Author’s, Illustrators, and Coins, Oh My!

My favorite reasons for why I work with young children are their endless imaginations and their innate courage. The last two weeks in the Hive have been filled with brave moments: saying hello to someone new, asking for a name when you’ve forgotten, trying a new game, eating lunch at the Orchard, and sharing the stories of your life. We have started our adventures in writing with Lucy Calkins’ Writer’s Workshop. The Hive’s Writer’s Workshop is a time for everyone to become an author and illustrator. Our first few lessons have included: How do you get ready for school? along with a morning of sharing their work. What did you do over the weekend?

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Bo and Hayes work on their first entires for The Story of My Stuff

And our latest adventure The Story of My Stuff was inspired by a gallery visit I had about a year ago. I learned about a project related to consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt called Obsessive Consumption which documented everything she purchased over the course of three years. I was fortunate enough to catch her show at Mule Gallery and picked up her zine “Belongings: Stories that Belong to the Stuff that Belongs to Us”. Here you get a glimpse of  Zachary Schomburg and Bingaman-Burt’s stuff and the stories of each treasured item as illustrated by Bingaman-Burt.

We had a conversation around what it means own something and I shared the story of the owl keychain that lives in the Hive, a left-behind gift of our friend Octavia who used to go to Brightworks. Our writer’s set off to show their own valuables: teddy bears, houses, and pet quails. Each item accompanied by a lovely story of how it became theirs. We will continue to dive into the story of our stuff this week as we prepare our final coin explorations.

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Christian chose his Gengar Pokemon card as one valuable object. He even taught us about its strength and powers

Also did you know we’re studying coins around here? What is a coin? What are the parts of a coin? And how do they work? These questions have been examined in order to have us reach the goal of designing our own coins. We identified the parts of the coins as: location where it was made, year it was made, its value, a VIP, and a valuable item of our country. For the purposes of our coins, we chose S for the San Francisco mint, our birth years: 1985, 1986, 2011, and 2012 respectively, our faces- because we’re VIPs, and from our identified items from our Story of My Stuff writing we added an item that was valuable to us to the back of our coins.

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Kit adds to her heads-side of her Kit-coin; first her portrait then an S for San Francisco

What a wild ride, five weeks have come and gone. Up next we are gearing up to head out on our first field trip of the year which happens to be our overnight stay at Nature Bridge just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Stay tuned!

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 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!

Yellow Band: By Air, Week 1

Welcome all to the Yellow Band, and welcome to 1920 Bryant St! I’m so excited to be working in this space this year, and to get to work even more closely and collaboratively with Nicole and Nathan. This year is going to be great!

Speaking of which, we got off to a really great start this week. We set goals for ourselves, and then used those goals to guide our group agreements. We started to establish routines and protocols for life in our space. We practiced using our tools. Oh, and we made lots of new friends of course!

On Monday for tool practice, students worked in pairs to build something that both could sit on. Here, Rebecca and Reyahn work together to assemble a corner using a right angle, clamps and drills.

On Monday for tool practice, students worked in pairs to build something that both could sit on. Here, Rebecca and Reyahn work together to assemble a corner using a right angle, clamps and drills.

And Solin and Devlin quickly built a see-saw--what a neat idea!

And Solin and Devlin quickly built a see-saw–what a neat idea!

On Tuesday morning, we did a quick run through of what our schedule will look like every day. Here goes:

  • In the morning, kiddos will work independently on a ‘vitamin,’ a short, skill building activity outlined in the morning message. Then, they’ll eat a snack. After that, we’ll have a quick morning meeting discuss our work, and give any announcements for the day.
Nolan and Reyahn work on our first vitamin. They made a self-portrait using pattern blocks. Then, they tried to determine the value of their portrait, assuming that the triangle = 1. This was a great practice in equivalencies, adding multiples, and doing a proof.

Nolan and Reyahn work on our first vitamin. They made a self-portrait using pattern blocks. Then, they tried to determine the value of their portrait, assuming that the triangle = 1. This was a great practice in equivalencies, adding multiples, and doing a proof.

Emilio's self-portrait is of his whole body!

Emilio’s self-portrait is of his whole body!

  • After morning meeting, we’re going to move toward having workshop time for the rest of our morning until park time. Kiddos will work from a Menu that outlines things they must work on during the week. They can choose the order to work on these tasks, and how long to spend on each one. And, they must get certain things done each week. We haven’t started this yet, so no picture!
  • After park and lunch, we’ll have a half hour of quiet time. This is basically choice time for calm, quiet activities like reading, building with blocks, drawing.
Need I say more?

Need I say more?

  • Most afternoons we’ll have group project time. Two collaborators will lead projects, and kiddos can choose which one they’d like to join for the afternoon.
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Nathan and the Planter Boxes group figure out what they want to make sure to include in their planter box design–because we’ll have these for a long time!

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Nicole and the Bench group went on a walk to research different bench designs. They noticed that this bench is partially made out of something that’s not wood or metal–and has a planter box!

Since our bands will be spending so much time together, Nicole, Nathan and I thought it was super important to set goals and make group agreements as a group. While this was sometimes challenging as a whole group, we worked hard to read the needs of the kids and break out into smaller groups whenever possible. By doing this, we came up with a great list of group agreements that each kiddo signed today. Setting these types of norms really helps the kids understand how we’ll live together in our little space.

Solin and Sakira discuss the importance of listening, and the idea of 'one voice at a time.' We used a small candle during our discussion to show whose turn to talk it was.

Solin and Sakira discuss the importance of listening, and the idea of ‘one voice at a time.’ We used a small candle during our discussion to show whose turn to talk it was.

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