Coming back from winter break, the Violet Band set right to work on their Expression projects.  The projects exhibited illustrate a diversity of thought surrounding the concept of “Cloth”; everything from how cloth is made, using cloth to help others, and even designing a home in cloth.  The Violet Band Crew took some time to explain what they are doing, in their own words.  Check out a few of their exciting projects!

 

Frederica, age 12
For my project I am making coconut husk (Coir) into  a usable thread. I will chemically soften it using NaOH (Caustic Soda) then treating the Coir with MgCL2 (Magnesium Chloride). I will then incorporate this softened Coir with other natural materials including wool, hemp, and cotton. I will then test the flexibility, durability, and tensile strength of each blend of Coir and other material. From this project I have learned that Coir is usually is used for ropes and mats and is produced in India and Sri Lanka. In India, which produces one fourth of the worlds coconut, only 15% of the husks are recovered for use. India annually produces 280,000 metric tons of husks. Coir fibers are categorized into two sections, from ripe to immature coconuts. Ripe coconuts produces coarse brown strands which is  highly resistant to abrasion and strong, they are also one of the only naturals materials to float in sea water. Brown husks  are usually used for mats, rope, and upholstery. Unripe or immature coconut produce light brown or white soft and weak threads which are spun into yarn which is woven into mats or twisted into twine for rope.

Aurora helps Frederica build her fume hood.  After building the hood, Frederica taught her peers about how she used lye safely

 

 

Patrick, 12
At my school, we have three arcs in the school year. Each arc is two parts, Exploration and Expression. This year we have Coin, Cloth and Cities. The current arc is Cloth. In Exploration, we learn about the subject and go on fieldtrips to try and find an idea for our Expression project. My project is felting multiple cup sleeves, like the cardboard slip-ons at Starbucks. As this won’t take too much time, I am also felting a original item, which is turning out to be a plant… thing. I had to design the plant, as well as multiple cup sleeves, until my expert explained the prices for the wool. I just learned how to felt, and think everyone should at least try it.

Thanks for reading,
Patrick

Patrick exhibits his first iteration of his felted sleeve

 

 

Selina, age 12
For my project, I am using SketchUp to create multiple room designs. I will have three designs in total. My designs are based off of a Victorian style. They also have as low carbon-footprint as possible, all while keeping it within a reasonable price range (reasonable meaning not higher than a normal Victorian room). Along with this, I am designing my own chair. It is a cross between an armchair and an ottoman. So far, I have finished my final drawings and my paper model. I still have to create a final foamcore model, then put it into SketchUp. My goal is to have three examples of environmentally friendly rooms, using low water-consuming material, low-waste dye, and healthy (not chemically harmful) cloth. Doing this project has taught me how to use Sketchup, how to create comfortable, aesthetically pleasing designs, and how to manage both aspects of my project.

Selina working away at one of her iterations on Sketch-Up

 

Trudy, age 12
My project is creating a photo essay about how the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies and clothing can affect a woman’s self perception of themselves and their body. There will be two photos of each woman, one in an outfit that makes them feel confident and another in an outfit that they think highlights their insecurities. I am also taking audio interviews where I ask the women to share some experiences they’ve had feeling bad about their body. I’m going to compile each person’s audio and photos and post them to an Instagram account I created for this project. So far I’ve learned that I lose things very easily and that cutting PVC pipe gives me anxiety. My first photoshoot is today, Wednesday, January 17, and I have one tomorrow and two or three on Saturday. My next steps are getting my backdrop together and finding a microphone and other equipment for recording.

Trudy built her own backdrop for her models.  She designed it to be easily taken up and down so she can travel with it.

 

 

Jared, age 12
Hello! My name is Jared, Im a 7th-grader, and in my school out semester is divided into three subjects, these three are: coin, cloth, and city, we call these “arcs”. Majority of the time, we make up projects related to the arc. For example: my project is weaving as many scarves as I can for the homeless. This includes carving out the loom. (A tooI I need to weave the scarves). Along with donating all of the scarves I end up making to a homeless shelter.

