Putt Putt Camp: Design, Iterate, Hole-in-One!

This past week at NOMAD summer, we made our own mini-golf holes! What I find so appealing about mini-golf is the inventiveness of it all. Unlike most other sports or pastimes, which tend not to be re-imagined too broadly, mini-golf relies on creativity and imagination to make the simple goal of getting your ball into the hole exciting. Every course can have its own theme, each hole can employ a different task or skill, and there are often various approaches to tackling one hole. Urban Putt, my favorite mini-golf course, is a maker's paradise located just one block from the NOMAD Depot. The obvious way to start our week was on the course - playing, noticing, and ideating. 


While we played, we noticed that certain slower holes create a bottleneck of waiting golfers while other holes shuffle balls and players through rapidly. The times we had to wait gave us a few moments to notice as many small details as we could take in; however, we noticed only a fraction of what there was to see.  

Monday morning, we met with Steve Fox, one of the designers behind this intricate course, to peek behind the scenes of Urban Putt. There isn't so much a "behind the scenes" but an "inside the wall, under the robot, within the fiberglass and epoxy mountain" type deal. Steve blew our minds describing the arduinos and the many types of sensors and the unexpected materials they used to build each hole. He revealed that the antique-looking metal beam is really wood with rustable metal paint; the robot is cardboard covered in layers of hardened epoxy. 


Steve also listened to our hole ideas and made mechanical suggestions. We left our meeting ready to creatively build our desired effects!

Brimming with enthusiasm, we revelled in drawing our own plans in 2-d bird's-eye view, and side-view 3-d. I'd hate to ruin the surprise, but the plans were each fantastical and unique.


On Tuesday with our sketches in hand, we took off on the bus to the hardware store and to SCRAP to collect materials. 


We planned our layout, drew out our features, and built our bases using 2x3s and plywood. Alex built a hole that utilizes gravity, while Sebastian and Charlie had other unique challenges in mind. 


Alex made a hole modeled after pin-ball, so he didn't require any felt turf.  The other holes relied on felt in order to slow the ball and create precision in putting.  


We had to take a quick trip to the fabric store for more felt in the appropriate colors. We couldn't help but play with the amazing sequin wall. Another reminder that insanely fun and unexpected surprises surround us when we get out of the classroom. The sequin wall spurred new ideas, too, beyond the momentary fit of glittery etch-a-sketch glee. I try to always take the kids to buy materials with me for this exact reason. 


Arguably, the features of our holes are the most exciting but also the most challenging. Our dreams of electronic components were slowly ruled out due to time and the inherent priority of our woodworking. 


The last few details and tests led to frustrating iterating, but without that important step, our holes would be less playable.  


Finally, we created score cards and a course name and banner. We determined par for each hole before families arrived to play the course.  

Alex's pin-pall hole was a hit because it was a challenge to navigate the many bumpers and tracks with the putters-turned-flippers at the base.  You'll notice the stragically placed hole which required the player to calculate angles and speed. 

Alex's pin-pall hole was a hit because it was a challenge to navigate the many bumpers and tracks with the putters-turned-flippers at the base.  You'll notice the stragically placed hole which required the player to calculate angles and speed. 

A celebration after Alex and Charlie's grandmother hit a hole-in-one down the center of Charlie's axe-protected throne!

A celebration after Alex and Charlie's grandmother hit a hole-in-one down the center of Charlie's axe-protected throne!

Sebastien's hole was modeled after his favorite video game Terraria. Players had to pass through each level (and each painted "boss") in order to make it to the finish line.  

Sebastien's hole was modeled after his favorite video game Terraria. Players had to pass through each level (and each painted "boss") in order to make it to the finish line.  

We had a blast building our course and playing it at the end of the week. We'll definitely have to do it again! 

Clearlake Travel Journal Part 3

Now that we've all had some time to recover and catch up on sleep, I'm back with the last blog post about our first school overnight and bus adventure. Our final full day on the lake was mostly spent in or near the lake! We couldn't get enough. 


We found a mama duck and her ducklings, and we also caught a frog!   


We all needed a bit of alone time, so we found our own spots to do some nature sketches. We experimented with sketching the same thing once without looking at our paper, then again while looking. Meditation on the object, the style. 


