The Coin Arc Was a Valuable Experience

It’s pretty incredible when you take a six-week journey with eight 11 and 12-year-olds through an arc entitled “Coin” and you spend the majority of your time talking about personal value and social currency. We explored symbols of value, both those which are recognized by the masses and those we find value in individually. We wandered through the streets of the Financial District and the galleries of the SFMoMA. Taking advantage of the high supply and low demand for Giants game tickets, we took in a baseball game and a collection of baseballs. We designed our own dollar bills after exploring those from all around the globe. We found math in money in everyday life and even more when traveling the globe, converting international currencies. And as all middle schoolers enjoy, we shared our opinions and formulated arguments…just ask them if they think America should get rid of the penny.

Here is a visual journey of our Coin Arc exploration:

Exploring US Currency

Building our note-taking skills.

Along with our drawing skills, which the Teal Band certainly has.

Discovering new figures in history.

Recording what we find in creative ways.

Taking a moment to listen.

And listen some more.

Recording our thoughts and reflecting on our learning.

Finding patterns and creating order.

Making observations.

Working as a team.

Sharing with one another.

Working through multiple iterations.

Creating a final product.

Exploring our past.

Putting ourselves in that past.

Exploring old things that are new to us.

Taking note of what we see.

Continuing to hone those drawing skills.

Sending one another messages.

Just going for the ride.

Taking a moment to have some fun and take it all in.

Discovering that we really can learn anywhere we go.

 

 

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?

20170928_101425

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.

20171005_102716

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.

20171004_135205

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!

Finding Value All Over the Place

The Teal Band began their second week of the Coin Arc exploring US dollar bills in pretty much every way they could think of. Hearing there is an owl hidden in the corner of the one dollar bill, the band called on Rich to lend them a dissection microscope to take a closer look. They all agree they saw one.

We tried a number of techniques to look closer at the security thread in the $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills. The band looked for all the anticounterfeiting techniques used in the bills they were examining. These included the security thread and watermarks, as well as unique serial numbers.

We recorded details of each bill we examined, including mottos, symbols of value, and drawings of people and places.

Sometimes we even became the old, white men we found on the bills.

Reflecting on the symbols of value we found on the dollar bills the previous day, we went on a scavenger hunt for them and other symbols of value in the Financial District along with the Violet and Amber Bands. We certainly found a large number of eagles adorning the massive buildings, housing everything from banks to Starbucks to gyms.

We learned about William Alexander Leidsdorff, a West Indian immigrant of African Cuban ancestry. He built the City Hotel, the first hotel in San Francisco, and the first commercial shipping warehouse, along with becoming San Francisco’s first treasurer.

Leidsdorff was also one of the earliest supporters of San Francisco’s public school system. He was good with money and knew where to put it.

Continuing to look beyond just monetary currency in regards to symbols of value, we stopped to observe and take rubbings of our Zodiac signs in front of a Wells Fargo bank. It’s interesting to find out how different people value their Zodiac sign and the qualities attributed to them.

Moving on from the Financial District, we took our exploration of symbols of value to the SFMoMA. We found value in the artwork we encountered, especially those focused on sound. We valued the calm, meditative qualities of the bowls beautifully chiming as they came together in Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s clinamen. Many of us even discussed how we could build our own at Brightworks.

Exploring a number of other works of art in Soundtracks, we reflected on how much we value our ability to hear. It is amazing to explore a piece of art, both silently and when accompanied by sound.

Thanks to a visit from the Danish Department of Education, we were handed a few Kroner and told their approximate conversion rate. This spurred an unplanned, but much enjoyed math lesson around converting international currency. Not only did the Teal Band solve the currency conversion problem, but they also got a crash course in decimals and mental math. In the end, they all said they wanted to do more conversion problems. Yay!

