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!).

2015-09-02 11.01.24

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!

2015-09-03 10.26.42

2015-09-03 10.44.57

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.

2015-09-03 14.55.05

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.

indigo band genre study

The Indigo Band did a series of mini-challenges at the beginning of the arc around film genres. They researched a certain genre of film, presented about the tropes, stereotypes, and traits of those films, and then used what they learned to create films of their own. They were paired up in twos and had a single day to research, film, and edit their movies. They ended up loving the project so much that they did three rounds of it, and learned a lot about editing and sound in this first round of experimenting with movies. The results were pretty spectacular.

The Western film, by Max and Isaac:

The horror film, by Grace and collaborator Rich:

The film noir, by Quinn and Zada:

The spy movie, by Harry and Max:

The romantic comedy, by Grace and Ian:

The musical, by Quinn and Rich:

The comedy, by Isaac and Zada:

The adventure movie, by Ian and Quinn:

The family movie, by Harry and Max:

movie experiments

Students are in full experimenting mode with their movie-making, and have been diving into projects. Some bands are still finishing some videos from their exploration phase, while others have started into project mode with writing scripts, doing research, and getting familiar with being directors and handling cameras, editing software, and sound. Check out the following movie prototypes, advertising study videos, and some more animation tests!

animation tests

The Green band has been looking into animation and experimenting with short films! Check out these short videos they made over spring break:

printing press

In the study of Book, we’ve had a lot of room to explore the process of printing and the printing press itself. Before the Thanksgiving break, each student was assigned a letter – upper or lower case – to design for a one-of-a-kind Brightworks font! The results were pretty unique!


The Green Band has been digitally tracing each letter so that our laser printer can make cutouts out of wood material to ink onto paper.




The Orange Band has been taking a look at several different kinds of printing presses and took a trip to the Aesthetic Union, a printmaking studio just around the corner from the school.






The Red Band visited Charles Chocolates to see another kind of print making – with chocolate!








printing, power, privilege

I had to snag this incredible blog post from Amanda, who describes a conversation from today that she had with her Green band, who range from ten to thirteen years old. I’m reposting with her permission:

Last night, kiddos researched the parts and pieces of a Gutenberg printing press. Since they’re going to be the experts on our engineering project, they spent time researching how it works, why it works, its different iterations, and – perhaps the most fun – the evolution of fonts. (They all know what “san serif” means now.)


And then, in one of those nonchalantly brilliant quirks that happen often at Brightworks, we got into the why. What did the printing press do? became Why was it important? and How did it change the world? We drew up maps of the crusades; we revisited the power of sharing – spreading – ideas; we imagined civilizations without words, versus ones with. Can a civilization survive if their only means of communication is a “giant game of telephone”? Spot on, kiddos. You’d need a vessel to disperse your thoughts, far and wide and fast. And voila! The printing press. Massive expansion of words, books, ideas, people. Today, even, the countries in power (listed by the kids: USA, parts of Europe, Russia, China) are predominately derived from that spread of ideas, from that spark of survival, from that zenith of innovation. How the printing press changed the world.

And isn’t that funny? Some places have more power than others.

Like, hey, I heard about this thing. Can we talk about Ferguson?

I heard that this happened. I heard that that happened. And do you know another black boy was shot recently? Not even in Ferguson, but somewhere else. It’s happening a lot of places. The problem is, would it be happening if any of those kids were white? No!

And you know what I think? I don’t think the specific details of the one case in Missouri matter. Why?

Because it’s happening a lot. Black kids are dying –

Black people are dying!

And it’s wrong. They shouldn’t be shot, a lot of times they’re innocent. Honestly, even if they had stolen something, you shouldn’t be shot. Why are they getting shot?

I think we should call them People of Color – it’s not just black people, it’s all shades of brown that are being oppressed like this. Why?

I think privilege is when I walk to school or to the store, I don’t have to be worried. I’m not afraid. I know I’m safe. But what if I was afraid? What if I never felt safe, just doing those things?

When I walk my dog at night and it’s dark, I am always worried that my white neighbors will get nervous when I cross the street. Sometimes I ask my grandma to come with me, just so they won’t be afraid of me. But like, I’m not going to do anything! They don’t have to be afraid of me!

Why does America have all these problems? Did you know, in the past, only white men could vote. Only rich white men! Not people of color, not women. What a mess. Things are still a mess.

It’s not fair that white people grab their bags when they pass a person of color, or zig zag around the street. IF that person of color is walking nervously, looks nervous or “suspicious”, then it’s because they’ve been trained to do that. They’re used to being thought of as bad guys.

I could go out and wear a hoodie, but a person of color out wearing the SAME hoodie would be considered suspicious. What are they supposed to wear? It’s cold outside!

Change is really hard. It’s always hard. Because when someone’s in charge, it feels really good. They probably don’t want to change. Like, if your life is perfect, why would you want anything different? But it’s wrong. What’s happening is wrong.

This reminds me of something we talked about earlier – superheroes. Superheroes are powerful, but they have to make sacrifices. They choose to make those sacrifices; it’s important to them to do the right thing. They’re responsible. If you have power, you need to be responsible. Power has responsibility.

You’re right, kiddos. If you have power, and you do, and I do. We do. We can walk to the store without being afraid, and wear hoodies on the bus without getting pegged as a criminal. And we go to a great school, and have access to a strong education, and get our fresh tomatoes weekly at the farmer’s market. So what are we going to do? What can we do?

I think if you have those things – if you have privilege, if you have power – it’s your job to make the world a better place.

For everyone.