When we joined back as a group, everyone was eager to share their work.  


On this our last day, we had quite a bit of work to accomplish on our mural. We got right to painting the background early on, which we then fell in love with. Greer was surprised by how realistic our water looked. She decided to change the design to look like the view of the lake we see rather than the underwater scene we had sketched. 


John continued to record footage and take notes about his shots... 


While some of us took breaks between shifts of painting to play team building games... 


Or play mafia... 


Or swim more!  


As the sun began to set and most of our detail work was complete, we called a mural meeting to get serious about finishing before dark and adding the poems that Soleil and Hanna wrote. 


After dinner, a dance party in the boat house, and oven s'mores, we watched The Empire Strikes Back in preparation for May the Fourth (Be With You).

We were able to take a few group photos before heading home the next morning! 


And in our last moments together before departing for home, we thought about our favorite memory from the trip while finding a skipping stone. We then shared our favorite memories in a circle before throwing our rocks in the lake and loading up the bus. 


And here is our finished mural in the best light I could manage!! What a huge success all around. 


Clearlake Travel Journal Part 2

We are EXHAUSTED today! (In the best way, of course!)  The kids rose early - around 5:30 this morning - so they are fading now as they watch the 1978 Superman movie. We wore them out with a hike to a nearby beach after breakfast. 


We enjoyed our packed lunches of sandwiches, fruit, and chips next to the lapping water of the lake... after hunting for a spot that didn't reek of dead fish! We found our perfect, secluded spot past grassy hills and through barbed wire fences.


The most epic splash war ever erupted! I can't believe they had the energy to walk home after their long and intense battle.


Back at the house, we played an old fashioned drinking game with water! We are trying our best to stay hydrated. Taylor and I both braved the cold lake and the high jump with the group for an afternoon swim.  


Maizy the dog took a little dip and ride with the kids, too!


After post-lake showers, we met in the boat house about our mural. Greer, Soleil, and Hanna led the meeting while John filmed for his and Alex's documentary about our process. Everyone is assigned to a team for our mural.  


The sketch team began drawing the details of what we will paint tomorrow while the crew team hauled heavy bins of paint and paint brushes off the bus.  


It was serious business!!  


We celebrated our amazing sketch with board games and a few rounds of sharks and minnows after, followed by a lazy, sleepy book club. 


Dessert and a whole group game of Apples to Apples rounded out our day. Here's to hoping we sleep in tomorrow!! We have a big day of painting ahead of us. 


Clearlake Travel Journal Part 1

I present to you Clearlake NOMAD Adventure Episode 1! A big thanks to Michele, Taylor, Martha, and Jeremiah for the photos. 

Taylor and I were up and crawling under the bus around 7am, attaching eyelet bolts to the floor of bus chassie for the sake of securing the food, luggage, and materials. I definitely feel like a badass when I'm under that grimy thing, but it sounds way cooler than it is. 

We loaded the crew leaving from SF at the Depot and took a few obligatory photos. I was beside myself excited to see the kids climb the stairs of our very own bus on our very first adventure!! I heard myself say something cheesy like "This is the first day of my dream coming true..." bhaha... priceless. 

The drive was long, but mostly insanely fun. We took turns adding songs to our playlist, stopped for In-N-Out, and fist pumped to The Imperial March. 

At the lake house, we joined with the early arrivals and had a quick introduction meeting. It's hard to believe that some of the kids in different cohorts don't know each other yet! We shared what we are most looking forward to for the week or what we hope to get out of the trip. Most everyone said swimming, fun, eating and mural painting. We marveled at the natural beauty of this property! It's truly stunning. 

Since we were all so eager to hop in the lake, we got right to it! We paddled and jumped and swam. We were careful to look out for one another and not push anyone out of their comfort zones. 

We had a quick meeting to discuss house rules, chores for the week, our schedule, sleeping arrangements and bedtime before tonight's cooking team started making tacos. Don't worry - the chefs for the night were sure to clean up in the bath before handling the food. 

We all found something unique to do while dinner was made - reading, writing and playing games passed the time even though we worked up quite the appetite swimming. 

