Yellow Band: By Sea, Weeks 3 & 4

All hands on deck!

The constellation team rotating the nightbox onto its side so that we can attach the top.

We’ve got a few fantastic field trips under our belts, and we’re starting to get our sea legs. Last Friday evening, the Yellow Band took an after hours field trip up to Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland for their weekly stargazing. Every Friday and Saturday night, weather permitting, the museum opens up their telescopes for folks to come take a look for free. AND, apparently they also host a telescope making workshop on Friday nights! So, not only did we get to look through their historic telescopes, we got to hangout with some super nice people who are working on making telescopes of their own!

On the right is Katie. She’s been working on grinding her mirror for 15 weeks, and she thinks she has 15 more weeks to go–wow, talk about perseverance!!!

Last week, she was using 220 grit to smooth out the surface of her mirror. As her mirror gets smoother and smoother, she’ll use finer and finer grit.

She even let us try our hands at grinding the mirror. Thank you so much Katie!

Now, all of this was because of building the constellation, which itself is because of studying a bit about celestial navigation. So, last week and this week we worked both on writing numbers like Babylonians and using a simple sextant, called a mariner’s quadrant to both locate our latitude and determine height of a few very tall things around our bandspace.

Working in other bases (besides base 10 that is) really forces you to think about how our number system works. During our work in base 60, Emilio taught us all a great trick: when working in base 10, a ‘silent alarm’ goes off in your head when you get to 10 that tells you to write a zero in the ones place, and add one to the number in the tens place. So, when doing math like Babylonians, we started sounding the alarm at 60!

Of course, the purpose of all of this was to ground our understanding of degrees. So, then we started to do some application, making mariner’s quadrants and beginning to tinker with the readings the quadrants gave us at different distances from an object.

So, when the sun came out on Thursday we were able to go outside and approximate our latitude! *It was almost noon, just a few days after the equinox, and also we were using very rudimentary sextants, so our measurements were in the ballpark.

Meanwhile, the Red Band has been trying to make little submarines–aka crafts with neutral buoyancy, that won’t sink or float, but rather hangout just under the surface. So, on Tuesday we went to the USS Pampanito! And the Aquarium of the Bay after of course! Our day was full of:

Awesome doorways.

Lots of tiny beds.
*Ask Sylvester about the Captain’s Quarters.

Torpedo/tables.

Smashed pennies.

Rough things to touch.

Slimy things to touch.

BIG FISH.

And SOSO much…

to look at!

Have a great break everybody!

Yellow Band: By Sea, First Weeks

The students of the Beehive are ready to hit the high seas!

We dove right into several different explorations around the idea of transportation by Sea, I’ll run through a handful of them. We got started studying the stars, both building a constellation as an afternoon project, and studying how sailors navigated when out on the open seas. We’ve been doing a lot of experiments around buoyancy–weight, density and water displacement–in order to build small crafts that float, and maybe even carry heavy and dense cargo like rolls of coins. We has an awesome all-school field day, focusing on building a kind and inclusive community here at school! Oh, and we started reading Hemingway! Really!

First off, the constellation project and related celestial navigation explorations. What the heck does it even mean to build a constellation anyway?! I don’t know, that’s why I posed it as a project! One thing we often talk about when selecting projects for both the Tinkering School and Brightworks is that a good project is like a keyhole: it may seem narrow in focus at first, but upon further examination opens up to a world of possibilities and expressions. The constellation is just that! It immediately conjures an image and connection to the real world. There are loads of stories to tell around the stars–just ask the Greeks! Plus, none of us have ever built a constellation before, so there will be loads of neat problems to solve and science to learn along the way.

Right off the bat, the constellation group decided that we wanted our constellation to be rooted in real science: show the magnitude of the different stars, convey their different distances from earth, and demonstrate the connection to celestial navigation. We started with reading some from H.A Rey’s book, The Constellations, which combines facts about stars with star maps and the Greek myths that go along with many well known constellations. When we got to the part about light years and the stars different distances from earth, we did some perspective drawing, showing a chair from two different angles. This helped us wrap our heads around the idea that constellations that are very familiar to us, like the Big Dipper, would look totally different if we stood on a different planet.

These astronomers are drawing this chair from two different perspectives. Afterward, we analyzed our drawings, pointing out the features we emphasized in from our first perspective and our second.

