The Techbrarian Journal


Jessilee’s heartbreaking depiction of George Floyd’s last moments

Over the past couple of days, there has been a flood of interesting thoughts from Island Schoolers about protesting, justice, and looting. A lot of middle schoolers felt that there was a big difference between peaceful protesting, violent protesting, and looting. Here are a couple of student reflections:

I agree in the peaceful protests but feel that it’s not gonna change anything. It’s been like this for years. It’s gotten worse with the president. After he was elected you saw more racism come out. I don’t believe in chaos. I felt so bad seeing manhattan and places in the Bronx looted and destroyed. There is violence against police officers. Violence is not the answer. Not all police officers are bad. And also there are people that worked hard to grow their businesses (immigrants and Americans ) and to see those places destroyed broke my heart.

Jessilee, 6th grade

if protests work and things change they’d have to change deep with the police force cause there are tons of police chiefs and executives that have ignored complaints by people on police who already have tons of bad reports on them. it seems like for solid change to happen –that lasts forever– we have to start all over and change the people in charge of the police…

I would give <officers> a bunch of children’s books that deal with racism and equality and then have a talk with them about what they understand/didn’t understand and repeat that until they understand their purpose for being a cop and all of their wrongdoings.

Reion, 8th grade

June 4th was George Floyd’s funeral. Reverend Al Sharpton gave a chilling eulogy (a speech to praise someone who died).

Watch as Rev. Sharpton delivers the lines below:

George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks– because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being, is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.

-Reverend Al Sharpton

Next question: If the protests work and the lawmakers are ready to listen, WHAT RULES WOULD YOU MAKE FOR HOW THE POLICE BEHAVE? 👮‍♀️

For example, can they search you without asking 🤚🏽👖 ? Can they still carry guns 🔫 ? Should they have body cameras  📸 ? Should they have to live in the neighborhood they police 🏢🏡?  

–> Using art, music, graphic novels, or words, show the new way police would behave.

On another note, during these tough times, I put together some messages of hope and strength from Island School students and teachers. Enjoy!

June 1

So, I planned on introducing a new art activity this week. BUT because this is a Social Action class, I need to also speak on the protest movement triggered by events including the murder of George Floyd. Watch my lesson below- which was inspired by the words of Trevor Noah:

To think and learn more about this issue, watch Prince Ea’s video below and read Isatou’s poem.

Question: Do you think the looting from shops, the lighting of fires, and the throwing of things by protestors HELPS or HURTS the message that we need change?

Mission: If you believe that things must change in the way people of color are treated, what can you MAKE to show it?

May was a month that tested our spirits. How can we remain energized and creative locked in our homes? Many Island Schoolers found that focusing on making art, poetry, and music FREED them– even for just a little while.

Yep, think of creativity as a key 🔑 when you use it, it unlocks 🔐 your spirit 🦅! Here are just a few examples of Island Schoolers’ spirits flying free!:

This week’s goal is to open up your creativity even further– especially if it’s feeling locked up. Artists often do “exercises” to loosen their thinking. Rappers might freestyle, photographers might focus on taking pictures of a single color, and painters/illustrators might do “Blind Contour” drawings. Sounds fancy, but it’s easy and fun! All you have to do is draw a person or object without looking down. Watch the tutorial below:

Maybe, if you’re SUPER LUCKY, you’re drawing will turn out like this 😉

May 26

Last week, we took a closer look at Option 5: Poetry. As always, Island Schoolers wrote breathtaking poems and also continued to create beautiful work from our other options:

This week we’re zooming into Option 2: Creating a Song. In the past, we’ve talked mostly about making a rap song (click HERE for my guide). This week we’ll be taking your poetry or just a few words running through your mind to create any kind of song. It could be rap, but also electronic, rap, or country!

Start by reviewing the video I created in Week 2 to see how to use Soundtrap to create a song:

OK, so you’ve watched the video on how to create a song, BUT some of you don’t feel comfortable singing your poem. Others might not have written a poem at all. There’s a solution for that! Listen to Chris’ song. He uses a Robot Voice Generator to talk about what’s it’s like being stuck indoors for months during the pandemic. Chris feels like he’s losing his brain. The song uses no more than 20 words– but gets the message across wonderfully:

Here’s my tutorial on how to use the Robot Voice Generator or a regular voice to create a song:

May 18

Last week we spoke about how being creative sparks a fire 🔥 that burns away bad feelings 💨 and makes good feelings glow brighter 🌟. Below are a few student projects that show just how brightly Island Schoolers shine:

This week we are taking a closer look at Option 5: Poetry. Watch the video below to hear the world premiere of the Big Nose Poem, to Listen to Island School Poets, and to learn a zillion ways to make your own poems!

To review the poetry and ideas from the video, look at the slideshow below:

May 11

It’s no surprise, but it must be said: Island Schoolers are jaw-droppingly talented. Last week the projects kept arriving– each more spectacular than the next. We might be trapped inside, but our creativity shows no bounds.

QUICK REVIEW: For the rest of the year your job is to choose a project option. Each week, you can choose a NEW option, REPEAT an option, or IMPROVE the same option. Your options so far include:

1) 🔎 A closeup of an object in your home
2) ♬ A song about any social issue
3) 🎧 A podcast about any social issue
4) 💣 A comic or graphic novel about any social issue
5) ✍🏾 Poetry about any social issue
6) 🎨 A self-portrait
7) 🦸🏾‍♀️ A Hero of COVID-19 Illustration
8) ⚙️ An invention to help out during COVID-19

Today we are adding Option 9: Collage

option 9

This week’s option is to create a collage about a social issue discussed this year. Watch the slideshow below for more Info!