 

 

 

 

Violet Band’s Exciting Week

This week we transitioned back into the classroom, after last week’s epic adventures.  

On Monday, the Violetiers gave presentations on Cloth Items that were listed on our packing lists from the Angel Island trip.  They shared historical, contemporary and personal origin stories through powerpoint presentations that were shown to the band.  We found out what the first sleeping bags looked like, the origin of cargo pants, how leather is made, all about a new fiber called Cupro, Gap’s sweatshops, and a personal history of a backpacked named George.    

 

Also on Monday, Violet and Amber explored a reverse engineering exercise on objects around Brightworks.  Groups of two or three sketched the object, deconstructed it, annotated all of it’s parts, and reconstructed the object to think about how parts work together to make a whole.  

 

 

Then on Tuesday things got spooky….

 

When Wednesday came around, the Violetiers explored Materials Science with our local expert Rich, conducting stress tests to explore tensile strength in fibers. Check out this video of the band’s reaction when a fiber hit it’s breaking point!

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Wednesday was the FIRST day of the famous…… NANOWRIMO!  
Yes, that’s right, the Nation Novel Writing Month has begun! Violetiers jumped in, and began their stories and  setting their word-goals.

 

Thursday we discovered the ways that Fashion Designers use math by learning about pattern drafting and calculating how many square feet of fabric our own garments use.  We also did the math to plan how many yards we would have to buy in order to recreate our clothing.  

On Friday, as an overview, Violet Band took a small Week Quiz to remind ourselves what we learned this week.
In the afternoon, we perfected our pattern math, determined how many yards of fabric we need to make our wearable shelter, and drafted technical drawings to show our intended project.  

What a wonderful week it has been!

Yellow Band: Coin, Week 5

Remember last week when I said we had something very exciting in the works? For my last week here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering, the Yellow Band and I decided to do something fun, exciting and meaningful. Out with a bang, as they say!

Christian carefully carves his potato stamp coin.

May carefully spreads ink onto her potato stamp coin.

Kit and Icee help clean up from our potato stamp center. Thank you!

Faris tries out his 3 cent potato stamp coin.

Great work, Faris!

As you may remember from last week’s blog, the Yellow Band spent has been learning about children in different countries, thinking about what’s important to us, and what’s important to them. We discovered that though these kids might eat different foods from us, get to school differently, wear different clothes and live in different types of houses, on the inside we all have a lot in common.

Then, we read some news articles about Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico, flipped through an issue of Faces Magazine, and read about the island’s potential to become the 51st state–because there’s a lot more to Puerto Rico than Hurricane Maria. We talked about how the children in Puerto Rico wouldn’t be able to return to school for weeks, if not months, and brainstormed ways we could help them out. Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean, what we could do? Answer: BAKE SALE!

Khalilah signs the letter we wrote to send along with our donation.

Oh my goodness! This was such an exciting possibility! And, what a great way to use our bandspace’s little kitchen for the first time. Everyone got so pumped. We went about our daily business, planning bit by bit. We decided we should have one sale on Friday, and maybe another on the night of the Fall Potluck. We knew we needed to make a few kinds of things–something vegan, something nut-free, something gluten-free, and something with anything. And this is the menu we chose: vegan cupcakes, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, nut-free brownies, and Nathan’s special banana bread, yum! We also decided that everything should cost $1.50, because that’s how much stuff costs at Daiso 😉

On Thursday we finally got to start baking! We measured, stirred, and cracked; we poured, scraped and spread. It was marvelous! And while the kiddos were away at the park, I tucked everything into the oven, just to make sure the bandspace smelled irresistible when they returned.

Dash helps Kit level off one cup of flour.

Calvin carefully measures out 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Oh my goodness, when I told Sylvester to put the soymilk in the refrigerator, ‘wherever it would fit,’ he accidentally put it in the freezer! Here he is cutting open the container so we can melt the soymilk on the stove. Mistakes are welcome!

Sometimes you’ve gotta get creative when it comes to giving everyone a job. Here, May dumps in flour one scoop at a time. Then, Ronin raises the mixing bowl. Finally, Faris turns on the mixer and watches until all of the flour is incorporated. Repeat! Great collaboration you three!

