Yellow + Green = Chartreuse

…and Yellow Band + Green Band = Chartreuse Band

A lot of change has taken place in the Yellow and Green bands over the last couple of weeks, and we are so excited to share that we have combined to become Super Band Chartreuse. Since the beginning of the year the Green and Yellow Bands have been sister bands.  We have gone on all our field trips together, worked on our math provocations together and done our projects together. After all, our 16 nine and ten year olds make up a quarter of the entire school.


There have been so many benefits to working together.  As co-teachers we’ve been able to play off both of our individual strengths, pool our resources, create unique lessons, diversify the options available to students and offer more one on one instructional moments. Now each member of the Chartreuse Band has two collaborators supporting them through their journey this year.

We knew that this would be a big change for all the students and a difficult one for some, so we wanted to make sure they felt as involved as possible with decisions being made. We took our need to reconfigure our band spaces to as an opportunity to involve their ideas and integrate a design thinking project. We brainstormed new layouts, everything from using the Yellow Band space as a group meeting space and the Green Band space as personal desk space, to building a bridge from the Yellow Band space to the roof of the office. We took measurements of all our considered spaces and found their area to gather additional data. Knowing that everyone would have their own opinion on what we should do in the end, we chose to take this opportunity to work on our persuasive writing skills. This gave them a chance to share their ideas in a carefully thought out way. It was so wonderful to hear all their ideas and reasons, and most of all to hear them empathize with others whose spaces might be lost in the process. We’ve taken a vote and the ballots will be counted Monday. Hopefully we’ll find some time in this last week before winter break, interspersed among our declaration writing, to create the Chartreuse Band Space(s).20151203_095952

On top of all the practical work of creating a “new” band space, we have also been doing a lot of work around social dynamics. We have been reading a number of Trudy Ludwig’s books, including My Secret Bully, Sorry!, and Trouble Talk. We are learning to empathize with others, appreciate one another for small things we may have not noticed until now, and make thoughtful and honest apologies. We are hopeful that the work we are doing will flow out through the rest of the Brightworks community.


And just in case you find the word chartreuse a bit of a challenge to spell, just remember it is simply chart+reuse.

Seeds, Seedfolks, Seed Olympics!

This post is a collaborative writing project by the entire Yellow Band. Enjoy!

We began our week by figuring out how many acres of farmland we would need to feed San Francisco’s population of roughly 840,000 people. We found that it would take the equivalent of close to 43 San Francisco’s in acreage, if one farm of about 230 acres feeds on average 150 people. That’s a lot of land! Like our hanging gutter planter, one solution is to farm vertically, minimizing its footprint.


We have been continuing to observe out self-watering planters. Last Friday, Quinn’s pinto bean plant had not yet sprouted and by Monday morning it had reached about 7 inches tall. In comparison, Huxley’s lentil plant which had already sprouted last week only grew about 3 inches over the weekend. Patrick’s bean plant that was left to grow on the ledge under the gutter planter has grow up and around the gutter to reach the sunlight. Justin’s plant still has not sprouted. He believes that his soil was too wet when he planted his seed.

Self watering planters

Self watering planters

Self watering planters

Self watering planters

Self watering planters

On Monday afternoon, we walked to the All in Common Community Garden with the Green Band. We continued to read our book Seedfolks. Change continued to be a theme in the chapters we read. We volunteered at the garden and met the garden’s resident cat. We swept and raked leaves to use as fertilizer for some potatoes we helped plant. We learned that the garden had once been a vacant lot just like the garden in Seedfolks.

All in Common Community Garden

All in Common Community Garden

On Tuesday we began our Seed Dispersal Olympics with the Green Band. Our first event was to build a machine that could be activated in the wild that could fling or explode seeds. To help us gather ideas we watched a short video about plants that use explosions to spread their seeds. We all created different designs including slingshots, catapults, and balloons fill of vinegar and baking soda. We will be testing all the designs on Friday.




Wednesday morning we continued our Seed Dispersal Olympics by creating ways to disperse seeds in water. We looked for materials that would float and hold air. Some included corks, balloons, and tin foil. 