May 4

Man oh man, Island Schoolers are creating ridiculously powerful pieces of art and writing over the past few weeks. Your classmates are impressed and, because your work is posted on Twitter and Instagram, the WORLD is impressed.

This week, we are NOT adding any new options– you can choose from any of the previous options. Instead, we are returning to Option 3- creating a Podcast. Over this year we have spoken about a zillion issues including: Animal Rights, LGBTQ+IA Pride, Cigarettes + Vaping, Immigration, Thinking Positive, and, of course, COVID-19. You can choose from any of these issues and create a podcast using Soundtrap. Below is a tutorial on how to create a podcast and another on how to record a guest.

Here are some podcasts that Ruby and I created over the weekend. They are EXTREMELY SHORT and LEAVE A LOT OUT. They are meant to inspire you to do your own. Enjoy– I can’t wait to hear your podcasts!

April 27

Here is the latest batch of PHENOMENAL Island Schooler projects!

April 24

While this pandemic has brought out fear and loneliness, it has also sparked creative problem-solving. In order to keep our healthcare professionals safe and banish the virus that has created all this chaos, inventors have been busy creating products. Below are a few examples:


Your job is to create an invention to help YOURSELF, healthcare professionals, or the everyday heroes we discussed last week. Like any good inventor, start by thinking of a problem these people face during this pandemic. Here are a few examples, but try to think of your own!

  • Scratching and itch on your face without touching it with your dirty fingers!
  • Grabbing something from your pocket without touching it with your dirty fingers!
  • Feeling close to friends without touching them
  • Taking and giving money back to customers buying food or supplies at stores
  • Helping kids not to have nightmares about the virus
  • Getting fresh air without going outside

Your invention can be a drawing, a written description, or a model you create using Tinkercad. Whatever you create should be detailed enough so that someone else wishing to build it, would have a very good idea about how to do it. Here are a few examples of inventions described by kids– some of them were made into usable products!


If you’re interested in creating an invention using Tinkercad, watch the video below:

April 20

To combat COVID-19, we have been told to “stay inside”. But, in order for us to have food, to move around the city, get our mail, have our city be clean and safe, and to be taken care of when we get sick, there needs to be brave workers out there. They are putting their lives on the line for us and they are HEROES.


Option 7: Hero Illustration

Create a poster that honors a health care worker (like a doctor or nurse) or everyday heroes like postal workers, police officers, firemen/women, bodega shopkeepers, MTA workers, and sanitation workers.

You can use the pictures below to guide your drawing or find your own.

For those of you with tech devices, try using (for computers) or (for phones/tablets) to create a hero illustration. Watch the tutorial below:

April 17

Here are some more fantastic projects from Island Schoolers this week:

April 13

Beautiful projects have been rolling in– and to be honest– a lot of them are heartbreaking 😿  

Many of you are feeling really down– and why wouldn’t you? Being stuck at home without friends or fresh air for this long is no joke. But just like every HUGE moment in history, it passes. This WILL pass and you are NOT alone. EVERYONE is having moments hopelessness, sadness, or panic.

What you CAN do, is take all of that negative emotion and channel it into your projects. Sometimes being creative is healing because it transforms the ugly into something wonderful 🌟🌈💗🤖👩‍🎤🧞‍♂️🍝🧁🎨🎬🎤🎼🗽📸💻🔬🖼📒

April 6

Here are just a few examples from Week 2’s Projects:

Welcome to week 3 of The Virtual Tech Café. Last week, students created an extraordinary set of poetry, essays, close-up drawings, music, and graphic novels. You might be wondering….

I didn’t finish- IS THAT OK? YES! Doing amazing work sometimes can take weeks or months. I do not expect everyone to finish by Friday. What I DO expect is that every Friday you submit a draft in Google Classrooms that shows you’ve worked 3 hours on your project that week.

CAN I DO A CHOICE FROM LAST WEEK? YES! You can do any choice from any week. Just submit it each Friday in Google Classroom to show you’ve worked for at least 3 hours.

Option 6: ART- Self Portrait

Look at this Slideshow about Frida Kahlo and then create a self-portrait using one of her works as inspiration. Use a mirror or a picture of yourself and then draw or paint it.

IF you’re interested in learning how to draw faces, you can watch the tutorial below:

March 29

Well, its been quite an eventful couple of weeks since has been updated! Now that school has gone virtual, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions like, “When people are facing an insane virus, are any other social issues worth talking about?” and “What can students make when they’re stuck at home without all the awesome tools in our Makerspace?”

My solution was to have our first assignment be a StoryBoardThat about our life. I figured it was an easy way to help us feel like we’re all struggling both in the same ways and in different ways. BUT several things were wrong with this. First, everyone does not have the technology to do a StoryBoard. Second, not everyone wants to use a StoryBoard to communicate what they are going through or their hopes for the future!

So, here on out I will be giving you a menu of options. Choose whichever you’d like to do. The only rules are:

1. Submit your work on Google Classroom each Friday

2. Before submitting, look at the Rubric to make sure your work is high-quality.

3. Check every day to see if there are any updates

Option 1: ART- Close-up Drawing

Look at this Slideshow about Georgia O’Keefe. Zoom into an object inside your room that brings you joy. Draw or paint it. Create one SPECTACULAR art piece or three good ones.

Option 2: SONG

Create a song on SoundTrap that talks about your struggles these days. It should have at least a few words– but preferably three verses and a chorus! Here’s a tutorial:

Option 3: PODCAST

3fm now playing GIF by BNNVARA

Create a podcast using Soundtrap (see tutorial above) where you interview your family about their struggles or wishes for the future.


A lot of you complained that StoryboardThat didn’t have enough characters, backgrounds, and props to let you be fully creative. I hear you loud and clear, so now I am giving you access to a better application called Pixton.

