january 17 2023

Last week we discussed how Marijuana can affect your Memory and Learning, Motivation, and Mood. When it comes to mental health, it’s important to know that marijuana can trigger panic attacks.

Even worse, it can lead to a mental illness called Psychosis. Psychosis is when you cannot stop being paranoid, hearing voices, or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).

Unfun fact: When you eat Marijuana, it actually becomes more powerful leading to unexpectedly bad experiences.

To feel what it’s like to have psychosis, watch the video below:

Did this video make you feel like you were actually experiencing psychosis? What part was most disturbing?

So again, knowing that there is so much to lose by getting high, how do you stay above the influence? Here are a few teens talking about their strategies:

How about making a video or podcast about fighting peer pressure so you can make your dreams happen!?!

Let’s make crafts that remind ourselves and others to DREAM BIG and be ABOVE THE INFLUENCE. It’s easy to aim low and settle for a life that is just “OK”. To make your real dreams happen– whether it’s being a doctor, lawyer, scientist, or filmmaker– your mind has to be sharp and focused. Marijuana won’t let that happen.

Use Shrinky Dinks to make jewelry and keychains! Here’s how:

Finally, let’s review what we’ve learned about the dangers of marijuana to your mental and physical health. Hopefully, I’ve convinced some of you to be Above the Influence. If I have, try to convince other teens!

Anyhow, click below for a Kahoot!

January 13 2023

Today is all about our sense of smell. Two things from our neuroscience unit will play a part: the Amygdala and the Neuron. We will also add a third part of your brain called the Hippocampus. Like the Amygdala, the Hippocampus is located in the Temporal Lobe. As you know, the Amygdala is responsible for your emotions. The Hippocampus is where your MEMORIES are stored.

When you smell something, your smell neurons (AKA Olfactory Receptors) send a signal to both your Amygdala and Hippocampus. That means when you smell something it often activates your feelings and memories at the same time.

(This video gets boring after 2 minutes)

Because smell can affect your feelings and memories, smell these scents with your eyes closed. How do they make you feel? What memories do they bring up?

Now it’s time to create your own! Here’s how:

  1. Look at your journal. Find the bottle matching the first scent you liked.
  2. Add up to 5 drops to a cup. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BOTTLE.
  3. Using your journal, write down the scent you used and how many drops you put– 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.
  4. Repeat! Up to three different scents.
  5. When you’re done, raise your hand. We will pass out a spray bottle.
  6. Take a dropper and put your perfume/cologne from the cup into a spray bottle.
  7. Write a one-word name of your new scent on the bottle.



Here are some possible scents to add and how they (may) affect people’s mood:

January 3 2023 (Neuroscience edition!)

Let’s begin with a quick crash course on neuroscience. Click HERE to see the slideshow.

This video is FULL of information on the neuroscience behind the effects of marijuana:

For your journal entry today, draw and label the 4 parts of the cerebrum and one thing it is responsible for.

Now, if you’re interested, take wood, nails, and string to create a string art brain. Use different color string for each of the 4 parts of the cerebrum.

Here’s an image you can use on top of wood to get you started:

How about making a podcast about weed where you talk about neuroscience? Here’s some facts to help you out:

Now that we know what the brain looks like, let’s zoom in to the individual cells– called Neurons. Neurons allow the different parts of the brain to communicate with each other to make us think, feel and do things.

OK, so, back to THC. There are certain neurotransmitters sent when learning, memories, mood, and motivation happen. These are called endocannabinoids. They are released at just the right time in just the right amount for us to learn, remember, and feel just right.

Soooo, all this to say, that what THC does is FLOOD your brain with endocannabinoids. This sends out non-stop messages that confuse and overwhelm the parts of your brain. Here’s an explanation:

January 3 2023

What’s the message of this video?

We just finished a unit on vaping where we focused on the effects of Nicotine. We learned that it not only leads to EXTREME addiction, but it causes mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

When thinking about Marijuana, we’ll be focusing on the effects of THC. There are 3 effects:

Memory and Learning, Motivation, and Mood.  

Let’s begin with Motivation. Your brain produces a chemical called “Dopamine”. Dopamine gives you the “I want to do” feeling. Weed smokers’ brains block Dopamine, so they don’t feel good about things they used to and don’t want to do new things.

