Posts tagged Teamwork
Super Shortie Corner Surprise

We may talk a lot about our big nerdy projects and heady ambitions, but in many ways, the heart of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club is play. Super Shortie Corner was created in a small corner of the lair during our recent clean (and build) week for the express purpose of encouraging imaginative and educational play in the five-and-under set. It’s been a surprise to see the space being used by Brains of all ages for playing, inventing, and creating entire imaginary universes and scenarios to wrap around their activities. Any phony toughness or competitiveness here gets quickly rebuffed because Kindness and Teamwork are the minimum requirements.

We don’t talk much about “discipline” in the Big Brains for the simple reason that we’re not looking for discipline (in the usual sense of the word) from the Brains. It’s not enough for our Brains to just gain the capability to refrain from hurting each other or themselves with their actions. To realize their full potential, Brains must also gain that feeling of liberation that comes from cooperation and collaboration. Willpower and Respect—our version of “discipline”—are only two of the twelve superpowers that can help them gain that liberation. For all the rest, they need motivation and permission, both of which they are somehow getting in this teeny tiny corner of the room. Such a pleasant surprise!

This Adventure Made Possible By...

When a young Big-Brained Superhero decided she wanted to go on an adventure in the halls of Yesler Community Center, we knew just who to call. The front desk and administrative staff are frequently the unsung Big-Brained Superheroes of the center. Rather than drawing strict lines around their pre-conceived roles and responsibilities, they’re often looking for ways to exercise their Kindness and Teamwork superpowers on behalf of the community. In this case, when we brought out some cardboard and paper plates, staff member Kris was more than ready to get to work making this adventure possible.

How do you measure the value of this kind of support? How do you measure the power of being able to realize your big idea for a Saturday afternoon adventure within the relative safety of your own little community?

Big-Brained Superheroes Fight an Epic Battle


He comes back in the room, slaps his half-done homework onto the table in front of him, and puts his head down. It doesn’t take much Empathy to see that he’s feeling defeated, disenfranchised, downtrodden. So, what do we do? Do we reinforce his hurt and insecurities by criticizing him? Tell him to: Suck it up, kid, because learning how to multiply is way more important than whatever is going on in your brain right now?

Big-Brained Superheroes fight epic battles every single day. Some of the battles we all fight every now and then; some of them are fought relentlessly—without truce—by a precious few. Those Big-Brained Superheroes get dispatches, overt and covert, every single day telling them who they are and who they are not. Telling them what they are and are not capable of. And mostly, what they should and should not expect from a world that doesn’t always concern itself with tapping into their hidden strengths. Like the Avengers and like the X-men, they get it. It takes superhuman strength to fight for a world that doesn’t seem to fight so much for you.

Which is why sidekicks exist. Sidekicks may not have all the answers or know exactly what to say or do to defeat the villainy. We may even get distracted from time to time with our own battles. But, by default, we always come back to knowing who our priorities are. And no matter what, when we see a Big-Brained Superhero losing the battle, we know our job is to fight alongside—not against—him. So that when he raises his head, both victory and completed homework in hand, we can be there too. Right by his side. Helping show the world all the amazing things Big-Brained Superheroes, when we work together, can do.

A Tower of Teamwork Power


It’s no secret that without our superpowers The Big-Brained Superheroes Club would not exist today. Why does this matter? Because superpowers beget superpowers. For instance…

Yesterday, one of our beautiful Big-Brained Superheroes went from stagnation to meltdown when it came to getting her homework done. It was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. And while we are officially on record as being homework-ambivalent ourselves, sometimes a superhero’s gotta do what a superhero’s gotta do. In steps a fellow young BBS with her healthy dose of Empathy, Leadership, and Teamwork—not to mention a small arsenal of peanut butter crackers. Less than an hour later: crisis averted, mission accomplished, Empowerment superpower activated. Go Team Big-Brained Superhero!