One of house rules here is if you find a dead fish, you bury the dead fish. We found the most epic dead fish which consumed most of our time after dinner. It became a group challenge to get this massive heavy corpse out of the water and into the ground. 

They succeeded! Tommy proudly carried the fish to its new burial site. 

Roenne, Avi, Alex, and Tommy pulled their weight shoveling a hole for this big guy.

Later, sans fish slime, we started our book club with the book All Good Children a strange mix of dystopian fiction meets graffiti art meets adventure. We'll spend 30 mintes to an hour per day taking turns reading this book aloud. 

Finally, we enjoyed dessert by the lake at sunset and then huddled together inside to watch The Goonies before bed. What a wonderful day we shared together! It's always refreshing to spend time with kids outside of our daily routine. Their most helpful, loving, and thoughtful sides shine bright as we depend on one another and have the space to play.

Reflections on NOMAD Galactic

As our first ever session of NOMAD Galactic winds down, we look back on what we've learned and accomplished, look forward to the next iteration of the program, and look up! To the stars and planets! Always.  


We hit a few of our goals this session like the creation of our new official NOMAD Galactic logo!


Thanks Scout! Here he's holding up our finished product next to BWASA's work in progress. BWASA is also working on a combined logo to represent our collaboration - almost like the European Space Agency.


We were also able to add to our prototype of the HAB with some additional space and ideas for various rooms we think would be handy on Mars. 


Our special effects launch simulation is nearly complete! We have a small green screen to film our launch at Kennedy Space Center, a completed Saturn V rocket model, and some working simple machine designs for the launch mechanism itself. We have yet to decide if it will be a motorized, hand crank, or hand-lifted launch, but we are prepared for all three.

Motorized launch test

Motorized launch test

Pulley launch prototyping  

Pulley launch prototyping  

Hand crank launch prototypes  

Hand crank launch prototypes  

We were a bit too ambitious (ok, let's be honest-  I was a bit too ambitious) in wanting to build a giant Space Station on wheels in just a few meetings. We were able to do some important research, create a rough plan, and build two of the 4'x4'x8' walls of the capsule. 


Heidi also designed and prototyped two systems for docking moving space capsules from different space programs. A future goal of ours is to dock our space station with a BWASA space craft while both units are moving. Also while moving, astronauts will have to move between the two modules. I hope we can finish this project sometime in the future of NOMAD Galactic.


Our minecraft simulation of take off, booster phases, and lunar approach is complete! 


And we saw what is possible in Kerbal Space Program from the pros at BWASA. They taught us a few basics about approaching the moon and landing on it with impressively accurate simulation and telemetry.   


We had a blast learning, experimenting, and building together. We found that we need more time for these projects - 6 or 8 meetings just wasn't enough. Stay tuned for our future launch date! We can't wait to see the pieces come together at some point down the line when all participants of NOMAD Galactic and BWASA will come together in culmination of our hard work.

Another Day in The Rain


On our first NOMAD BART trip for the Peninsula cohort, headed to see the Diego Rivera mural "Pan American Unity" at City College. We are excited to analyze this amazing, layered mural using our blossoming knowledge about our country's history with Mexico and the Mexican American War.


Once we were off the train, we decided not to walk to the mural because of the rain, plus we couldn't get a straight answer about whether or not we'd actually be able to see it today. Instead, we went to the NOMAD Depot to complete our "I Spy" style scavenger hunt for the mural using a projector. On the way, we counted the number of murals we saw in the Mission on our 4 block walk. We counted between 25-50!!


Back at the space, we picked up where we left off in our study of the Mexican-American war and the history of our country's border battle. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and resulted in most of the current US territories from the Mexican Cessation, but the current US border was finalized in 1853 with a final small purchase of land. Many formerly Mexican citizens became US citizens overnight.


