Kites are flying. Gever is flying. Teal is flying.

This week the Teal Band set out to build and fly a tetrahedral kite, and along the way, learn some math, read some books, watch the man who started their school “fly,” and do some writing to contribute to this blog.

We began the week with a math exploration on tetrahedrons and some history around kites as modes of transportation. Huxley did some research into tetrahedrons and found out that “a tetrahedron is a polygon with four triangular faces, four vertex corners, and six straight edges. Tetrahedrons are one one of the strongest shapes for many reasons, but the main reason is that any force applied to them gets evenly distributed throughout their structure. Alexander Graham Bell, one of the major contributors to the invention of the telephone and a famous kite scientist, was the inventor of the tetrahedral design we used (for our kite.) He said he dreamed of “flying machines of the future” and theorized that kites could be controlled enough to transport humans. Tetrahedrons are also found in nature, and is a common molecule formation.”

The Teal Band began learning about tetrahedrons by building them out of paper and solving a puzzle.

The Teal Band began learning about tetrahedrons by building them out of paper and solving a puzzle.

We explored a number of kite shapes.

We explored a number of kite shapes.

We ended up deciding to build a tetrahedral kite together as a band. It required the band to construct a series of tetrahedrons.  Patrick explained the process of building it: You can make one by making a tetrahedron out of straws  then you put a layer of tissue paper over 2 of the sides. Next you put 3 of those in a triangle, and then put the fourth on top so the corners are touching. Ta-da! One tetrahedral kite! You can take four of these bigger ones and build an even bigger tetrahedron and so on and on.

To make sure we would have enough tetrahedrons for our kite and enough straws and string to build them, we completed a number of calculations. We found we needed 64 tetrahedrons, made up of 384 straws and at least 3200 inches of string. The amazing part was that this didn’t phase the team of kite builders, instead it pushed the crew to work even harder.

We constructed 64 tetrahedrons out of straws and string.

We constructed 64 tetrahedrons out of straws and string.

Jared wrote that our kite looked “amazing”, but was “afraid it won’t fly because we didn’t tie the knots tight enough, and it will fall apart in the air. The other half of me thinks it will fly perfectly, and it will have no problem flying at all, because we already tested a piece of it in a “wind tunnel”. A wind tunnel is a huge tube with a fan at the bottom of it. We also have studied about kites, so that’s another reason why one part of me thinks that it will fly.”

Freddie shared that on Thursday morning, “we looked into fractions and angles. We started by reading a book called Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith to warm us up. We followed along and did the math questions along the way. After we finished the book we took out pattern blocks. We used them for fractions and learned about the angles. We played with them for a while because that’s just what Brightworks kids love to do. After we got a feel for them, we started to notice how they are just like fractions and some fit with others.” After creating proofs around the angles and the different relationships, they built kite designs using the pattern blocks and transferred them to paper. Taking what they had discovered about the fractional relationships, they added up the “total” of their designs, choosing one of the shapes to represent the “whole.”

It all started with the book Math Curse.

It all started with the book Math Curse.

Exploring angles and fractions in geometry with pattern blocks.

Exploring angles and fractions in geometry with pattern blocks.

Thursday afternoon led us on a journey that not many students can say they have had or will ever experience. The Teal Band, along with the Orange Band, went to Mussel Rock Park in Pacifica to watch Gever fly, a.k.a. paraglide. Selina connected strongly with this trip and shared that, “Mussel Rock is (as you might have guessed) a rock, that got pushed up from in between two tectonic plates, and is from far away. But we didn’t go to Mussel Rock to study geology, we went to watch Gever paraglide. When you paraglide, you sit in a padded harness with strings attached to a large wing above you. The wing is actually two pieces of cloth sewn together with little compartments. The front of the wing is open, trapping the air and making it possible to fly. It’s really amazing to watch someone fly just using the wind coming from the ocean, but you can’t fly in normal wind, you need it to hit a mountain or a cliff and move upwards. Someday (once I convince my parents to let me), I want to paraglide, too.”

It's pretty amazing to watch the man who started your school jump off a cliff and

It’s pretty amazing to watch the man who started your school jump off a cliff and “fly.”

Friday was the big day. It was the day we would find out if all our hard work had paid off. If Jared’s predictions were correct. We headed to Bernal Hill with the Red, Orange and Violet bands. Piper shared her excitement around the day and our kite. “It flew really well, but we hadn’t expected it to fly because right before we got it in the air it kept falling apart and it wasn’t easy to put it back together. It was hard to get all the tetrahedrons ready and tied together before we had to go. We took turns holding the string to help it soar. It was so much fun.”