Here are the codes to join your class:

6th Grade:  akqn8
7th Grade: dwrq2
8th Grade: ccb5n

Watch the following tutorial:

For those of you who liked doing comics or graphic novels, read the Ms. Marvel graphic novel in Google Classroom. Use it as an inspiration to create a graphic novel about battling the COVID-19. Inspirations from Ms. Marvel might include:

  • Friendships and family relationships that are REALISTIC. Use language that your friends and family actually use in everyday life. Make them say things to make your reader like them (or be frustrated by them) like you are.
  • Have a conflict or problem that needs to get solved. It gets worse as the story goes on and then gets solved in the end.

Option 5: POETRY

Write a long poem (at least 2 pages) or three short poems (each 1 page) from the perspective of the virus or from someone who has been infected. You can also write the poem from your own perspective– your fears, your hopes, your dreams…

March 16

Last week we spoke about how fear of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can lead to racism against Asian Americans. The fact is, everyone in the U.S. is equally at risk of having it. It is not our job to judge what another culture eats– after all, here in the U.S. we eat pig’s feet and crocodile. Keep in mind, diseases have started because of cows as well. Asian Americans wearing face masks are not a sign they have it– it simply means they are worried about getting it, just like non-Asian-Americans. Let’s keep getting out the facts through our art, crafts, music, and films.

I wanted to start this week by pointing out that jewelry is an excellent way to do social action. By having people wear their beliefs, it reminds them of their beliefs and to fight for causes that are important to them. I mean, isn’t that why people wear religious jewelry like crosses or Jewish stars— or maybe it’s just decoration 🤔?

Our Tech Cafe has tons of tools to create jewelry for teens– whether you’re a boy, girl, or non-binary (a mix or neither), you should give it a try. Mix wood, Sculpey, metal, and paint to create awesome designs like THIS ARTIST.

There are a million tutorials on YouTube for DIY jewelry. Here’s one:

One last thing, during these stressful times, it’s important to keep your mind healthy and happy. Assuming you are washing your hands, not touching your face, staying home if you’re sick, and not getting too close to people, what can you do to keep positive? Here are a few ideas:

  • LAUGH!
  • Contact a long lost friend on social media and start up a conversation
  • Start a new hobby! If you’d like, borrow materials from the Tech Café like embroidery hoops, shrinky dink paper and markers, clay, Legos, and dream catchers.
  • Make art that reminds you to THINK POSITIVELY.

March 9

Let’s take a quick break from talking about plastic pollution and talk about what’s on everybody’s mind: The Coronavirus. First off: DON’T PANIC! For nearly everyone, getting Coronavirus is similar to a mild Flu. Speaking of the flu, did you know that 40,000 people die from it in the U.S. each year? So far, under 30 people have died from Coronavirus in the U.S.! If you have a healthy immune system (which nearly everyone does except for babies and the elderly), you’ll be fine in a couple of weeks if you get it. Here are some resources to learn more:

It’s also important to remember that just because Coronavirus may have started in China, it doesn’t give us an excuse to be racist. After all, just because Mad Cow disease began in Europe, doesn’t mean that British people are dirty, disgusting, or have gross food taste.

So, what can we do about the Coronavirus? For one, you can spread correct information about how to spot it and how to prevent it:

Second, you can create art, crafts, movies, games, and songs that battle against Coronavirus stereotypes:

So far students have come up with slogans like:


Remember: Asian Americans are no more likely to have Coronavirus than any other American

February 24 – March 6

A couple of years ago I read a mind-boggling article in the New York Times about how plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda.  People are literally getting imprisoned for using them.   That may be a little extreme, but plastic is a huge problem– it’s filling our oceanskilling sea animals, and it’s bad for our health

Most people know that plastic bags aren’t good for the environment, so why is it so hard for us to break the habit? Make a list of these reasons and think about what you can MAKE to help people overcome these reasons. After all, plastic bags have only been around since the 1980’s. We can survive without them!

For more art inspiration click HERE and HERE.

On March 1, 2020 plastic bags will no longer be available in NYC stores except in pharmacies and take-out restaurants. In supermarkets, the see-through plastic bags for fruits and veggies will still be available:

Besides banning plastic bags, bright people around the world have come up with amazing solutions for reducing plastic including edible packaging and a Plastic Bank that pays people to bring in plastic:

Last year, at The Island School, many students decided to go Strawless and stop using plastic Straws for at least a week. We made amazing art, created our own paper straws, and created this documentary:

What can we make this year to end the use of more single-use plastic products like bags? How can we protect nature so that it can continue to provide us the food, clean air & water, and weather that keeps us alive?

February 3

Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is difficult and sometimes dangerous. Just because it’s a good decision to leave, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Abusers often trick victims into feeling like there is not a problem or it’s their own fault– this is called “Gaslighting“.

Have you ever seen someone Gaslighted? What’s the story?

To someone outside the relationship, it may seem obvious that the relationship is awful and needs to end. But the victim may still be holding on to feelings from the honeymoon stage and want to ignore the tension and explosions.

When they decide to end the relationship, it’s important to have a safety plan in place. Some steps that should be taken are:

  1. Don’t do it alone– have someone you trust with you.
  2. Have a cell phone around– in case you have to call for help
  3. Don’t make the abuser angrier than is necessary– breaking up will obviously make them angry, don’t make it worse by saying something that may trigger them to be even angrier.
  4. Tell a trusted friend or family member that you’re going to exit the relationship so they can quickly check-in after.
  5. Set a time limit on the conversation to limit possible manipulation from the abuser.
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How can you teach others to make Safe Exits?