On Friday, we could hardly contain ourselves! All of the things we made looked sososo good, but we knew we needed to wait till the bake sale. We put finishing touches on our cupcakes, cut the brownies into bars, and arranged all of the cookies on a baking sheet. After a quick dance party, it was finally time to set-up for the sale!

May and Ronin went next door with me to get our table ready and ask Justine for some quarters from petty cash so we could make change for folks.

Meanwhile, back at the Beehive, Kit and Icee spread icing onto the cupcakes and sugar cookies.

And then it was time for the sale! Thank you so much to Nicole for helping make change for eager purchasers while I went in for closing circle!

We almost sold out of everything!

Luckily, there were a few cupcakes and cookies left for us to relish in the success of our bake sale when it finally came to an end.

And oh my goodness we blew right past our modest goal of $50! We raised a whopping $84.50!!!

We donated the money raised to UNICEF’s operations in Puerto Rico. The money will go toward providing medication, clean water, shelter and food to children in need.

And that’s the story of the bake sale. The story of the bake sale is also the story of the Yellow Band’s exploration of Coin this arc. We approached this arc topic as historians, anthropologists and philosophers, considering the origins of money, the different types of money used by different civilizations throughout history, and the purpose of money. We emphasized throughout that money is a tool, and around the world folks lead very different lives, yet on the inside we have a lot in common.

Okidoke my friends, we’ve come to the end. It’s been really, really real. Nothing will ever be like my time here at the Institute for Applied Tinkering; I’ve welded with 8 year olds, built a child-sized, see through model of the human body (and filled it with felt, paracord and lego guts), contemplated friendship, travelled the Underground Railroad and California Trail, and so much more. Now, I’m travelling just down the street, please come and visit at CCA.

Love,

Piper

Yellow Band: Coin Arc, Weeks 3&4

What is important to you? What do you think is important to folks living on other countries? What are some of the things humans have historically used as a means of exchange? Why? What makes a piece of paper worth 5 or 10 or 100 dollars?

Abir works on filling in a venn diagram comparing himself with Anu, from the book This Is How We Do It.

During our first Class Meeting, we read Kevin Henkes’ great book Chrysanthemum, then took a moment to share our name stories. Some kiddos were a little shy to share at first, but when I asked Ronin if his name was connected to Japanese samurai tradition he opened right up!

Those are a few of the questions we’ve been contemplating the past few weeks. As we get deeper into Coin, get accustomed to our bandspace and routines, we’ve started to go deeper into some arc-related topics. We’ve even started to think about value: where it comes from, what we value and what others value. As we go, we continue to practice our routines–morning centers and afternoon choices, getting ready for park, using the library–and have even incorporated some arc-related activities as we build and expand on our competencies; we even started Writers’ Workshop and Class Meeting!

Kit explores the different values of the cuisenaire rods–my favorite math tool!

One of the first books we read together this arc is called The Story of Money, and while some of its concepts are a bit outdated, it outlines the transition from barter economies to money-based economies. (Although there is some question now as to whether there ever truly were entirely barter based economies!) This story based explanation of the emergence of mediums for exchange like salt, shell beads, barley and silver, and then the transition to coins and finally paper money really helped the Yellow Banders connect these dots. By the end of the book, we could all confidently say “The Chinese paper money had value because the people were ordered to use it!” This was the first step into some of our next conversations about value.

Ronin’s venn diagram starts to show some of the differences between his life here in San Francisco and Kei’s life in Japan. He’s pretty sure she likes Pokemon too though!

In order to start to make some inferences about different values, we would need to learn about the lives of other people though. So, we started reading this awesome book! This Is How We Do It is one of my favorite finds for this arc. I love the way it objectively tells the story of a day in the live of children around the world. Paired with beautiful illustrations, the kiddos were captivated.