We spent a good deal of time analyzing Rivera's mural in the context of the history we learned and the artist's desire to achieve a greater sense of unity between the parts and countries of our continent. His mural portrays how art, innovation, and technology unite all people of North and South America despite their differences. In an interview conducted by Dorothy Puccinelli in 1940, the year he created the mural for the Golden Gate International Expo, he explained his work like this: "My mural which I am painting now--it is about the marriage of the artistic expression of the North and of the South on this continent, that is all. I believe in order to make an American art, a real American art, this will be necessary, this blending of the art of the Indian, the Mexican, the Eskimo, with the kind of urge which makes the machine, the invention in the material side of life, which is also an artistic urge, the same urge primarily but in a different form of expression ... it is about the marriage of the artistic expression of the North and of the South on this continent." He goes on to discuss the ways that the modern society (especially in the US) doesn't value art and true artistic expression because of the pace and complications of every day life. Pre-industrial life was inherently more artistic, which is in theme with some of the work and peoples we have looked at this semester, though this idea is complicated by the thought that technology is also artistic expression.

NOMAD Galactic!

Greetings from the future home of the NOMAD Galactic space program's Mission Control Center. In our larp-meets-science, kid-run space program largely inspired by Tom Sach's Space Program, we are collaborating with Brightworks' space program, BWASA, to build the parts of and enact a lunar mission. 

Our first meeting with the Brightworks Aeronatic and Space Administration crew.

Our first meeting with the Brightworks Aeronatic and Space Administration crew.

The other group considering mission objectives to complete during a meeting with BWASA. 

The other group considering mission objectives to complete during a meeting with BWASA. 

We have a few exciting protects in the works: a small scale version of a rocket launch for special effects (where we can't create working, life-size models/machines/components, we will make the special effects to give the illusion), a lunar habitat prototype, a spacesuit, and mission control that will remotely communicate with the astronauts within a 1,000 ft radius. 

Cutting the frame for our rocket launch special effects.

Cutting the frame for our rocket launch special effects.

We have a lot of research to do for all of our projects. Kerbal Space Program has been a great simulator for us to learn about physics related to space flight. 

Attempting a successful launch in Kerbal Space Program. 

Attempting a successful launch in Kerbal Space Program. 

Using a makeshift compass made from a mop stick, we drew and then cut a plastic circle for a cone-shaped HAB prototype.  


After some semi-calculated geometry, we put the pieces together... 


And arrived at a functional end product. 

Success on the inside! 

Success on the inside! 

We have a few other side projects going on, too: model rockets, NOMAD Galactic logo making, the reading of "Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight" by Margaret Lazarus Dean, and minecraft rocket models to show booster phases in space. 

Model rocket mess! 

Model rocket mess! 

One of many possible designs for our logo!  This one is Scout's design. 

One of many possible designs for our logo!  This one is Scout's design. 

More designs on the table. 

More designs on the table. 

Minecraft special effects in space.

Minecraft special effects in space.

We have our work cut out for us, but we are off to a great start! 


The Mexican American War


After reading our books for a bit to start our day, we headed outside to talk history. And to act it out. Wondering what the big deal is when it comes to border security between us and Mexico (and very curious about the history of walls... more on that later), we picked up nearly where we left off in history last semester with the Mexican American War. We already learned about the colonies and the Louisiana Purchase, but how did CA become part of the US? What was our initial relationship with Mexico? Who was where first?


Each student picked one or two figures from history to act out. Their task was to internalize the story and opinions of their character, then chat with one another in character to gain a preliminary understanding about the various players, sides, and beliefs about the Mexican-American War. I for example, was both Henry David Thoreau and Cochise, Chiricahua, an Apache leader.


While introducing their characters, they were also attempting to talk to other characters with various viewpoints on the war to gain a multifaceted understanding.


Later, we read Howard Zinn's "A Young People's History of the United States" to fill in the gaps in our knowledge after our morning experience. We only made it through a couple pages of the text because we had so many questions. What is annexation? Does it still happen today? We looked at the news and saw that indeed, it's a hot topic. We paused for a mini lesson on analogies after reading that the Mexicans won independence from Spain after a revolutionary war: The United States is to England as Mexico is to Spain... then, The United States is to English as Mexico is to Spanish. We left things at Manifest Destiny and will pick up with more next class.


Alex volunteered to read a comparative text book excerpt depicting the same war with far fewer perspectives or layers. As we often do, we spent some time admiring how infinitely complex and more interesting history can be, and should be, with the addition of many voices.


Don't Call it a Book Report


Everyone picked a book that tells the story of a marginalized or underrepresented group of people. Similarly, in our study of murals, we are exploring how murals and graffiti art serve as a cultural and political voice that often tells the stories, dreams, or journeys toward change for these groups.