January 27

Part of becoming an effective social justice warrior against domestic violence (DV) is being able to recognize it. But sometimes DV is hard to see: victims wear masks and abusers hide what they do in public. But there is a way to spot warning signs when you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. We spoke about the cycle of unhealthy relationships (honeymoon –> tension –> explosion), but there are many more Red Flags. Here’s a series of videos that show some of them:

Recognize signs of abuse

Now, using the list below, let’s watch this video. Help identify what signs you see in the videos:

  1. What is a red flag you noticed?
  2. Describe what the behavior looked like.
  3. What would have been a healthy way to act in that situation?

Now that you’re getting skilled at identifying “red flags” of unhealthy relationships, let’s take a second to see signs of healthy relationships– click on the image below:

Can you act out what goes into a HEALTHY relationship?

January 19

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about the different “ingredients” that go into domestic violence. We began by speaking about the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships: honeymoon–>tension–>explosion. Next, we discussed the importance of boundaries: making them clear at the beginning of a relationship and recognizing when they have been crossed. Today, we’re going to talk about another cycle: The Cycle of Abuse. This is the idea that people who grow up with abusers become abusers themselves or enter relationships where they are abused again. Here’s a slideshow to start our discussion:

When people are trapped in an abusive relationship, they often do not share with others what is going on. It’s like they are wearing a mask that on the outside tells everyone things are OK. But on the inside, they are filled with the darkness. How can we shine a light on these masks?

What would the mask of an abuser look like?

January 13

Last week we spoke about the cycle of abuse (honeymoon –> tension –> explosion) and the importance of setting boundaries. This week we will be talking about more Red Flags when it comes to abuse. Red Flags can be divided into Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Financial Abuse, Digital Abuse, and Stalking. HERE is a list of what each one looks like. I WOULD LOVE IT IF PEOPLE COULD MAKE RED FLAG POSTERS FOR EACH ONE. They could include both words and illustrations.

Art can encourage DV survivors to tell their story and tell them they are not alone.

If you’re interested in learning more about what kind of partner you are (or if you’re not in a relationship just pretend), than take THIS QUIZ.

Shining a light on domestic violence to scatter the darkness can take so many forms. One way is through poetry:

January 8

Image result for dv purple ribbon

Earlier this week, we spoke about domestic violence having certain ingredients or patterns that you can find in most abusive relationships. The first pattern we identified was called The Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships: Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion–>Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion

Today we’ll be talking about two more ingredients for abusive relationships: boundaries.

Unhealthy relationships don’t start out that way at the beginning– if they did no one would stay in them! Relationships often turn unhealthy in the “tension” part of the cycle we talked about last session.

To figure out when a relationship is turning unhealthy, it’s important to look for certain things. Let’s call these things RED FLAGS.

Image result for look out for red flags

Detecting red flags as soon as possible is important so that you know when it’s time to have a serious conversation with your partner or leave a relationship. One red flag is when your partner crosses boundaries. Here’s a StoryBoard with some examples:

Imagine if I were to do this activity:

  1. Fist bump someone sitting next to you
  2. Now, lean on each other’s shoulders
  3. Now, go forehead to forehead

When I say that last one, your reaction is likely to be “UH…NO!!!” Welp, this is the idea of crossing boundaries. In Unhealthy relationships, the abuser often crosses boundaries. It’s important at the beginning of a relationship to set boundaries, call your partner when they cross them, and leave if they keep crossing them. Here are a few boundaries to discuss with your partner:

We can also look at the reverse. What does a good relationship look like? Here are some ideas:

How could you show this with a StoryBoardThat?

January 6

Milagros writes: When the blood is from a battered woman. The wound belongs to everyone. What does that mean?

Last week, I took a survey as to whether students felt like the topic of Domestic Violence was too intense to bring up in class. The majority of Island School students felt that they could handle it– so we’re going ahead with it.


For many students at The Island School, having someone at home who hurts them and other members of their family emotionally and physically is a reality. There’s nothing worse and we can’t ignore it. Sometimes shining a light on darkness makes the evil scatter away. Shining a light also helps guide the way for others.

In ELA class, we talk about concepts like theme (big idea), character traits, setting, and plot (conflict & resolution) in what we read. Often, books share common themes, character traits, settings, and plots. In the same way, there are common themes, character traits, settings, and plots in abusive relationships. Put together, these are called patterns of abuse.

For the next few weeks, we will talk about all the ingredients that go into patterns of abuse including the cycles of unhealthy relationships, being controlling, breaking boundaries, and gaslighting. We’ll also discuss safe ways to leave abusive relationships. Finally, we’ll be talking about ways you can speak up against domestic violence and help to end it.

Let’s begin by watching a rap video about a woman struggling with domestic violence. As you watch it, focus on the cycle that keeps happening:

How many cycles happened in the video?

Now that we have begun talking about domestic violence– here comes the hard part: doing something about it. For those of you touched by this issue, how can you help others to see the cycles of unhealthy relationships? How would you paint it? What would your song sound like? How about making a Storyboard? Maybe you can create your own film? What about interviewing someone who has gone through this (but give them the option of hiding their faces or having their voices distorted). Remember:

January 2

We’ve reviewed a lot of issues this Fall: self-esteem, smoking, animal rights, LGBTQ+IA rights, and immigrant rights. Let’s take this moment to review them through a Kahoot! Quiz:

December 18

Last journal entry was jam-packed with art, music, and videos describing how the United States has lost its way. Once we were a beacon of hope for those seeking to escape poverty and fear or those simply seeking a better life. Now we are a country who jails hard-working immigrants, separates them from their families, and deports them back to the dangerous or impoverished land from which they came.

