Sprouting a Human

 

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The last month was full of challenges and triumph. As the Red Band experienced their first full arc, project cycle, and presented to their peers we realized that our seed project was a task less focused on product but one that hinged on our ability to learn what it means to be a team. Once we realized that our project required each of us to contribute in many ways, we realized this was also a project that would allow each of us to teach others, practice, and learn new skills.

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The Red Band learned to advocate for themselves and one another. During our pre-work sessions, we would write our goal for the day and the work necessary to reach it. This included material lists, down to the last screw, and division of work. This was an opportunity to try new things and practice being flexible. After a few sessions we learned that it was not necessary for each of us to have our own drill at all times. We learned who was most comfortable with using tools, who needed help, and what each of us could do to help someone else.

After a particularly rough day, we found ourselves in a discussion with Gever about how we have the power to make others happy and how it lies in the choices we make for ourselves. This theme, along with that of trust, provided opportunities away from our the seed to reflect on the choices we make everyday. We wrote about what it means to be a team, we completed challenges to earn and show trust, and we learned to share our feelings around this with each other.

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The Red Band learned to ask for help and push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of doing. We hit many bumps in our road to a giant seed where we can sell food, climb, and slide on. We were able to move through multiple iterations of design from our own drawings, to Josh’s 3D SketchUp model, and Gever’s “plywood” model. We built our frame, not once, but twice. We built two ladders. And modified our slide.

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While we still have work to do and safety tests to pass, we are now able to turn to one another for help and continue towards our goal which we hope to keep and share with our community.

 

 

Orange Band: Seed Expo!

It was so amazing to see these kiddos hit the gas and carry their projects across the finish line. Oscar and I put together a spider web to finish up the setting for the plant play, and we made beautiful posters to show and describe the process for making both the plant play and planter boxes. We had a visiting student for several days, and we made a whole bunch of bread for Expo Night. Plus, kiddos really showed their listening skills at project presentations in the afternoons.

Gertruda's mom is a friend of Gever's. She hung out with us Monday through Wednesday, while her mom was visiting Brightworks and a few other schools. It was like she had always been with us, and we miss her already! She loved checking on the plants in our planter boxes and helping feed our sourdough starters to get ready to bake bread.

Gertruda’s mom is a friend of Gever’s. She hung out with us Monday through Wednesday, while her mom was visiting Brightworks and a few other schools. It was like she had always been with us, and we miss her already! She loved checking on the plants in our planter boxes and helping feed our sourdough starters to get ready to bake bread.

Gita and Tesla work on a poster showing  our process for building our planter boxes. This time around, kiddos wrote all of the captions for the photos!

Gita and Tesla work on a poster showing our process for building our planter boxes. This time around, kiddos wrote all of the captions for the photos!

Sadie and Gertruda worked together on a poster showing the history of the plant play. Gertruda is showing Sadie an idea she has for showing which caption goes with which picture.

Sadie and Gertruda worked together on a poster showing the history of the plant play. Gertruda is showing Sadie an idea she has for showing which caption goes with which picture.

Wowee! The reveal on the planter boxes was so dramatic and satisfying. The plants that worked the best were the peas and potatoes: the peas sprouted quickly, and the potatoes grew right up against the plexi-glass, showing off their roots really well.

Wowee! The reveal on the planter boxes was so dramatic and satisfying. The plants that worked the best were the peas and potatoes: the peas sprouted quickly, and the potatoes grew right up against the plexi-glass, showing off their roots really well.

Doodling in his (second) sketchbook really helped Emilio listen during all of the project presentations this week. He LOVES to doodle, and I'm hoping to organize his doodles into a flip book or graphic novel before the end of the year to show all of his hard work--and the story that connects them all together in Stick Figure Land.

Doodling in his (second) sketchbook really helped Emilio listen during all of the project presentations this week. He LOVES to doodle, and I’m hoping to organize his doodles into a flip book or graphic novel before the end of the year to show all of his hard work–and the story that connects them all together in Stick Figure Land.

