We asked our students to dream big

young students working with teacher on a project

As we gear up to open a second writing center in the Tenderloin, one burning question has been on everyone’s minds: What will be the theme of the new store? The Pirate Supply Store is an integral part of our center on Valencia Street. Not only does it partially fund our programs, the store has welcomed thousands of students into our Writing Lab, sparked their creativity and curiosity, and provided inspiration for countless nautical puns since we first opened our doors in 2002. How could we possibly come up with another concept to match?

For help with this daunting task, we turned to some of the most creative minds we know: the students in our after-school writing program at Buena Vista Horace Mann. Using the Pirate Supply Store as a model, we asked them to dream big and pitch us their best ideas for the new Tenderloin storefront.

While their individual concepts fell all across the map, we saw a few general trends:

  • Several students looked to their stomachs for inspiration (826 Pizza Store, Candy 826, 826 Chocolate);
  • Others were inspired by creatures both real and imaginary (Haunted Grrr 826, 826 Dinosaur Egg, My Little Pony 826, 826 Bunny Store, and the colorfully named 826 Ratlencia);
  • Still more based their concepts on a location (826 Tree House, Hot Planet 826, 826 Area 52, and several Underwater 826s and 826 Rocketships);
  • And an overwhelming number yearned to bring the outdoors in with sports-themed stores (826 Kickball Court, Baseball 826, 826 Basketball Store, 826 Skateboard Shop, and countless 826 Football—a.k.a Soccer—Stores).

The few outliers included 826 Tech Place, German’s Super 826 Store, and the soothing-sounding 826 Sleepy Street.

We then asked students to add color and detail to their concepts by dreaming up new features for the Tenderloin center. Of course, they identified some of the necessities that we have at our current center like couches, a fish tank, and computers, but here they truly let their imaginations run wild. These are some of the gadgets and add-ons they wanted to see in the new Writing Lab:

  • Self-writing paper/pencils (you talk to the paper/pencil and it writes for you);
  • Mind-reading paper/pencils (you don’t even have to talk to the paper/pencil, it just reads your mind and writes for you);
  • Rewards for finishing a story (bunnies, baby dragon eggs, a discount on skateboards at the store, a machine that checks your stories and spits out pizza, make-your-own chocolate books/teddy bears, fish from the fish tank, toys, $200, autographs from baseball players, a fairy wish granted by unicorns);
  • Places to relax afterward (skate park, pool, football field, soccer field, hammocks, batting cage, pitching cage, underground obstacle course, tree house, massage chairs, a monster world that does not actually sound all that relaxing);
  • And finally, secret kid-only entrances (like the Learning Tunnel of Awesomeness, where you solve codes that teach you how to spell or fix sentence grammar to gain entry to the Writing Lab).

While we would love to stock mind-reading paper and pencils and offer baby dragon eggs at the new lab, we may need your help tracking some of these items down. Keep an eye out for our Tenderloin wish list in the coming months!

Read more about 826 Valencia’s In-School programming at Buena Vista Horace Mann, and learn more about the BVHM students’ adventures.

Photographs by Lisa Anderson.


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