So what can we do to make a difference? One strategy for making your voice heard is to protest. You can organize your own or participate in one:

Another way you can help is to let immigrants know their rights. Create posters or other art pieces to help them understand.

Finally, for ICE to operate, they need resources like copy machines, computers, the internet, cable TV, and mail delivery. They also need the technology that helps them identify faces in crowds or simply walking down the street. Guess who helps ICE with that? Amazon.

Remember how you subverted the logos of companies that experiment on animals? How about doing the same thing with companies that help ICE? Here is a list of some of these companies:

Here’s are some examples of how you might subvert the logo to express how they help ICE:

Courtesy of Zack!

December 9-17

My dad, Daniel Lahana, was born and raised in Mexico City. When he was 14, he, his three sisters, and parents packed up their car with all their belongings and drove to California. They rented a house in Los Angeles and with all the family’s savings they opened up a toy store. My dad didn’t speak a word of English. He struggled like heck in school and his mother, Fortuna, told him, “hopefully you’ll be a janitor when you grow up.”

But he studied like an animal in school and after a while became fluent in English. He loved science and eventually went to medical school– becoming a doctor. Somewhere along the way, his family became citizens and he became another immigrant living the American Dream.

Thing is, these days, most immigration stories don’t have a happy ending like my father’s. No, it’s more like a living nightmare. Let’s begin with why people flee their country. One big reason is that the country they live in is dangerous– drugs, poverty, and violence make it nearly impossible to stay. Here’s one such story:

If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to flee to another country, watch THIS documentary.

Seeing how desperate people are to save themselves and their families from terrible conditions, it’s natural to wonder, why doesn’t The United States just take them in?

The answer is complicated. But, here’s the thing: when we arrest immigrants for trying to come into our country, we treat them horribly. Why we do that is not very complicated– it’s because not enough people care about immigrants to rise up and say, THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

So my friends (shout out to our newest activists at The Evergreen School), now that you know where they are keeping immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life, what are you going to do to help them? How delivering powerful spoken word poetry?

What about creating a song about the immigrant experiences you’ve seen or about your family’s own experience?

Here’s Gaby Moreno’s song about immigrants crossing the Rio Grande river to get from Mexico to the United States:
La Santa Cecilia – Ice El Hielo, part the #Not1More series
What are some of the jobs that immigrants do, that U.S. citizens don’t often want to do?

How about creating powerful art pieces like the ones you saw HERE to fight for immigrant rights!

December 2

Last session we talked about consent and how that’s at the heart of all physical relationships. Being in a loving relationship means trusting each other too.

Take this quiz to see what choices might come your way when trying to have a healthy relationship:

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 9.49.48 AM

These days, a lot of our relationships take place through technology. We send texts, emojis, videos, and images to feel connected to each other. Every once in awhile though, there might be a person on the other end asking you to send images and videos of yourself naked or doing over-the-top sexy stuff. This is known as sexting.  Check out these That’sNotCool Videos about it:

There are a few problems with doing Sexting:

  • First, off it’s actually illegal.  When you get someone under 17 to send nude pictures and videos and/or send friends those pics, it’s considered the possession and distribution of child pornography.  Teens have gone to jail for this!
  • Naked pics and videos rarely stay on the person’s phone you send it to.  They get passed around.  This can be deeply embarrassing and also lead to bullying and even suicide.

Imagine if you were hanging with your friend and they were about to send a Sext. What would you do to convince them not to?

To learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of healthy relationships, take this quiz (which also talks about Over Texting):

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 9.49.48 AM

So what can we do to prevent students from Sexting at The Island School?  How about making an Anti-Sexting movie like THIS that has over two million views:

November 18

This week I hope many of you continue to create projects about what it means to be an Ally of the LGBTQ-IA community. What art can you create to fight for people’s right to be who they want to be and love who they want to love?

In Chile another step was taken to recognize the dignity of people.  Because the right to be oneself is a basic right.  # GenderIdentity Law.  🦋 (in Barrio Lastarria)

But we are also going to add in a little bit of Sex Education into the mix. Talking about Sex is always a tricky subject in middle school. After all, who wants to talk about sex with their teacher! Nevertheless, most of us other than Asexual people, will grow up to do it– so we need to talk about how to build healthy, safe, and loving relationships. What a lot of it boils down to is making good decisions.

Have you ever been eating a burger and fries with some friends, and someone just took a fry off your tray and ate it? Have you ever had a bag of chips and someone took some without asking? Me too. The kid who took your food did not have your consent. In romantic relationships, consent means giving another person permission to touch you.

Let’s begin with an exercise.

hand hello GIF by MadaGarbea
  1. Take a page of circle stickers.
  2. Walk around the room and place stickers on the back of other students’ hands. BUT, ONLY PLACE IT THERE IF YOU GET PERMISSION. Do not place the sticker any place other than the back of someone’s hand.
  3. After I call time, return to your seats.
Oli Frape typography lettering consent sayno GIF

Now that you’ve done the activity, here are a few discussion questions:

  1. Did someone try to put a sticker on you without your permission? What did that feel like?
  2. Did someone say no to you when you asked them to put it on their hand? What did that feel like?
  3. Did you put a sticker on someone’s hand without their permission? Why?

November 4-15

Related image

So here’s something that confuses me. In many ways, The Island School seems like a really welcoming place for the LGBTQ+IA community. We have gay, lesbian, and bisexual students who speak about their sexuality openly.

At the same time, though, I hear a lot of students saying things like, “no homo…” and “that’s mad gay!” How can both those ways of thinking happen in the same school?

confused confusion GIF

In your journal answer the following questions:

What are the reasons people say NO HOMO to each other? Do you say it? Why or why not?