I've really been enjoying taking pictures of the kiddos' hands lately. Here, a few kiddos are working together to knead 4 loaves worth of bread dough. Wowee!

I’ve really been enjoying taking pictures of the kiddos’ hands lately. Here, a few kiddos are working together to knead 4 loaves worth of bread dough. Wowee!

I love this! I accidentally tore the corner of the butcher paper when I tore it off to cover our table before Expo Night. During our last minute Expo Night preparations, I noticed Isaac and Tesla taping the corner back together and then turning it into a spider web. Talk about a Beautiful Oops!

I love this! I accidentally tore the corner of the butcher paper when I tore it off to cover our table before Expo Night. During our last minute Expo Night preparations, I noticed Isaac and Tesla taping the corner back together and then turning it into a spider web. Talk about a Beautiful Oops!

As I look forward to the Human Arc, I’ve been thinking a lot about our Class Meeting. On Wednesday, I introduced a Class Meeting Journal to the Orange Band. I first heard about the idea of a Class Meeting Journal when I read the book Belonging, by Mona Hallaby who teaches at Park Day School in the East Bay. The idea behind the journal is for each student to have a way to report interpersonal issues, or share a personal struggle that they’d like to discuss with the group. The journal will be framed in a method of meditation designed by Thich Nat Hahn called Beginning Anew. Each week, we’ll take time to voice personal successes and failures and conflicts that have arisen. We’ll listen positively and compassionately, and respond in non-judgmental language. The journal will give each kiddo a chance to voice a conflict or a struggle, even if they don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of the group. More and more, I find that when we approach issues head-on, speaking frankly and empathetically, kiddos employ the language and strategies that we discuss to manage conflicts, and feel more comfortable sharing their personal struggles. After all, we all have strengths and weaknesses; we are all HUMAN.

Orange Band: Seed, Week 10

Seed Arc is  flying by; before we know it, we’ll be onto Human. But first, we need to wrap up these projects, and present to our community. This week, we made a lot of progress on our planter boxes and plant play, here are some highlights!

Potato cuttings work so well for our planter boxes! The flat face of the potato sits right up against the plexi-glass.

Potato cuttings work so well for our planter boxes! The flat face of the potato sits right up against the plexi-glass.

So much great teamwork went into making costumes for our plant play. There are so many things in sewing that really need 2 pairs of hands, so here Gita helps measure Oscar for his spider legs.

So much great teamwork went into making costumes for our plant play. There are so many things in sewing that really need 2 pairs of hands, so here Gita helps measure Oscar for his spider legs.

When we got to the community garden on Wednesday, we discover a container with several baby lettuce plants waiting to be planted. Here, Nathan helps Sadie carefully plant the lettuce without breaking up the roots too much.

When we got to the community garden on Wednesday, we discovered a container with several baby lettuce plants waiting to be planted. Here, Nathan helps Sadie carefully plant the lettuce without breaking up the roots too much.

After trying to water out potato cuttings, we discovered that our planter boxes leak--a lot. So, we spent some time on Thursday troubleshooting solutions. We landed on the idea of stuffing strips of sponges to fill the gap between the plexi-glass and the wood.

After trying to water out potato cuttings, we realized that our planter boxes leak–a lot. So, we spent some time on Thursday troubleshooting solutions. We landed on the idea of stuffing strips of sponges to fill the gap between the plexi-glass and the wood.

Oscar stuck with this problem all day. When we discovered that the sponges worked, but not quite well enough, we brought out the big guns--the big caulk guns that is.

Oscar stuck with this problem all day. When we discovered that the sponges worked, but not quite well enough, we brought out the big guns–the big caulk guns that is.

Oscar's mom, Nora, is a great seamstress and came in to help us sew our costumes Friday morning! We made so much progress with her help, thank you Nora!