Here is Nolan working hard on his second drawing of the chair!

After doing some research, and nailing down our priorities in what we’d like to get across by building a constellation, we were ready to get to work! We decided that we needed a ‘Night Box,’ for the stars to live inside, and that we wanted to build both the Little and Big Dippers, because one includes Polaris–the North Star–and the other points to the North Star. So, If you can find one of those two constellations, than you can figure out where you are! Then, we decided that we wanted the whole thing to be about as tall as the clock on the wall (which turned out to be 7′). Then we got down to the nitty gritty!

Sylvester explains to May and Dash why the chops stop means that we don’t need to have a line drawn on our wood in order to cut.

A regular fixture during morning choice time has been some type of exploration around buoyancy: what types of things float and why? After exploring some different materials like wood, metal and plastic, and defining what we meant by ‘float’ anyway (if you push it down into the water, it doesn’t come back up), then we got started trying to build some type of craft that would carry a roll of nickels.

Wood floats really well! But metal maybe doesn’t, and the empty plastic water bottle floated, but the one filled with water didn’t. Hm.

Balloons became popular flotation devices because we noticed that air really really floats. But, they didn’t end up working that well to build boats because they were really hard to stabilize–the nickels always flopped over to the bottom and sunk!

Nicole had been doing some origami at choice time, so Reyahn decided to try out his paper boat to see how many nickels it would hold. Not quite a whole roll, but it did hold 25 which was the most a craft held that day!

Then we had field day! During our in-service week, we talked a lot about school culture, and wanting to take a moment to emphasize kindness and caring for each other. An all school community Friday field day seemed like a great chance to have some band-specific communication and teamwork focused activities, but also mix up all the bands to emphasize how much we care about each other. Thank you so much to Jay, Nathan, Justine and Evan for organizing and facilitating! And thank you to the Magenta for offering some great activities too!

 

Ally shows Phoebe and Sakira how to twist up their t-shirts to get them ready to tie-dye.

May and Sakira inside the parachute.

Nathan led the Yellow Band in a communication focused activity similar to river crossing. In this activity, the group has to figure out the order that they can step on the different squares, Nathan knows the sequence, and only tells them ‘Yes,’ or ‘No!’ One person tries at a time, but as the group figures out the path, they can help each other! And, they’ve got to remember those kind ways to offer help and advice!

And then back to work! Another of our choices these first few weeks has been to read and visualize Hemingway’s classic short novel The Old Man and the Sea. This is one of my favorite books, I’ve read it many times, so it was a clear choice for a novel for us to get into because, you know, don’t dumb it down. That being said, sometimes I have to artfully rephrase things a s I’m reading. But anyway, it’s been great! It’s an excellent story of companionship and perseverance, there is a lot for us to unpack as we read. We’ve had excellent conversations about the difference in the relationship between the young boy and the old man, and the young boy and his father, carefully analyzing the descriptions as we go by making drawings to show what we’re hearing. On a given day, we probably only read 2 or 3 pages because there is so much rich detail to sift through.

Khalilah’s illustration of the old man’s bed and his dreams: his bed with newspapers for sheets and rolled up trousers for a pillow, and his dreams full of lions.

And, of course, we’ve kept up with our morning vitamins because MATH. So far, I’m loving the math of the sea–there is so much interesting stuff to do! Our first exploration is connected to our work on the constellation, the idea of celestial navigation. Did you know that much of our calendar, number system, and organization of time is based on an ancient system that wasn’t even in base 10?! True story! The basis for 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. and 360 degrees in a circle is the Babylonian base 60 number system! So, we’ve been learning how to count like a Babylonian on our hands, and how to record numbers like the ancient Sumerians would too! It’s kinda tricky, but a great way to stretch our brains, thinking flexibly about numbers.

But first, we had to really nail down how we use our hands to count to begin with. And we went into a lot of detail, in order to emphasize metacognition and reflection. Some kiddos start on their thumbs and work out, others start with their pointers and end on their thumbs. And, we all different ways to count up to bigger numbers–some counted by 5s or 10s, some used one hand for 1s, and the other for bigger quantities. Interesting!

And then we started to practice counting like a Babylonian! They used their hands in a really interesting way, counting each joint on their fingers and using their thumb as a pointer. That way they could count up to 12 (aka one dozen!) on one hand, and keep track of dozens on their other hand.