I gave a brief mini lesson on related vocabulary words and the assignment. We discussed how this project is mostly research for our first NOMAD art gallery show and part practice for the necessary pieces of any good project proposal. We each hope to spend a good amount of time creating a piece of art that expresses an opinion of ours related to the book we read or calls a community to action that we can display in the NOMAD space as a public art gallery later this year.


After a good run around outside, we discussed graffiti art in a study room. Is it good or bad? When is it good; when is it bad? What if it's illegally done? Is illegal graffiti art ever ok? You can read some of their opinions written out on the white board. We had an amazing, deep debate on the subject.


We explored graffiti in various books. One book called "Bad Graffiti" showed the inappropriate, often pointless, sometimes offensive types of graffiti, while books about Banksy showed how thought-provoking and intelligent graffiti art can be.


Research and Donuts


Our daily work has been all over the place in terms of content these last few weeks, so we took a minute reflect on what we've been doing and how it all fits together. We noticed that our NOMAD government work and bill passing process (and our flag presentation for Burlingame city council) are part of our commitment to be informed and active citizens. We are studying murals this semester as a way to notice the stories, values, desires and change of the communities around us. We brainstormed a list of these communities or issues to come back to as we make our way through our study of murals.


Part of being an active and engaged citizen (or a representative in a government) requires one to listen to multiple perspectives and opinions from people of all backgrounds. Paying attention to the street art around us is just one of the many ways we plan to do this this semester. We decided to also each pick a book to read that tells the story of a person or group that is marginalized in some way. We spent the morning browsing the library, suggesting titles to one another and sinking into books.


Our new laws, fines, and purchasing abilities are bringing up all kinds of ideas, frustrations, and teachable moments. Alex spent his lunch hour writing a bill to propose that if someone forgets their bank account (the journals in which we keep track of our money), they should get fined rather than not paid at all. Not calling anyone out here... but this is just one of many bills emerging from personal experience ;)


Some of us enjoyed spending our hard earned NOMAD money on donuts (yes, they are on the approved list as stated by our law).


And then we all hunkered down for a serious conversation about fines. What behaviors require fines and are currently necessary to enforce? How much should each fine cost? This conversation was largely inspired by one of the first fines I gave out (and to nearly all of the class) for crossing a busy street without me. When they asked, worried looks on their faces, if they were in trouble or if I was mad, it was so satisfying to say, "I'm not mad at all, simply enforcing the rule you created with the consequence you devised."

Bills Bills Bills.


The time has come for us to pass our first nomad money bill, which will be aimed at clarifying what types of things NOMAD students are allowed to buy with their daily earned NOMAD money. We read the bill the Peninsula cohort created. We decided to change ours slightly so we could have the option of buying more types of items. As research, we watched the veto video our Executive branch sent the Peninsula group that lead to changing their first draft thus creating their approved final draft.


We broke into groups to rework the parent survey about spending money and the bill itself.


NOMAD's favorite team challenge game, Minefield, requires kids to communicate with each other about a challenge course that one one student at a time completes in a separate room. They loved this game today, and they made a brilliant visual map to accomplish their goal.


How sweet success felt when we finished!! We spent some time after the game debriefing what worked and what didn't work in terms of our team work, communication, and effectiveness.


After playing in the misting rain for a brief time, we decided to head back inside for our lunch break. The kids had the idea to collaborate on a horror board game and got straight to work delegating tasks and creating.


We dusted off the ol' jigsaw and cut a spinner and a game board out of plywood. Christie made the cuts today; we haven't been safety trained for power tools yet in our new space.


We finished watching the Werner Herzog documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" as part of our study of the history of murals. We admired how the film covered various aspects of Paleolithic culture beyond the paintings themselves. We reflected afterwards on scraps of paper answering the questions: "What does the art in Chauvet cave teach or tell us?" "Why do these caves matter?" and "What is the purpose of a mural?"


Our discussion lead us to exploring the purpose of a mural as described by widewalls.com: "to paint a picture of society, created from stories, values, dreams, change." Using this statement, we walked to a few local murals to see if they depicted some or all of these parts.