In The United States, even though we’ve made a lot of progress in getting rid of negative stereotypes of LGBTQ+IA people, they are still discriminated against. Think about it, why would “no homo” and “that’s gay” be something bad, if being LGBTQ+IA was something positive.

Let’s begin by talking about the idea of gender. It seems simple– “I’m a boy or I’m a girl”. But, as you’ll see, it’s more complicated than that.

There are 4 parts to gender:

  1. Identity–>do you feel like a male or female deep inside?
  2. Expression–> Do you act, dress, and socialize like a male or female?
  3. Biological Sex–> Do you have male parts or female parts?
  4. Sexual Orientation–> Are you attracted to males or females?

Image result for transgender flag

Some groups within LGBTQ+IA are particularly discriminated against. For example, President Trump outlawed Transgendered people from serving in the military. Check out THIS social experiment to learn more.

Image result for intersex flag

The “I” in LGBTQ-IA means Intersex– here’s a video to explain what that means.

Image result for ally lgbt

Finally, what does the “A” mean? Two meanings are often given: Asexual and Ally. Asexual means not being sexually attracted to anyone. Ally means that you support LGBTQ+I people and are willing to stand up against the discrimination they face.

Coming out is hard– just ask anyone who has done it. Maybe it’s time to think about people who come out as brave. As Makers, think about helping kids and teens feel good about being themselves like Jazz did in her book.

If you believe that people should be who they want to be and love who they want— why not create some art that speaks that truth and kills “no homo”.

How about making a 2020 version of this video:

Test your knowledge with this Kahoot:

October 28

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the cruelty to non-human animals that we support when we eat meat and use cosmetics that test on animals. Remember, non-human animals feel pain and dream just like we do:

We also talked about solutions, like making our own cosmetics and having Meatless Mondays. You can also make cruelty-free cleaners– for more directions click HERE.

Speaking of Meatless Mondays, here’s a quick chart to show some of the foods we can eat instead of meat. As you can see, they have plenty of protein to keep building our muscles:

Some people argue that meat is the only way to get a lot of PROTEIN. Here are the facts. How about creating some art to make one of these proteins look awesome to eat?
How can we shame the meat industry?
Why eat one and not the other?

October 21

Last week, we discovered the horrors of what goes on inside the Meat and Dairy Industry. You learned that non-human like animals cows, chickens, and pigs are treated like objects instead of beings that feel pain and dream. You created amazing art including:

But creating food out of non-human animals is not the only way they are tortured and murdered. We also abuse and kill non-human animals for the things we wear and the cosmetics we use.

Click HERE to see what it Animal Testing really looks like. *WARNING: SUPER DISTURBING*

As you’ve seen from the video and infographics, there are many reasons to buy products that are cruelty-free. But instead of buying cosmetics like perfume and cologne, today we’re going to make our own– without hurting a single animal 🙂

To create a great-smelling perfume or cologne, one thing you’ll need to learn about is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is when you use scents (called “essential oils”) to help people feel good mentally and physically. Here’s a little guide:

For today’s journal, create a simple set of 5 numbered boxes on a page. We will be passing around scents. For each numbered scent, put two adjectives that describe them. For example:

Wet grass
Nacho cheese
Wet Dog
Cardboard Box

You can use this wheel to help you:


If you’re interested in creating more cosmetics, we have the supplies and an actual PERFUMER (a professional perfume and cologne maker) to help you along.

Aside from actually making cosmetics, what will you create to wake people up to the suffering behind their clothes, sneakers, and cosmetics?

October 15

Pablo creates a fresh remix of the Meatless Monday logo using Shrinky Dink
Ginasia used a Wacom Pad to create a better logo for Meatless Monday

Today is a big of a catch-up week. When I went on StoryBoardThat, only a few of you completed your storyboards. Here are a couple of good ones:

Brahima and Zachari’s StoryBordThat talks about the dangers of Nicotine.

Notice how both of these storyboards show *NEW* information that we learned by researching (watching videos, visiting websites, and playing serious games). Please do not include information you already new like “cigarettes cause lung cancer”. Also, don’t include obvious ideas like “smoking is bad for you”. If you need to gather more information, visit:

In your journal, answer the following questions: What did the boy feel about the dog at first? Why? What caused him to change his mind? Write or draw the story of when you changed your mind about someone.

Last week we started out by talking about climate change. We brought up the idea of how cows’ farts, burps, and poop are causing more heat to be trapped into Earth. But, what really seemed to catch everyone’s attention was how animals are treated in factory farms. Some of you were even brave enough to watch the disturbing videos on PETA’s website about how animals are abused.

Your assignment this week is to create a Powtoon animation. In it, someone is about to eat a hamburger and you tell them why they should think twice about it. To help you, let’s do a quick Pro and Con:

For some ideas, click HERE *WARNING: BAD LANGUAGE*

Oh, and one last thing– isn’t it weird that we drink cow’s milk?

October 7

Last week, we spoke about the HUGE issue of climate change. Many of you felt that no matter what an individual does, it won’t make a difference. How can it? Especially, when companies are polluting our environment and countries are cutting down their forests to make room for cows to eat grass. Today we’ll be focusing on one cause of climate change: The Meat and Dairy Industry.

Want to see what it really looks like?  Click HERE (Warning: Extremely Disturbing)

Like Big Tobacco, the Meat and Dairy Industry care about only one thing: MONEY.  They destroy the environment, treat animals like objectsabuse their workers, and put us, the eaters, in danger. The Meat and Dairy Industry is also a leading cause of climate change:

So what can we do about it? It’s true, no one person can make a difference in halting dangerous climate change. However, if all 42 million teens skipped eating meat twice a week, it could make a huge difference! The question is: how can we get them to do it?

