a snippet

A small snippet of this day of Expression…

I was out on the floor much of today working with Natasha, Lola, Clementine and Norabelle on their quilting project. Jan Pingatore, our expert quilter (and my grandmother!) showed the members of the Flying Fish the story of Sunbonnet Sue, how to make a straight stitch, and how to sew a patchwork quilt.

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And project work continued with construction and cameras.

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testing projects

The prototyping continued today with experiments in water for boats, using embroidery thread for quilting, testing ingredients in the kitchen, using stop-motion software, and felting. The kids are making huge strides in learning how to work in groups where everyone has their own ideas about the project and they have to compromise to make an even stronger project.

This morning, Ree showed some of the kids how she makes her own yarn on the spinning wheel.

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Connor contemplated the joint on his design for a hand and worked with Henry to compromise on a project that combines their love of comics and gadgets.

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Isaac, Ben, and Zada made progress in their best and worst food recipes.

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Coke, Kaia, and Evan worked on the story for the stop motion animation movie.

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Clementine, Ben, and Aidan experimented with which kinds of material hold water best.

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Ben and Aidan played with soap boats.

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Theo worked on a popcorn experiment: he predicted that it would take 2 minutes to pop, but we found that the actual time was 2 minutes 23 seconds.

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Clementine, Norabelle, Lola, and Natasha Mei used paper and thread to make ornaments.

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Stop motion practice.

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Sofia, Audrey, and Bruno Kai worked on their felted nature scene.

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Roland continued to absorb the kids in his art throughout the day.

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At the end of the day, we all gathered together so we could see the short stop motion films that Evan, Kaia, and Coke prototyped.

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Everyone worked so hard today! It was another one of those amazing days where the buzz in the school was one of intense concentration and work. Doesn’t get better than that!

expression

Although Expression officially began last week, we only had two days of school last week and today marked the start of beginning Expression projects. The kids are working in groups of three (and sometimes four) on By Hand-related projects, from quilt-making to stop-motion videos.

Hard at work prepping for the prosthetic hand.

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Learning about the sewing machine.

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Our artist-in-residence for the week, Roland Blandy, explained his found object artwork and showed the kids his process.

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Exploring the principles of water in preparation for building a boat by hand.

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Aidan made a discovery today.

Prototypes.

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strength in hands

Today was the last day of By Hand’s Exploration phase. What an incredible arc this one has been! We’ve seen dozens of experts, visited handcrafting studios, and learned how to work with our hands in ways we never thought possible.

Today, the collaborators split their bands into Expression groups of three and four and brainstormed how they could turn their similar interests into workable projects for their declarations.

The groups supported each other when they took away different senses and had to help each other using other means of communication.

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While small groups worked with their collaborators, the other kids learned some principles of aikido and kung fu from Tim and Jason.

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Puppet shows abound.

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This afternoon’s hot lunch was like Thanksgiving with the Brightworks family… a beautiful moment of passing food around the table and sharing in Kristie’s meal together. It made me really realize how much I’ve come to know all the kids, staff, and parents sitting as a community and how grateful I am (not that I need a reminder!) that I am a part of this school and this adventure.

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part of a hand is fingers

Today seemed to do with fingers: using them to paint, using them to create life in a sock puppet, using them to hold wool, and keeping them out of the way when felting.

The morning challenge: create a one-act play with puppets.

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Further experimentation with paper making.

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We call this Advanced Finger Painting.

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Nifer, today’s felting expert, explains the basics of felting to the kids. They used wickedly sharp felting needles that, if you looked closely, have small tines on the ends that grab bits of brightly colored wool fibers to create pet rocks and worms.

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Jim Henson’s short video about puppet-making inspired some upgrades in some puppet fashions.

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Writing short plays for the Puppet Theater.

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Felted critters find friends and homes in the school.

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Massive, glorious, beautiful finger painting.

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The butcher paper canvasses hang from the rafters and the paint drips and dries as tempura paint separates water from color.

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paper and puppet making

After a trip to SCRAP yesterday to paint a mural their fence…

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… the kids spent the day at school making paper, doing observation drawings, and creating sock puppets.

Chane led paper-making.

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Sean volunteered his time to do observation drawings with the kids – drawing the intricacies of everything that they could see in an object.

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Mackenzie helped everyone make sock puppets for the Puppet Theater.

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The boys in the pNook in Kid City finished their hammock yesterday and let everyone test it out today at 1:00.

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Thor introduced a small group to the beginnings of juggling.

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Alaina impressed the Flying Fish with her pencil drawing expertise and gave tips on how to improve their craft.

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Puppet Theater!

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trust

Yesterday was my first sick day. It was awful, unpleasant, and all around not how I wanted to spend my day. Headaches and seemingly endless quantities of phlegm and snot kept me company as the school carried on without me. 4 extra hours of sleep, some hot soup and a long walk have left me feeling much better. I guess if you don’t take a day off, your body will take a day off for you.

More important than my own fragility and whining was how thoroughly I was able to rest today.

I have been working on this school since near its inception. For the last 6 months it is all I have been able to think about. Every day, I am in 1960 Bryant for 8-12 hours prepping, lesson planning, building, meeting, talking, and doing all the crazy things it takes to build a school from scratch. Right alongside me every day is Justine, Gever, Ellen, Chane, and Mackenzie, working just as much, just as hard, and often with more grace and intelligence.

Over the last weeks we have grown to trust each other deeply. This is in some way a necessity of our ambition to make something so large from so little. In more important ways this is a result of each individual’s character.

Justine is quiet and reliable. With one foot firmly in the office and one foot firmly on the floor with the kids. She juggles often conflicting responsibilities as easily as most others would drop them.

Ellen is our administrative ninja. Because of her, we opened. Because of her, our budget works. Because of her, we have health insurance. She takes care of things I don’t even know need to happen before I ever find out they might have been a problem.

Gever is the man with a dream and a knack for problem solving. His audacity got us into this most wonderful mess. Daily, weekly, and monthly, it is his audacity that keeps us going.

Chane is calm under fire and undeniably focused on creating an environment that is safe, physically and emotionally, for the kids and the rest of the staff. She knows exactly how to show support and is always there at just the right moment.

Mackenzie is a creative powerhouse who has come up with nearly endless activities for our youngest and oldest alike. Quick on her feet, there is no one on staff better at making improv seem planned. She has an eye on the horizon and helps the rest of us keep our focus just far enough in the future to make sure we create something truly meaningful for the kids.

I had assumed that if I ever took a day off, I would be riddled with endless concerns. How is the school doing? Are the kids having a great time? Did the transitions go well? How wrong I was. I lay in bed, reading, resting and recovering. And whenever a worry popped into my head, it just as quickly faded with the simple sentence: “I am sure they have got it under control.”

Cheers,
Josh