In the meantime, we’ve kept up with our routines of centers in the morning, and choices in the afternoons. We’ve explored playdough, painting, tons of different games, and started Writers’ Workshop Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The Yellow Band specifically is starting to learn some decoding strategies, woven through our morning messages at our morning meeting, and taking these skills to our literacy centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This week, we started to learn about closed syllables, consonant-vowel-consonant patterns (CVC).

May brainstorms some story ideas she might like to write about this year. Is that an idea for a space story?

Calvin and Khalilah didn’t waste a minute! They got right to work writing a story about what else, CATS!

We all practiced playing Boggle together, focusing on searching for closed syllable words that follow the CVC pattern. We found some real words and some nonsense words–why not?!

Magnet magic!

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This week finished up with a community lunch served up by none other than our own Sylvester–thank you friend!

Sylvester helps serve up his dad’s special enchiladas–yum!

It’s hard to believe it’s already almost the end of the Coin Arc! Stay tuned for a very exciting plan we have for next week…

Yellow Band: by Sea, weeks 11 & 12

The last few weeks have been so much fun! As the crow’s nest and tugboat started to wrap up, we didn’t quite have enough time to start some new projects from scratch. But, we started an exploration that we hadn’t gotten to yet–lighthouses and shipwrecks. Because why not?

As long as people have been traveling and transporting, boats have been wrecking along rocky shorelines and invisible reefs and in bad weather with low visibility. And, as long as boats have been wrecking, people have been trying to figure out different ways to protect sailors and mariners from unseen dangers. With lighthouses, bells, foghorns, and even fires burning from beaches humans have tried to light the way toward safety. And, the Bay area is a great place to explore some of these physical structures and research their successes and failures.

At Pt. Bonita light in the Marin Headlands. Most recommend!

At Lands End, where we could see the wreck of the Frank Buck, Lyman Stewart and Mile Rock, where the SS City of Rio de Janeiro all wrecked.

One piece of this exploration was light itself: how does it work, and how can we magnify it to light the way on dark nights? We spent some time playing with lenses and color in order to explore some of the properties of light.

We tried to separate black ink into it’s component colors, but it turned out our black markers were actually very dark blue.

Then, we made spinners with each color of the rainbow. We observed that if we could spin them fast enough, the colors would blend together to look white, like light!

And of course we took a few lenses outside to experiment with focusing light.

Another piece of this exploration was architectural: how can we build a tall tower that is also strong enough to stand up to pounding waves, unrelenting wind and rain?

Oscar thought he’d simulate a tall cliff by the ocean by building his lighthouse tower on a stool. This also gave us a great way to test and see how strong his structure was!

Sakira quickly realized that she’d need to add layers of blocks to her structure in order to make it stand up to the wind (aka her hand).

Solin carefully drew the tower that she and Reyahn built together in her journal.

Oscar then enlisted Emilio and Devlin to help him reinforce his initial simple designs with layers and layers of blocks. They also decided to keep their tower short, because it was already on top of a tall rock.

After our trip to Pt. Bonita, we realized the sheer magnitude of the number of shipwrecks around the Golden Gate (around 300!). Some quick internet research revealed that we could get pretty close to a few of these wrecks by taking a trip out to Lands End. So that’s just what we did!

We got there right on time for low tide! In this photo, you can see all that remains of the Frank Buck–its steam engines–poking out of the water.

We hurried down to Mile Rock Beach, to get as close to a few wrecks as we could.

Countless ships have met their fate along these rocks, and the stretch from Seal Rock to Fort Point has been especially deadly.

And we climbed around a lot too! We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

Oh, and we stopped by for a quick walk through the labyrinth before heading back to the bus.

This week, we focused on researching and experimenting with a particularly damaging type of shipwrecks: when oil tankers wreck and leak crude oil into marine environments. We started to learn a bit about the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, which left a lasting impression for many. The entire school has been talking about how to be more responsible with our waste–from being mindful that we put our trash into the proper bin, to ways we can minimize waste–so this turn in the exploration fit right in. Plus, some of the chemistry experiments we got to do were really messy and fun!

Devlin and Reyahn work on making a boom to contain some ‘crude oil’ in their tin tray.

Oh no! The oil was able to sneak across Emilio’s boom!

