Day One For The San Francisco Crew!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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...

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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