Oscar’s mom, Nora, is a great seamstress and came in to help us sew our costumes Friday morning! We made so much progress with her help, thank you Nora! Earlier this year, I taught a few kiddos to partner sew on a machine: one on the pedal just controlling speed and one steering the fabric. Here, Tesla is on gas, Gita is steering, with guidance from Nora.

This week, Sadie drew the pattern for her feathers, cut them out, sewed them together with help from Isaac, and then hand-stitched on the elastic bands to hold her wings in place at her wrist and shoulder. Talk about being thorough!

This week, Sadie drew the pattern for her feathers, cut them out, sewed them together with help from Isaac, and then hand-stitched on the elastic bands to hold her wings in place at her wrist and shoulder. Talk about being thorough!

Orange Band: Math Workshop

This week, I’m writing based on a special request. My dear friend and co-worker and Lower School Assistant here at BWX, Nathan, asked me to write a bit about math workshop.

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Kiddos walk me through a counting back strategy. They tell me how they would solve the problem, and I translate their strategy into a representation on the chart paper during a strategies seminar.

Math workshopis intentional time dedicated to math skills development. Kids at this early elementary age are very literal thinkers. So, it’s important for us to approach math literally first, and then abstract from there. This means we approach topics in math workshop, then apply them to our arc based work. What’s more, it’s important for us to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

Math workshop consists of 3 basic components: skill introduction, skill practice, and strategies seminar.

Skills are introduced at the beginning of math workshop, or sometimes in the morning message. For example for the past few weeks, we have been talking about subtraction and counting. The conceptual jump from addition to subtraction is a big one for kids of this age, and it’s one that we approach using logic. One Tuesday morning, the kiddos arrived to school with the following problem in the morning message: “Last night I went to the library to pick up 17 books I had put on hold. When I got there, the librarian let me know that 8 of the books I had requested were not ready for me to pick up. On a stickie, write an equation to show how many books I was able to check out.” This problem asks kiddos to consider if I checked our more or less than 17 books, and then translate that into a mathematical sentence, or equation; how will you show taking away from 17 in an equation? Sometimes, we’ll warm our brains up by acting out what is happening in the problem–which also guarantees to be fun and silly!

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Emilio and I translate our drawing of balloons being lost into equations. Both strategies solve the problem of how many balloons I have left!

The next component of math workshop is skills practice. First, kiddos do some practice of the skill we’re working on, usually individually, and sometimes with a partner. For addition and subtraction, kiddos have been imagining story problems to match equations. They write or draw their story problem, then show their thinking to solve the problem. This means metacognition of the steps it takes to solve a problem, then synthesizing these steps in such a way that they can be illustrated. This could mean drawing your hands to show how you counted on your fingers, drawing a number line and showing which direction you moved to find your answer, or drawing the items described in your story and showing them being removed (crossed out) or added to. Then, kiddos can move into games choices. Each workshop, I’ll choose a few games for kiddos to play as they finish their individual work. Some of these games give kiddos a chance to practice arithmetic to build fluency, others are more oriented to sequential thinking, logic, and spatial reasoning.

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Ramses works on showing his work to solve an addition problem that we wrote a story for involving a robot and all of its laptops and cell phones.

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After doing some work writing a story problem, Gita and Tesla play 21. They need to accurately add up the cards they can see, and reason whether or not they should take another card from the deck based on the total of the cards they can see, knowing that they have one more card hidden.

I think the metacognition of HOW they solved a problem is the most important part! So often a kiddo will respond that they just knew the answer. As we move toward problems they will not be able to solve quickly with mental math, kiddos must be equipped with strategies to solve problems. Much more than repetitive practice, kids showing their work emphasizes problem solving strategies, and asks kids to think about the relationships between numbers and what is actually happening when they are counting.

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Sadie crosses out the balloons that ‘flew away’ in order to answer the question of how many balloons I gave Nathan for his birthday.

