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 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.





Week of Sewing & Typing

What a wonderful week of pattern drafting and sewing exploration, interwoven with NaNoWriMo storytelling.

On Monday, we finalized our cloth math and visited Fabric Outlet to purchase materials for our Cloth as Shelter project.

Tuesday, Teal invited us to come to Maxfield’s Cafe to take part in the Shut Up and Write event.

Throughout both Wednesday and Thursday we dove into an introduction to…SOAP! With Science Expert Ricky. Discovering how soap is made and how the properties of soap wash our clothes.

Thursday afternoon, Claire and Evan of Patagonia’s Worn Wear Team dropped by to chat about what they do to care for the lifecycle of our clothing.  Afterwards, they gave Violet & Amber bands inside scoops on how to connect their pattern pieces to sew up their garments.  We’re so thankful for all of your assistance Claire and Evan!

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!


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!

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

As the Amber and Violet bands continue to look at value, we are exploring the ways that value is assigned.  How do we assign value? Does something have value if it is free?

We recently discovered a produce stand in our neighborhood that offers free produce once a week.  We were curious to find out how and why this is being offered.  We found out that this produce is harvested from Alemany Farm, and made plans to volunteer our time to help harvest.  Before going to the farm we decided to do a cost analysis of what it would take to harvest produce, anything from veggies to vines.

students scouting prices for tools at Lowe’s

Amber and Violet Band discovered that the average cost of harvesting tools, like shovels and trowels, was approximately twenty to thirty dollars.  How might we design our own unique and low-cost tools for harvesting food using found objects from SCRAP (our neighborhood creative reuse center)?

Norabelle and Trudy explore SCRAP for material potential

The bands worked in small groups of three to design their tools.  The groups had thirty minutes and three dollars to source materials for their unique designs.

What came about were tools that cannot be found in a regular hardware store.  Instead of having to buy many tools, students designed multifunctional tools like an umbrella to shield you from the sun while watering your plants; a potato scooper that also stores while you scoop; a grasping device to collect nuts, made from straws and string; and a giraffe-like structure to pick and toss fruits out of reach.

Selina sharpens her potato digger

Selina displays her group’s potato scooper

This project helped us to think critically about the cost behind this free produce. We hope to volunteer our time with Alemany Farm throughout the year as we continue to build connections across coin, cloth and city.


We Will Rock You: Red Band

This past week we spent our time learning about the cycle of a rock and the three major types of rocks. We examined a diagram of the rock cycle and learned about pressure, heat, and compaction. We then put our new terms to the test with crayon rocks. We started by weathering our crayons into tiny pieces.


We then used some tools to apply pressure and chunk our pieces together.


Finally we used a familiar machine, the microwave, to heat up our waxy rocks.

We also had the opportunity for cross-age activities this week. Teaming up with the Violet band we observed and created igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.


We reviewed and applied our new rock cycle terms to create chocolate igneous rocks, lego sedimentary rocks, and latke metamorphic rocks.


We learned that igneous rocks take more than a few hours to cool and form a solid rock. We practiced patience after forming our metamorphic rocks while they fried and cooled. We learned that sedimentary rocks are made of many different pieces.


Yellow Band Continues to Rock

Pet rocks. Classifying rocks. Painting rocks. The Yellow Band is doing it all. (Plus learning about equity and perseverance.)

As the pet rocks were making themselves right at home in the yellow band space, we brainstormed a list of non-fiction and fictional elements to incorporate in our pet rock owner’s manuals and stories. We decided that some of what we should let others know is what kind of rock it is, how it was likely born (or formed), common characteristics of it, as well as what it enjoys eating, its likes and dislikes, and its name. These rocks have become such a part of the Yellow Band, that a number of them will even have life jackets made for them so they can join us on our upcoming sailing field trip.

Meet the Yellow Band rock family. From left to right: Sioux, Snowy Viper, Multle, Rose (on the table,) Not A Rock (under the table,) Skunky, and Terry. #petrock #yellowband #sfbrightworks

Sioux is reading up on her possible birth story. #yellowband #rock #petrock #sfbrightworks #siouxtherock

While our pet rocks looked on, we continued to read myths of how the earth was formed and the science that either supports or refutes it. Using the jigsaw method, we paired up and each partnership read a different myth and scientific proof, created a poster sharing our learning, and then taught the rest of the band what we had learned. Just because we are in the exploration phase of the Rock Arc, doesn’t mean we can’t practice our presentation skills for the exposition phase.

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Teaching one another about the earth's formation. #yellowband #wondersoftheland #rock #sfbrightworks

Tuesday brought us out of the building again, this time to the San Francisco Mint to observe the serpentine base it rests upon. We had a great discussion around what type of rock we believed it to be. Some thought it looked layered and therefore believed it to be sedimentary rock. Others thought that it had possibly been squeezed up through volcanoes, making it an igneous rock. The third group solved the mystery when they decided that it was the combined heat and pressure of the earth that created this metamorphic rock.

Observing and sketching the serpentine base of the San Francisco Mint #yellowband #greenband #serpentine #sfmint #sfbrightworks

Observing the serpentine base of the San Francisco Mint #yellowband #greenband #serpentine #sfmint #sfbrightworks

Thursday morning we classified rocks with the help of the Violet Band. We learned to use a rock classifying key, looking at a number of features of rocks to figure out which of the three types of rocks they were. One thing we learned was that sedimentary rocks are known to bubble when they come into contact with hydrochloric acid. We found that even with the help of the classifying key, it was still fairly difficult to classify a number of rocks.







Studying rocks doesn’t just mean studying the science and history of them, it also means taking the time to observe and enjoy them aesthetically and artistically, and on Friday afternoon we did just that. After looking closely at a number of slices, we created watercolor paintings of them, adding its crystalline texture by using salt absorb the color and leave little circles of lighter color.







Along with all our work around rocks, we also took time to talk about equity and perseverance, using a growth mindset. We shared ways in which we can take care of the needs of others by being equitable, even if it doesn’t always feel fair. After reading an article on growth mindset, we talked about how our brains are continuing to grow and that we need to continually work them just as we do with any other muscle. Just like with exercise, sometimes its difficult, but we must learn to persevere and trust in ourselves and ability.

Next week we are looking forward to spending our afternoons in the shop, working in partnerships to create rock tumblers, and of course our trip out onto the bay to see Alcatraz and Angel Island.