Armed with an understanding of where the degrees on the compass came from, we went up to the field to start doing some of the basics of navigating. Because, if you’re trying to figure out where you are and where you’re going, you’re going to need to know how to use this tool!

Using compasses up at the field!

Oscar and Sakira used a pencil as a pointer, which Emilio then followed with his eyes to check their degree readings for accuracy. We measured from the center of the field the location of the Bay Bridge, Bernal Hill, Sutra Tower–just to name a few!

Nolan and Reyahn kept their compass on the ground and measured from there. I asked the kiddos to first take two measurements on the same thing–one of the goals on the field–first from the south fence, and then from the center of the field. We’ll use these measurements to talk about the relationship between the angle and the distance next week, but I have to figure that out a bit more first!

More more more to come!

Yellow Band: By Land Expo

We made it!

Chowin’ down at our trail lunch! Read on to hear about the menu.

Across the country, that is. Oh, and all the way through the By Land Arc.

Solin and Ronin working hard to finish up some stabilizers on the the wagon hoops.

For lack of better words, HOLY CRAP. We did so much during this arc! We moved really heavy things, moved hundreds of things, studied simple machines and the scientific method, dug deep into 19th Century North American history, and built, built, built along the way. During Expo Week(s), all of these strands come together in such a beautiful way, and By Land has been no exception.

Thank you so much to all the families, the Blue and Magenta Bands for coming to support us during our presentation!

Let’s start with the Trail Picnic. A few weeks ago, I proposed the idea to Nicole and Nathan. Thankfully, they were amenable, and we all agreed that it would be super fun to make food together and then eat it in a little picnic style lunch. On the calendar it went. Along with it, of course, a trip to the grocery store a few days before. With this date on the calendar to look forward to, our work chugged right along. The buzz of approaching expo presentations adds a bit of pep to everyone’s step; the end is in sight, are we going to finish?

We kept on rolling the dice in our Emmigrant Trails board game, and kiddos started to make it to the end! Here, Sakira works on an illustration of the farm she’d like to start upon arriving in upstate New York.

Abir and Oscar work on installing the tongue of our wagon. We had to use a bolt instead of screws so that the tongue would be able to move and ‘steer’ the wagon.

For many of the Yellow Banders (and a few Red Banders as well) our board game really tied all of our strands together this arc. Not only did we make it ourselves, but the element of both chance and choice coupled with the history made the game fun and engaging in a nail-biting, heart pounding kind of way. Even though the Red Banders didn’t make trail journals and play the game with us, they were deeply interested in the process. Working on the wagon in the afternoon was a great chance for us to share the things we learned, weaving us together as the Beehive even more.

Oh no, Emilio pulled the cholera card! It’s a good thing he also picked up some medicine for the disease that killed tens of thousands of emmigrants while at Fr. Bridger! Emilio had been moving slowly through the game, so after leaving Ft. Bridger he also chose to take Donner Pass–yikes! Winter was fast approaching, and he knew he needed to take a shorter route, so he decided to go for it.

Below: phew, Oscar’s cat didn’t get cholera! Also, Oscar, you brought a cat with you?!?!

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Oh, and the wagon! Wow that wagon was huge! But also, it was the real size, which I think was really impactful for the kids. Like I talked about in one of my last few posts, this project really beautifully wove together our bigger picture goals with day to day work and play. Each day, our planning check-in consisted mostly of teamwork reminders: How will we communicate with each other while we’re working? How should we use the tools in our space and around others’ bodies? What should you do if you find yourself without a job? The Red and Yellow Banders knew what would come next in terms of construction, it was their design after all!

Abir developed a beautiful strategy for finding the middle of the front end of the wagon–the spot to attach the wagon tongue. First, he measured a certain number of inches from one side, then he made a mark. Then, he measured the same distance from the other side to see if it met his mark. He continued doing this, adding an inch each time until he met in the middle.

Oscar, Abir and Emilio moving the finished wagon tongue into place.

Oscar proposed that we build the wagon hoops like an upside down letter ‘U,’ out of 3 pieces of wood, instead of other proposals that included as many 5.

After initially installing the hoops, we realized that they were really wobbly! So, we started adding stabilizers, relying heavily on those triangles we know make everything better when building with wood.