Cleaning up oil spills is hard! Emilio tried to make a boom float on the water, but although the cardboard could soak up oil, it didn’t keep the oil from sneaking across to the ‘clean’ water.

And now we’re already getting ready for Expo! Stay tuned!

Yellow Band: by Sea, Weeks 9 & 10

This week, let’s check out some of the work we’ve been doing on our projects! Two of our bigger, group projects this arc have been a tugboat and a crow’s nest. Because BOATS.

Reyahn, Quinn and Calvin all work hard on mounting the top of the level of the bow.

Nicole and a group of Red and Yellow Banders get ready to cut their big circular deck for the crow’s nest.

Nathan started this arc with a big interest in tugboats because of the way that they are ‘helper boats’ in a harbor. These busy little boats are the experts of a port or harbor, tugging bigger boats in and out, and directing traffic through sometimes busy waterways. Which obviously goes perfectly with one of our favorite sayings over here in the Hive, “How can I help?”

Nolan drives in some screws to attach the bow to the hull of the tugboat.

Working sometimes meant squeezing into some tight places! Here, Reyahn helps attach the bow to the hull.

One morning, Emilio and Quinn headed over to the Orchard to cut a trapezoidal piece of plywood for the deck of the bow.

It was really important to the Red and Yellow Banders that they be able to go into their tugboat, and that it looked like it was above the water, like in real life. This meant that they would need to build a super strong frame to support a floor for a few people to stand on at once. And that meant they would need to use lots and lots of flat brackets. And they really really did it! Even though about 2 weeks of work consisted of just installing these brackets, they really stuck with it.

Khalilah cuts open a big cardboard box to use as the skin of the tugboat.

And now it looks like a boat!

The folks in the Red Band have spent some time learning about the international flag signal code, so Nicole was interested in building a mast of a boat to hang a flag from. And if we’re building a mast, we should probably just build the platform to stand on so that we can spot storms, other ships and even land from far away. Ya know, a crow’s nest! As we worked out our design, we knew we would need to use something in our space as an anchor, otherwise the crow’s nest would need too big of a footprint in order to be stable. One day, paging through the David Macaulay book Underground, I realized that one of the big columns in our space would be perfect. They go down into the basement, making them just like the mast on a ship! This, plus a few tips from Gever (compress anchor beams to the column using ratchet straps, just like when building a treehouse!), and we were ready to turn our ideas into reality.

May and Ronin work together on assembling the wooden beams that we’ll anchor to the column in our space.

After doing some initial work on the wooden beams, we were ready to hold them up and compress them into place!

Then, we got to work on a rope ladder so that we can get up into the crow’s nest. Here, Oscar cuts a branch into 14″ sections to use as the rungs of the ladder.

After struggling with a few other knots, Sylvester decided we should try the constrictor hitch to tie together the rungs of the rope ladder. And he was right! This knot works great with the tree branch we found to use for the rungs.

These two projects are so close to being done we can almost taste it! Kiddos are already asking if the crow’s nest can be a permanent part of our landscape, and I think it may be so well built that maybe we can say yes!

Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 6-8

A few weeks ago, we started to talk about international shipping, the switch to containerized shipping, and the globalization of the textile industry. Yea, you read that right. All this with these 1st and 2nd graders.

Working on a map to visually display the data we collected on where everyone at Brightworks’ t-shirts came from. Read about it below!

The thing that started it all was this podcast, which focuses on the port of Oakland. It tells the story from the beginning, hearing from longshoremen and tugboat drivers, and follows the story all the way through to today, even taking the listener inside a container crane. Because, you see, shipping goods around the world used to be enormously hard, labor intensive work. Ports employed lots of people, because lots of human power was needed to load and unload cargo from the belly of ships. And so, a lot more stuff was made closer to home. Things were trucked across the country. Then, a company called Sealand used the first container. Suddenly, stuff could be loaded in boxes, and those boxes could be put on ships. Instead of each sack of coffee or pallet of cloth being painstakingly loaded, containers could quickly and relatively easily be stacked on ships. Now, all it takes is one operator in a container crane. And so, since shipping is so cheap–so cheap in fact, that the international shipping industry loses money hand over fist–we started getting more and more products made overseas, where labor is cheaper. On that first day, after listening to the first episode of Containers, we took a minute to look at the tags of our t-shirts to see where they all came from. India, Indonesia, China, Guatemala, Vietnam. And off we went.