It Takes a Village to Go to Mars


Yesterday, a few Big-Brained Superhero volunteers met over 70(!) unofficial big-brained superheroes at East African Community Services in New Holly. It was an amazing two hours in which we travelled to Mars…and Venus…and Mercury…and every other planet in our solar system via rocket ships of our imagination. In the process, not only did we exercise all of our superpowers, but we talked a bit about design and development, chemical reactions, forces and motion, and our solar system. (We even briefly discussed what “NASA” stands for and what its scientists and engineers learn from launch failures.)

So, how does all this happen? Well, if we were Carl Sagan, we would start by acknowledging the origins of the universe. But since we’re The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, we start by acknowledging our shared superpowers. And then, we recognize the hours and hours and hours of work done by BBS volunteers and EACS staff, volunteers, and community members. And then, we appreciate the wide variety of in-kind contributions from a whole host of big-brained superheroes present and past:

  • We love Cappy’s Gym for rescuing over 40+ water bottles from their recycle bin to serve as our rocket ships!
  • We love EACS and BBS volunteers for providing over 4 ½ gallons of vinegar for rocket fuel and 16 ounces of baking soda for rocket engines. Not to mention Julianna of SPACE for, so long ago, providing the paper towels we used for engine casings.
  • We love Starbucks on Capitol Hill for handing over a handful of corks to BBS volunteer Mr. Measurement Man, who went door-to-door in search of serviceable containment methods for our rocket engines and fuel.
  • We love EACS, BBS volunteers, and our old Gasworks Kite Shop for providing tape, markers, and streamers used to accessorize our rocket ships. Plus the sidewalk chalk and tin cans for the launchpads.

And finally, we love EACS staff, volunteers, and community members (Elizia, Connie, and everyone else) for giving us the privilege of meeting so many new big-brained superheroes! (And for letting us accidentally use the roof as a landing pad for so many unmanned recyclable vehicles…sorry about that, EACS.) You all really know how to party!image

A Room with Adaptability

So the grittiness went out of life…At the last minute, when the social machine was clogged hopelessly, one member or other of the family poured in a drop of oil.

-EM Forster

It may not make for a spectacular story, but more than anything, the value of our superpowers lies in their humble ability to take a bit of the grittiness out of life. To unclog the social machine. And so it was on Wednesday, when—thanks, in part, to the Kindness and Teamwork of our friends at Jigsaw Renaissance and Seattle Radio Control—we were able to take a step back from our more grueling superpower exercise and just play…

We soldered:

We K'Nex’d:

We LEGOed:

And we built things out of squishy shapes:

And every once in a while, when we’d have a minor dispute…maybe over a particular building block or an electronics part…we’d exchange that thing for the chance to exercise one of our superpowers. Who would willingly trade a LEGO for an Adaptability superpower? A Big-Brained Superhero that’s who.



Sometimes, it takes a lot more than Willpower to accomplish a mission. In the case of our first ever robot-making field trip, it took the combined superpowers of at least five different organizations and 10 big-brained superheroes to turn our plans into reality.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Brown Paper Tickets and the incredible Kindness of amazing Maker Advocate Tamara Clammer, four of our finest Big-Brained Superheroes got to create their very own mouseybots at today’s Xbot Robotics workshop. On our walk down from Yesler Community Center (which opened early just for us!), we picked up trash in coordination with Nature Consortium for Earth Day. Once we reached the Inscape building, we bided our pre-workshop time by hanging out with the folks at Jigsaw Renaissance, checking out their Arduino library and other fun stuff. Whew! And we did it all before lunch.

When it comes to building robots, Big-Brained Superheroes jump right in…


Goodbye wire insulation…


Hello circuit creation…


It’s time to heat things up…


Or maybe fog things up?…


A flurry of activity…


And mission accomplished…


Thank you again, Tamara et al! We have to agree with one of our young big-brained superheroes…this was, indeed, the “funnest day ever!”

