riders on the Pony Express. One person would pick up some boxes and take them a certain distance, then pass them on to the next ‘rider.’ This ‘rider’ would take the boxes a bit farther, then pass them off to the last ‘rider,’ who would run the last few feet and drop the box off on the deck. Donezo Washington!

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I can’t believe how much fun we had doing this! Plus, we’ve started to dive deep into the brief but captivating history of the Pony Express, with lots of interesting morning math vitamins along the way.

Oh, and our afternoon projects have been awesome too! With a small group of Red and Yellow banders, I’m helping build what is basically a block and tackle (sshh, don’t tell them that!). It helps that I’ve never made one before, so we get to research, tinker, and discover our way through the process together. As you may remember from our last post, we started by building a frame, then mounting the pulleys to the frame. Then, we started to experiment, trying to balance a drill on one side with something lighter on the other end of the rope.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

Reyahn and Sakira celebrate balancing the drill with a bundle of bolts.

There was something we were missing though, so we went back and did a bit more research, learning that the mistake we made was to attach all of the pulleys to the frame. Armed with this knowledge, we went back to our design and made some changes, tinkering as we went. We’d need to fix the rope to the frame so that it would act almost like an extra person to help carry the weight. Then, figure out how to use the pulleys if not all of them are fixed in place, but rather have some that are movable so that the weight gets distributed among many lengths of rope.

Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction.

Along the way, we practiced predicting how a simple machine will change force. Sakira and Rebecca work on some simple machine problems, thinking about how levers and pulleys help force change direction, and modeling with materials from the shop as they go.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Oscar draws a schematic for the pulley machine 2.0, changing from all fixed pulleys to fixed pulleys above and movable pulleys below.

Next week, we’ll figure out how to add a harness (and maybe need to build a bigger frame too)  so that a Beehive kiddo can lift another Beehive kiddo! Using wheels!

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 1

Wait a minute, it’s only been a week?

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

This may be the Tinkering School in me talking, but I really love the way things click for kids when the scale of a question is turned way up. So, for several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the enormous things that humans move around the world. Not enormous amounts of things (yet), but rather things that are massive, heavy, take up a lot of space.

Like Stonehenge, or those big trees in Mendocino. So, we started this week pondering how people long ago moved things that are just so huge.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Not to mention that all of our hands and bodies don’t even fit around the rock!

Rock relocation, day 1.

Rock relocation, day 1.

This idea must have really gelled with the kiddos in the Beehive, because when we introduced our next building projects, many proposed that we use wheels to make something that would allow a kid to lift another kid. This led to some great explorations around simple machines (with some help from Bill Nye), not to mention enriching our ongoing discussions about how to move that darn rock.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

Kiddos knew that wheels would be very helpful to move the rock, but one suggested that we shouldn’t use casters to build a cart because the ancient Britons that built Stonehenge would not have had wheels (that was a freeby!). Luckily, another Yellow Bander suggested that we use some type of cylinder, so we headed to the shop to see what we could find. Answer: PVC.

When Day 2 of rock relocation got underway, after a reminder to make sure to use ready calls before lifting the rock (ouch…), we managed to move the rock a grand total of about 16 inches–off the stage and onto the cork floor. It took so much teamwork, patience and sticktoitiveness, and then we were pooped.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Phew. After all of that effort, we took a break to watch a short video explaining the point of all this. Humans move enormous things by land all the time. Along the way, they encounter loads of problems to solve and the persevere so that they can get the thing to where it’s going.

Joe Vilardi of BudCo Enterprises is one of those people. You may have noticed him in that video, working on the installation of Sequence at the SFMOMA. I reached out to him weeks ago, hoping for the kiddos to have some type of interaction with this expert rigger. And he was down! Thanks Joe!

So, on Thursday, we moved the rock as far as we could–which happened to be the top of the entryway stairs.

Then, on Friday morning, we went to SFMOMA to see the Sequence in person–feel the scale of such an undertaking–and write questions for Joe.

"What's the heaviest thing you've ever moved?"

“What’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever moved?”

"How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?"

“How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?”

"How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?"

“How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?”

You can see more photos of this week in the flickr album!

Yellow Band: by Air, Week 4 & 5

There have been downs, but also ups…

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use--with a view!

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use–with a view!

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

The last few weeks, our skill building math and science work has built toward the launching of a weather balloon and payload, equipped with a camera set to film our trip to near space. This has been a huge undertaking, in collaboration with the Blue Band. Hence the radio silence.