Like Nicotine, THC effects your Mood. Your brain has an area that’s called the Amygdala which is where your “fight or flight” feelings are located. The Amygdala is usually triggered when you face a threat like a robber or mountain lion. THC pushes your Amygdala into overdrive which can make you feel anxious or paranoid.

Finally, when it comes to Learning and Memory THC jumbles the information being sent to your brain.

It should be said that THC can help people with cancer to reduce their pain and nausea (feeling like you have to throw up). But besides that, there are very few reasons why THC is “good for you”.

Did you know that there are two parts of marijuana: CBD and THC?  CBD is safe and is used in things like creams for muscles aches or pills to help you sleep.  There aren't many side effects to CBD.  THC is totally different.  It's a drug that deeply affects your brain and its ability to think clearly and to grow.  

The truth is that tweens and teens like you have growing brains that are like complex video games in the middle of being programmed. You are programming it! But when you get high you are messing up the programming language and the computer itself. This video explains it:

Can you create a funny video to talk about the dangers of marijuana? Here’s an example:

What can you make to help teens stay sober– even when there’s A LOT on their minds?

For your journal entry today, fill in the questions below:

What art, songs, T-shirts, documentaries, and podcasts can you create to help?

December 19 2022

Before we get started with our new social issue, marijuana, let’s take a listen to Norimar and Citaly’s Vaping song. Remember, just because we’re talking about a new social issue doesn’t mean you can’t keep making songs, documentaries, and art about vaping.

OK, it’s time to talk about Marijuana, AKA cannabis, AKA pot, AKA weed, AKA 420, AKA a million other names. It used to be that weed was hard to get. Nowadays it’s easy– stores are popping up all over NYC, there are fun-colored ice cream trucks that have edible pot gummies, and some parks have stands that sell joints right in front of police officers.

This is video mentions New Jersey– but everything it says applies to NYC as well.

So, why not do it? For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try to convince you. It’s not going to be easy, because you’re surrounded by music videos, friends, and laws that seem to be telling you DO IT.

When we spoke about nicotine, we began diving into it’s affect on the brain and behavior. Nicotine not only causes mood swings, depression, and anxiety, but also rewires your brain– makes you have a more ADDICTIVE personality. This idea, that a drug can rewire your brain, is really important and worth talking more about.

So, for our discussions on Marijuana, we will be diving much deeper into the brain and what can go wrong with it. The study of the brain is called “Neuroscience”. Understanding how the brain works can be a superpower, because it explains a lot about people’s behaviors, abilities, and disabilities. Yep, while other people are left confused and wondering– you will have some important answers. Hopefully, it will also explain to you why you should avoid marijuana and alcohol.

Let’s begin by getting a big picture look at how the brain works. Then we’ll learn about it’s individual parts:

Now that you’re beginning to see why it’s important to stay away from drugs and alcohol, how can we give kids the strength to go up against the music videos, the shops and vans, and even their friends?

One campaign is called ABOVE THE INFLUENCE. Being “Under the Influence” can mean two things. It can mean being on drugs and it can mean being influenced by your friends to do drugs and to let go of your dreams.

Above the Influence’s symbol is an arrow facing up. Here are some student versions.

For your journal entry today, draw the Above the Influence symbol. Inside, write or draw, your personal strength from our first lesson of the year :), a big goal for the future that you don’t want to be influenced into dropping, and one of your talents.

DECEMBER 16, 2022

Simah Herman has started an anti-vaping campaign from her hospital bed. Credit: Instagram/simahherman

Last week we spoke about the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes. Many students were surprised at how much nicotine was in a JUUL Pod:

They were also shocked to find out that not only was Nicotine ridiculously addictive, but also permanently changes your brain so that you are more likely to become an adult addict. Nicotine also causes mood swings, depression, and irritability.

But what I think was most eye-opening for students was the idea that the cigarette companies that own e-cigarettes WANT kids to start vaping. Not only do they create kid-friendly flavors, but they put advertisements near schools on purpose! In fact, JUUL bought ads on CoolMath and Cartoon Network! YOU. ARE. THEIR. TARGET.

Test your knowledge about Vaping:

So what can we do about it? Just like the paintings you created about LGBTQ+IA rights, how about making art to get the work out about nicotine? Let people know that E-cigarette companies want to get kids hooked so they keep buying more and more and more.