Then, all of a sudden, it was Expo week. But actually, when you researched, designed, built, redesigned, planned, and built as a team, getting ready to tell people about what you’ve been working on isn’t really hard! I was so impressed with the detailed and thoughtful questions and answers we brainstormed in order to frame our presentation. The kids were clearly ready to get in front of the community and talk.

While I don’t have many good pictures of our presentation–it was dark, I was presenting–I’d like to share a favorite moment: After we opened up to questions from the audience, a Magenta Band member (Ally I think?) asked a great question, and one we hadn’t practiced an answer to. “How did the teamwork aspect of working on the wagon go?” I asked the Red and Yellow Banders who were presenting to put up a quick ‘thumb-o-meter’ to show from thumbs-up to thumbs-down how they felt about working on a team to build the wagon. Immediately, the audience saw an array of thumbs, some up, some down, some in the middle. So, I asked a few kiddos to share some more about their reaction. “Because it’s hard to take everyone’s different ideas and put them together,” May explained with her thumb in the middle. And Quinn appreciated that, “There’s always someone there to help you with a tool if you need it.”

With our presentation out of the way, our focus turned back to finishing up our projects and explorations. A few kiddos were still a roll or two away from the West or North in Emmigrant Trails; we set the goal of installing two hoops in time for Expo Night. With the youngest students here at Brightworks, I think I like having our presentation several days before Expo Night, because after the presentation, they really get it: people are coming to look at our work, and it’s our job to have something we can show and talk about. The work in those last few days is always so focused, kiddos ask me so often, “How can I help?”

Reyahn works on stabilizing the wagon hoops.

Sakira, Nolan and Khalilah became the go-to pros working on the gondola. Here, Khalilah measures the length of the gondola flat on the table, in order to figure out what modifications the team will need to make so that the gondola can be installed on the steps up to the cork floor in our space.

Oh, and we got to start actually getting ready for our trail picnic! Really, what better way to close out the By Land arc than with a celebration around food?! First, we researched what foods the folks on different journeys would have eaten, and learned some interesting things along the way. Like how folks on trails West stored their eggs in their barrels of flour and cornmeal so they wouldn’t break on the bumpy journey. And how folks on the Underground Railroad foraged for much of their food. Former slaves needed to be able to move quickly from one place to the next, and leave no trace of their presence. So, they didn’t carry a lot of food. Instead, they ate greens, roots and berries that they picked along the way. This made for a pretty great menu at the trail lunch, because the food of the Oregon/California Trail is frankly pretty boring, and doesn’t include a lot of fresh fruits or veggies.

Devlin researching foods we should get at the grocery store.

Sakira researching food we should get at the grocery store. I think this is the moment she inferred that along with blackberries, folks on the Underground Railroad may have gotten to forage for other berries too–bring on the wild strawberries and raspberries and blueberries!

And, for one last field trip of the arc, I thought we should do some foraging of our own of course! Where does a kid who grew up in the suburbs learn about what’s safe to pick and eat here in the big city? Mackenzie of course! The Blue Band collaborator gave me a few great tips of things we’d be able to find in any park in the city, so a foraging trip to Glen Canyon Park to hunt for miner’s lettuce and chickweed went on the calendar.

Oh, and of course we should shake some cream into butter while we’re on the bus! How else are we supposed to make biscuits?!

Nolan stuffs a handful of miner’s lettuce into Sakira’s backpack.

Because her backpack full of lettuce is SO HEAVY.

Finally, Expo and Trail Lunch day arrived! Thank you so much to Lisa and Kerry for helping cook and setup in the morning. We made rice, beans and biscuits in the morning with the Red and Yellow Bands. Then while the kiddos were at the park, we put together some fresh fruit, washed our foraged greens from the day before, and put the biscuits in the oven. So many kids asked, “How can I help?” all morning, and even though it was a bit hectic and we had to be very patient and take lots of turns to do everything, it was such a great morning. When the Bumblebees got pack from the park to see all the food laid out on the front table, what a great moment. And then we got to sit outside in our courtyard with the big kids from the Orchard eyeballing our feast as they walked back to school for lunch! I even heard Khalilah tell a few as they passed, “We made all this ourselves!”

Oscar and Khalilah took turns to cut the butter into the flour for our biscuit dough. Did I mention that we used butter and buttermilk we made ourselves?!