Venturing back to the Financial District in the third week of the arc, the Teal and Violet Bands visited the Wells Fargo Museum. We quickly learned that we were standing in the exact location of the very first Wells Fargo bank. The tour guide threw many questions out to the two bands regarding the gold rush and even without any preparation before the trip, the bands proved to themselves that they had a lot of prior knowledge on the subject. Do you know why the gold coins received in exchange for gold nuggets included a small percentage of copper? The Teal Band knew thanks to their lessons with Rich, and some old Rock Arc knowledge…gold is quite soft and pure gold coins would be malleable.

We learned about Wells Fargo’s stagecoach history of carrying money, people and mail across the US. How many times have you screamed, “SHOTGUN!” in hopes of riding in the front passenger seat of the car. Well, if you rode in that seat on the stagecoach, you’d certainly need a shotgun since it was your job to protect the bags of gold and money tucked under your feet.

After all this money talk, who doesn’t value a day out at the ballpark with their friends? The Teal Band certainly values it, especially when tickets are as cheap as $6 a piece. We also value getting the chance to see how our hands compare to those of Barry Bonds.

Thanks to our early arrival, we were able to make our way down next to the visiting bullpen mound. Getting this close to the field and the players afforded us the first two baseballs we collected that day.

Looking out at the small crowd (for AT&T Park standards) of fans out at the ballpark, we got a quick visual lesson on supply and demand. When the team isn’t doing so well and the stands aren’t filling up, ticket prices drop dramatically to get more fans into the ballpark. This worked to get us in there.

By the end of the third inning, the Teal Band had worked together to get enough balls tossed to them by players and coaches for everyone in the band who wanted one to have one. How do you think they upped the personal value of these balls? They got them signed by mascot Lou Seal himself.  What did I value most that day? All those smiles and an usher coming up to me to say she’s never seen such a generous group of kids working together to make one another happy.

The ballgame wasn’t all just fun and games, there certainly was some Coin Arc related activities going on beyond personal value. We completed a ballpark food pricing scavenger hunt that will grow into a lesson on food budgets, as well as lessons on supply and demand and buying power. They are keeping their fingers crossed that the demand remains low and the supply stays high at the start of the season in April so that we can make a return trip to the ballpark at the end of the school year.

 

Our Year of Connections, Beginning with Coin

This year we want to dive deeper into what it is we really want to know and to do that, we need to ask questions and seek answers. As a way to begin this journey of questioning, instead of brainstorming ideas around “coin,” we brainstormed the specific questions we are interested in answering. Three full chart papers later, there are still questions not written down here that fill their journals from their personal brainstorms.

The Teal Band is an experienced crew in the shop, even our new additions are experienced thanks to Tinkering experience. While it is important to have a refresher orientation in the shop every year, this experienced crew was ready to take on shop orientation 2.0, the next steps, with Brendon, Gever and Evan.

We received a lesson from Gever on precision cutting on the chop saw. The word of the week at Brightworks is “kerf.” Kerf, the groove or slit created by cutting a workpiece; the width of the groove made while cutting. We now understand the importance of the placement of the blade to our measurement to get proper dimensions. 

Evan spent time sharing new ways to more strongly and cleanly screw together two pieces of wood. These ways of joining wood will take this year’s projects to new levels and I expect to see a lot more countersunk screws.

How can you cut out a path or a complex interior shape on the band saw? With Brendon’s support, we learned ways to explore interior angles that allowed us to get into tight corners. Geometry continues to play a huge part of our experiences in the shop.

Shop orientation 2.0 included cutting mazes on the bandsaw. It’s certainly not as easy as you’d like it to be.

To launch into our reading of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, we listed off what we know or think we know about Native Americans and middle schoolers, two things that speak to the main character Junior. Throughout our reading of the book, we will continue to look at Junior’s experiences as a Native American from a Reservation going to a “white school” off the rez, and how he values his experiences, his culture, and those in his life.

Along with reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, we are listening to the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. This is Cami’s story of how giving transformed her life when she felt she had nothing left to give due to her illness. The Teal Band will be spending a lot of time this arc looking at the ideas of value and personal currency. Along with listening to the book, the Teal Band is also taking on the challenge of giving 29 Gifts in 29 days and we invite you to join us.