But wait, there’s another most important part: the seminar! Seminar usually happens at the end of math workshop, but sometimes we’ll seminar together at the beginning of workshop to remind kiddos of strategies they can use to solve problems when they are working independently. At strategies seminar, kiddos explain to the group how they solved their problem. To get us started, I translate kiddos strategies and draw what they describe on a piece of chart paper. Moving forward, kiddos will start to illustrate and explain for the group.

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Four different ways to solve the same problem–wowee!

This part is so important because it integrates many skills into one practice: not only are they remembering and sequencing their process for solving a problem, they are presenting it to others. They must find a way to explain it in a way that others can understand, and that can be drawn on a piece of paper. Plus, kiddos practice listening to others, and asking for respect from their peers. More than anything else, I’ve seen that kids learn to show each other respect and attention in these moments when they must practice the give and take back to back: when they can immediately see that their friends will show them respect in exchange for their respect.

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Oscar shows the group how he would count back using a numberline.

That’s all there is to it! The order of the parts can be me moved around, broken up, and we don’t necessarily do all 3 parts at every math workshop. The games we play include some dice and card games that practice arithmetic, to build fluency with some basic math facts, some board games that emphasize spatial reasoning and logic, and even some coding for sequential thinking.

We did so much other awesome stuff this week beside math–check out our Instagram feed to see proof!

Orange Band: Seed, Week 8

Welcome back! I hope everyone had an awesome break!

Breaks are super important for little brains. Kiddos need time to pursue their interests, and follow threads that have sparked interests while at school. And, when we get back from break, it’s always hard work to remember our procedures and protocol for life in the band. I found myself giving lots of little reminders for responsibilities established back in September: check yourself in, read the agenda and morning message to yourself and join morning circle.

A few highlights from this week: class meeting role-play, Wednesday reflection, our first loaf of bread with our wild yeast, and printmaking.

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Nathan, Ramses, Oscar and Sadie role-play a scenario from our “Things friends do that make us feel not so good” list, “One person being the boss of a game.” Kiddos proposed that we can deal with situations like this by advocating for ourselves, and listening to our bandmates ideas.

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Tesla and Gita hard at work on their first reflection guided by the rubric we created to self-assess project work. Kiddos judged skills (Listen, Be positive, Cooperate with Group members, to name a few) non-judgmentally, reporting that they are “Trying to do, “Sometimes doing,” or “Doing” each skill. Then, they chose a skill that they are either “Trying to do” or “Sometimes doing” to write an entry in their reflection journal. They thought about when they find it hard to do the skill, and what could help them do the skill more consistently.

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You guys, sourdough starter tastes pretty funny.

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Whole group work can be overwhelming for Emilio. So, we took some breaks from printmaking on Friday morning to knead our bread dough.

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Amanda said Friday was one of her favorite days! She taught us about transferring the designs we drew for nametags onto the linoleum. It was pretty brainbending thinking about forwards and backwards letters, but we came up with a few strategies: looking at our designs in a mirror worked, but holding them up to the light worked a little better. Here, Ramses rubs the backside of the notecard with his name design with a regular pencil. Next, he’ll put the notecard graphite side down onto the linoleum, and trace over his letters again to transfer them onto the linoleum block.

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Isaac, Tesla and Gita carefully carve out their name designs. Before carving, another choice needs to be made: will your name be the color, or will all of the area around your name be the color?

See y’all next week!

Orange Band: Seed, Week 7

Do we ever not hit the ground running? Answer: NO.

Here we go:

But, WHY these projects? Answer: write an abstract to explain why we chose these particular projects. What is their significance in relation to the theme? How do they relate to our particular band’s seed explorations? How will they show what we have learned as a band?

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Sadie and Gita start to develop characters for a Plant Play.

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Emilio works on a design for our planter boxes. These planter boxes need to have windows for us to peek in on growing plants, but also seal out the light to protect the roots when we’re not looking.

SLINGSHOTS. Need I say more? Design your seed bomb launcher; build your seed launcher; test your seed launcher; make your seed bomb launcher better.

