brightworks is a view into the future of education for all kids. today i watched 7 and 8 year-olds present solar ovens that they built themselves. they explained how the sun's rays reflect off a parabolic mirror, citing angle of incidence and ideas on insulation. the ovens cooked cupcakes, cookies and toasted marshmallows. 10 year olds described parabolic math, how they built their reflecting telescope, and what they learned from experts on memory mansions, african braiding, and creating busts out of clay. kids performed plays, built games, made movies, conducted interviews, used lasers, mirrors and rats (unharmed) to test theories. their projects didn't always work, but they all succeeded with huge glows on their faces and proud of their experiments successes and failures. when i see the exposition night presentations, and i am left in awe of these young inventors and scientists and writers and artists and curious minds and what they are able to accomplish. all kids should have their curiosity encouraged in this way.
When my son entered fourth grade in the SFUSD system, we watched him start to fade. Every day he would come home crushed by the weight of the heavily regulated schedule, the constant task-switching, and the ever increasing burden of mindless homework. We had a friend whose child was at Brightworks and we decided to bring our son in for a day to check it out. At the end of the day he was excited, engaged, and didn't want to leave. He said, "I feel like I belong here." That was the beginning of a big adventure for us. This is now our third year in the school, and our son is truly at home there. He is in a place where he is comfortable being himself, and he is surrounded by life-long learners and creative people who treat each other with respect. I can't imagine a better place for him. The kids are taught and encouraged to do dangerous things in ways that are responsible and safe. They learn fascinating things, but most importantly they learn critical thinking and problem solving, things which seem to be sorely missing from other programs.
I have watched this school grow tremendously in the last three years and have always been proud to call myself a member of its community and a member of its staff. One of the most important aspects that brought me here was Brightworks's emphasis on knowing and being known - students know themselves and in turn are known by each person here, whether they are other students or staff. Our students know how to have conversations with people they don't know, learn how to ask for help, and adopt language that is kind and caring and honest for those around them. As others have said, we are still learning, but I love that we can be honest about that and absolutely believe that we will never stop learning and changing, both to fit the needs of our students and the things they need and want to learn. We encourage students to be true to themselves, explore their passions, and question and wonder, and give them the time and space to do so. I'm so lucky to be a part of the journey and to know these kids!
Brightworks is definitely such a great place for me, maybe even close to a perfect fit, but being brand new, our school has its rocky edges, along with amazing ideas! I love the community, the staff are such a fantastic group of people, I am so delighted to see them right when I walk up to the school. Here, the teachers are called collaborators, which might sound slightly ridiculous to some people, (why change the name?) but the idea is a very good one, the collaborators collaborate with the kids and share the interest that energizes the child, working together, happily, collaborating. We aren't perfect, but I had to give five stars because, Brightworks is an extraordinary school.
I've gone to this school for two years. I came from a catholic private school, and I told my parents on my visit day, "I learned more in two hours than I would have in two weeks at school!" Brightworks is project bases so it really challenges you to really use your freedom wisely. In my two years at Brightworks, I've opened a pop-up restaurant, made about five films, wrote a novella, and now I'm working on my sixth Brightworks film. All in all, Brightworks has done two things that are very important to me. By far, the first is make me into a better person, if not a real person, and the second would be since it's pretty small you learn to trust people a lot easier.
My school is different than yours. It is special in ways. Yet people and kids might disagree. Before you judge me and my school. Know this. This school has a different way of learning. It has arcs that give us life skills we will NEED to survive and help our world. The rule is at Brightworks. Never say no. We always say YES and.... If i want to build a rock climbing area. They will say yes! Now lets design it and find what we need. If your school has things that are dangerous, it's better to learn about this and discover why it is dangerous. Than get to use the tool in a safe manner. If you break something at your house. You will most likely throw it away. At BWX we FIX it! If your exited to go to school. The school is successful and you know. That you want to learn.
Brightworks has been a remarkable school for our son and daughter. The school's unique approach to learning that emphasizes individual and group exploration is supported by active involvement from outstanding teachers who are attuned to individual students learning styles. The project-based curriculum is exciting to students, teachers, and families. But beyond the educational philosophy, even more important is the dedication and commitment of the school leadership and teachers. They genuinely care about how each student is doing, and are endlessly creative in developing novel ways to engage students in the love of learning! Brightworks has created a wonderful environment--as a parent, I find myself drawn to spending time in the unique space and being a part of a special educational community.
Brightworks has turned my now 12 year old son into a voracious learner with seemingly limitless intellectual curiosity. He has become a creative problem solver, a leader and a collaborator while learning to persevere through challenges and take deep dives into areas of interest. We've been at Brightworks since it launched and it's been wonderful to see it refine it's pedagogy and develop a framework that effectively gives the kids the light-weight structure they need to then branch out and explore. It's a school that teaches kids to LOVE LEARNING.
Our mission is to inspire and support families to champion their children's education - at
school, at home and in their community. We are a national non-profit with offices and programs
in Oakland, Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and Indianapolis.