Yellow Band: by Sea, weeks 11 & 12

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.

At Pt. Bonita light in the Marin Headlands. Most recommend!

At Lands End, where we could see the wreck of the Frank Buck, Lyman Stewart and Mile Rock, where the SS City of Rio de Janeiro all wrecked.

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.

We tried to separate black ink into it’s component colors, but it turned out our black markers were actually very dark blue.

Then, we made spinners with each color of the rainbow. We observed that if we could spin them fast enough, the colors would blend together to look white, like light!

And of course we took a few lenses outside to experiment with focusing 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?

Oscar thought he’d simulate a tall cliff by the ocean by building his lighthouse tower on a stool. This also gave us a great way to test and see how strong his structure was!

Sakira quickly realized that she’d need to add layers of blocks to her structure in order to make it stand up to the wind (aka her hand).

Solin carefully drew the tower that she and Reyahn built together in her journal.

Oscar then enlisted Emilio and Devlin to help him reinforce his initial simple designs with layers and layers of blocks. They also decided to keep their tower short, because it was already on top of a tall rock.

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!

We got there right on time for low tide! In this photo, you can see all that remains of the Frank Buck–its steam engines–poking out of the water.

We hurried down to Mile Rock Beach, to get as close to a few wrecks as we could.

Countless ships have met their fate along these rocks, and the stretch from Seal Rock to Fort Point has been especially deadly.

And we climbed around a lot too! We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

Oh, and we stopped by for a quick walk through the labyrinth before heading back to the bus.

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!

Devlin and Reyahn work on making a boom to contain some ‘crude oil’ in their tin tray.

Oh no! The oil was able to sneak across Emilio’s boom!

Cleaning up oil spills is hard! Emilio tried to make a boom float on the water, but although the cardboard could soak up oil, it didn’t keep the oil from sneaking across to the ‘clean’ water.

And now we’re already getting ready for Expo! Stay tuned!

Yellow Band: by Sea, Weeks 9 & 10

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.

Reyahn, Quinn and Calvin all work hard on mounting the top of the level of the bow.

Nicole and a group of Red and Yellow Banders get ready to cut their big circular deck for the crow’s nest.

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?”

Nolan drives in some screws to attach the bow to the hull of the tugboat.

Working sometimes meant squeezing into some tight places! Here, Reyahn helps attach the bow to the hull.

One morning, Emilio and Quinn headed over to the Orchard to cut a trapezoidal piece of plywood for the deck of the bow.

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.

Khalilah cuts open a big cardboard box to use as the skin of the tugboat.

And now it looks like a boat!

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.

May and Ronin work together on assembling the wooden beams that we’ll anchor to the column in our space.

After doing some initial work on the wooden beams, we were ready to hold them up and compress them into place!

Then, we got to work on a rope ladder so that we can get up into the crow’s nest. Here, Oscar cuts a branch into 14″ sections to use as the rungs of the ladder.

After struggling with a few other knots, Sylvester decided we should try the constrictor hitch to tie together the rungs of the rope ladder. And he was right! This knot works great with the tree branch we found to use for the rungs.

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!

Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 6-8

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.

Working on a map to visually display the data we collected on where everyone at Brightworks’ t-shirts came from. Read about it below!

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.

Devlin checking to see where his shirt was made. That tag can tell quite the story!

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!

We saw tugboats hurrying around the bay.

And so many trucks dropping off cargo, picking up cargo.

And one HUGE ship parked at the port, though we couldn’t tell if it was getting loaded or unloaded.

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.

Solin working on her line plot of our t-shirt data.

She used t-shirts on her line plot–perfect!

Nolan’s line plot/chart came out very precise and easy to read, great job!

Then, we put our data on the map, using different sized bubbles to show the number of shirts that came from each country.

There was so much great geography woven through this exploration too!

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.

Solin read about a change to labor laws that could lead to more children leaving school to work in the garment industry. Advocates worry about children being taken advantage, but sometimes poor families need the money that their children can earn.

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.

Sakira and Emilio read about women in Bangladesh that work in textile factories. The women often work in hot, dangerous, grueling conditions–one woman said she tries to make 1,000 shirts everyday! But, leaving their small villages and earning their own money gives them freedom and independence. And, the money they send home significantly improves their families’ lives.

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.

At the fabric store choosing fabrics!

Then, cutting out pattern pieces printed out from a free online pattern, and piecing them together like a puzzle.

In the afternoons for Beehive Choice time, we’ve been using a raglan t-shirt pattern to make shirts. Here, Dash helps Sylvester pin on his sleeves.

