community friday number 1

Today, a group of guest bloggers (Mackenzie, Kaia, Frances, and JP) took these photos during our Community Friday morning activities. We love Community Friday – it’s a morning of exploring different modes of expression, talking to people we don’t usually get to see during school, and a place to show passion and dedication to things you love, and share them with the community.






DSC00739Anthony talked to a student about what a great day it is


Amanda, Grace, Kaia, Ally, Lucy and Julian under took a sewing project to decorate the green bandspace!



Sadie in Action


  Lucy, Nolan, Ally and Shawna are in the art studio sewing fabric for pillows and forts.




Amelia helping prepare lunch!


Isaac, Sakira, Zada, Natasha, and Isaac joined Lili in the art room making collage creatures.




Oscar and Travis played Magic the Gathering


day one of year four

It’s always a beautiful sight to see the kids arriving at school on the first day, seeing them exploring the changes, greeting friends and making new ones, and walking around dewy-eyed with excitement at their new home away from home.




Morning circle.






Red Band.


Blue Band.


Green Band.


Indigo Band.


Yellow Band.


Orange Band.



back to school

Brightworks is back in session for our fourth school year! We’ve arrived with style and a foundation of great spontaneous curriculum, solid collaborators, staff, parents, and students who are jazzed to get back in and get started. The place was humming this morning as new and returning students and their families checked out the changes to the space, said hello, and got acquainted with our staff. But before today was a summer of hard work and planning, particularly in the whirlwind of these last two weeks before school started. The space went through some major changes and between staff working long hours and parents volunteering during the long weekend, we got everything in place. Here’s a look at the work in process:













year four arc topics

Next year’s arc topics are:




The photograph is an instant captured with a mixture of electrical, mechanical, optical, and chemical technology. The light that it captures cannot be seen until it is bathed in chemicals or processed by a computer, yet the image that is revealed can only truly be understood, appreciated, made sense of, by a person. Each frozen moment, a slice of time, reveals hints of what happened before and carries implications of what comes after – a story told in a single frame. Photographers have captured the best and worst of humanity, created infamous hoaxes, and revealed the biggest mysteries. Though there may come a day when face and object recognition algorithms will be able to project and extrapolate from a single frame the way that we do, and the connection that we make with a powerful image is personal and unique to each of us.

​The book is a collection of pages bound together. In essence; a physical representation of the thoughts of a human being, the tangible implementation of telepathy, words arranged in a specific sequence designed to put an idea into a strangers mind.​ The revolution of moveable type revolution, started in China almost 1000 years ago and later adapted by Gütenberg, accelerated the rapid spread of ideas and narratives (locally and globally). Books have proved remarkably long-lasting as artifacts, and centuries of their effectiveness can be seen in the hundreds of examples of history changing manifestos and tomes. Books have been banned, embraced, and banned again. They have been esteemed and reviled; pages filled with words arranged in such a way to move the heart and mind.

The movie is a sequence of still frames played in sequence to simulate motion – it combines the technology of the photograph and structure of the book to create something altogether new. It is a story told in scenes and moments, visual by nature and emotional in delivery. An on-rushing train drove audiences from their seats in the earliest experiments and when talkies were first introduced, audiences would argue with the characters on screen – reality suddenly became mutable on a massive scale. The spectacle and the intimate drama both became popular. Movies defined culture in countries around the world.

What ties these things together is the simple idea of story. Where would you start if you set out to explore the idea of a photograph? With Louis Daguerre in the 1840’s with his incredibly toxic chemical processes that involved chlorine, bromine, and, to fix the image, bathing the plate in mercury vapors? Or perhaps you would consider that the act of composing a photograph might be analogous to writing a book or movie and that cropping, dodging, burning, and the pantheon of darkroom and desktop effects are likewise analogous to editing? Or that the pages of a book could each be works of art and that taken together they are like frames in a movie? Or…?

What also ties each of these topics together is that they each deserve a lifetime of exploration. While that could certainly be said for any of the recent topics (salt, fairness, clock, mirror, etc), these are particularly expansive and each present a soaring and sometimes treacherous mountain with no obvious or singular approach. So we come to the crux of the challenge of 2014/15; for each of the collaborators to find a path that makes sense of the mountains. We chose story as the connective thread because it unifies the three without dwelling on the technologies or the minutia, which, in the same way that measurement tied 2013/14 together, is not meant to exclude deep dives and rich digressions but rather to act as a touchpoint and easy place to call home.

year three at brightworks

Every year I’ve tried to sum up the whole of the parts that make up a year at Brightworks, and I’ve discovered that it’s actually mostly impossible. What I do know how to say is that this year, we made progress in defining who we are and what we do in a more supportive environment than we’ve ever had. The kids grew in their self confidence and ability to question, we put systems in place that lasted the whole year, students developed greater trust in each other and their collaborators – and we are more Brightworks than ever. We are made up of the sum of the parts – kids, staff, parents, siblings, friends, supporters – and are solidly and wholly a community and a family.


brightworks at the ocean

We started a tradition last year of heading out to Ocean Beach on the last Thursday of the school year, so we were back in the sand for a day of playing, chatting, digging holes, playing in the water, exploring the dunes, and enjoying each other’s company. It was foggy, windy, and a little cold, but that didn’t stop sunburns the next day on everyone’s cheeks!




















We started the year with fires in our cabins at Mendocino, and ended with a bonfire at the beach. Full circle.





allen distinguished educators award

Educators all over the world are watching the blog and have been inspired by what we do with our students at Brightworks and our associated program, Tinkering School. Teachers and summer camp counselors across the United States, in Thailand, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, and Mexico have emailed or called to ask for guidance in starting their own programs modeled on ours. The programs that Gever has inspired – both Brightworks and Tinkering School – are contributing to the changes in education that the 21st century student actually needs in order to be a flexible, curious, dynamic adult.


Yesterday, the Paul G. Allen Foundation announced that Gever is an inaugural Allen Distinguished Educator (ADE). The Paul G. Allen Foundation, established by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, funds research around the globe that seeks to change the conventional assumptions and solutions to issues in education, science and technology, arts and culture, and poverty. Their funding supports organizations whose mission is to make unusual solutions to those issues a reality, and they have awarded over $494 million to programs that transform lives, strengthen communities, and foster innovation, creativity, and social progress.

From their press release: ““We look to support the creative and the untapped. We’ve chosen each ADE because we know they have the entrepreneurial mindset to rethink education,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “The approach of every single ADE has the potential to create a life-changing experience for students – opening them to think in different ways, to be curious and turn newfound knowledge into action.””

Gever was recognized for the Arc-based pedagogy that emphasizes hands-on and experience-based learning in the context of a vastly interesting and graspable world. At Brightworks, we put a child’s individuality, creativity, and desire to learn at the forefront of the experience, guiding them to make connections between ideas, see through different perspectives and modes of expression, and use their learning in hands-on, applicable ways.

This ADE award serves as another point of validation for our unique approach to education. Congratulations to Gever!