Roman Mars, the host and producer of my favorite podcast: 99% Invisible, gave a Ted Talk last year about design. But, as he does in each episode of his podcast on design, he took an unexpected approach -- he delivered an entertaining live radio show talk about flags, which was essentially a lesson on the foundations of good design. His talk was particularly poignant for us because he shows examples of fantastic, effective city flags (yes, most cities have a flag) juxtaposed with the worst city flags ever. By comparing these flags, the basic yet essential elements of great flag design are made painfully clear. They must be simple! They must be clear. They must not boast complex seals or involved symbols. They must never have text. We talk every day about the flags we want to design. Some days we actually design flags. Roman Mars makes the argument that great flags can have an important impact on our cities; they could rally the people in hard moments or around causes unique to our cities. He claims that the people in cities have control over the flags of their cities. I wonder if this will serve as a call to action?!?
While half the group watched Roman Mars' talk, the other half worked in small groups on grammar, sentence construction, or personal goals. We are beginning to analyze and practice effective sentence writing because we'll need to write professional emails in the next few weeks to the experts we hope will help us with our projects.
We stopped in on Judy's flag city! She has The largest flag store in Northern California. It's totally awesome and full of flags – everything from decorative flags to small flags to giant flags to stickers of flags. We asked Judy how she got into selling flags, and she said that her husband told her that she needed a hobby before he died. The hobby she chose? Vexillology - the study, interest, or usage of flags. At the shop, we looked for flags that we thought were particularly well designed as well as those that we thought could use a makeover. We found lots that we love and lots that seem a bit too complicated. Every student picked out one flag which we bought to take home and study, research, and present about.
A bit of research revealed all kinds of surprises about the flags and the countries or states or groups they represent. For example, Tommy learned that Canada is a monarchy. One that started as a French monarchy, was passed to a British monarchy, and now is just a Canadian monarchy. The maple leaf has long been a symbol of the country, but the flag was only adopted in 1965. Before that, the Union Jack (the British flag) reigned supreme over the land of Canada. Flags are amazing tiny entry points into enormous amounts of history and information.
One of the unexpected joys of being a mobile school is the exploration of different park spaces. I'm used to always going to the same park with students, which has its own joy and predictability. A new park every few days, though, brings excitement and an element of surprise. We went to this park today, which has an bizarre series of structures to climb, conquer, and enjoy. It was HOT, but we had a blast!