Exploring Neighborhoods and Enjoying Some Food

 

We began our exploration of neighborhoods and streets with an exercise in mental mapping. Working step by step, we drew from memory the streets radiating out from our homes, then layering on information including street names, homes of those we know, businesses, green spaces, and stop signs. Throughout the activity, we began to recognize what it is we find special and valuable about the neighborhoods we live in. We finished off the activity by thinking about a memory we experienced in a location somewhere on the map we had just drawn, such as where we learned to ride a bike, where we witnessed a car accident, or where a friend who has moved away once lived, and illustrated the memory within our maps.

Thinking about our iconic hilly streets of San Francisco, we launched an exploration of grade (also referred to as slope). We took to the streets of nearby Potrero Hill with levels and measuring tapes in hand to record the rise and run of a number of streets in order to calculate the grade. Calculating the grade of a street requires the understanding of a number of math concepts and skills including rise and run, division, decimals, and percentages. Using the data collected and the calculated grades of the streets, the students later worked with Rich on graphing their slopes and changes in slopes, before moving onto replicating streets with 3D cardboard models.

In an effort to get to know neighborhoods in San Francisco we might not spend much time in but have been major players in our iconic history, we walked over 6 miles from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square, up Hyde and down Lombard, through North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, and to the Old Mint to bus back to Brightworks. We discovered a number of connections to history through food, especially our famous San Francisco sourdough and it’s starter, along with the names of neighborhoods such as North Beach having actually been a beach on the north end of the city.

Taking a bit of food history home with us from our walk through Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, we researched the history of cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew that was invented by the San Francisco Italian fishermen of North Beach in the late 1800s using whatever seafood was left over from the day’s catch, before learning to cook it. Connecting the San Francisco food traditions, we soaked up the broth of our cioppino with San Francisco sourdough.

We rounded out our week of neighborhood exploration with an exercise known as “Question Formulation Technique” to prepare us for our neighborhoods and community creative project using the Glowforge laser cutter. Using the prompt, “We desire to live in neighborhoods that fulfill our needs and wants,” the students worked in groups to brainstorm as many questions as they could that will provide them with answers that will inform their designs. They will individually be narrowing down this list to three driving questions to guide their designs of a neighborhood layout, community building or resource.

We also invite you to follow us on our exploration of ‘City’ on our new Google Site.

The journey to Angel Island

The week before spring break took us on a journey to Angel Island and through the lives of the Chinese immigrants of the late 1800s and early 1900s. On Monday, the Teal and Violet bands studied historical documents pertaining to the Chinese living in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the rest of the US, such as the Cubic Air Ordinance and the Chinese Exclusion Act. We also examined a number of historical photographs of Chinatown, observing the traditional clothing and hairstyles, as well as the lack of women. Exploring these documents and photos, the two bands began to piece together what it was like to be a Chinese immigrant at this time and all the various ways in which the white government was working to make their lives increasingly difficult in hopes of driving them out of San Francisco and the United States altogether.

Using historical documents and photos, the Teal and Violet Bands uncovered the history of the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco.

To continue building our math skills needed to calculate density, we took an afternoon to review long division with decimals in the quotient (that’s the answer to a division problem for those that it’s been too long to remember.) It’s entertaining to see how much everyone dreads long division and worksheets until that moment when it all clicks and they can’t wait to solve the next problem. That feeling of success and accomplishment is pretty amazing.

Sometimes a worksheet is necessary.

After finishing The Dragon’s Child, we walked through the story of Gim Yep. Written very much like a diary of sorts, we recalled the people, places, and events he wrote of, along with the emotions he experienced throughout. This conversation built perspective around his life and experiences. It allowed the bands to put themselves in Gim’s shoes and the shoes of others he encountered. It began to lay the foundation for the historical diaries they are currently working on.

Talking through the events, emotions, and characters of The Dragon’s Child.

On Thursday, we took the ferry to Angel Island to visit the Immigration Station. It was incredibly powerful to see the detention barracks in person after reading about the experiences of the immigrants in The Dragon’s Child and in the historical documents. We saw firsthand the tight quarters they were forced to stay in, the small outdoor spaces they were allowed to walk in once a week, and the stories carved in the walls in the form of poetry. Many observations were made about the number of people forced to sleep in one room and the poor quality of the bedding they were supplied with. Being in the space created a real sense of empathy and perspective, and started a number of conversations around the historical diaries they were beginning to plan. It is a big leap for them to put themselves so solidly in someone else’s shoes, but it is something they are ready to challenge themselves to do.

