In other news…
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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).
This week finished up with a community lunch served up by none other than our own Sylvester–thank you friend!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
Finally, we finished up this week with a dance party, because why not?!
The last few weeks have been so much fun! As the crow’s nest and tugboat started to wrap up, we didn’t quite have enough time to start some new projects from scratch. But, we started an exploration that we hadn’t gotten to yet–lighthouses and shipwrecks. Because why not?
As long as people have been traveling and transporting, boats have been wrecking along rocky shorelines and invisible reefs and in bad weather with low visibility. And, as long as boats have been wrecking, people have been trying to figure out different ways to protect sailors and mariners from unseen dangers. With lighthouses, bells, foghorns, and even fires burning from beaches humans have tried to light the way toward safety. And, the Bay area is a great place to explore some of these physical structures and research their successes and failures.
One piece of this exploration was light itself: how does it work, and how can we magnify it to light the way on dark nights? We spent some time playing with lenses and color in order to explore some of the properties of light.
Another piece of this exploration was architectural: how can we build a tall tower that is also strong enough to stand up to pounding waves, unrelenting wind and rain?
After our trip to Pt. Bonita, we realized the sheer magnitude of the number of shipwrecks around the Golden Gate (around 300!). Some quick internet research revealed that we could get pretty close to a few of these wrecks by taking a trip out to Lands End. So that’s just what we did!
This week, we focused on researching and experimenting with a particularly damaging type of shipwrecks: when oil tankers wreck and leak crude oil into marine environments. We started to learn a bit about the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, which left a lasting impression for many. The entire school has been talking about how to be more responsible with our waste–from being mindful that we put our trash into the proper bin, to ways we can minimize waste–so this turn in the exploration fit right in. Plus, some of the chemistry experiments we got to do were really messy and fun!
And now we’re already getting ready for Expo! Stay tuned!
This week, let’s check out some of the work we’ve been doing on our projects! Two of our bigger, group projects this arc have been a tugboat and a crow’s nest. Because BOATS.
Nathan started this arc with a big interest in tugboats because of the way that they are ‘helper boats’ in a harbor. These busy little boats are the experts of a port or harbor, tugging bigger boats in and out, and directing traffic through sometimes busy waterways. Which obviously goes perfectly with one of our favorite sayings over here in the Hive, “How can I help?”
It was really important to the Red and Yellow Banders that they be able to go into their tugboat, and that it looked like it was above the water, like in real life. This meant that they would need to build a super strong frame to support a floor for a few people to stand on at once. And that meant they would need to use lots and lots of flat brackets. And they really really did it! Even though about 2 weeks of work consisted of just installing these brackets, they really stuck with it.
The folks in the Red Band have spent some time learning about the international flag signal code, so Nicole was interested in building a mast of a boat to hang a flag from. And if we’re building a mast, we should probably just build the platform to stand on so that we can spot storms, other ships and even land from far away. Ya know, a crow’s nest! As we worked out our design, we knew we would need to use something in our space as an anchor, otherwise the crow’s nest would need too big of a footprint in order to be stable. One day, paging through the David Macaulay book Underground, I realized that one of the big columns in our space would be perfect. They go down into the basement, making them just like the mast on a ship! This, plus a few tips from Gever (compress anchor beams to the column using ratchet straps, just like when building a treehouse!), and we were ready to turn our ideas into reality.
These two projects are so close to being done we can almost taste it! Kiddos are already asking if the crow’s nest can be a permanent part of our landscape, and I think it may be so well built that maybe we can say yes!
A few weeks ago, we started to talk about international shipping, the switch to containerized shipping, and the globalization of the textile industry. Yea, you read that right. All this with these 1st and 2nd graders.
The thing that started it all was this podcast, which focuses on the port of Oakland. It tells the story from the beginning, hearing from longshoremen and tugboat drivers, and follows the story all the way through to today, even taking the listener inside a container crane. Because, you see, shipping goods around the world used to be enormously hard, labor intensive work. Ports employed lots of people, because lots of human power was needed to load and unload cargo from the belly of ships. And so, a lot more stuff was made closer to home. Things were trucked across the country. Then, a company called Sealand used the first container. Suddenly, stuff could be loaded in boxes, and those boxes could be put on ships. Instead of each sack of coffee or pallet of cloth being painstakingly loaded, containers could quickly and relatively easily be stacked on ships. Now, all it takes is one operator in a container crane. And so, since shipping is so cheap–so cheap in fact, that the international shipping industry loses money hand over fist–we started getting more and more products made overseas, where labor is cheaper. On that first day, after listening to the first episode of Containers, we took a minute to look at the tags of our t-shirts to see where they all came from. India, Indonesia, China, Guatemala, Vietnam. And off we went.
The following week, we started to look at some data about the Port of Oakland, getting ready to go on a field trip to see it all in person. We work on making graphs and charts about where the goods received at the port typically come from, and what kinds of goods are packed inside all of those containers. Then, we spent a day at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, right smack in the middle of the port, taking a closer look at the container cranes, and watching in awe the amount of truck traffic going in and out, in and out, constantly. So many trucks! So many containers!
Then on Friday, it was our turn to lead morning circle. So, we posed a question to the whole school: where did the shirt you’re wearing come from? And the data we collected was really compelling. The following Monday, we got to work graphing our data, making bar graphs and line plots. As we worked, we noticed that close to half of our shirts came from Asia, with Latin America a distant second. We also noticed that none of our shirts came from Europe or Russia or Australia.
We knew that a lot of the reason that so many shirts came from Asia, which seems very far away, is that container shipping is cheap, and so is labor, but our understanding was missing the human story. So, I went to Newsela, searching for articles about the textile industry. These articles really filled in the story of our t-shirts. First of all, chances are the cotton your t-shirt is made of was grown in the US. You won’t find that on the tag! On top of that, kids might have had a hand in making our clothes! And, women in Bangladesh actively choose to work in the textile industry, because even though it can be dangerous, it gives them freedom to earn their own money and make their own decisions.
That last point really stuck out to us. In our discussions of what we think about the textile industry, most Yellow Banders had a value for affordable clothes, and no discrimination for someone making the shirt here or far away. If the shipping is cheap, why not? People in other countries need good jobs, so why not make clothes? And, people need access to clothes they can afford! Reading these articles (and later listening to the Planet Money episode about two Bangladeshi sisters that work in a garment factory) gave our discussion a lot more depth and empathy. Now we could see that we could both be in favor of affordable clothes, and think that the humans that work to make our clothes deserve to earn a living wage and work in a safe environment.
Then, I saw online that this past Monday would be the 4 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. So, I decided we should make our own t-shirts.
And that’s the story of why we’re making clothes during the by Sea arc. In case you were wondering.