Reyahn, Sakira and Nolan were all very excited to work with Lisa, Nolan’s mom. It made for some tricky turn-taking, but I think it all worked out!

Thank you Kerry for helping serve! And thank you Lindsay for joining us!

Now my friends, like I always tell the kiddos, all good things must come to an end, including the By Land arc. I’ll wrap it all up with a few pictures of your children hanging in the air on the pulley machine (aka block and tackle) they built earlier in the arc. Because learning should be playful, and we certainly played our way across continents the past few months.

Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 5 & 6

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”

Fractions, parts of a whole. Here in the Yellow Band, we are each an important part of the whole. But, we’re not each exactly the same, unlike the equal parts we’ve been dividing shapes and quantities into.

Nolan tries to add pattern blocks to his design, while keeping the proportions of blocks the same. He needs to have 1/2 of the design one color, 1/4 of a second color, and 1/4 of a third color.

Oscar, on the other hand, thought about area when figuring out how to divy up color in his design.

Last week in Class Meeting, we read the book They All Saw a Cat. It’s all about perspective–everyone sees the cat differently, yet each of their perspectives is beautiful in it’s own way. This idea has permeated a lot of our different explorations, from sharing thoughts and problem solving strategies for vitamins at Morning Meeting, to solving problems at Class Meeting, to writing based on our book club books.

Reyahn works on writing a postcard home, taking on the perspective of Elmer Elevator from his book club selection, My Father’s Dragon.

“Hey, Jenny here!” Sakira’s two postcards home so far as Jenny, from School for Cats. Her voice really shines through in these short notes, and she’s tried to incorporate both Jenny’s hardships, and excitement to be at her new school.

What’s more, our study of the Pony Express led us to an exploration of native peoples of North America. It was important to me to bring the kids’ attention to the ‘discovery myth,’ the idea that the west was discovered by the European settlers as they moved across the continent. A lot of the texts we read about both the emigrants and the Pony Express included this type of language. So, we’ve been spending some time trying to learn about the plains tribes, especially the Sioux, and using resources from the indigenous perspective whenever possible. Oh, and it also informed some of our math-art connections and vitamin work–of course!

Abir carefully folded his paper, then painted in the shapes he had created. Folding first helped us make symmetric designs composed of geometric shapes, inspired by the parfleche paintings on buffalo hides many plains tribes made.

Oh, AND, we started new projects! Nicole is working on a 3D map, and Nathan is working on a fence styled after a fence the Bees fell in love with in Mendocino.

Solin and Dash work on assembling a section of the fence. The group’s goal is to make the fence both collapsible, and walkable–like a balance beam!

Nicole helps Abir, Sylvester and Quinn trace California from the projector, the first step in making a 3D map of California.

This past week, we started giving the kiddos in the Beehive more choice in the morning activities. So, we now have Hive-wide choices 3 mornings and 3 afternoons each week. Our goal is to take cues from the kids, notice the skills and areas each child feels confident, so that we can build from there with each Red and Yellow Bander. Expect to see more pictures and captions about students from both bands, as I’ll get to work with the Red Banders a lot more moving forward!

Yellow Band: By Land, Week 1

Wait a minute, it’s only been a week?

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

The rock makes past the office, almost to our Thursday goal of the top of the entryway steps.

This may be the Tinkering School in me talking, but I really love the way things click for kids when the scale of a question is turned way up. So, for several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the enormous things that humans move around the world. Not enormous amounts of things (yet), but rather things that are massive, heavy, take up a lot of space.

Like Stonehenge, or those big trees in Mendocino. So, we started this week pondering how people long ago moved things that are just so huge.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Our initial ideas were pretty simple, concrete. But, I chose a big heavy rock specifically because it would not work for all of us to carry it.

Not to mention that all of our hands and bodies don’t even fit around the rock!

Rock relocation, day 1.

Rock relocation, day 1.

This idea must have really gelled with the kiddos in the Beehive, because when we introduced our next building projects, many proposed that we use wheels to make something that would allow a kid to lift another kid. This led to some great explorations around simple machines (with some help from Bill Nye), not to mention enriching our ongoing discussions about how to move that darn rock.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

All three of these children are integral to installing that pulley.

