Join the Teal and Violet Bands on their exploration of the theme 'City' and all it's connections.

Check back regularly for the ever growing Story of the City Arc.

Week 1: Arc Planning

Teal and Violet Bands worked to plan out a number of components for their upcoming City Explorations. Using the themes for each week, based on their initial driving questions, the students individually brainstormed, then collaboratively decided upon "lenses" through which they will look at the city in new and different ways. These "lenses" will inform their photos for their Exploration Phase photo essays and reflections.

In order to take the altruistic activity of volunteering, where an individual or group provides services for no financial or social gain to benefit another person, group or organization, to service learning, a blend of studying and volunteering at the same time, the students shared former experiences and brainstormed organizations and opportunities to give their time and expertise to this arc.

Week 2: Neighborhoods & Streets

We began our exploration of neighborhoods and streets with an exercise in mental mapping. Working step by step, we drew from memory the streets radiating out from our homes, then layering on information including street names, homes of those we know, businesses, green spaces, and stop signs. Throughout the activity, we began to recognize what it is we find special and valuable about the neighborhoods we live in. We finished off the activity by thinking about a memory we experienced in a location somewhere on the map we had just drawn, such as where we learned to ride a bike, where we witnessed a car accident, or where a friend who has moved away once lived, and illustrated the memory within our maps.

Thinking about our iconic hilly streets of San Francisco, we launched an exploration of grade (also referred to as slope). We took to the streets of nearby Potrero Hill with levels and measuring tapes in hand to record the rise and run of a number of streets in order to calculate the grade. Calculating the grade of a street requires the understanding of a number of math concepts and skills including rise and run, division, decimals, and percentages. Using the data collected and the calculated grades of the streets, the students later worked with Rich on graphing their slopes and changes in slopes, before moving onto replicating streets with 3D cardboard models.

In an effort to get to know neighborhoods in San Francisco we might not spend much time in but have been major players in our iconic history, we walked over 6 miles from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square, up Hyde and down Lombard, through North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, and to the Old Mint to bus back to Brightworks. We discovered a number of connections to history through food, especially our famous San Francisco sourdough and it's starter, along with the names of neighborhoods such as North Beach having actually been a beach on the north end of the city.

Taking a bit of food history home with us from our walk through Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach, we researched the history of cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew that was invented by the San Francisco Italian fishermen of North Beach in the late 1800s using whatever seafood was left over from the day's catch, before learning to cook it. Connecting the San Francisco food traditions, we soaked up the broth of our cioppino with San Francisco sourdough.

We rounded out our week of neighborhood exploration with an exercise known as "Question Formulation Technique" to prepare us for our neighborhoods and community creative project using the Glowforge laser cutter. Using the prompt, "We desire to live in neighborhoods that fulfill our needs and wants," the students worked in groups to brainstorm as many questions as they could that will provide them with answers that will inform their designs. They will individually be narrowing down this list to three driving questions to guide their designs of a neighborhood layout, community building or resource.

Week 3: Communities

What is it about your neighborhoods that we cherish most? What would we find in our ideal neighborhood? What services support our communities? These are just a few of the questions that the Teal and Violet bands are answering with their neighborhoods and community creative project. There are parklets and libraries being designed, town squares being re-envisioned, new neighborhoods being proposed, as well as favorite hills and beaches being modeled. Along with their design responses to the task, they are also exploring the possibilities and capabilities of the Glowforge.

Our exploration of community took us to one neighborhood that is home to a community of people that San Francisco is well known for supporting, the LGBTQ+ community of the Castro. We walked the streets of the Castro listening to the stories of LGBT rights activist and co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Cleve Jones. Cleve helped Harvey Milk get elected when no other openly gay man had succeeded in California. After Milk was killed, Cleve inherited his famous bullhorn and used it to lead some of the most impassioned marches in gay history. That quilt you might have heard of, honoring lives lost to AIDS, that grew large enough to blanket the entire National Mall in Washington DC? Cleve Jones started it.

We expanded our knowledge of Harvey Milk's and Cleve Jones' roles in the LGBTQ community of San Francisco, the number of marches held in the Castro, and the messages many of the architectural and design choices are making. These include the large windows of the Twin Peaks Tavern and the LGBT Center, with both spaces making the statement that this is a community that should be and will be seen. We also had the luck of being invited into the Human Rights Campaign Store, which we learned stands in front of the last square of the old Castro sidewalk, containing some of Harvey Milk's ashes.

We visited the San Francisco LGBT Center whose mission “is to connect our diverse community to opportunities, resources and each other to achieve our vision of a stronger, healthier, and more equitable world for LGBT people and our allies.” After a presentation of their services and stories of their strong role in the LGBT community, along with a question and answer session, we toured The Center and talked about its architectural design and visibility in the community.

Prior to the walk through the Castro, the Teal and Violet Bands looked at the history and meaning of the rainbow flag, also known as the LGBT or Gay Pride flag. Throughout the walk, each band member took photographs of various elements of the Castro, from building fronts to cars to flowers to signs. Using their photos, everyone created their own rainbow flag, representing each color with imagery made up largely of that color.

Our exploration of iconic foods from different cities took us to Buffalo, New York for some delicious buffalo wings. We discovered that the first plate of wings was served in 1964 at a family-owned establishment in Buffalo called the Anchor Bar. The wings were the brainchild of Teressa Bellissimo, who covered them in her own special sauce and served them with a side of blue cheese and celery because that’s what she had available. We worked together to prepare and the chicken and sauce, as well as slice up the carrots and celery that accompanied the wings. Thankfully no one came close to 2018 Wing Bowl champion Molly Schuyler's record of eating 501 wings.

Our string of upcoming expert speakers began with Doniece Sandoval, founder and CEO of Lava Mae. Doniece shared her story about how a chance encounter with a homeless woman she acknowledged led her to dream up and make real showers and toilets on wheels to deliver hygiene and restore dignity among homeless in San Francisco. We also learned of her multiple reasons for not seeking government funding. These reasons included being able to tell those who don't want their tax dollars being used to care for people they believe do not deserve their help, that their money isn't doing that and as a way to continue to innovate when and how Lava Mae wants without governmental red tape. Doniece was able to recognize a great need in the city and work to make a solution a reality.


Week 4: City Government


Week 5: Service Learning and Sanctuary Cities

Week 6: Visual Representations of Cities

Our Initial Driving Questions

  • How do you run a city?
  • What is a city?
  • How does acceptance of LGBTQ+ change between ages/generations and locations/cities in the world?
  • How can a city’s skyline affect the culture inside? Architecture, new, old, culture
  • How much does SF cost to run and how little can it run on?
  • How many factories in cities, involve child labor?
  • What are the foods that SF eats?
  • How do cities develop trademark things? (foods, rocks, things that they are known for)
  • How does hosting a large international event a.k.a. the Olympics change the city?
  • Is farming in cities economically and environmentally a good idea?
  • What are the stories behind city flags? Why is San Francisco's so badly designed?
  • How do you build a city?
  • How does growth in cities affect politicians voting demographic?
  • How does the median wealth affect the number of homeless?
  • Where do you build a city?
  • How do murals change the culture in a city?
  • Why does China create ghost cities, and why are they not working?
  • How does a town turn into a city?
  • What makes a city sustainable (and people friendly)?
  • How do new businesses effect a city and its neighborhoods?