Social Action means trying to bring about positive change in our communities. What about getting the bodegas near the school to stop showing advertisements for e-cigarettes near our school?

Art by Island Schooler Franli

When it comes to art, you can create SUBVERSIVE works that make fun of e-cigarettes and tells the truth about them. Check out this slideshow to learn more:

It would be really cool if someone created a documentary talking about vaping in school. Here’s one that Island Schoolers made about tobacco cigarettes:

-For those of you interested in writing a song about Vaping, I am offering a prize for every finished song with music and lyrics. Here’s an example:

Here’s a SoundTrap tutorial I did for making a Covid-19 song. You can use it as a guide to making a song about Vaping:

For your journal today, take some of the words below and put them together to form the start of a song:

Once you write down your song, practice it with one of these instrumentals:

Here’s an example from Island Schooler M.L. at Ohio Studios. Try to sing his first verse while the beat plays:

Looking at this song, what I see is a super strong start. It’s as if he’s speaking from the perspective of the vape. He adds his own words to make sense of the jumble of rhymes I provided you about vaping and nicotine. For your journal today, change or add to one of the lines in M.L.’s verse so that it continues to talk from the vape’s perspective– all the evil things they bring to you.

Click HERE to make a copy of the Google Doc.

OK! so now we’re cooking! We have a verse or two for our song. Now we need a hook (AKA a chorus). That’s something simple and catchy for people to remember. Listen to the hooks below from Island Schoolers:

Love cannot just be torn, can we work it out? I know I’m not the “perfect girl” but just give me a chance

Cuz that’s what daddy do, cuz that’s what daddy do

With this in mind, let’s try to think of a few words that a vape might say to us or how we can do battle against it. You can speak your chorus, sing it, change your voice to sound deeper…experiment! Here’s are a couple of examples:

I’ll tell you those lies…feed you that bullSh…..


december 5, 2022

Steal one of these ideas for a shirt, bracelet, button, or art piece!

Vaping seems harmless– it’s not like stinky cigarettes. In fact, there are amazing flavors! Bubblegum, Mango, and Cucumber– yum!

The e-cigarette companies KNOW kids like flavors and they market it to you on purpose, even though you’re supposed to be 18 to buy their products.

Yep, tobacco companies (they own the big E-cigarette brands like Juul, by the way), are evil. They purposely place tobacco ads near schools and in communities of color.

Here’s a “Nic is a Trick” bracelet by Arri to show how nicotine tricks you into being a Vape Addict.

november 29, 2022

For your journal entry today, create a “Mood Swing” mask to show the effects of nicotine. To do this, draw a face and divide it in half. On one side, create the face of positivity. On the other side, make a negative face.

If you enjoyed, this activity, use a mask to show how Nicotine causes mood swings. Here are some masks to inspire you:

Here are a few more ideas for how you can raise awareness of the dangers of vaping:

-Make a documentary about Vaping–maybe even interview neighborhood shop owners about it (must have an adult with you for this one). You can use the questions below:

-Create an anti-vaping clay sculpture. For example, you could make lungs with sad faces to show how nicotine makes you irritable, or create a skull to symbolize depression, or handcuffs to represent addiction, or a happy person next to a sad person to represent mood swings…

  • Make a Podcast episode on Vaping:

Use these facts to help out with your Podcast:

November 29 2022

Animated GIF
Smoking E-Cigarettes is D O R K Y

Those students who’ve taken my class before know I’ve done a bunch of lessons on the dangers of vaping. These lessons included facts like these:

Despite these lessons, there are kids (maybe even in this school) who are still vaping! I think there are a lot of reasons for this. What are some reasons that come to your mind?

Here’s one reason not to Vape. The heated coils in e-cigarettes release small metal particles into your lungs that can cause cancer and problems with your body’s ability to fight off diseases (AKA your immune system).

But by far the worst ingredient in E-Cigarettes is Nicotine. Nicotine is EVIL. It is EXTREMELY addictive and can have seriously awful effects on your life:

Nicotine creates INTENSE irritability– you get angry too easily–everyone and everything BOTHERS you.

