REAL School Marin

Relevant Experience and the Art of Learning

A unique, private, middle school located in central Marin County, California. 

We offer a personalized, intensive and integrated education for exceptional students as they navigate the crucial transition from childhood to adolescence.


REAL SCHOOL MARIN visits the Tesla Factory


                                                                                                Dylan J,  Grade 7

A New Tomorrow

     Hulking red robots with names like Iceman, Beast, Wolverine, Xavier and Cyclops lifted car frames and aluminum hubcaps. Through the cacophony of mechanic noises, one feeling emanated from our group: awe. I was filled with excitement as we toured the Tesla factory one step at a time.

    My family owns a Tesla, which many people covet, and although it is a nice car, I never understood why. After visiting the factory, I appreciated the car more than I ever had before. Although the visible amenities such as a mini computer with operational Internet is are nice, the internal structure and programming are truly exceptional, and I got to learn almost every step of these processes.

    Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla has one clear aim: to carve a better tomorrow. Tesla believes, that in a reasonable amount of time, we can restore the Earth to a better state than it is in now. Some of the ways they plan on doing this is: making electric cars affordable, which will create a cleaner and better world. Creating better solar panels, to release our grip on fossil fuels. And better battery packs, which will reduce the greenhouse effect and drive us forward in terms of renewable energy.

     I was fascinated by the fact that Tesla used to have only around 400 employees but has doubled that in six years. I learned about their largest machine, a sort of cutting tool. The company that Tesla bough it from told Elon that it would take a year to have the machine sent to the factory. Elon said that a year was far too long, and had his Tesla employees get the machine to the factory in less than a month. Tesla had to shave six inches off the machine to fit it under a bridge and had to build down a couple stories just to fit it into the factory. This also showed me how fast Tesla operates and that its goals are probable and will be achieved.

     Tesla showed me that a sustainable approach and affordable electric cars are possible and that there are companies devoted to restoring the Earth, rather than just making money. I feel extremely grateful for this opportunity and hope other groups like ours can potentially visit the factory as well. 

                                                                                                                               Eli S., Grade 8                 

A Metropolitan Amid a Jungle of Machinery

            “Whrrr, bzzz, click,” the forklifts were whizzing by, too  preoccupied to notice this oasis. The sounds of a factory couldn't be coming from but five feet away yet somehow a distinctive threshold of green plants separated the spotless restaurant. But how could this be? The idea in itself was preposterous. “It can't be done,” I thought, images of the madman who thought this up flashing in my head all the while. In the middle of this factory, this birthplace of automobiles, sat a flawlessly hygienic restaurant.

            Before coming to the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California I had a set of expectations. I had mapped out what the factory would look like in my mind. I visualized a dark, dirty factory caked in dust and metal shaving. The workplace was dangerous and unsanitary. The eating space was unfit to even enter, much less to eat in. I suppose I was picturing what factories looked like right at the birth of the industrial revolution. In reality when I saw the restaurant I was blown away. There wasn't a speck of dust on the ground. The floors in the factory itself were clean enough to eat off .

            The restaurant offered various dishes for free to the workers. They all looked delicious and well made. It was stunning that the factory could make one of the safest cars on the road, yet still have one of the cleanest restaurants I have ever seen. Hopefully next time I go to the factory, I will get to eat in the restaurant.

Student reviews of RSM's visit to "@Large:Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz"

Leo R., Grade 8


@Large @Alcatraz


            “@Large Ai WeiWei on Alcatraz” was created by Ai WeiWei and his studio in Beijing.  Each piece was sent to the U.S. where it was reconstructed by more than 80 art student volunteers.

Ai WeiWei, a Chinese artist and dissident born in Beijing, has displayed his work all over the world.  He also collaborated with architects to create the Olympic Stadium in 2008.  In 2011 he was held in a Chinese prison for 81 days for criticizing the Chinese government.  Now he has had his passport taken away and isn't able to leave the country.  So he wasn't able to see his exhibit on Alcatraz.