And Piper from the Teal Band has been coming over to help us–which has been awesome!

The Yellow Band worked on making some custom t-shirt patterns. Here, Reyahn traces Sakira to help her draw her custom pattern.

Nolan works on his custom pattern. Figuring the shape the pattern pieces need to be is pretty tricky!

And, Oscar helps Nolan cut out the fabric using his paper pattern as a guide.

And that’s the story of why we’re making clothes during the by Sea arc. In case you were wondering.

Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 3 & 4

All hands on deck!

The constellation team rotating the nightbox onto its side so that we can attach the top.

We’ve got a few fantastic field trips under our belts, and we’re starting to get our sea legs. Last Friday evening, the Yellow Band took an after hours field trip up to Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland for their weekly stargazing. Every Friday and Saturday night, weather permitting, the museum opens up their telescopes for folks to come take a look for free. AND, apparently they also host a telescope making workshop on Friday nights! So, not only did we get to look through their historic telescopes, we got to hangout with some super nice people who are working on making telescopes of their own!

On the right is Katie. She’s been working on grinding her mirror for 15 weeks, and she thinks she has 15 more weeks to go–wow, talk about perseverance!!!

Last week, she was using 220 grit to smooth out the surface of her mirror. As her mirror gets smoother and smoother, she’ll use finer and finer grit.

She even let us try our hands at grinding the mirror. Thank you so much Katie!

Now, all of this was because of building the constellation, which itself is because of studying a bit about celestial navigation. So, last week and this week we worked both on writing numbers like Babylonians and using a simple sextant, called a mariner’s quadrant to both locate our latitude and determine height of a few very tall things around our bandspace.

Working in other bases (besides base 10 that is) really forces you to think about how our number system works. During our work in base 60, Emilio taught us all a great trick: when working in base 10, a ‘silent alarm’ goes off in your head when you get to 10 that tells you to write a zero in the ones place, and add one to the number in the tens place. So, when doing math like Babylonians, we started sounding the alarm at 60!

Of course, the purpose of all of this was to ground our understanding of degrees. So, then we started to do some application, making mariner’s quadrants and beginning to tinker with the readings the quadrants gave us at different distances from an object.

So, when the sun came out on Thursday we were able to go outside and approximate our latitude! *It was almost noon, just a few days after the equinox, and also we were using very rudimentary sextants, so our measurements were in the ballpark.

Meanwhile, the Red Band has been trying to make little submarines–aka crafts with neutral buoyancy, that won’t sink or float, but rather hangout just under the surface. So, on Tuesday we went to the USS Pampanito! And the Aquarium of the Bay after of course! Our day was full of:

Awesome doorways.

Lots of tiny beds.
*Ask Sylvester about the Captain’s Quarters.


Smashed pennies.

Rough things to touch.

Slimy things to touch.


And SOSO much…

to look at!

Have a great break everybody!

Yellow Band: By Sea, First Weeks

The students of the Beehive are ready to hit the high seas!

We dove right into several different explorations around the idea of transportation by Sea, I’ll run through a handful of them. We got started studying the stars, both building a constellation as an afternoon project, and studying how sailors navigated when out on the open seas. We’ve been doing a lot of experiments around buoyancy–weight, density and water displacement–in order to build small crafts that float, and maybe even carry heavy and dense cargo like rolls of coins. We has an awesome all-school field day, focusing on building a kind and inclusive community here at school! Oh, and we started reading Hemingway! Really!

First off, the constellation project and related celestial navigation explorations. What the heck does it even mean to build a constellation anyway?! I don’t know, that’s why I posed it as a project! One thing we often talk about when selecting projects for both the Tinkering School and Brightworks is that a good project is like a keyhole: it may seem narrow in focus at first, but upon further examination opens up to a world of possibilities and expressions. The constellation is just that! It immediately conjures an image and connection to the real world. There are loads of stories to tell around the stars–just ask the Greeks! Plus, none of us have ever built a constellation before, so there will be loads of neat problems to solve and science to learn along the way.

Right off the bat, the constellation group decided that we wanted our constellation to be rooted in real science: show the magnitude of the different stars, convey their different distances from earth, and demonstrate the connection to celestial navigation. We started with reading some from H.A Rey’s book, The Constellations, which combines facts about stars with star maps and the Greek myths that go along with many well known constellations. When we got to the part about light years and the stars different distances from earth, we did some perspective drawing, showing a chair from two different angles. This helped us wrap our heads around the idea that constellations that are very familiar to us, like the Big Dipper, would look totally different if we stood on a different planet.