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Oscar makes modifications to the handle of his slingshot.

Keep telling stories! That have to do with math! Solve similar problems lots of different ways, and look how we get the same answer!

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In order to count all, Ramses draws out all of his robot’s laptops and cell phones.

Let’s talk about friendship. A few weeks back, we touched on the idea that if you have a friend, chances are that you’ve had your feelings hurt by a friend. Having a friend is an emotional risk. And it’s a risk we choose to take because we think having friends is better than not having friends. So, let’s spend some time being open and honest about things that friends do that feel good, and other things friends do that make us feel sad or hurt. These kinds of conversations are so important to have in an open and non-judgmental way. It’s crucial for kiddos to feel safe and supported in a learning environment, and that means knowing that their needs, wants, fears and insecurities will be heard and considered without judgement. It means knowing that they will make mistakes, and their mistakes will be met with consequences and without judgement. It means knowing that they are known, loved and supported for the whole–brilliant and flawed–humans that they are.

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Oscar and Sadie examine one of the raised beds at the Treat Commons Garden. We had our work cut out for us–after all of that rain, this bed that was recently planted with kale and parsley was also full of weeds! Some clues that a plant is a weed: it is not in the row, it looks like grass, it is clover.

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This huge earthworm came to visit!

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Nathan helps Ramses dump the baby weeds into the compost.

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Folks, we are in it. And we are not backing down.

Orange Band: Seed, Week 5

As I look through the pictures from this week, I see projects coming to completion, and the sprouts of new projects emerging.

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Gita helps Sadie drill holes in her door handle/hook. Then, they mounted it, and now they’ll work together on mounting Gita’s hook.

 

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Meanwhile, Tesla and Isaac cut foam to make our presentation board. Come check it out!

While older students will work on individual projects as we shift to expression, we will have a couple of group projects. We brainstormed a laundry list of project ideas, and then narrowed down and combined ideas where we could. We will work on 2-3 projects at a time, so that kiddos can choose which project they want to work on on different days. Our projects are creative, involve building and physical manifestations, represent a deeper understanding and larger scope than explorative projects, and are chosen by the students. I’m pumped.

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One project idea: printmaking with the Blue Band. We tried it out this week, and may continue, but probably not as one of our larger projects. Here Gita and Sadie are making their first prints on cardboard. After carving out their drawings, they seal the cardboard with glue, so that they can make many prints without the cardboard getting limp from the paint.

A few other highlights from this week: our first trip to the Treat Commons Garden! I arranged for us to contribute to this garden over the summer, and now that we’re finished with our storage unit, we have time to go every week. This garden focuses mostly on growing food. There is a mix of private and communal plots, and much of the food grown in the communal plots supports a program that provides free boxes of fresh produce for members of the community. We’ll spend our Class Meeting time, each Wednesday morning, in the garden. We’ll learn some chores and ways we can contribute to the communal plots, do some community building, social, and emotional learning activities. Based on what is needed by the group at the time, our focus will shift from communication, tenacity, peer pressure, friendship, and advocacy for yourself and others–just to name a few topics.

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Don’t worry, we’ll keep baking bread!

 

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Tea break on chilly bread baking morning!

 

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Just like Elsa in Bullet #4, BE THOROUGH. 1. Get ready to do your task. 2. Do your task. 3. Clean up after your task. Here, Oscar and Ramses clean up the table we used for mixing our bread dough.

We’ve also talked a lot this week about how we work. We watched a bit of this video (bullets 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10; not all of the video is kid friendly) which outlines some guidelines for studio assistants from the artist Tom Sachs’ studio. I highly recommend! Ask your kiddo about sacred spaces, and Elsa–she’s very thorough. As we get ready to declare our project ideas, it’s important for us to establish how we will do this work: we will treat our workspaces as if they were sacred, we will be thorough, we will work from a plan, we will own our mistakes in order to learn from them, and we will be persistent.

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Signing off.