In the afternoon, we went to Starbucks to write our NaNoWriMo stories. We wanted to try working in a different environment than our band space. Being able to buy our own treats made some of us feel a bit more at home. Justin, Quinn, and Patrick shared their stories with one another giving each other the chance to add a sentence to each story.



On Thursday morning we began our wind powered Seed Dispersal Olympics. Lucy looked for fluff to add to a seed to help it fly. Nora and Quinn worked to create a hang glider balloon, while Patrick frayed paracord, and Justin worked on a straw and paper hang glider (which he thinks would work better as a boat.) Huxley and his group used tracing paper to make a lightweight bowl to hopefully trap the air as it travelled. After a few trials, Huxley found that his bowl waited to be dropped the opposite way than he had originally expected.




Friday morning brought the “competition” portion of our Seed Dispersal Olympics. We saw everything from catapults to balloon rafts to fluff to water balloon popping devices. While each machine dispersed their seeds in their own unique ways, all machines showed incredible thought regarding the method of dispersal. After the competition, each band member received a medal for their individual contributions to the Seed Dispersal Olympics.

Seed Dispersal Olympics Medal Ceremony

Seed Dispersal Olympics Medal Ceremony

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

We are sailing and tumbling along

The last couple weeks have been quite the adventure: age of the earth math provocations, rock tumblers and sailing on the bay.

Week Four:

While joining forces with the Green Band, we worked to calculate the age of the Earth using two different strategies proposed over time. The first calculation was based on Lord Kelvin’s cooling of the Earth technique, and provided us the chance to learn about scientific notation. We learned more about Lord Kelvin from the documentary Men of Rock. Our second calculation looked at the salinity of the oceans, through Sir Edmond Halley’s work. To support our work, we learned more about metric conversion of units. This work set a foundation for our upcoming project: Timeline of the Earth.



We spent our afternoons in the shop with Sean, working on partnerships and building rock tumblers. Sean had initially told the band that they would be disassembling their rock tumblers at the end of the week, but when asked, “What if they are really good?” he said that if they built rock tumblers that could pass a one hour test, they would be able to keep them. Challenge accepted.





It was amazing how very different each of the three designs were. Justin and Quinn went straight to the Legos, Huxley and Nora got their tumbling container to spin directly connected to a drill, and Lucy, Aurora, and Patrick created a system of PVC pipes to spin their container on. While working in partners and groups wasn’t always the easiest, everyone found ways to compromise and make their voices heard in such a way that each group was able to design and build a rock tumbler that successfully passed a one hour test!!!


We broke up our week inside the building with a Wednesday field trip out onto the Bay with the Green Band. Sailing with the crew from The San Francisco Sailing Company, we had the chance to observe the rocks that make up the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, and Alactraz, as well as learn about sailing and how to tie knots. Once back on land, we made our way over to an outcropping of Alcatraz sandstone, the same type that makes up the island, over at Union and Sansome. While a group walked up the stairs to scout out more rocks, the rest stayed back to observe the sandstone, breaking it apart into smaller sandy chunks.






Week Five:

We spent much of last week working alongside the Green Band once again. This time we joined forces in the afternoons to advance the work on our rock tumblers. Our new motto became, “When the rocks are tumbling, we are winning.” By Monday afternoon we had five rock tumblers in various states of completion and by Tuesday we had one ready to run full time. Students from both bands worked to support one another on their projects and created an open source board of ideas to pull from. By the end of the week, we had two tumblers going all day! Next week we will be looking into how to power them while we are away in Mendocino and cannot change drill batteries.




The timeline of the Earth was the focus of our mornings with the Green Band. In small groups and partnerships, we found metaphorical ways to represent the timeline in smaller, more understandable chunks. We compared the timeline to everything from rings on a tree, to steps to Starbucks, to pages of the dictionary, to feet of a mountain to the minutes on a clock. The group that compared the Earth’s history to the minutes on the clock calculated that each minute represented 75 million years and that humans only came into existence in the last two seconds.







We took some time to continue our rock research. Working through three stations, we researched our rocks, sketched and painted them, and measured them in multiple ways. Next week, we will continue to research our rocks, as well as work on our creative writing piece about them.