Kiddos knew that wheels would be very helpful to move the rock, but one suggested that we shouldn’t use casters to build a cart because the ancient Britons that built Stonehenge would not have had wheels (that was a freeby!). Luckily, another Yellow Bander suggested that we use some type of cylinder, so we headed to the shop to see what we could find. Answer: PVC.

When Day 2 of rock relocation got underway, after a reminder to make sure to use ready calls before lifting the rock (ouch…), we managed to move the rock a grand total of about 16 inches–off the stage and onto the cork floor. It took so much teamwork, patience and sticktoitiveness, and then we were pooped.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Rock relocation, day 2. Off the stage, onto the cork floor.

Phew. After all of that effort, we took a break to watch a short video explaining the point of all this. Humans move enormous things by land all the time. Along the way, they encounter loads of problems to solve and the persevere so that they can get the thing to where it’s going.

Joe Vilardi of BudCo Enterprises is one of those people. You may have noticed him in that video, working on the installation of Sequence at the SFMOMA. I reached out to him weeks ago, hoping for the kiddos to have some type of interaction with this expert rigger. And he was down! Thanks Joe!

So, on Thursday, we moved the rock as far as we could–which happened to be the top of the entryway stairs.

Then, on Friday morning, we went to SFMOMA to see the Sequence in person–feel the scale of such an undertaking–and write questions for Joe.

"What's the heaviest thing you've ever moved?"

“What’s the heaviest thing you’ve ever moved?”

"How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?"

“How did you separate the segments of the sculpture?”

"How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?"

“How did you develop your plan for moving the sculpture?”

You can see more photos of this week in the flickr album!

Yellow Band: by Air, Week 4 & 5

There have been downs, but also ups…

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use--with a view!

The launch crew working hard outside the Lawrence Hall of Science to get the balloon ready to launch. We went through our checklists, and put our practice to good use–with a view!

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

Our weather balloon drifts up from our launch site at Lawrence Hall of Science.

The last few weeks, our skill building math and science work has built toward the launching of a weather balloon and payload, equipped with a camera set to film our trip to near space. This has been a huge undertaking, in collaboration with the Blue Band. Hence the radio silence.

First, we dropped eggs, trying to figure out how fragile an egg is, and developing strategies to record our data.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Solin records her data for egg drops at different heights. We realized that in order to discern the maximum height to drop an unprotected egg, we would need to start low.

Then, we moved on to egg protection strategies, working up from dropping our eggs first at table height, and finally from the roof!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Sakira used some foam scraps to build a box and protect her egg. But, when the box hit the ground, it came open, the egg rolled out and cracked!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut a slit in the pool noodle from the inside, so that she could nestle the egg inside--cozy!

Rebecca and Sakira working on their egg drop packages at the Orchard. We spent a few days co-working with the Blue Band, and a lot of great cross-pollination happened. Check out those pool noodles! Rebecca devised a way to cut the pool noodle into segments and then reassemble, so that she could nestle the egg inside–cozy!

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Devlin puts some finishing touches on his pentagonal prism, making sure to secure the egg in place with tape inside the box, his innovation for protecting the egg.

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Reyahn’s egg drop package gets dropped from the roof. And the egg made it!

All of this was to get a feel for how our package would drop to earth, and how we would protect the delicate technology inside. Our goal, after all, would be to take pictures on the earth from the stratosphere, and we didn’t want out camera to get smashed upon reentry!

This was a fun, silly and practical introduction to our project. Then, we moved on to some of the other challenges of our launch: figuring out how much our payload would weigh, calculating the volume of helium necessary to lift the payload and carry it far enough–but not too far, and planning for tracking down and retrieving the package, so that we could see the pictures we took. We decided that these three problems would make three teams. Blue would take on calculating the helium and constructing the payload, and Yellow would predict the path of the balloon, and plan for retrieval.

But first, Josh Myers (Calvin’s dad!) came in as an expert on high-altitude ballooning (HAB). Thank you SO MUCH Josh!

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

Josh gave us such a good rundown of what to plan for, what to expect, and the risks associated with our project. It helped the kiddos realize the scope of the project, and got them super pumped to send things into space.

And we got to work! The Yellow Banders started small, first laying out our block, and comparing the distance across the block “as the crow flies” (aka the hypotenuse) and around, that a human would have to walk.

Sakira points out Charle's Chocolates on our map of our block.

