Today was one of the most joyous Community Fridays we’ve had in a long time, with the springy summery heat, declaration approvals, capoeira, literature circles, dance parties and painting, school picture day, water balloons in the park, hot lunch, and Market Day! Whew. Back to declarations and Expression next week.
Declaration time at Brightworks is a moment of great delicacy and steadfast firmness for the adults in the school. It’s a time to tease out ideas from the kids about what grabbed them the most during the arc, and to see whose ideas might overlap to take advantage of collaboration, and to dig deeper about how to turn their inspirations into manageable project work. It’s a time for lots of questions and lots of curiosity and lots of who’s, what’s, why’s, and how’s. It’s a time for, “Are you ready and willing to put in the effort that it’s going to take to do this awesome thing?” and letting a kid say “Yes!” even if, as the adult, you might be able to see some pitfalls or mistaken assumptions. And letting those things go, because they’re important lessons to learn in the doing.
Delicacy and firmness: encouraging a kid to take on something they’re excited about, something worth doing for multiple weeks, but standing firm to help them challenge themselves in all the right places, think bigger, and commit whole-heartedly to the work.
There are usually three general categories of students by the time we get to declarations: those who know what they’re interested in and declare a project so massive it might fill a PhD program’s worth of work, those who find a tiny sliver of an idea that they either don’t know how or are unwilling to make broader and more complex, and those who have no clue what they want to do.
In the first two arcs (and getting better each time around!), we’ve encouraged all the kids to take the median path of these extremes so that they’re working on projects that are interesting and engaging, challenging in the right places, and (mostly) accomplish-able during the three to four weeks of Expression. The declaration process has been hard, filled with many conversations and multiple drafts of the written declarations. We’ve learned a lot from each series of declarations for each arc and have some new prompts in place that reflect those discoveries – most notably the new declaration template. This document is an experiment that we hope will streamline the thinking and writing process across all age groups, with the caveat that collaborators can add their own additional requirements (a more complete write-up, for example, depending on the kids’ ability level).
We’re learning to ask different questions from a kid when they start thinking about their projects. Now, after hearing the beginnings of an idea, we start the conversation with the end goal: What does this project look like for you during the night of Expression? Expression at Brightworks is about the process of doing a project (not necessarily the finished product) but we start here as a way to understand the best way to support and guide the kids along the way. We (as the adults) and they (as the students) have learned a lot about biting off more than you can chew, keeping in mind the deadlines for getting to that stopping point, and have learned that the declaration process of thinking out all the potential roadblocks in the plan, and that making a somewhat realistic schedule of due dates and goals to hit is one of the most important steps in the whole Expression phase.
But all the specific goal setting and scheduling is for later. Right now, after knowing what the kids want to have accomplished by the end of Expression, we ask questions that will guide the students to making a proposal and declaring their intended work: What has been most interesting to you during Maps? What kind of project will you take on during Expression? What is the Big Question that guides your work? How does this project relate to Maps? What materials and supplies do you need to do awesome work? Is there a safety plan needed?
Are you ready to sign your declaration and pledge to undertake this work? Are you ready to do this thing?
Expression is just around the corner and the kids are getting ready to think about writing their declarations to start project work at the end of this week or beginning of the next. Today was full of math, from triangles to the percentage of the U.S. population that are immigrants to the circumference of the earth at a given latitude (37.7° for San Francisco).
As the day winds to a close, we are inspired by the ideas and images in this video about wooden boat repair and construction.
Community Friday usually goes something like this: in the morning, there’s capoeira followed by literature circles. Then we come back together and the adults offer the kids options for how they want to spend their Community Friday, usually a building project, an art provocation, or an outdoors exploration. But today, most of the adults sat back and watched with awe as members of the student body offered their own provocations and activities for the younger kids.
Madison and Zada went into the workshop to duplicate the activity they did with geologist Jug in using magnets to remove iron from sand.
Art and writing abounded, of course, as well as community lunch and Dreambox math work.
Max organized a cast of characters for a short film he created on the cork floor. He directed his actors and treated them like professionals, asking for another take, or another expression, or a close-up.
His actors took their job very seriously, and Max incorporated their feedback and ideas with open-mindedness and respect.
By the end of the day and after lots of editing, he had produced a short film and inspired several other students to create short movies of their own. Check it out here: How We Reacted – and have a great weekend!
Shawn and Beth from Stamen Design in the Mission visited us today to show us their amazing maps! They are a design firm that maps data from topics as diverse as sea grass growth in the Chesapeake Bay to the number of friendships across country borders on Facebook.
They emphasized the importance of data sets in creating maps and showed various ways of looking at cities like San Francisco: streets, colors, social media use, Silicon Valley private bus lines.
Rather than looking at maps as visualizations that only show you where you are in the world, they showed the kids just a peek into the hundreds of ways that data can represent the spreading of ideas and the movement of humans. Each map told a story: how a photo spreads across the internet, or the amount of traffic in a certain time period, or where people use Twitter in San Francisco, or how the stock exchange moves.
And what was greater was the kids’ ability to listen, digest, use familiar map vocabulary to talk to Beth and Shawn, and then ask very insightful questions. Check out Stamen’s incredible blog and website!
The Rubber Band sat with our geologist friend Jug this afternoon for an exploration of the earth that started with tectonic plates and ended with burning iron filings from ordinary beach sand to see the colors it produced and experiment with the Curie point.
Shifting sand on pieces of paper to mimic the shifting of the tectonic plates led to a conversation about the earth’s shape and its layers…
Which led to a discussion about how the center of our planet is made of iron and then leading into magnets and compasses and the North and South Poles. They took a look at ordinary sand and extracted the iron out of it using magnets.
And what kind of Brightworks discussion would be complete without donning safety equipment and heading into the workshop to explore the Curie point, when a magnet becomes so hot that it demagnetizes, and then as it cools seeing when it becomes a magnet again?
The Coyotes returned to their exploration of topography using lego and then clay!