Big-Brained Superheroes vs. Pandemonium


Yesterday saw a blur of activity in The Big-Brained Superhero Hall of Justice (a working title; calm yourselves, DC fans). And while the search rages on for more, more, MORE amazing Big-Brained Superhero volunteers, we can’t help thinking how useful our crazy kid-to-volunteer ratio can be in providing opportunities to exercise our superpowers. To some extent, this is by design. We want a club—not a tutoring center, per se.

However, when your lair has porous borders like ours does, it can be a bit disquieting to see five big-brained superheroes suddenly morph into 10 big-brained superheroes…and then into 15…and then 20… And that’s when our Adaptability superpower kicks into overdrive, so that, when we hear, “Can I have some work?”, we have options.

Sure, you can have some work. Come help this 4 year-old (technically below our age range, but Adaptability!) big-brained superhero learn to count, add, and subtract, using big-brain bucks. Teamwork!:


…Or learn how circuits work using the Electronics Playground kindly lent to us by Jigsaw Renaissance. More Teamwork!:


And then, stick around for The Big-Brained Superheroes Club after party where we have WAY too much fun testing out the augmented reality graphic novel kindly gifted to us by the good folks at Anomaly. Even more Teamwork!:


Pandemonium, while assiduously avoided in all the respectable circles, is a superpowers playground. Dilemma.

Tapping into the Hidden Strengths that All Humans Have


Admittedly, the mission of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club is primarily directed toward young people. But one of the more bracing aspects of being a big-brained superhero is that it frequently puts us in a position to discover and value the hidden strengths in adults as well. And these fun and surprising discoveries often go well beyond our select volunteer circle (which you should still join, of course!).

Over the weekend, a member of our extended big-brained superhero community exercised her Kindness superpower in thoughtfully sending us a notice she had found about an upcoming theatre arts supply sale. And yesterday, a couple of us swung by the event on the off chance that we’d find a few BBSC project materials that our tiny budget could afford. When we arrived, however, we were immediately overwhelmed by a myriad of materials and tools of which our club is constantly in need: namely, office supplies. Paper, that is. White/off-white gold. Pressed wood pulp.

Now, typically, one might find a story of the sale of paper goods to be not at all bracing. But that presumes the seller of said paper goods to be not at all bracing. Such was not the case here.

Here enters our newly discovered extended big-brained superhero community member, Julianna, of SPACE. In the process of discussing Julianna’s supplies and materials, we began discussing arts, culture, and people helping people. Like us, Julianna is a volunteer. And her volunteer work is dedicated to helping preserve the space of Warren G. Magnuson Park for the community. Listening to her talk about all of the work her group has done and continues to do was incredibly inspiring. Her Sense of Adventure, Teamwork, Leadership, Empowerment, and Kindness superpowers have clearly been well-exercised. So much so that, upon hearing what we were up to in The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, Julianna offered to simply give us all the paper goods our little car could carry. FREE, that is. Gratis. On the house.

So, with paper, paper clips, pens, markers, scissors, etc, we loaded up the little car until the back windshield was a faint memory. Fresh in our minds, however, were the continually resurgent thoughts of how Kindness begets Kindness. Teamwork begets Teamwork. Empowerment begets Empowerment… Superpowers, that is. Like Julianna, let’s exercise them daily.

The Kids in the Hall Do Math


“Can I have a math problem?” is, as we mentioned on Twitter recently, probably our favorite big-brained superhero FAQ. How this tradition got started we don’t recall, but we’ve pretty much given up on making it through the halls of Yesler Community Center without being stopped by this question at least once (mostly at least thrice). And having zero interest in looking a gift horse in the math, roll with it we do. Even if it means scheduling an extra 20 minutes for a trip to the bathroom.

