mirrors presentations, day 1

Exposition is upon us! Yesterday, the Hummingbirds, Hawks, and Elephants gave beautiful presentations about their project work during the Mirrors arc.

Shawna told the story of the Hummingbirds’ arc, starting with a viewing of their choreographed dance routine based on their own version of the Snow White story. The different acts portrayed the Queen plotting against Snow White, the Queen giving poison to Snow White, the coffin with a deceased Snow White inside, and the celebration/fight scene that comes at the end. The dance was done at ODC Dance Studios nearby where the kids choreographed and practiced with the help of expert Hillary. Shawna explained their study of the Snow White story as an exploration of beauty, family structures, jealousy, and problem solving, and the steps they took to creating their own story.


At the end of the presentation, each Hummingbird was asked, “Which is more powerful: the mirror or the kiss?” Ramses was sure that it was the mirror, because whatever the mirror said, people followed. Tesla said it was the kiss, because it was all about love and the mirror is only about meanness. Sadie said it was the mirror because the mirror represents the truth.

The Hawks were up next and described the work they did on their solar concentrators.

Bruno talked about how a parabola works: the angle of reflection and the angle of incidence are equal, making a shape like a triangle, and the light condenses into a focal point. His design was inspired by a disco ball and made his reflector an inside out disco ball. It’s easily adjustable to meet the sun’s rays. He also talked about trying to attach a motor to rotate his marshmallow for an even roast, but it’s manual for now.




Quinn also used a parabolic mirror made from a satellite dish covered in mirror tiles. He talked about design challenges in finding a way to hold the marshmallow in the focal point. First he used his fingers, but burned them. He tried barbeque tongs, but couldn’t hold them still enough to heat up his marshmallow. Finally he decided to use wire, which was doubly good because wire is heat conductive. He also made an adjustable stand to hold up his mirror.



Lola and Lucy had wanted to bake a pie for their project, but realized they had to heat the oven up to 350 degrees, so ended up building a solar oven. They used the greenhouse effect, which they explained is a way to trap infrared light from the sun and create heat. They painted their oven black to have more effective absorption, and created mirror flaps to direct more heat into the oven, since they discovered that more mirrors means more heat. Ultimately they baked crispy tarts at 300 degrees.





Ben was inspired by parabolic intuition strain on Khan Academy on his solar cooker. His cooker was a large frame draped with mylar, which proved to be a challenge because of the wind, so he used plexiglass and dowels to keep it steady and taut. He described drawing a two-inch grid along the outside of the cooker to make his focal point more accurate, and made a stand to help him angle the cooker toward the sun.




Clementine, Natasha, and Aurora talked about the three different iterations they created in testing their solar cooker ideas. They wanted to bake a cookie in their oven and worked off of the ideas of the cooker that Clementine made in Joshua Tree. They used black cardboard as insulation and a mirror to direct the light, and ended up using a parabolic mirror just outside the oven to direct even more light into the oven. It got up to 150 degrees and took an hour to bake their cookies.





Lili introduced each Elephant and talked about the ways they grew during this arc.

Frances talked about her study of Eritrean braiding practices and explained some of the research she did, the experts she visited, and her scientific experiments about muscle memory. She visited Ginger Rubio salon and an Eritrean woman named Yodit to learn more about braiding. Her scientific experiment predicted that it would take less time to braid one’s own hair without a mirror than with one, and after collecting data from some Brightworks community members, this was proven correct. Her conclusion is that muscle memory helps more than visuals.



Oscar, Lukas, and Rhone described their process in building a telescope. They were inspired by a Youtube video as well as a visit to the Chabot Space Center. They researched Galileo’s work in studying the universe and tried to make a telescope similar to the one he used with mirrors. They described the way a mirror telescope working: the light of the object you’re looking at hits the concave mirror and bounces off the flat mirror to create an image in your eye. They talked about challenges and setbacks, and the lessons they learned through the process.




Jacob hit a few major setbacks in his project, but gave an excellent presentation that described his journey. Initially, he wanted to make a game in RPG player, then tried to do it in Minecraft, but found it didn’t work without a piece of software he wasn’t able to get his hands on. However, he did work on a wood prototype of the mirror maze that he wanted to replicate on the computer.



Norabelle presented the bust she made of herself and talked about the process of making this sculpture. She studied Dali and the reason people make busts – to make a permanent memorial of an important person. She talked about the challenges of her first bust, made of clay, and the more advanced and life-sized second bust, made of many materials including PVC pipe, tape, foil, glue, wood, fabric, plaster strips, paint and yarn.