            There are four major installations in the exhibit. In the first room of the exhibit a massive dragon hangs from the ceiling and winds throughout the room.  The dragon has a traditional Chinese look with the head greeting you the minute you step into the room. The dragon is made of kites and gently sways in the room. As you walk along the dragon, if you look closely you may notice quotes from people like Nelson Mandela and Edward Snowden.  There are also powerful words like, “damaging,” “acting,” and “plotting” hidden among the many panels that make up the colorful dragon.


            The next room is much longer than the first and holds the main part of the exhibit, “Trace.”  There are 176 portraits made out of Lego's depicting those dissidents that Ai WeiWei calls, “heroes of our time.”  The portraits sit on the floor and take up much of the space.  Divided into six large sections, each one is a patchwork of colorful pixelated faces.  Off to the side of the room there are white pillars with binders on top that give the background stories of each of the people in the portraits.  None of the artwork is roped off.  If you chose to, you could walk across all of the portraits, but that would be rude and disrespectful. You might even start to pick away at the bricks.  This is because Ai WeiWei originally wanted people to walk on the portraits.  He probably wanted this so people could get up close and explore his art freely.

            A third large installation, “Refraction,” is viewed from above in a hallway where guards used to look over the prisoners while they did their work.  You peer through many small windows upon what looks to be some sort of metal bird's wing or insect.  Made out of metal I-beams,the impressive sculpture is longer than a school bus.  It seems to depict freedom being taken away since the bird-like structure is trapped inside a basement and cannot get out.


            “Yours Truly,” an installation in the dining hall, has beautiful wooden tables and benches where visitors can write post cards to many of the dissidents in the portraits.  This interactive part of the exhibit is a moving touch and hopefully many visitors will take this opportunity to reach out and send support to the “heroes of our time.”





Sam S., Grade 7

October 14, 2014

Bird Trapped in the Basement

On Friday, October 10, REAL School Marin, a small Larkspur school, went to Alcatraz Island, a famous closed United States Penitentiary. The island currently houses a new Ai Weiwei art exhibition.

“@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz” is a new and provocative exhibition, focusing on prisoners of conscience, both well known and obscure. Weiwei, a prisoner of conscience himself, was not able to build the exhibition because he is not able to leave China. He has collaborated with many people to help construct and install the exhibits on Alcatraz. Weiwei was arrested in 2011 at Beijing airport, where his passport was promptly revoked and he has been trapped in the country ever since. His didactic art exhibitions contain underlying messages about cruel and unjust governments.

The exhibition on Alcatraz has several major installations in the New Industries Building, “With Wind”, “Trace”, and “Refraction”.

“With Wind” is a dragon made of vibrantly colored kites that are tethered together, and stretches the length of the room. The airy piece is suspended from the ceiling: visitors can walk under, read the words and be moved by these simple phrases. Each kite has either a word or a quote that symbolizes what prisoners of conscience fight for. Words like collude and quotes like “…privacy is a function of liberty” are printed on the kites.

“Trace” is a piece with LEGO brick portraits of many of prisoners of conscience. The exhibit features well-known people like Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou, and introduces obscure prisoners of conscience to exhibition visitors. The portraits kindle powerful emotions, and offer a stark contrast of what foreign governments condemn people for compared to our society that has intellectual freedom.

“Refractions”, also in the New Industries Building, is a wireframe bird, with Tibetan cooking solar panels. This piece uses the metaphor of a trapped bird to evoke the tensions between people who want intellectual freedom and draconian, communist governments.

Weiwei has chosen a captivating setting for these installations: inside a cold, dank, musty prison building that has paint peeling off the walls. Shattered glass litters the cement floor and cracked toilets line the walls. The slight feeling of oppression that the setting invokes contributes to the art and intensifies the effect.  Along the New Industries Building is a hall that was once used by guards to observe prisoners, known as the gun gallery, and Weiwei has even used that for visitors to gain a new perspective on the art pieces.

These provocative and controversial exhibits trigger powerful emotions of rage as well as sorrow for Weiwei and the prisoners featured in the pieces. The entire exhibition has many underlying messages, and carries a profound message for barbaric governments, especially the Chinese. The setting of a prison amplifies the effect of the art, and offers a new perspective on edifying modern art.