Once Nicotine hooks you, it’s RIDICULOUSLY hard to quit

Some people believe that Vaping (and the nicotine it has) actually calms you down when you’re stressed. That’s a lie:

So what can we do about it?  How can we get teens to understand why Vaping is so bad for you and get them to stop. Here are a few ideas:

-Create “Pledge” bracelets out of beads, metal, or leather (or both) that people can wear if they agree never to vape.

-Make posters that show teens the dangers of vaping that we can put up around the school.

For our Journal today, you are going to create an alien version of yourself that has been changed because of your addiction to nicotine. We are going to do this through an activity called “Blind Contour” drawings. Sounds fancy, but it’s easy and fun! All you have to do is draw yourself using a mirror or a classmate without looking down. Watch the tutorial below:

Maybe, if you’re SUPER LUCKY, you’re drawing will turn out like this 😉
Use a Blind Contour Drawing to create a message about Nicotine.

november 21, 2022

This weekend showed once again the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community for equality and safety. First, there was a horrific shooting at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado:

Then, we learned that Qatar, the host of Soccer’s World Cup, will be giving a “Yellow Card” (severe warning), to any player wearing an arm band in support of LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is ILLEGAL in Qatar.

So, now more than every, we need to talk about how to be an ALLY to the LGBTQ+IA community. Warning: it’s not easy! Standing up to people who are LGBTQ+IA haters makes you a target.

Imagine if we had an ALLY toolbox. Just like grabbing a hammer from a regular toolbox to deal with a sharp nail that was sticking out, you could grab a smart response from your ALLY toolbox when someone was acting like an LGBTQ+IA hater.

In my opinion, most of the videos about being an ALLY don’t give enough tools to put in our ALLY toolbox. For example, after watching this video, would you know exactly what to say when someone acts like the gender or sexuality police?

The videos below describe how to be an ALLY when your friend or family member comes out to you.

For today’s journal entry, draw a button to support Gender Freedom or to show you’re an LGBTQ+ Ally.

You can use our button makers to create real buttons to support gender freedom and the LGBTQ+ community.

november 14, 2022

Related image

Last week we saw a film in which the main character named Terren was Trans. Classmates not only made fun of Terren, but physically assaulted them. Unfortunately, verbal abuse and physical violence against LGBTQ+ people are extremely common:

Do you think our school is friendly or hostile to students with different gender identities like trans, gender fluid, gender creative, and agender people? What about to our LGBTQ+IA students?

I can tell you that I hear a lot of “That’s mad gay!”, “Aye Yo’s”, and “no homo’s”. What about you? If the answer is “yes”, is there anything we can do to change how students act? Here’s a commercial that tries:

Here’s a movie that reverses the world to wake people up to LGBTQ+IA bullying at school:

So, what can you do to help change the culture at our school? How about making a podcast? Here’s one made by me and my daughter Ruby a while back:

Here’s how to create a podcast in Soundtrap:

For your journal today, fill out the first paragraph of this podcast script:

Here are a couple of examples from Island Schoolers this week!

november 7, 2022

Over the last few weeks, we’ve addressed gender stereotypes. This is the idea that there are correct ways to look and act like a “boy” or a “girl”. We learn these correct ways from places like TV, music, social media, and our families. When people remind you nicely or meanly that you need to look or act like the gender assigned to you at birth they are acting as The Gender Police (TGP).

The problem is that these gender stereotypes often don’t allow people to look and act in ways that feel good to them. Instead, they bury their emotions, interests, and ideas so as not to raise the suspicions of TGP.

We also learned that some people’s sense of their gender doesn’t fit neatly into the definition of a boy OR a girl. Instead, they may feel like a girl sometimes and a boy other times, like a creative combination of both genders or like no gender at all.

To make things more complicated, some people feel like they were assigned the wrong gender at birth (transgender). Along with this, some people have both male and female body parts and hormones. These people are called Intersex.

So! As you’ve seen there is A LOT to learn about gender. Now it’s time to add Sexuality into the mix.

Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to and it’s not the same as your gender.

Just like gender, there is no right kind of person to be attracted to. If it feels right, then it’s right (although doing something about it needs to be safe, consenting, and legal). And, again, just like gender, there are a lot of sexual orientations. Here are some flags representing different sexual orientations:

For your journal entry today, draw one of the flags to show your support. It does not need to be a flag representing YOU, just one that you could be an ALLY (defender) of.