Rainy Daze


We are following up on our observation that many of the murals we have seen seem to be painted in more impoverished neighborhoods. The issue of distribution of wealth is a very relevant topic to our study of communities and social justice, so today we are exploring our beliefs about poverty and what exactly poverty means.


We started by discussing and identifying whether or not we agree or disagree with this statement: "Individuals are responsible for living in poverty. They have no one to blame but themselves." The whole group felt neutral about this statement giving reasons about people they know who are responsible for having less money due to actions like gambling, while recognizing that there are some factors that are out of people's control like health expenses.


We defined the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and identified the FPL for households of 2, 3, and 4 people. Then, using the internet, we began calculating the actual cost of living in the cities we live in. We consulted websites like Craigslist, Kaiser, and PG&E. We created a grocery list, so we can do pricing research at the grocery store later today. Most parts of this lesson comes from Teaching Tolerance, which is one of my favorite resources for exploring social justice.


While on the topic of money, we calculated our NOMAD bank account balances using our daily pay. Everyone is required to do the math for every transaction - money coming in and money going out. We went over some mental math strategies and noticed patterns in our arithmetic to make things easier.


The rain forced us to stay inside during park, but we were excited to get some reading time and One Night game play time. We haven't played One Night since last semester, so it felt good to get our Werewolf groove back on.


We took off on foot to the local Safeway for our research about the cost of living (specifically groceries). On the way, we noticed this mural.


At Safeway, kids took note of prices for their estimated weekly grocery list.


We had to adjust our lists a few times realizing that what we anticipated as enough food for two people for a week wasn't much at all.




After walking to Potrero Hill, we set up our NOMAD bank accounts. Last semester, the student government committee decided that all NOMAD students will receive money from the NOMAD "government" to use as they wish while out in the world. Every kid gets $1 per day taxed at 10%. After a hearty debate about the form this currency should take on Monday, NOMADians decided it should be "digital." We are using pen and paper ledgers to track our monetary balances every day.


We created our own symbol for NOMAD currency. We will track all money as it comes in and goes out. We explored the possibilities of negative balances, lost ledgers, and money disputes.


The First Bill


We continued our reading of House on Mango Street with a more pointed story highlighting the socioeconomic gap between two neighborhoods and the way that visitors from either to the other feel afraid in the neighborhood that is not their own. Sebastian noted how poetic these stories are, so we reveled in the poetic devices used in her writing to illuminate theme, meaning, and feeling.


We hopped on CalTrain to Millbrae in search of the Peninsula Museum of Art.


Our goal at the museum was to notice various materials and mediums that artists use and how those choices compliment the subject. While murals will be one form to focus on for the semester, we have a great opportunity to explore and create art through any medium.


We were able to tour artists' studios and chat with a few of the resident artists.


One of the artists gave us an impromptu mini lesson on 3-D drawing and painting on a 2-D surface. She shared many pieces that her students or she herself have made.


Back at school, we co-created a template for proposing bills to be passed as laws. Using our new template, we wrote half of our first bill proposal outlining how NOMAD students can spend NOMAD money.


Anxious to pass our NOMAD money bill, we dove right into the review process of what we had already written. Though we haven't elected senators or a speaker of the house yet, we moved forward with voting on our bill. Despite the fact that the bill allows students to buy items even if their parents haven't approved of everything on the items list, the bill unanimously passed.

First Day in The Depot... Sort Of


We are only a few days away from officially moving into our new space! Today we created a small makeshift meeting space where we created the next iteration of a picture telephone notebook. We aren't there yet, but we are working on making the tools we need to successfully play this game.


We are working on establishing a strong group dynamic. We've been attempting smaller team building challenges, but today I have them a slightly more difficult task. The goal was to work together outside of a circle on the ground to dip a jar into a cooler full of water and get the water outside of the circle without ever entering the circle. They had a few bungee cords and some cotton string.


As group challenges go, we had moments of talking over each other, complete stuckness, and failed attempts. We paused to create a few strategies and work on our communication skills. The group established a facilitator and set agreements about how to consider all ideas.


At last we succeeded, but our contraption broke at the exact moment we snapped our victory photo!!