Why do we love this question so much? Well, we know that number talk is important in our early years, and apparently, ready access to basic math knowledge correlates with success on the PSAT. But our love of this question goes much deeper than that. This question, for us, is all about our superpowers:

  1. Sense of Adventure: Anytime big-brained superheroes are eager to solve a problem, they’re exercising their Sense of Adventure. And it all begins with a Sense of Adventure.
  2. Kindness, Empathy, Teamwork: Somehow some way we’ve learned to use math as a means of communication. A point of connection. Contra approaches like this one, our hallway math is a group effort. We suspect this cooperative approach may be good for all our big-brained superheroes but most especially for our girls (who, BTW, are our most frequent inquisitors by far). 
  3. Critical Thinking, Creativity, Adaptability, and Persistence: Hallway math, sans pencil or paper, creates an interesting challenge for us. How difficult can we make it for our big brains and still keep it achievable? How far can we test their boundaries and even their sense of themselves? How can we, ever so briefly and subtly, blow their minds? While it may sound ridiculous, these really are the questions we ask ourselves. All in this quintessentially transitory space.

We love these indisputable reminders that thinking, learning, and connecting can and should be happening everywhere, maybe even especially on the way to the bathroom.

Big-Brained Superhero Designs: Part 1 of X

wonderful watch

This drawing of a “holographic chat watch” was created by one of our big-brained superheroes after a meeting in which we focused specifically on exercising our Creativity superpower. Although that meeting was at least a couple of months ago, we hadn’t seen this drawing until last week. That’s because the big-brained superhero to which this homework had been assigned had gone missing from club meetings throughout all that time. Nonetheless, he carried this drawing around in his notebook until he was able to return. We’re hoping this means he’s serious.

Part of our mission to “tap into the hidden strengths that all young people have” involves helping our big-brained superheroes turn their big ideas into reality. The above drawing represents one big-brained superhero’s idea. That’s a huge first step! And if he’s serious about his idea, our goal is to help him draw up design and requirements documents for a prototype that gets him as close to his design as he can get. From there, we plan to help him find the resources to create his prototype. And finally, we hope to help him build and test it.

Obviously, this project presents a huge test for all of our superpowers—Persistence and Adaptability, in particular. One big challenge will be getting us through the “boring” parts. To that end, we’ll be deploying all of our Leadership and Teamwork superpowers for keeping everyone maximally motivated. Another exciting question we’ll be exploring is how well we are able to adapt our design to fit within price, materials, and engineering constraints. We have no idea whether or not we’ll be successful in this endeavor. But luckily, we have our Sense of Adventure. And that’s a start.

Holiday Shopping Guide: Big-Brained Superhero-worthy Enterprises

View Oh the Places Big-Brained Superheroes Go! in a larger map

We in the Big-Brained Superheroes Club have two great loves: our ability to think spatially and our local donors. (Not necessarily in that order.) In that spirit, we’ve created this lovely map of Seattle Big-Brained Superhero-worthy enterprises (along with our comments!) to help make your local holiday shopping easier this season.  Don’t just shop smart, shop Big-Brained Superhero smart!

And if you own or patronize a local business/project/organization that you consider to be a Big-Brained Superhero-worthy enterprise, please either make or encourage your favorite entrepreneur to make a donation to The Big-Brained Superheroes Club so that we can check it out!  Here are just some of the things we would highly value right now:

  • Tasty, healthy snack foods (we’re a growing bunch)
  • Club t-shirts (we have the design—we need the shirts and printing)
  • Letter tiles (a la Bananagrams or Scrabble)
  • Number tiles (the cleaner and simpler the font, the better)
  • Magformers (tons of them—we want to build build build!)
  • Chess games (no matter how many chess games we get, it never seems to be enough)
  • Office supplies and printing services (all different kinds of papers, pencils, pens, markers, stickers, glues, etc, etc)
  • Your time (seriously, The Big-Brained Superheroes Club is in demand!)

And here’s just one of the many reasons you should donate to The Big-Brained Superheroes Club:image

Happy holidays to all the big-brained superheroes throughout our fair city and beyond!