Seeing the bunks and the belongs in the detention barracks really began to put the immigrants’ experiences into perspective.

The Angel Island Immigration Station detention barracks and dock.

The stories of the immigrants are right there on the walls in poetry.

 

The Launch of By Land and NaNoWriMo

After an amazing week in the Mendocino Woodlands, the Teal Band had to come back to the reality that is Brightworks and the start of a new arc and the launch of NaNoWriMo. They began their week with a visit from Piper’s father Evan, who shared his process of writing children’s picture books. The story of writing his first book, shared with the band ways to look to their personal experiences for story ideas, even if the story takes you to a fantastical world where animals talk, drive trucks, and hold down jobs. During the remainder of the week, the band looked at elements of writing, character development, and plot lines. They mapped out the plot of Evan’s Giraffe Rescue Service, seeing it as a rollercoaster, with the climax of the story peaking at the top of the first hill.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by Evan, as he reads his book 'Giraffe Rescue Service' to the Teal and Blue bands.

Piper shares the illustrations drawn by her dad, as he reads his book ‘Giraffe Rescue Service’ to the Teal and Blue bands.

Using 'Giraffe Rescue Service,' the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Using ‘Giraffe Rescue Service,’ the Teal Band looked at the rollercoaster ride that is a plot line.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Planning for NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

Everyone has their own way of planning for NaNoWriMo.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear from a few members of the Mission District and Bernal Heights’ Hispanic communities. They shared their connection to Alex Nieto and his story in preparation for those attending Loco Bloco’s play, “On the Hill: I am Alex Nieto.” They also shared stories of others in the community, many of whom are greatly affected by the gentrification occurring in San Francisco. This is not always an easy conversation to have, but it is an important one that we will continue throughout the year and for years to come.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

Hearing the stories of Alex Nieto and the gentrification of San Francisco.

On our way to catch BART on Wednesday morning, we took a slight detour down Clarion Alley. This alley sits between Mission Street, a street that still holds on to much of its original Mission District roots, and Valencia Street, one that has seen a lot of change due to gentrification. It is home to numerous murals painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project. We took the time to stop and look at a few that addressed struggles of San Francisco and the changes its facing as its population continues to grow.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

Murals on Clarion Alley, making a statement about San Francisco.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

More Clarion Alley murals getting their message across through art.

On Thursday, we really began to look at the “movement of education by land,” a concept we will be focusing on this arc. We started our journey into this exploration by watching the documentary “On the Way to School” (trailer is below.) It follows four groups of children around the world on their often dangerous and long journeys to get to school. When asked to reflect on the children’s experiences, Selina wrote:

I think that a lot of children across the world have to make long journeys like this to get to school because a lot of towns don’t have enough resources to have a school. So they send their children on journeys to other bigger towns that can afford to have schools. I think that the reason that the parents want them to go to school is that they didn’t get a chance to have an education…I think that the reason that these kids want to go to school so much, even though the journey is so treacherous, is because they are all very poor, and this opportunity to learn can not only make them happier but let them get a job that can support them and their families. Even though these journeys are hard, I think that school is something that is so amazing to these children that they would do almost anything to go to school.”

While we are not passing elephants, riding horses or walking upwards of four hours, each of us makes a journey to school everyday and we will be looking into those journeys, how they affect us, and the effects they have on others and the planet.

One of the ways the Teal Band will be looking at these journeys to school is by collecting data using a school wide questionnaire. On Friday morning they brainstormed a number of questions they felt would lead to strong explorations and provocations, and created a Google Form. They are interested in comparing the journeys of the students of Brightworks to those of their parents.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

Brainstorming questions for the Getting to School questionnaire.

We wrapped up the week with a bit more work on our bridge storage wall. They worked as a team to support one another as they constructed the frame and cut and attached the shelves. Progress is being made.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It takes teamwork to make sure the shelf frame is screwed together squarely.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.

It also takes teamwork to make sure the shelves are just right so they will fit the frame.