One of the themes we will explore this semester is that of the distribution of wealth and factors that contribute to poverty. Murals have existed across many cultures spanning a huge timeline, but we've noticed murals in primarily in specific neighborhoods at this early point in our inquiry. Questions and comments about socio-economic status in these neighborhoods have surfaced, so it seems a logical place to dive in. I asked this question this morning: "Do you think living in poverty is something a person can control or not?" In other words, if a person is considered poor, is it their fault? Everyone in our group today fell in the middle of the spectrum today. They stood together in the center of the room between the two polarities of this question and discussed.

A NOMADic Tuesday


In a tense game of "throw lots of objects in a kind of chaotic manner with some semblance of strategy," we practiced our communication skills and teamwork.


We took some time to engage in a conversation about our past schooling and homeschooling encounters. As I've found with nearly all students, everyone has felt bullied, picked on, or teased in some way in their past. Without going into too many details, we built empathy for one another through our shared experience.


Over our lunch break we enjoyed a game of picture telephone. Lola, our fearless teacher, made us fall in love with this hilarious game. I see much more of this in our future.


We are also acquainting ourselves with the parks near us.


Using a couple stories from The House on Mango Street, we practiced a reading strategy to identify important details, which will later help us to identify and analyze the main idea of texts we read.


We stopped by the library that is closest to The Depot to scope out the digs and become a bit more acquainted with our local NOMAD neighborhood.

A Break in The Rain


Enjoying a quick walk while there was still sunshine to start our morning right.


Our favorite iCivics games are back! Today we played "LawCraft," a game that explores the process of proposing bills, researching them in committees, and passing them in Congress. This game served as a provocation for our afternoon process of proposing our first NOMAD bill to eventually be pushed through Congress to become a law.


Many of us struggle with finding the main idea using important details in a text. Over the course of this semester, I'll be introducing and spiraling reading strategies to build our comprehension and analysis skills. Today, we practiced highlighting a text for main idea, details, and vocabulary words.


We completed three readings of the text as well, which we will continue to practice for the sake of thoroughness. The first reading is a skim for the gist of the piece, the second reading intended to build understanding, and the third reading asks us to analyze and question.


We worked on finding the main idea of the story "Cathy, Queen of Cats" by Sandra Cisneros. The main idea is somewhat difficult to tease out from this very short vignette, but we reached an understanding about the complex ideas around two girls of different races both wanting to escape the poor neighborhood they live in, feeling shame, and expressing it all in two very different ways.


The rain provided a completely new obstacle for Grounders tag today! It was nice to have a brief sunshine break and some fresh air.


Before heading back to the library, we created a small ceremony to set intentions for this semester of NOMAD.


Our responses to the question "What intention would you like to set for this semester of NOMAD" ranged from "create a great government" to become closer friends with everyone here" to "just have fun" and "create a real mural."


We watched some videos about the process of bills becoming laws in the US, then re-read our NOMAD Constitution. After, we sketched out how this process will work within NOMAD. Our first project is to create board games that teach this process to future NOMAD students.


We discussed the process and hammered out some complications like how many houses we will have, if there will be a difference between Congress and the House given our small size, and what sponsorship will look like by a senator or the purpose of committees when a bill is proposed.


One group got started on their bill --> law board games. They hit a few obstacles: will the game be a race to pass laws? Will bills be competing with one another? Will the game be collaborative? How will the various checkpoints be enacted through game play?


The other group began drafting the first NOMAD bill concerning how we will be able spend our earned NOMAD money. They also created a rough template that anyone can fill out to propose a bill (that includes you, parents! And you, public!). Finally, they decided to create a survey for parents about what they are allowed to buy and consume. This research will *hopefully* inform their proposed bill. Parents, this survey is homework to be completed by Wednesday, so look in your email for the link and complete with your child, please.



Today was a very mobile and much too of short day for what we tried to accomplish, but we became acquainted with our city and be another by foot as a group.


After walking most of the way to SF MoMA, stopping along the way to eat some of our lunches and drink tea while talking about NOMAD basics, and getting to know one another on the go, we hopped on the Muni bus for the last few blocks of our journey. We were all thinking the same thing: we can't wait to be on the NOMAD bus instead of the Muni bus!


