new website!

Thanks to our amazing tech parent Aaron, our new website is live! We’ve been excited to change the look of the school’s website to show off its many facets and the liveliness of this place. It will take us a couple days to work out the bugs and re-insert photos that got lost in the shuffle, so we ask for your patience as we do a full sweep of the pages. If there are broken links or missing photos by the end of the week, do feel free to send an email to to let us know what we missed.

Pastries and Pigeons: A Map for all the World to See

At Brightworks, we push students to approach the world beyond our school doors as their rightful learning domain, rich with opportunities for connection, exchange and inspiration. The exploration phase of our arc is marked by field excursions and contact with community experts. Professionals take time to visit our students and share their passions, inspiring new ideas and project directions. From this simmering of perspectives we expect to change what we – the children, collaborators and experts – initially perceive as possible.

It turns out that lot of magic can happen when a mutually inspiring exchange occurs between a student and an expert, which is what occurred between Beth and Natasha, resulting in a surprising turn of events this fall.

During our Maps Arc last spring, we had the pleasure of welcoming our neighbors, Beth and Shawn from Stamen Design, into our space to present the kinds of maps they make. In her enthusiastic blog post, Beth noted that the children quickly understood that “maps are pictures of data, and data can by anything.”

Natasha Mei was particularly inspired by the presentation and decided that for her final project she would do what Stamen does: put two seemingly unconnected data points together to make an interesting and beautiful map.


Throughout the process of planning, researching, doing field work for data collection, emailing La Boulange some questions, consulting with Beth, seeking guidance from Gever and me (her collaborator), and lots of testing and revising, Natasha stayed committed to her vision of a beautifully detailed product. Her work culminated in a multi-layer map showing a relationship between La Boulange cafès and pigeons, a work of art and science that she calls “Natasha’s Pigeon and Pastry Project.”

Recently, we received word from Beth about the UC Berkeley Symposium, “Mapping and its Discontents”, which called for submissions of “see-through maps that lay bare their point of view discussing the position of the mapmaker, the ways maps reveal or hide their agendas, and the uses to which maps are put.”

Natasha needed no further persuasion to submit. She explained to me that, if chosen, it would be really exciting to have her map published in the world, “for other people to see, [not just] Brightworks people at the exposition night.”

Not only was Natasha’s map chosen as a notable map among other provocative and beautiful entries, she received an Award of Special Merit!  Check out Natasha’s page, which includes her essay, on the symposium’s web site (

Natasha attended opening night with her parents, which was formatted much like the Brightworks Exposition night in which creators stand by their projects to answer questions and talk about their process and rationale.


Her mother Aleksandra reported, “During a break she spotted Beth from Stamen, went to say hi (Edwin and I hung back), and Beth greeted her warmly and introduced her to quite a few people.  From there, Susan Moffet and Jennifer Wolch, the Dean of the College of Environmental Design, came over to say hello to Mei and present her with an award of special merit. Mei had a lot of presence and answered questions with clarity and poise both during this break as well as after the speakers concluded.”


Check out symposium attendees’ tweets about Natasha Mei’s project:

When I asked Natasha what it was like for her, she said, “I was nervous, but I was proud. I was the only kid there. I got one of only two awards given out!”


We are all so proud of Natasha, so grateful for our relationship with Beth and the gang at Stamen, and we feel certain this will not be the only case in which our students’ projects get notoriety in the world!


We regret to announce that, due to the deluge of weather pouring on San Francisco, we are postponing the Grand Prix de la Mayonnaise until September 30th. Hold onto your racing stripes and banners until then – and we’ll see you at the racetrack in the fall!


summer camp

It’s official – we’ll be holding ten weeks of summer camp here at Brightworks starting in June! Each week will be based on one of three mini-arcs: By Hand, Nature, or Construction. Head to the Summer Camp page on our website for details and the application.

Not Too Late to Support Brightworks

Dear Friends,

Brightworks is showing that education can be engaging and compelling, full of wonder and amazing experiences. In the first four months of school we have had more than thirty visiting experts, more than twenty-five excursions to sites around the Bay Area, and four local artists in our artist-in-residence program. Educators around the country and the world are contacting us daily for inspiration to bring back to their own classrooms and communities, and we love sharing what we have learned in order to further the national and international dialogue about educational reform. We are creating a new type of learning experience, and it’s changing how people talk and think about education.

This is a transformative time for us, and you can help. Make a tax-deductible donation this year in order to help Brightworks succeed. We are a very low-overhead organization and every dollar we receive goes directly to helping create life-long learners and world-changers.

Have something to share with our students, or time to volunteer? We love visiting experts, and we can always use a helping hand around the school. Contact Justine to schedule a visit or learn about upcoming projects that you may be able to help out on.

Want to share us with your friends? We’ve got a Facebook page and a twitter account that are updated almost daily.

Have a wonderful 2012, and thank you for supporting Brightworks,
Gever, Ellen, Justine, Josh, Mackenzie, Chane, Anthony

tinkering studio blog

Our friend at the Exploratorium Luigi (who was also our sleight-of-hand magician expert last week) wrote an incredible blog post on the Tinkering Studio’s blog about our adventure to their neck of the woods yesterday. The photos are fantastic! Again, thanks and kudos go out to these great educators who took a leap by experimenting with us and were totally awesome playing things by ear yesterday.

Check out Luigi’s post here.

You can also see the Tinkering Studio’s photos of yesterday here.