Sakira points out Charle’s Chocolates on our map of our block.

While proving a relationship between the length of the two sides and the hypotenuse was super hard, we were able to make the connection to our flight: the “crow flies” distance, or hypotenuse, was a metaphor for the path our balloon would travel. The two sides of the block, that a human would walk, represented our driving distance to retrieve the balloon. And they would be very different.

Each morning, we worked with a map showing the predicted path of the balloon. Using the scale, Yellow Banders predicted about how far the balloon would travel. Then, they highlighted the roads we would travel on the map, and measured about how far we would travel.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Emilio works on dividing the path of the balloon into segments the same length as the scale of the map, and then counting up by 5s to approximate the distance travelled by the balloon.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

Same map, different routes. Devlin thought we should take I-5, Oscar thought we should take 130 to retrieve the balloon out in the central valley.

And then, the day arrived. We had prepared all we could prepare; it was time for the rubber to meet the road, as my mom would say. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the day. Please check out our Flickr to see more (and video too!).

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Sakira, Isaac, Reyahn and Ronan carefully (palms up!) hold the balloon for initial inflation.

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough--but not too far!

Reyahn and Soleil work together to hold the positive lift scale down to the ground while we inflate the balloon. We needed to inflate the balloon with a specific amount of lift, which also meant a specific volume of helium, so that the balloon would travel far enough–but not too far!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun!

Solin steps up to feel the pull of the balloon up. Since helium has a lower molecular weight than the air we breathe, and is less dense, it rises in our atmosphere. It is left over from the formation of the earth, trapped inside pockets deep underground. New helium is made in the sun when hydrogen atoms collide!

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you would have thought so from Sadie's calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Sadie ties off the filled balloon. This moment was a real nail-biter, but you wouldn’t have thought so from Sadie’s calm, steady hand, twisting and wrapping one rubber band after another.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Oscar and Tamasen gazed the travel of the balloon, up and away, for as long as they could. It drifted south, and faded to a pale white dot as it rose.

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon--what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Several brave souls jumped into cars to chase down the balloon–what an adventure! We recovered the balloon, the payload and all of the footage. Come check it out at our arc presentation next Thursday!

Yellow + Green = Chartreuse

…and Yellow Band + Green Band = Chartreuse Band

A lot of change has taken place in the Yellow and Green bands over the last couple of weeks, and we are so excited to share that we have combined to become Super Band Chartreuse. Since the beginning of the year the Green and Yellow Bands have been sister bands.  We have gone on all our field trips together, worked on our math provocations together and done our projects together. After all, our 16 nine and ten year olds make up a quarter of the entire school.

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There have been so many benefits to working together.  As co-teachers we’ve been able to play off both of our individual strengths, pool our resources, create unique lessons, diversify the options available to students and offer more one on one instructional moments. Now each member of the Chartreuse Band has two collaborators supporting them through their journey this year.

We knew that this would be a big change for all the students and a difficult one for some, so we wanted to make sure they felt as involved as possible with decisions being made. We took our need to reconfigure our band spaces to as an opportunity to involve their ideas and integrate a design thinking project. We brainstormed new layouts, everything from using the Yellow Band space as a group meeting space and the Green Band space as personal desk space, to building a bridge from the Yellow Band space to the roof of the office. We took measurements of all our considered spaces and found their area to gather additional data. Knowing that everyone would have their own opinion on what we should do in the end, we chose to take this opportunity to work on our persuasive writing skills. This gave them a chance to share their ideas in a carefully thought out way. It was so wonderful to hear all their ideas and reasons, and most of all to hear them empathize with others whose spaces might be lost in the process. We’ve taken a vote and the ballots will be counted Monday. Hopefully we’ll find some time in this last week before winter break, interspersed among our declaration writing, to create the Chartreuse Band Space(s).20151203_095952

On top of all the practical work of creating a “new” band space, we have also been doing a lot of work around social dynamics. We have been reading a number of Trudy Ludwig’s books, including My Secret Bully, Sorry!, and Trouble Talk. We are learning to empathize with others, appreciate one another for small things we may have not noticed until now, and make thoughtful and honest apologies. We are hopeful that the work we are doing will flow out through the rest of the Brightworks community.

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And just in case you find the word chartreuse a bit of a challenge to spell, just remember it is simply chart+reuse.