Related image
I gotta say– the Meatless Monday logo needs an UPGRADE. Can one of our Island School artists do it?

That’s where you come in: by making amazing songs, documentaries, commercials, art, and craftwork, you can help convince them. What about telling the story about what happens when you decide to not eat meat twice a week? What does your family say at the dinner table (or wherever you eat)?

Image result for vegan jewelry

What about creating a whole jewelry line from Coke cans that say “free the cows”, “Meatless Mondays”. How about a commercial that advertises trees? What about an amazing song from the perspective of a cow in a factory farm.


Find the longer video here.

Your journal assignment today is:

  1. Draw a cow.
  2. Watch The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers or look through THIS infographic:
  3. Write down THREE facts or ideas you learned. They should include:
    • How much meat do we eat here in the U.S.?
    • How much land and water do cows use?
    • Why shouldn’t cows eat corn?
    • Why are cow farts bad?
    • Why is eating meat bad for you?
    • What can we do to lessen the negative impact of cows?

–> Bonus: What can you create to get other teens to eat less cow?

October 2

Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays in 2018 as a “school strike” to draw attention to the climate crisis. Her protests have launched a global movement among youth.

So what can we do to combat this massive problem? Keep in mind, the adults who caused this only have a couple more decades to be alive. After that, YOU will be in charge. What are you going to do with the power?

One way to be part of the solution is planting trees. In fact, ask me for an elm tree seed and soil!

Right now, you can also consider taking small steps to reduce your “carbon footprint”. Carbon Dioxide is one of the main reasons for climate change. Buying stuff like clothes, jewelry, and electronics creates more Carbon Dioxide. This is because the factories that make the stuff you buy burn lots of fossil fuels to operate. Burning fossil fuels = more carbon dioxide.

To combat this, you can repurpose stuff you’ve already bought and make it into something useful that you may have shopped for otherwise. Here are a couple of examples. For more, simply Google “Upcycle” and click on images.

Toilet Paper Roll Speakers
Denim Pocket Organizer
Headbands from T-shirts
Earings from Folded Coke Cans
Soda Can Pendants
T-Shirt Bags– Instead of Plastic!

Can you think of more ideas?!? Go for it, and I’ll post them here and on our Twitter account!

September 26

Remember: Big Tobacco owns the E-cigarette companies

E-Cigarettes are evil. People are taking notice and things are changing. Here’s a sample of what’s happening in the news this month:

For today’s journal assignment today visit The Real Cost and learn a few new facts. Now, draw three boxes in your journal. In the first box, show your friend smoking. In the second box, show yourself talking to your friend and telling them why they shouldn’t be smoking. In the 3rd box, show their decision. If you HATE drawing, you can also use StoryBoardThat. Print it out and paste it into your journal.

An example from Cody
To gather more fact, click on the image above.

We go through so many issues here in the Tech Café and we move through them pretty fast. Remember: even if we move on to another issue, you can keep researching and creating products to get people to quit or never start smoking.

Some things about smoking we didn’t cover are:

1. that cigarette butts are the most littered object in the world– and they are not bio-degradable.

2. Pharmacies that are supposed to be selling you stuff to keep you healthy, sell cigarettes. Why???

3. Secondhand smoke hurts others. SO, smokers: you’re a bad person for creating that smoke:


Last session we talked about the fact that tobacco companies target communities Black and LatinX communities like The Lower East Side. For HOMEWORK, find an advertisement for a regular cigarette or e-cigarette in your community. Draw it in your journal and include where you found it (for example, on the corner of 3rd and Avenue D or on a bodega window a block from my house).

September 23

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

Let’s begin by grabbing your journal, some glue, a popsicle stick, and markers. Create an e-cigarette with a cloud of smoke. As we talk today, write down two facts about e-cigarettes inside the cloud that you didn’t know before.

Last year, we talked about E-Cigarettes and the idea that no one knows what they do to your body over time. These companies are basically using us as science experiments.

We do know that nicotine– a main ingredient in E-Cigarettes–is EXTREMELY addictive and can have seriously awful effects on your life:

Nicotine can create ANXIETY—>your heart beats fast, you sweat, worry, and feel super stressed.
Nicotine worsens mood swings–> going from extreme happiness to extreme anger or depression.
Nicotine creates INTENSE irritability– you get angry too easily–everyone and everything BOTHERS you.
Once Nicotine hooks you, it’s RIDICULOUSLY hard to quit

One pod contains the same nicotine as 20 cigarettes.  Kids who start smoking e-cigarettes find it nearly impossible to quit and often end up smoking regular cigarettes.

September 20

golden state warriors smh GIF by NBA

Even though we discussed the dangers of Nicotine in class, a few Island School 8th-graders were found smoking E-Cigarettes in school! Why? One reason is flavoring:

Bubblegum, Mango, and Cucumber.  Who doesn’t love those delicious flavors?  One reason that kids are so into e-cigarettes is that they are attracted to the flavors added to the “pods” or liquids used to create the smoke.  The e-cigarette companies KNOW this and are marketing 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.

pop popcorn GIF by Regal Cinemas

Beyond addictive nicotine, E-cigarettes contain a chemical known as propylene glycol. Propylene glycol has been linked to “popcorn lung” which is a disease where your lungs crackle when you breathe, makes you cough and feel short of breath.   

Lastly, 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).

So what can we do about it?  Just like what we did with straws and cigarettes, we can get teens to understand why they’re so bad and get them to stop. 

Learn more about E-Cigarettes by visiting Truth.  Next, share that knowledge by making your own film, animation, T-shirts, clay, and jewelry projects!