First, we dropped eggs, trying to figure out how fragile an egg is, and developing strategies to record our data.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Then, we moved on to egg protection strategies, working up from dropping our eggs first at table height, and finally from the roof!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut a slit in the pool noodle from the inside, so that she could nestle the egg inside--cozy!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut the pool noodle into segments and then reassemble, so that she could nestle the egg inside–cozy!

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Devlin puts some finishing touches on his pentagonal prism, making sure to secure the egg in place with tape inside the box, his innovation for protecting the egg.

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Reyahn’s egg drop package gets dropped from the roof. And the egg made it!

All of this was to get a feel for how our package would drop to earth, and how we would protect the delicate technology inside. Our goal, after all, would be to take pictures on the earth from the stratosphere, and we didn’t want out camera to get smashed upon reentry!

This was a fun, silly and practical introduction to our project. Then, we moved on to some of the other challenges of our launch: figuring out how much our payload would weigh, calculating the volume of helium necessary to lift the payload and carry it far enough–but not too far, and planning for tracking down and retrieving the package, so that we could see the pictures we took. We decided that these three problems would make three teams. Blue would take on calculating the helium and constructing the payload, and Yellow would predict the path of the balloon, and plan for retrieval.

But first, Josh Myers (Calvin’s dad!) came in as an expert on high-altitude ballooning (HAB). Thank you SO MUCH Josh!

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

And we got to work! The Yellow Banders started small, first laying out our block, and comparing the distance across the block “as the crow flies” (aka the hypotenuse) and around, that a human would have to walk.

Sakira points out Charle's Chocolates on our map of our block.

Sakira points out Charle’s Chocolates on our map of our block.

While proving a relationship between the length of the two sides and the hypotenuse was super hard, we were able to make the connection to our flight: the “crow flies” distance, or hypotenuse, was a metaphor for the path our balloon would travel. The two sides of the block, that a human would walk, represented our driving distance to retrieve the balloon. And they would be very different.

Each morning, we worked with a map showing the predicted path of the balloon. Using the scale, Yellow Banders predicted about how far the balloon would travel. Then, they highlighted the roads we would travel on the map, and measured about how far we would travel.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

And then, the day arrived. We had prepared all we could prepare; it was time for the rubber to meet the road, as my mom would say. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the day. Please check out our Flickr to see more (and video too!).

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough--but not too far!

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough–but not too far!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun when hydrogen atoms collide!

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you would have thought so from Sadie's calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you wouldn’t have thought so from Sadie’s calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon--what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon–what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Yellow Band: by Air, Week 2

Here are a handful of pictures, emphasizing our effort to weave math provocations into arc-based work.

This week, we learned some fun facts about our local airport: SFO. We started by making a list of places we'd like to fly to, with a twist. Each Yellow Bander needed to include 1 destination in California, 3 in the US outside of CA, and 2 destinations outside the US.

This week, we learned some fun facts about our local airport: SFO. We started by making a list of places we’d like to fly to, with a twist. Each Yellow Bander needed to include 1 destination in California, 3 in the US outside of CA, and 2 destinations outside the US. Then, we rolled the dice to figure out where we were headed, thinking about which type of place was most likely, and how we could change our outcome. Oh, and we started recording our work in our math journals!

We kept working on our space improvement projects, planter boxes and benches, in maxed band groups.

We kept working on our space improvement projects, planter boxes and benches, in maxed band groups.

We practiced playing some of the word games that will be choices during morning workshop times.

We practiced playing some of the word games that will be choices during morning workshop times.

We went to the library and checked out ALL OF THE BOOKS.

We went to the library and checked out ALL OF THE BOOKS.

We discovered these cool videos all about SFO, and learned that 60 planes/hour can land at our local airport. Then, we thought about how we could figure out how many planes could land there in one day, and used base ten blocks to model.

We discovered these cool videos all about SFO, and learned that 60 planes/hour can land at our local airport. Then, we thought about how we could figure out how many planes could land there in one day, and used base ten blocks to model.

We practiced some continuous like drawing, pretending our pens were stuck to the page as we drew items from around our bandspace. It was challenging because it's so different from how we normally draw or write!

We practiced some continuous like drawing, pretending our pens were stuck to the page as we drew items from around our bandspace. It was challenging because it’s so different from how we normally draw or write!

We took breaks, sometimes in very aesthetically pleasing ways.

We took breaks, sometimes in very aesthetically pleasing ways.

Have a great weekend, and see y’all on Monday!