One of the main threads of inquiry for the beginning of the Clocks arc for the Hawks has been the ancient timekeeping tool of sundials. The Hawks have approached the sundial in the same way they approached their chairs in the first arc: with a first draft! They came up with their first idea of a sundial as a clock face with a dial (called a gnomon) sticking straight out of the middle. Mackenzie writes, “I may have guided them to a more successful sundial if I hadn’t seen such an incredible math opportunity in the challenge of dividing a circle into twelve equal parts.”


She watched as the group started folding their circles in half, and them half again, coming up with fractions as small as 1/32. They discussed the number pattern, them reevaluated to come up with 1/12 for their clock face.


They started using protractors to make each folded fraction equal. “Soon everyone discovered that each section would have to be 30 degrees,” Mackenzie writes. “After lunch the kids returned to the clocks faces add minutes and mark out hours with numbers and roman numerals.”


After some experimentation, however, the Hawks learned that their first prototype did not work, even despite the cloudy day at the beginning of the week.


Mackenzie writes, “The group discovered that the sun travels from east to west in the south casting a shadow across the upper part of the dial and never the bottom! On Tuesday our second iteration of sundial was a simple board with a stick in it that we would mark on every hour. We would bring the clock to where we found a patch of sun then orient it north and mark the tip of the shadow. We discovered the problem with this method was that the uneven ground was messing up our readings. On Wednesday we traced a place for our sun dial that we could return to every hour.”


The Hawks have asked, “Why do so many sundials have tilted gnomons? What angle should our gnomon be?” They report that they have been google searching, watching videos and making mini-solar system demonstrations to try and understand this. We’re excited to see what they come up with!


friday photos

Some photos from Friday:

Phillip made another stop motion video of the morning circle by recreating one minute on a clock face with people.


He set Bruno and Nicky up in making their own videos.



Isaac led a comic-making drawing class.


Elizabeth led the next step in mural painting with Clementine, Aurora, Sadie, Ben, and Quinn.


After Madison’s hair braiding, there was a flower-drawing workshop in the art studio.


Tab asked Sean advice on a personal workshop project.


Christie started an a-capella group in the library and they practiced making harmonies for different songs.


The playwrights practiced scene five of their script, running through lines and blocking out scenes.



Jocelyn made us burritos and all the fixings for lunch!


Madison timed her 13.5 second marble run, with Rhone documenting the process in the background.


hawk chairs!

The Hawks have finished their chairs!


Mackenzie writes,

“This is no small feat…in fact the Hawks practically lived in the workshop for a week to get these chairs done! When using screws it takes less than 3 minutes to join two pieces of wood together, but, when using dowels and glue, each joint takes at least 15 to 20 minutes. This is because each joint has twice as many steps, which means twice as many ways to make a mistake.


The consequences of careless work were immediate and unavoidable, and the amount of focus, resilience and perseverance required by these chairs was immense.



There were times of frustration when chair-building had lost all novelty and was just plain hard. However, the evidence stands around our band table: 6 square, precise and true chairs. These chairs have set the bar for craftsmanship and quality of work at Brightworks. They are truly something to be proud of.”


“I never planned for us to spend three days straight in the workshop. I had put together a balanced schedule so we could avoid burn out and maintain continuity with our academic lessons.



I’m really glad that schedule had to be scrapped. There was something about spaciousness of having nothing to do but build chairs that captured the magic of tinkering school.



In our action packed lives it is rare to find the freedom of a single minded focus on one problem. Because there was nothing more interesting happening next, the kids sank their teeth into the task at hand. I think it was this kind of freedom and spaciousness that Gever had in mind when he founded Brightworks.”



Every November for the past couple of years, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, a world-wide challenge that people take on to write a novel from beginning to end, all in thirty days. This incredible, crazy program is a word-sprint that encourages writers new and old to put away their inner editors and write with abandon for a whole month. NaNoWriMo is now its own nonprofit run out of Berkeley and they have amazing resources for teachers and educators to run it in their own classrooms. I’d tried to encourage kids in Brightworks’ first and second years to write, but there was little interest. Oh well.

But this year, I was thrilled to hear the enthusiasm for the project when I mentioned it in October at morning circle! And I was even more excited with a couple of the collaborators decided that their whole bands should participate and write too! During October, we all sat down together and talked through our fears about setting off on a novel-writing adventure and planned out our characters and plots. There was a lot of pep-talking. There was a lot of encouragement and easing of fears and “You can do it – really”s.

And now it’s November. The seventh of November. And just when I was starting to wonder if this project would really get off the ground and the kids would come through on their word count promises… they did. They have been writing with a fury and an excitement that I haven’t seen about a writing project at this school. As a writer myself, it makes my heart sing to see so many good ideas and big ideas and small ideas come out from these kids’ brains and onto a piece of paper or typed into a google doc. They’re writing! And the best part of it is – they’re really liking it.

A few of the kids were willing to share pieces of their work:

She walked up the stone steps, through the little vegetable garden, and passed the chicken coop finally reaching the door. – Frances

Harry the hamburger was just waking up when his bottom started to burn! Harry danced with joy he was being grilled!! – Norabelle

Quinn would like to report that his story is about robots who play football, and Ben says his story is about skateboarding and a kid who loves it.

When they got on the train it was dark and wet. Nobody was smiling, just of the thought of it kind of sends chills down my back. Drips of water falling silently in the dark shadows of the depressed people. The people looked like tall statues in a desert. – Lola

Natasha says her story is about the big changes in the life of a girl and her family when her father dies and she gets a stepfather.

Altaira was exhausted! But she had to stay up five more minutes! – Audrey

So far, the Brightworks writers (about 25 of us) have written more than 38,000 words… and counting.


The megaband has started using Instagram to document their learning every day! They are required to post one picture to their own school account, label it with the band-specific hashtag, and add a caption that describes the photo’s importance and what was happening in the photo. Here are some highlights from this week so far:

Writing reflections on responsibility!


Ian is showing a TON of focus and self-analysis! He’s really taking this seriously 😉


Learning how to use Instagram as a documentation tool to support our blogs by providing evidence of learning for every part of the day.


Consolidating the main points from details we remembered in the Daylight Savings Time video we watched. Cool fact: it’s possible to change timelines SEVEN times while driving through Arizona.


Winston shows the Band his grandfather’s pocket watch which was made around 1880!



A clock counting tick-tock tick-tock, a heartbeat beating thump-thump, thump-thump, a pendulum swinging back and forth, back and forth – regular consistent measurements that beat, tick, thump, swing through our lives, counting moments short and long. The clock is the subject of our next arc of study, and with it the perception of time, the way it moves differently at so many moments in our lives, changes according to the season or the person, and creates regularity in the way we live.


This morning Gever gave us a formal introduction of our second arc of the year in a quiet moment marked by the sound of a ticking clock that matched a heartbeat. He talked about the way time can shrink and stretch depending on where we are and what the situation is. It was a kind of ethereal introduction with the sun streaming in and a Brightworks-style log pendulum swinging back and forth as Gever poetically, through careful words and a little Alice in Wonderland, brought us into a new mindset in thinking about clocks and that elusive, human-made idea – time.


Today is the beginning of exciting times (pun intended) here at Brightworks. We like to use the first day of the arc to come together and imagine the possibilities, open the doors to new ideas, and get thoughts roiling with curiosity. With our minds tuned to time and listening closely to the ticking of clocks, we’re ready for a new phase of Exploration.