These astronomers are drawing this chair from two different perspectives. Afterward, we analyzed our drawings, pointing out the features we emphasized in from our first perspective and our second.

Here is Nolan working hard on his second drawing of the chair!

After doing some research, and nailing down our priorities in what we’d like to get across by building a constellation, we were ready to get to work! We decided that we needed a ‘Night Box,’ for the stars to live inside, and that we wanted to build both the Little and Big Dippers, because one includes Polaris–the North Star–and the other points to the North Star. So, If you can find one of those two constellations, than you can figure out where you are! Then, we decided that we wanted the whole thing to be about as tall as the clock on the wall (which turned out to be 7′). Then we got down to the nitty gritty!

Sylvester explains to May and Dash why the chops stop means that we don’t need to have a line drawn on our wood in order to cut.

A regular fixture during morning choice time has been some type of exploration around buoyancy: what types of things float and why? After exploring some different materials like wood, metal and plastic, and defining what we meant by ‘float’ anyway (if you push it down into the water, it doesn’t come back up), then we got started trying to build some type of craft that would carry a roll of nickels.

Wood floats really well! But metal maybe doesn’t, and the empty plastic water bottle floated, but the one filled with water didn’t. Hm.

Balloons became popular flotation devices because we noticed that air really really floats. But, they didn’t end up working that well to build boats because they were really hard to stabilize–the nickels always flopped over to the bottom and sunk!

Nicole had been doing some origami at choice time, so Reyahn decided to try out his paper boat to see how many nickels it would hold. Not quite a whole roll, but it did hold 25 which was the most a craft held that day!

Then we had field day! During our in-service week, we talked a lot about school culture, and wanting to take a moment to emphasize kindness and caring for each other. An all school community Friday field day seemed like a great chance to have some band-specific communication and teamwork focused activities, but also mix up all the bands to emphasize how much we care about each other. Thank you so much to Jay, Nathan, Justine and Evan for organizing and facilitating! And thank you to the Magenta for offering some great activities too!


Ally shows Phoebe and Sakira how to twist up their t-shirts to get them ready to tie-dye.

May and Sakira inside the parachute.

Nathan led the Yellow Band in a communication focused activity similar to river crossing. In this activity, the group has to figure out the order that they can step on the different squares, Nathan knows the sequence, and only tells them ‘Yes,’ or ‘No!’ One person tries at a time, but as the group figures out the path, they can help each other! And, they’ve got to remember those kind ways to offer help and advice!

And then back to work! Another of our choices these first few weeks has been to read and visualize Hemingway’s classic short novel The Old Man and the Sea. This is one of my favorite books, I’ve read it many times, so it was a clear choice for a novel for us to get into because, you know, don’t dumb it down. That being said, sometimes I have to artfully rephrase things a s I’m reading. But anyway, it’s been great! It’s an excellent story of companionship and perseverance, there is a lot for us to unpack as we read. We’ve had excellent conversations about the difference in the relationship between the young boy and the old man, and the young boy and his father, carefully analyzing the descriptions as we go by making drawings to show what we’re hearing. On a given day, we probably only read 2 or 3 pages because there is so much rich detail to sift through.

Khalilah’s illustration of the old man’s bed and his dreams: his bed with newspapers for sheets and rolled up trousers for a pillow, and his dreams full of lions.

And, of course, we’ve kept up with our morning vitamins because MATH. So far, I’m loving the math of the sea–there is so much interesting stuff to do! Our first exploration is connected to our work on the constellation, the idea of celestial navigation. Did you know that much of our calendar, number system, and organization of time is based on an ancient system that wasn’t even in base 10?! True story! The basis for 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. and 360 degrees in a circle is the Babylonian base 60 number system! So, we’ve been learning how to count like a Babylonian on our hands, and how to record numbers like the ancient Sumerians would too! It’s kinda tricky, but a great way to stretch our brains, thinking flexibly about numbers.

But first, we had to really nail down how we use our hands to count to begin with. And we went into a lot of detail, in order to emphasize metacognition and reflection. Some kiddos start on their thumbs and work out, others start with their pointers and end on their thumbs. And, we all different ways to count up to bigger numbers–some counted by 5s or 10s, some used one hand for 1s, and the other for bigger quantities. Interesting!

And then we started to practice counting like a Babylonian! They used their hands in a really interesting way, counting each joint on their fingers and using their thumb as a pointer. That way they could count up to 12 (aka one dozen!) on one hand, and keep track of dozens on their other hand.