Aurora became our master kite flyer, testing out multiple ways to keep it in the air. She found that giving the string a “tug” now and then helped get it back up into the air if it began falling. She successfully taught a number of others how to fly it and was a great cheerleader for everyone who tried.

Aurora, Piper and Selina patiently pieced the kite together and even let those from other bands fly it.

Aurora, Piper and Selina patiently pieced the kite together and even let those from other bands fly it.

This was a week of not only building a kite that actually flew or learning more about geometry and fractions, but it was a week that really focused on being a team. The Teal Band didn’t end up with seven separate kites. They ended up with one kite that was truly successful because all seven band members had worked together to build it.

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.


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.

Orange Band: Seed, Week 3

To start, sprouting seeds

Reading, dissecting, playing, exploring

Planting sprouts at last.


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Sadie carefully takes apart the sepals and ovary at the base of one of her flowers.


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Isaac and Sadie playing dominoes with multiples of 2 scoring.


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Ramses, Gita and Emilio working on illustrations of their characters for our NaNoWriMo projects with help from MB!


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Ramses and Tesla with the plants they chose at Plant Warehouse.


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Planting our sprouts in dirt. Thank you for sending in the egg cartons!

Yellow Band: Our Exploration into Seed is Growing and So Are Our NaNoWriMo Novels

It’s amazing to think that we have completed our first arc, are already two weeks into our exploration of Seed, and have launched into NaNoWriMo.

We began the arc by exploring the idea of seed and plant as food. The grocery store and the farmer’s market both provided perfect locations for scavenger hunts. At the grocery store they worked to find seeds you drink, seeds that are baked into something, seeds you can spread, seeds with caffeine, seeds in a can, and many more ways to consume or use seeds. The farmer’s market gave them a place to search out seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of all kinds. Not only did we search out these plants parts, but we bought a representative of each (seeds-corn, roots-carrot, stem-celery, leaves-lettuce, flowers-squash blossoms, fruit-tomatoes), split up into groups to study and dissect them, shared our learning with each other, and then created and enjoyed a delicious salad out of them.










In the first week we also took a closer look at seeds through the dissection of corn kernels and peas. We observed the differences between the two types of seeds: monocots (one cotyledon – corn) and dicots (two cotyledons – peas). We studied and researched their various parts, learning about their functions.






Week two took us into the launch of NaNoWriMo, Slide Ranch, and self-watering planters. The creative juices have been flowing and the Yellow Band has been begging to stay in from park to continue working on their novels everyday. There are talking berries, an ant named Snail and a snail named Ant, kings and princesses, and a bunch of newts all named George. They are constantly supporting each other, helping one another brainstorm plot twists and character names. Sneaking a peak at their stories whenever I can is the highlight of my day.

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Yellow band NaNoWriMo launch day!

Our trip to Slide Ranch took us to a working farm where we milked a goat, saw a whale in the distance, fed chickens and learned about their egg laying, played in the “fennel forest” and ate fennel “gum,” and relaxed in the vegetable garden while listening to the book A Seed is Sleepy.

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

Slide Ranch

As a way to create an observation nursery in our band space, we built self-watering planters out of recycled plastic food containers. The planters were created by drilling holes in the bottom of a smaller container and threading yarn or string through them. The smaller container was then slowly filled with soil, as to make sure the strings or yarn were spread throughout, and then seeds were planted. The larger bottom container was filled with water before placing the smaller container and its lower dangling strings or yarn into it. The goal is for the water to travel up the yarn or string and seep out into the soil, slowly self-watering the plant. We will continue to observe and track the growth of our plants throughout the arc.

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Creating self-watering planters

Orange Band: Rock Week 3

This week was great! We got to get down to the nitty gritty of rock: we made some crystals and started to think about the geologic time scale.

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While our crystals processed, we kept going with other projects in our bandspace: working on our storage unit, building scales to inform our discussion of equations, and reflecting on the things we’re doing well, and the things we are continuing to work on.

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We also kept moving forward with self-portrait collages to hang in our bandspace–these are going to be beautiful!

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We took lots of walks, some around BWX, some outside. And the illustrious Nathan even joined us! We welcomed Nathan into our bandspace Wednesday morning to join us for our Class Meeting. He’ll be with us every Monday and Wednesday morning, and every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. With Nathan, we’ll be able to really go deep, and differentiate for each kiddo along the way. Yay!

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Yellow Band Tells the stories of rocks

Four more days into the school year and we are moving full steam ahead, as a band and as geologists.

Roots ripping apart rocks. #slickenside #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

The Yellow Band began the week by making a very hot trek up to Corona Heights along with their fellow geologists in the Green Band. Taking the long way down to the park gave us the chance to explore the vast amounts of chert that make up the hill. The questions began almost immediately. “Why is it rust colored?” “How was it made?” “How old is it?” “What are the stripes?” “How are the stripes different than the layers?” Success!!! They were interested in rocks. We took some quiet time to sit with our rocks, observe them, sketch them, and record our observations and questions.