The Big-Brained Superheroes Club Origins: Part 1 of X

Captain America Unkempt

If you’ve seen the recent Avengers movie, you have some idea of how The Big-Brained Superheroes Club got started.  First, recollect just a few of the challenges that Nick Fury faced when trying to get his band of brainy heroes to trade contretemps for cooperation. Now, add to those recollections a few unconvincing lectures by a crackly voiced, brown-haired girl about how “we’re all in this together.”  Finally, toss in a considerable number of math worksheets, some reading exercises, and a bit of homemade play dough, and you have the essence of our weekly after school homework help sessions.

OK, maybe that’s hyperbole.  But it’s an analogy based in today’s pop culture…What did you expect? A Lord of the Flies Survivor reference?  We’re better than that.

If you’re familiar with Who we are, then you know that one of the top priorities for our after school program is “fostering a collegial atmosphere,” and you know the reason we feel that’s important is that stress has been shown to inhibit learning, and there’s a lot of stress involved in interpersonal conflict, etcetera, etcetera, whatever, just re-watch The Avengers and you’ll get the idea.  "That’s great,“ you say, "but what does all that have to do with superheroes? And superpowers—what’s with those?”.  Well, just unclench for a second, exercise your Sense of Adventure and Persistence superpowers, and we’ll get there.

Why Superheroes?
Because superheroes have superpowers.

OK, then. Why Superpowers?
Easy. Superpowers are manifestly cool.

A couple of us were sitting in the movie theater watching (SPOILER ALERT!) the recent Avengers movie wondering what made Captain America cool.  Was it his spangly outfit?  Was it his snazzy shield?  Not really.  Not to us.  What made Captain America cool to us was when, at the end of the movie, he used his Leadership and Teamwork superpowers to inspire the Avengers to make optimal use of their own individual superpowers.  To that end, he gave general suggestions rather than specific orders.  And he modeled rather than simply dictated the behaviors that he wanted to see.  That’s what made him cool. Captain America’s shield and spangly outfit were simply technologies with which he exercised his Leadership and Teamwork superpowers.  Or, at least, that’s what we saw.

But beyond the coolness factor, the superpowers metaphor serves a valuable function. Like other metaphors, It helps us see the otherwise unseen.  If we flip the standard comic book concept of superpowers upside down and abnormalize the “normal”, we can more easily become aware of, clearly define, and maybe eventually taxonomize the behaviors that we otherwise take for granted on a daily basis.  (Shout-out to all the sci-fi nerds rolling their eyes that we’re like a textbook with arms right now…yes, we know you know this, but you’re special.)  If our Leadership and Teamwork superpowers start to become as apparent to us as shields and spangly outfits, then we are more likely to pick them up and use them in our most stressful moments.  And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what education is about? Giving us the power to defeat supervillains?

UPDATE: Check out the PREQUEL of this origin story HERE:

Our Shared Superpowers

One of the primary missions of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club this summer is to help our Big-Brained Superheroes clearly see themselves as positive actors in the world–to help them realize and build on the best parts of themselves. Along those lines, we’re going to focus on solidifying a language for and an awareness of our superpowers, such as leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking, while we draw, write, invent, and perform.

Our Official Dictionary of Superpowers:

  • Teamwork: joining together to accomplish our mission
  • Leadership: inspiring, encouraging, and being an example to those around us
  • Kindness: being thoughtful and considerate
  • Empathy: feeling/thinking what someone else is feeling/thinking
  • Sense of Adventure: desire to try new things and make mistakes
  • Critical Thinking: questioning our assumptions
  • Adaptability: ability to adjust to new situations
  • Persistence: sticking to a goal
  • Empowerment: feeling confident in ourselves
  • Respect: having regard for others
  • Willpower: being able to intentionally control ourselves with our brains
  • Creativity: giving our brains the freedom to connect things in a new way

UPDATE: Curious about where our particular concept of superpowers came from? Check out our Origins Story Part 1 of X.