Armed with an understanding of where the degrees on the compass came from, we went up to the field to start doing some of the basics of navigating. Because, if you’re trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going, you’re going to need to know how to use this tool!

Using compasses up at the field!

Oscar and Sakira used a pencil as a pointer, which Emilio then followed with his eyes to check their degree readings for accuracy. We measured from the center of the field the location of the Bay Bridge, Bernal Hill, Sutra Tower–just to name a few!

Nolan and Reyahn kept their compass on the ground and measured from there. I asked the kiddos to first take two measurements on the same thing–one of the goals on the field–first from the south fence, and then from the center of the field. We’ll use these measurements to talk about the relationship between the angle and the distance next week, but I have to figure that out a bit more first!

More more more to come!

Yellow Band: By Land Expo

We made it!

Chowin’ down at our trail lunch! Read on to hear about the menu.

Across the country, that is. Oh, and all the way through the By Land Arc.

Solin and Ronin working hard to finish up some stabilizers on the the wagon hoops.

For lack of better words, HOLY CRAP. We did so much during this arc! We moved really heavy things, moved hundreds of things, studied simple machines and the scientific method, dug deep into 19th Century North American history, and built, built, built along the way. During Expo Week(s), all of these strands come together in such a beautiful way, and By Land has been no exception.

Thank you so much to all the families, the Blue and Magenta Bands for coming to support us during our presentation!

Let’s start with the Trail Picnic. A few weeks ago, I proposed the idea to Nicole and Nathan. Thankfully, they were amenable, and we all agreed that it would be super fun to make food together and then eat it in a little picnic style lunch. On the calendar it went. Along with it, of course, a trip to the grocery store a few days before. With this date on the calendar to look forward to, our work chugged right along. The buzz of approaching expo presentations adds a bit of pep to everyone’s step; the end is in sight, are we going to finish?

We kept on rolling the dice in our Emmigrant Trails board game, and kiddos started to make it to the end! Here, Sakira works on an illustration of the farm she’d like to start upon arriving in upstate New York.

Abir and Oscar work on installing the tongue of our wagon. We had to use a bolt instead of screws so that the tongue would be able to move and ‘steer’ the wagon.

For many of the Yellow Banders (and a few Red Banders as well) our board game really tied all of our strands together this arc. Not only did we make it ourselves, but the element of both chance and choice coupled with the history made the game fun and engaging in a nail-biting, heart pounding kind of way. Even though the Red Banders didn’t make trail journals and play the game with us, they were deeply interested in the process. Working on the wagon in the afternoon was a great chance for us to share the things we learned, weaving us together as the Beehive even more.

Oh no, Emilio pulled the cholera card! It’s a good thing he also picked up some medicine for the disease that killed tens of thousands of emmigrants while at Fr. Bridger! Emilio had been moving slowly through the game, so after leaving Ft. Bridger he also chose to take Donner Pass–yikes! Winter was fast approaching, and he knew he needed to take a shorter route, so he decided to go for it.

Below: phew, Oscar’s cat didn’t get cholera! Also, Oscar, you brought a cat with you?!?!

2017-02-08 18.58.44

Oh, and the wagon! Wow that wagon was huge! But also, it was the real size, which I think was really impactful for the kids. Like I talked about in one of my last few posts, this project really beautifully wove together our bigger picture goals with day to day work and play. Each day, our planning check-in consisted mostly of teamwork reminders: How will we communicate with each other while we’re working? How should we use the tools in our space and around others’ bodies? What should you do if you find yourself without a job? The Red and Yellow Banders knew what would come next in terms of construction, it was their design after all!

Abir developed a beautiful strategy for finding the middle of the front end of the wagon–the spot to attach the wagon tongue. First, he measured a certain number of inches from one side, then he made a mark. Then, he measured the same distance from the other side to see if it met his mark. He continued doing this, adding an inch each time until he met in the middle.

Oscar, Abir and Emilio moving the finished wagon tongue into place.

Oscar proposed that we build the wagon hoops like an upside down letter ‘U,’ out of 3 pieces of wood, instead of other proposals that included as many 5.

After initially installing the hoops, we realized that they were really wobbly! So, we started adding stabilizers, relying heavily on those triangles we know make everything better when building with wood.

Then, all of a sudden, it was Expo week. But actually, when you researched, designed, built, redesigned, planned, and built as a team, getting ready to tell people about what you’ve been working on isn’t really hard! I was so impressed with the detailed and thoughtful questions and answers we brainstormed in order to frame our presentation. The kids were clearly ready to get in front of the community and talk.