Audrey’s project was inspired by the idea of photographic memory – which, she informed us, actually doesn’t exist. What takes its place is something called a memory mansion, where people use images they know well to associate with things in their long-term memory. She talked about how memory works and told us that improving memory isn’t as hard as it seems. She showed us a card trick to prove her memory improvement.




ending of project phase

Brightworks student presentations are happening next week! Project phase – as well as the month of May in general – just flies by and I can’t believe we’re already approaching the end of the school eyar. These past few weeks have been a frenzy of activity as the kids put the final touches on their projects, last edits on their movies, test runs of their mirror mazes, marshmallow roast and pie baking testing, and putting the finishing brushstrokes on their portraits. We are so excited to see what they present to the school for this Mirrors arc.


elephant progress

The Elephants’ projects are coming along! Oscar, Rhone, and Lukas are working on a telescope, and Norabelle has been coming a long way on her bust sculpture.







a few things

Last week at Brightworks, a few simple but amazing things made the non-Brightworks crew pleased to be here:

A parabolic mirror came together.


Researchers reflected on and read their essays.


The lost-and-found became an art installation on the cork floor (before being bundled up and donated).


Moms were appreciated.


Grace’s art installation opened at the Southern Exposure art gallery.


Students made succulent holders.


Careful painting in the art studio.


A face was plastered for a mask.


Hair was braided.


…among other sweet simple moments at our little school.

self-portrait analysis

During the Mirrors arc, the Hawks worked on essays describing and analyzing the self portraits done by several different artists: Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, Romaine Brooks, Gwen John, and Norman Rockwell. They have all finished their hard work on these essays – and they’re amazing! I wanted to share a few excerpts from their essays along with the portraits they chose to write about.

In Gwen John’s Self Portrait she paints herself as a woman of society. She is wearing red a checkered shirt and she has a black shawl on. Her facial expression seems stern. Gwen John might be wearing fancy clothes but she is not happy.
– Aurora


Norman Rockwell uses posters to express how he changes as artist. First he is laying down then he is arched and in the middle he is sitting straight because that was when he had the most work. Norman Rockwell painted so many paintings and this painting is the diagram of his life.
– Quinn

His drawing doesn’t have as much detail because he didn’t add his glasses or a body. The image shows the way he truly is and the his drawing is a interpretation of himself and his passion.
Norman Rockwell in triple-self portrait depicts his passion for painting by capturing his process. He told stories with his painting showing regular day life, but in triple self-portrait he shows what it is to by an artist.
– Bruno


In all of Frida’s portraits her face is very serious but she uses vibrant colors. She uses a lot of red and orange because they are love colors. There is a lot of white because it’s a peaceful color and it brings attention to the note she made. All the color bring out the joy that used to fill her and takes away some of the depression inside of her
– Lucy

frida kahlo self portrait

In Romaine Brooks’s time women wore frilly dresses and skirts when men were black suits. Women got judged if they wore men’s clothes. Romaine Brooks was expressing herself through her clothing.
Brooks is hiding herself by using very dark colors and hiding her eyes in a mysterious way. The black of her suit brings out the pale skin but the hat is shading her eyes in a way that says she doesn’t want to come out of the hiding spot that she found.
– Clementine


Vincent Van Gogh might not have been the best person but he was a great painter. He was really angry but he did a new type of painting and thats a big part about why I like him. What I like about him is that he had a unique way of painting and uses color. In his last self portrait he uses line and color to express his feelings.
– Ben

Van Gogh Self-Portrait

Gwen Johns facial expretion and the way she looks at you makes you think she’s brave to look at you, but also small, little and sad. In the time when Gwen John was painting women rarely looked at you in portraits. It was almost a chalinge to look at you but in all her paintings Gwen John always looks at you. When Gwen John looks at me it makes me feel sad for her.
– Natasha

gwen john self-portrait

Frida Kahlo used color to symbolize sadness from heart break. In the two Fridas Diego did not love the un colorful lonely Frida on the left whose heart is not whole, he loved the happy, colorful Frida whose heart is whole. She shows that with color. The fact that there are two Fridas shows how you can feel more than two feelings at the same time.
– Lola


megaband departs!

The Megaband, along with Christie, Phillip, and Jaqi, are gone for a whole week at the Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. So exciting! The collaborators have planned an incredible line-up of experiences, from excursions with the National Park Association and star gazing with astronomers, to time working on the Mirrors arc projects and visiting the Integatron to hear its unique sounds. There have been mirrors art installations popping up all over the desert and they will be visiting them to see their unique take on the mysterious and beautiful landscape that is Joshua Tree. Though it is a no-tech trip, we got this glimpse of them yesterday via Ellen’s phone:


We can’t wait to hear updates and stories of their adventures, and I hope to post as much as I can! Though these San Francisco natives assured me that they would melt in the heat, I can’t imagine that they’re having anything but an incredible time. We wish we were all there!