September 19

happy a plus GIF by Papa John’s

Grade-time! At the beginning of the year, I told you that your journals will be checked every two weeks. Today, during class I will call you up to show off your Idea Journal. Because it’s your first time having your Journal looked at, I’m simply going to see that you completed your assignments– not how well you did them. Next time, I will be looking at that as well. Here’s what I’m looking for today:

MirrorPocketDrawingShirt or ButtonResearch
(3 New Facts
or Ideas)
Extra Credit:
Garbage Can

September 16

Being that The Tech Café is all about Social Action, how do we come up with a problem that matters to us? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and I don’t want to tell you what to care about. Instead, I created a section of that helps you discover problems affecting our world.

sherlock holmes GIF

Your assignment today is:

  1. Pick a partner
  2. Go to the Problems section (Statue of Liberty) of Techbrarian and find a problem that interests you.
  3. Spend at least 20 minutes viewing the music, videos, websites, and games that you find on Techbrarian.
  4. In your journal, create a piece of art or writing that shows another teenager what the problem looks like. Assume they know nothing about it.

September 12

The stakes can be high if you let negative thoughts invade you.

Self-esteem has been the theme of the week. We’ve talked about the importance of focusing on our positive qualities, blocking out negative messages, and learning to embrace the parts of ourself that people tell us are ugly, awkward, or not good enough.

Many of you all have already done projects that send out these messages over the years:

For your journal entry today, draw a T-shirt or Button. Inside the T-shirt or button drawing, create a design that sends one of these messages:

  1. I love THIS about myself (you can use the words on your mirror).
  2. I’m proud to be a member of this group
  3. I am an ally (friend) of this type of person or group

pocket possum GIF

Homework: Place something small and flat that you find inside or outside of school into the pocket. You will be drawing it later. For example, something neat you saw in a newspaper, a food label, or a piece of grass.

Source: Journal Sparks by Neuburger

September 10

hand GIF by Emory Allen

Today’s Idea Journal Activity involves your “non-dominant” hand– if you’re left-handed, your non-dominant hand is your right. If you’re right-handed, your non-dominant hand is your left.

  1. Pick an object from the table. Spend at least 5 minutes using a pencil with your NON-DOMINANT hand. Color it in with watercolor.
  2. Under your drawing, write one fun or cool thing you noticed about using your non-dominant hand.
  3. Bonus: Pick another object and repeat!

A thought: maybe surprisingly cool things come from parts of us that we don’t use often. Maybe we should spend more time doing stuff we’re not good at like playing a new instrument, trying a new sport, talking to a new person, or trying a new craft. Cool things can happen when you push yourself!

September 9

Middle School can be tough, man. One big problem with it is that kids often judge you for surface things like your clothes and sneakers, your face, your weight, and your hair. And what do we do with all these insults? We often take them to heart and beat ourselves up over them.

Sad Spongebob Squarepants GIF by swerk

For example, when I was in middle school, they used to call me “Big Nose”. I had never thought twice about my nose. But after they began saying it, I immediately focused on it and started saying the same thing back to myself. But I’ve been thinking about how to draw strength from insults, so I wrote a song about how I overcame all the dissing about my nose. Click HERE for the lyrics.

Unfortunately, the way I dealt with it was to learn to diss kids back. Maybe I should have created a cool big nose logo and put it on fresh T-shirts that all the kids would fiend for….

The big question for today, is how do you battle against the crap people say about you and what you say about yourself? How can you be brave enough to admit what your weaknesses are and embrace them?

Lima embraces her skin condition called “Vitligo”. Instead of being down on it, she shows it off: The Vitiligo Queen.

What other ways could I have dealt with it? How could I have switched things up and made my big nose a strength?

If Lizzo heard you talking bad about YOURSELF, what do you think she’d say?

For today’s journal entry, draw or paste a mirror. Write all your best qualities that you see in yourself or others have said about you (if you appreciated it). Include qualities you are striving to become (for example, “courageous”).


Open your journal and draw or paste a trashcan on it. Inside the trashcan write all the names you’ve been called by others or the names you call yourself (inside your head). THIS IS A PRIVATE JOURNAL ENTRY. You may choose to share it with a friend or keep it to yourself. The goal is to tell yourself these ideas about me are TRASH. It may also serve as inspiration for art, music, a movie, a shirt…whatever!

September 5

Welcome back to The Tech Café– our Social Action Makerspace! Last year we made incredible art, crafts, games, songs, and films to help solve problems in our world. Here’s a highlight reel of some of our work:

Before we begin our first project, I’d like to quickly go over how the Tech Café works– I know you know most of this already, but here it is anyway:

This year we are embarking on a new project: IDEA JOURNALS. Idea Journals help you to collect ideas through writing, drawing, and painting onto the pages. You can also glue and tape things into your journal that you find or create.

journaling express yourself GIF by Sharpie

NO TWO JOURNALS IN THE TECH CAFE WILL LOOK THE SAME. As you saw in the highlight reel, in our Makerspace students experiment with different low tech tools. For example, we design with embroidery, construct woodwork, mold pottery, and paint. Students also work with different high-tech tools. For example, we create films, code games, and record music. Finally, each student will also care about different social issues. These include homelessness, climate change, body positivity, and immigration. Put together, all these differences will mean each journal will look very different– and that’s a good thing! Click on the link below to see some ways to use an Idea Journal:

Your assignment today is to create a cover for your Idea Journal.

In the highlight reel, you saw 7th graders placing positive messages on the mirror in the girl’s bathroom. The goal was to remind lookers to see their best selves in the mirror. Just like that, have your Idea Journal cover reflect the things you like best about yourself and the qualities you want to continue to build.

Use materials like paint, markers, and pasted images to describe your best self, the things that motivate you, and what inspires you. Feel free to paste words as well. Here’s a quick tutorial:

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