While I don’t have many good pictures of our presentation–it was dark, I was presenting–I’d like to share a favorite moment: After we opened up to questions from the audience, a Magenta Band member (Ally I think?) asked a great question, and one we hadn’t practiced an answer to. “How did the teamwork aspect of working on the wagon go?” I asked the Red and Yellow Banders who were presenting to put up a quick ‘thumb-o-meter’ to show from thumbs-up to thumbs-down how they felt about working on a team to build the wagon. Immediately, the audience saw an array of thumbs, some up, some down, some in the middle. So, I asked a few kiddos to share some more about their reaction. “Because it’s hard to take everyone’s different ideas and put them together,” May explained with her thumb in the middle. And Quinn appreciated that, “There’s always someone there to help you with a tool if you need it.”

With our presentation out of the way, our focus turned back to finishing up our projects and explorations. A few kiddos were still a roll or two away from the West or North in Emmigrant Trails; we set the goal of installing two hoops in time for Expo Night. With the youngest students here at Brightworks, I think I like having our presentation several days before Expo Night, because after the presentation, they really get it: people are coming to look at our work, and it’s our job to have something we can show and talk about. The work in those last few days is always so focused, kiddos ask me so often, “How can I help?”

Reyahn works on stabilizing the wagon hoops.

Sakira, Nolan and Khalilah became the go-to pros working on the gondola. Here, Khalilah measures the length of the gondola flat on the table, in order to figure out what modifications the team will need to make so that the gondola can be installed on the steps up to the cork floor in our space.

Oh, and we got to start actually getting ready for our trail picnic! Really, what better way to close out the By Land arc than with a celebration around food?! First, we researched what foods the folks on different journeys would have eaten, and learned some interesting things along the way. Like how folks on trails West stored their eggs in their barrels of flour and cornmeal so they wouldn’t break on the bumpy journey. And how folks on the Underground Railroad foraged for much of their food. Former slaves needed to be able to move quickly from one place to the next, and leave no trace of their presence. So, they didn’t carry a lot of food. Instead, they ate greens, roots and berries that they picked along the way. This made for a pretty great menu at the trail lunch, because the food of the Oregon/California Trail is frankly pretty boring, and doesn’t include a lot of fresh fruits or veggies.

Devlin researching foods we should get at the grocery store.

Sakira researching food we should get at the grocery store. I think this is the moment she inferred that along with blackberries, folks on the Underground Railroad may have gotten to forage for other berries too–bring on the wild strawberries and raspberries and blueberries!

And, for one last field trip of the arc, I thought we should do some foraging of our own of course! Where does a kid who grew up in the suburbs learn about what’s safe to pick and eat here in the big city? Mackenzie of course! The Blue Band collaborator gave me a few great tips of things we’d be able to find in any park in the city, so a foraging trip to Glen Canyon Park to hunt for miner’s lettuce and chickweed went on the calendar.

Oh, and of course we should shake some cream into butter while we’re on the bus! How else are we supposed to make biscuits?!

Nolan stuffs a handful of miner’s lettuce into Sakira’s backpack.

Because her backpack full of lettuce is SO HEAVY.

Finally, Expo and Trail Lunch day arrived! Thank you so much to Lisa and Kerry for helping cook and setup in the morning. We made rice, beans and biscuits in the morning with the Red and Yellow Bands. Then while the kiddos were at the park, we put together some fresh fruit, washed our foraged greens from the day before, and put the biscuits in the oven. So many kids asked, “How can I help?” all morning, and even though it was a bit hectic and we had to be very patient and take lots of turns to do everything, it was such a great morning. When the Bumblebees got pack from the park to see all the food laid out on the front table, what a great moment. And then we got to sit outside in our courtyard with the big kids from the Orchard eyeballing our feast as they walked back to school for lunch! I even heard Khalilah tell a few as they passed, “We made all this ourselves!”

Oscar and Khalilah took turns to cut the butter into the flour for our biscuit dough. Did I mention that we used butter and buttermilk we made ourselves?!

Reyahn, Sakira and Nolan were all very excited to work with Lisa, Nolan’s mom. It made for some tricky turn-taking, but I think it all worked out!

Thank you Kerry for helping serve! And thank you Lindsay for joining us!

Now my friends, like I always tell the kiddos, all good things must come to an end, including the By Land arc. I’ll wrap it all up with a few pictures of your children hanging in the air on the pulley machine (aka block and tackle) they built earlier in the arc. Because learning should be playful, and we certainly played our way across continents the past few months.

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!