Sketching rocks. #slickenslide #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

#slickenslide #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks#slickenside #coronaheights #yellowband #greenband #rock #sfbrightworks

As they sketched, they sat in the shadow of something very special, one of the world’s largest occurrences of slickenside (a polished and striated rock surface that results from friction along a fault or bedding plane.) “It looks like China!” “How far into the ground does it go?” “How did that happen?” We certainly had a lot of questions to go back to school and research.

Researching the chert and slickenside we observed on yesterday's field trip. #yellowband #sfbrightworks

Wednesday was filled with researching our questions. We discovered that the chert we found is a sedimentary rock rich in silica, formed from the tiny silica shells of marine plankton called Radiolaria. Its rust color reflects that there was a great amount of oxygen oxidizing small amounts of iron in the sediment as it became rock.  

Introducing the Arc of Rock #sfbrightworks #rock @gevertulley

Gever’s introduction to the arc during Thursday’s morning circle with the story of his rock couldn’t have come at a better time. That was the day that the Yellow Band learneded that they would have Pet Rocks. Each of us brought in a rock that held some sort of importance to us. We are going to have some fun with this mini project. We’ll create manuals and write stories or comics, telling the story of our rock, both scientifically and fictionally (come on, don’t all rocks love living in a striped sock?)

Friday Tea and Talk #yellowband #brightworks

We wrapped up our week with what will become a weekly occurrence, our Friday Tea and Talk. This is a time we can share our feelings from the week, ask for support and suggestions on dealing with challenges or conflicts, and simply become a stronger band.

Next week we’ll continue to explore the rock landscape of San Francisco, research our rocks, and grow even more as a band.

Orange Band: GO!

Wowee, what a first week! We hit the ground running here in the Orange Band (though we try really hard to walk inside), and touched on a little bit of everything the past few days.

On Wednesday, we got started by introducing ourselves and sharing skills–things we really like to do, or that we’ve been practicing and would feel comfortable teaching to another person. Here in the Orange Band, we have pianists, dancers, story tellers, zoologists, readers, mathematicians; we took these talents, and created a chain to show our skills and talents will connect us together throughout the year. Then, we all took a few minutes to explore the bandspace, noticing the tools and materials we have in our space, the types of workspaces, and thought about what our bandspace might be missing (more on this later!).

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On Thursday morning, we got quite a treat–we got to spend the morning in the shop with Sean! Sean, our resident zen master/carpenter, talked to us about teamwork, and what it looks like to help one another. First, a helper must observe. Then, they should ask, “What are you working on?” in order to discern if the helpee does, in fact, need help. Next, a helper can ask, “What can I do to help?” or offer suggestions if they think they know what the problem is. It is SUPER important to listen! Then, it’s the helper’s chance to help. Make sure to give the helpee the chance to learn from their mistake!

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Then, we returned to our list of tools, materials, and attributes of our space–this time, thinking about what our space is missing.  Answer: STORAGE! In our bandspace, we don’t have a cubby system or hooks (yet!) to store our backpacks, jackets, journals and other supplies. We spent a few minutes thinking about what we would like in a storage unit, then spent the rest of the time until park visiting the other bands to see how they are storing their personal and shared belongings.

In the afternoon, we broke out our sketchbooks and went for a walk to check out some serpentine poking out at the corner of Mariposa and San Bruno. We feel so lucky to have such great rocks to look at so close to Brightworks! Kiddos took a seat, and drew what they saw, noticing layers in the rock, and big protruding boulders haphazardly stacked.

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Friday morning, we returned to our discussion of storage. We took a look at some notes we took about the storage in other bandspaces, and pointed out things that many or most other bands have in common and that we think are important. Then, each kiddo made a drawing of a storage unit for our space. After snack time, we carefully examined these drawings, and made a list of what we all had included in our drawings:

  • Shelves for books, journals
  • Hooks for backpacks or jackets
  • Nametags and individual spots
  • Cubby-style shelves for bigger items like backpacks

On Thursday and Friday, we had a couple of lively discussions about group agreements: making suggestions, noticing similarities between some of our suggested agreements, discussing the purpose of spending time on group agreements, and thinking about what a learning environment could be like without group agreements. In moments like these, I find it so helpful to have a building full of dedicated and thoughtful teachers and learners. We paid a visit to the Indigo Band to learn about some agreements they made with each other and why they chose these agreements. The older kids explained that they wanted to prevent future conflict, value each other’s contributions, and wanted to guarantee a safe space where everyone would feel comfortable to contribute.