One of our first stops inside MoMA was the living wall. We debated whether or not it could be considered a mural... On one hand it is an intentionally designed and created work of art on a wall, but is it actually a garden?


Sebastian investigates the mechanism moving this piece. Everyone was encouraged to find a piece that spoke to them the most and to consider various mediums they might want to create with this semester.


Though this picture does not adequately capture the moment, Lola guided us to her favorite piece in the whole museum with immense enthusiasm.


 Comparing inspired sketches at the end of our visit. Sebastien described his as "gravity," and Ben shorter 5 word take on a famous 6 word story.


We were able to spend a brief period of time playing at Yerba Buena before we had to jet back for pick up. On our way home, we stopped for a conversation about the best part of NOMAD - the insanely sweet kids who join. I explained how important it is for us to support one another always at NOMAD; it's basically the only thing that I'm "strict" about. We are a small group and a family, so we have to have each other's backs. We gave a thoughtful round of appreciations. Things like "thanks for sharing your opinions even though they are different from mine" and "I Iike how you always know when someone needs someone to talk to."

Day One For The San Francisco Crew!


It seemed fitting to kick off our San Francisco classes at our new space in the Mission, admiring the mural on our very own building (which was created by the owner). We will be studying murals, the stories they tell, the communities they represent, and social justice for the duration of this spring semester. We aren't sure what the grayscale tree mural on our building represents, but we threw ideas out there about life and death, growth, and abstract versus reality.

Using our phones or journals, we walked around the neighborhood noting anything that we thought could be considered a mural. We wrote descriptions, interpretations, and who we thought the creators might be.


Here are some of the many murals we saw. We discussed whether graffiti tags, mosaics, and poster collages could be considered murals.


We explored local options for coffee shops and cafes where we might work, read, or chat in the future. St. Francis Fountain won us over today, so snagged a large table and made friends with the servers.


The experiment went like this: the kids were given their weekly budget. They got to pick whatever they wanted to spend their money on. They all chose ice cream. Is anyone surprised? We had a conversation reflecting on this unsurprising situation, and I told him this was the only day we could eat ice cream before lunch (or even at all). Our next task is to decide if we have to impose a law about what they can and cannot buy with their money, if they have to have a conversation with their families about what they are and aren't allowed to buy with that money, or if we want to try to hold ourselves responsible for making good decisions. This isn't to say that ice cream every day is a bad decision...but you know what I mean.


Last semester, NOMAD students created a system of government and economics for future classes to implement. The system is based off of the United States' three branches where kids are representatives and create bills to attempt to pass in congress. As the current only teacher, I get to be the judicial branch: I hold court sessions and declare laws to be constitutional or not. Another component of this system gives every student $2 per week for following the laws of our student-created NOMAD constitution, cleaning and maintaining all spaces, and acting appropriately in public. With this money, which is taxed and accumulates weekly, kids can spend their money as they please in coffeeshop or on souvenirs. Today, I explained this system and we conducted a little experiment...


We took some time to visually express what we thought the purpose of a mural is.


During this process, we discussed with each other, brainstormed, and I even scored a free milkshake for being the crazy teacher who buys ice cream and holds class in a restaurant.


We presented our thoughts and visuals about what the purpose of a mural is.


Here are the final products! Everyone agreed that murals express feelings and stories, and many of us noticed how political murals can be. Some show religious beliefs, culture, language, community - not so dissimilar from the identity portrayed with flags.


I don't know how they played on the "spinny thing" for so long after ice cream and lunch, but they spun hard and for longer than I could watch without feeling sick myself!


We wrote thank you cards to our Indiegogo campaign backers who contributed to the purchase of our school bus. We have approximately 100 thank yous to write, so we'll try to tackle a few every day for the next few weeks. The kids were so thoughtful and creative with what they wrote.


We created a small ceremony to mark our first day of NOMAD in San Francisco!


To end our day, we read a couple short stories/vignettes from the collection "The House on Mango Street," which explores the life of Esperanza, a girl growing up in an impoverished Latino neighborhood. We examined the poetic, flash fiction form of these stories and discussed the relationship between the elements of the pieces we read and themes we saw expressed in some of the murals from the day.