Devlin checking to see where his shirt was made. That tag can tell quite the story!

The following week, we started to look at some data about the Port of Oakland, getting ready to go on a field trip to see it all in person. We work on making graphs and charts about where the goods received at the port typically come from, and what kinds of goods are packed inside all of those containers. Then, we spent a day at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, right smack in the middle of the port, taking a closer look at the container cranes, and watching in awe the amount of truck traffic going in and out, in and out, constantly. So many trucks! So many containers!

We saw tugboats hurrying around the bay.

And so many trucks dropping off cargo, picking up cargo.

And one HUGE ship parked at the port, though we couldn’t tell if it was getting loaded or unloaded.

Then on Friday, it was our turn to lead morning circle. So, we posed a question to the whole school: where did the shirt you’re wearing come from? And the data we collected was really compelling. The following Monday, we got to work graphing our data, making bar graphs and line plots. As we worked, we noticed that close to half of our shirts came from Asia, with Latin America a distant second. We also noticed that none of our shirts came from Europe or Russia or Australia.

Solin working on her line plot of our t-shirt data.

She used t-shirts on her line plot–perfect!

Nolan’s line plot/chart came out very precise and easy to read, great job!

Then, we put our data on the map, using different sized bubbles to show the number of shirts that came from each country.

There was so much great geography woven through this exploration too!

We knew that a lot of the reason that so many shirts came from Asia, which seems very far away, is that container shipping is cheap, and so is labor, but our understanding was missing the human story. So, I went to Newsela, searching for articles about the textile industry. These articles really filled in the story of our t-shirts. First of all, chances are the cotton your t-shirt is made of was grown in the US. You won’t find that on the tag! On top of that, kids might have had a hand in making our clothes! And, women in Bangladesh actively choose to work in the textile industry, because even though it can be dangerous, it gives them freedom to earn their own money and make their own decisions.

Solin read about a change to labor laws that could lead to more children leaving school to work in the garment industry. Advocates worry about children being taken advantage, but sometimes poor families need the money that their children can earn.

That last point really stuck out to us. In our discussions of what we think about the textile industry, most Yellow Banders had a value for affordable clothes, and no discrimination for someone making the shirt here or far away. If the shipping is cheap, why not? People in other countries need good jobs, so why not make clothes? And, people need access to clothes they can afford! Reading these articles (and later listening to the Planet Money episode about two Bangladeshi sisters that work in a garment factory) gave our discussion a lot more depth and empathy. Now we could see that we could both be in favor of affordable clothes, and think that the humans that work to make our clothes deserve to earn a living wage and work in a safe environment.

Sakira and Emilio read about women in Bangladesh that work in textile factories. The women often work in hot, dangerous, grueling conditions–one woman said she tries to make 1,000 shirts everyday! But, leaving their small villages and earning their own money gives them freedom and independence. And, the money they send home significantly improves their families’ lives.

Then, I saw online that this past Monday would be the 4 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. So, I decided we should make our own t-shirts.

At the fabric store choosing fabrics!

Then, cutting out pattern pieces printed out from a free online pattern, and piecing them together like a puzzle.

In the afternoons for Beehive Choice time, we’ve been using a raglan t-shirt pattern to make shirts. Here, Dash helps Sylvester pin on his sleeves.

And Piper from the Teal Band has been coming over to help us–which has been awesome!

The Yellow Band worked on making some custom t-shirt patterns. Here, Reyahn traces Sakira to help her draw her custom pattern.

Nolan works on his custom pattern. Figuring the shape the pattern pieces need to be is pretty tricky!

And, Oscar helps Nolan cut out the fabric using his paper pattern as a guide.

And that’s the story of why we’re making clothes during the by Sea arc. In case you were wondering.