If you’re interested, use embroidery to create a flag with or without a message.

Now, test your understanding with this Kahoot!:

october 31, 2022

Pretend students at your school are joining an organization called THE GENDER POLICE (TGP). As a member of the TGP, you must STRICTLY ENFORCE rules about what girls and boys DO at your school and what they should LOOK like.

So that all new members of the TGP can identify the correct way to be a boy and a girl, they created a training video. In your journal, make 2 lists.


Now, watch the following videos and fill out the list. Do not use your own opinions— just get your ideas from the videos.

While the TGP training video I made is fake, gender policing is real and it happens at our school. Sometimes people do it on purpose–“damn, you shoot like a girl”– while other people do it by accident– “Can I get some strong boys to pick up heavy boxes in the main office?”. TGP can be seen when people laugh or shake their heads at people who appear to be boys wearing skirts or makeup. TGP happens when people who appear to be girls get made fun of for shaving their heads or not shaving their legs.

Arri created this symbol to fight TGP

So, who among you will stand up to the TGP? Create a new symbol (and name?) for a force that goes up against TGP? Here are some ideas to steal:

Andre drew this symbol in support of gender freedom

This week we’ve been speaking about The Gender Police and how many of us are members without even knowing it. But gender isn’t always as simple as being a girl or a boy. “Bi” means two. If you have a binary gender identity it means you feel like either a (1) girl or a (2) boy. If you’re non-binary, it means you don’t see yourself as falling into the category of girl or boy. Instead, you may feel like a unique blend of genders (gender creative) or neither a girl nor a boy (agender).

For your journal entry today, create a color for each way of expressing gender:

Now that you’ve used color to form different gender expressions. Use the image below to inspire a drawing of a gender fluid person or a person who doesn’t fall under the spell of gender stereotypes:

Let’s keep diving into our explorations of gender. If you’re transgender it means that the gender you’re assigned at birth doesn’t describe what you feel deep in your heart. Instead, most transgender people feel that they are of the opposite gender.

So why is this important to learn about? Well, first off, there are likely many people in your life (or maybe you yourself) that are transgender or non-binary, but are afraid to say it. The problem is that when you can’t be your REAL self it’s depressing. Many transgender and non-binary people get bullied, kicked out of their homes, and may consider suicide because of this rejection.

What can you create to help people better understand Gender Identity and create a more welcoming environment in our school and your neighborhood? Here are some ideas:

  • Create a clay symbol to show the acceptance of all gender identities
  • Make Ally buttons
  • Make a children’s book like THIS ONE from Jazz, to help young children to understand different kinds of gender identities

october 25, 2022

Learning gender rolls start at at a very young age. Just think about what boys and girls learn is “OK” to play with:

For todays’ journal entry, draw 2 pictures. One of a “boy” doing a “girl” thing and one of a girl doing a “boy” thing. If you don’t know what to draw, look at the list you created in your journal last class.

For those of you interested, partner with 2-3 people and do a photo shoot of girls doing “boy” things and boys doing “girl” things. Print out one of the pictures, glue it onto a canvas, and paint a question like, “WHY NOT?”.

october 24, 2022

Grab your journal and a pencil. Divide your paper into three columns. Title the first column “Girl Stuff”, the second column “Boy Stuff”, and the third column “Both”. Now, look at this list of things and write each in only one of the columns.

Question: Who decides what’s “Girl Stuff” and “Boy Stuff”?

A huge part of mental health is feeling comfortable with who you are and the life you live. What happens when the things that make you feel good are “wrong” for your gender? Let’s learn more:

How about creating art to crush gender stereotypes?

For those of you filming documentaries on social media, it’s time to start editing the footage. Here’s how:

october 18, 2022

Last week, we began filming documentaries about how social media can poison the way we see ourselves– making us feel like we’re not good enough looking, have enough stuff, or doing cool enough things. You asked questions like:

Below are a couple of examples of how technology like Photoshop changes bodies so that they are impossibly perfect.

For today’s journal prompt, write these words at the top of your page:


Now, draw a very unique body under it. It can have star eyes, snake hair, multiple arms– anything to make it perfectly awesome!

If you enjoyed this activity, create a larger version on a canvas!