The Techbrarian Journal

february 28 2022

Over the last two weeks, Island Schoolers have grabbed our three cameras and in teams scavenged for unique photos. I went through each of the 1,562 photos taken and picked my favorites for…

The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #1.

I looked for:

  1. Interesting Photography: Did the photographer choose a cool angle to take the photo from– from atop a chair looking down or from crouched-down looking up? Did they purposely choose to take it from far away or close up? Is the person or object in the center or off-to-the-side on puropose?
  2. Quality of Photo: How crisp/in-focus is the photo? Is it bright enough? Do the colors pop?
  3. Creativity: Did they choose a beautiful or exciting thing to take a photo of? Did they make something boring look interesting? Did they capture cool action?

Third Place Winners:

Second Place Winners:

First Place Winner:

Honorable Mentions:

Want to do a Photo Scavenger hunt too? Click on one below:


This week we will continue to talk about animal testing for cosmetics. Let’s watch a couple of videos to learn more.

As you’ve seen from these videos, there are many reasons to buy products that are cruelty-free. So instead of just talking about cruelty-free cosmetics, today we’re making our own perfume and cologne 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:

Now we’re going to do a quick activity. Grab a piece of paper and create a simple set of 5 numbered boxes. We will be passing around 5 scents. For each of the 5 scents, put two words 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’ll have an actual PERFUMER (a professional perfume and cologne maker) to help you along next week.

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

february 14 2022

Last week, we didn’t have time to watch and discuss a bunch of the videos posted on Animal Testing. So, I’m not going to have a new journal entry for this week. BUT there’s something really important I’d like to announce. Three years ago The Tech Cafe launched an Etsy shop to sell projects created by my artists and crafters. Most pieces sold! The students donated the money to organizations fighting for the cause they care most about.

Well, we’re re-launching the site this month! Now YOU can create social action projects to sell. I put a few pieces up to sell and now it’s your turn to contribute!

Here are some examples of causes you can contribute to:





february 7 2022

Over the last couple of weeks, we discovered the horrors of what goes on inside the Meat and Dairy Industry. You learned that non-human animals like 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 that 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*

Lynda hacks Clorox — changing it from CLOROX to KILLOX

Look for these symbols on packaging to tell you it’s CRUELTY-FREE:

january 31 2022

This week we will dive even deeper into the arguments for taking a stand against the meat and dairy industry. Remember, it’s a business. If a lot of the 42 million teens in the U.S. take a Meatless Monday, it could really start to cost these heartless businesses! Here are a few examples of a re-designed Meatless Monday logo and protest jewelry:

Speaking of Meatless Mondays, here are charts to show some of the foods we can eat instead of meat and cow’s milk. As you can see from this first chart, seeds, nuts, and beans have plenty of protein to keep building our muscles:

Next question. Does it ever strike you as weird that we eat some animals, but not others?

Want to learn more? Here’s some more videos to dive deeper into the issue:


Here are a few more project ideas:

RECORD A SONG. I know it’s a big ask, but how about writing a song defending the lives of farm animals or arguing against eating them.

CREATE ARTWORK. Your artwork can speak of the pain and suffering these animals go through to fill the pockets of the greedy meat and dairy industry.

MAKE CLAY PIECES. Create pieces that show the animals we eat and the pain they go through. Cut them open and have the blood spill!

Get inspired to reverse roles by this film:

january 17 2022

Want to see what it really looks like?  Click HERE (Warning: Disturbing).  Click HERE for a full documentary. (Warning: EXTREMELY disturbing).

Last semester we spoke about the evil Cigarette companies. Their job is to get kids addicted to nicotine so they buy vapes and regular cigarettes. They use fun flavors and put advertisements near schools. Who cares if nicotine poisons your brain and causes depression and mood swings, right? As long as they get their MONEY.

Like Big Tobacco, the Meat and Dairy Industry care about only one thing: MONEY.  They destroy the environment, treat animals like objects, and abuse their workers.

So what can we do about it? It’s true, one person can make a difference in changing the meat and dairy industry. However, if all 42 million teens skipped eating meat once a week, it could make a huge difference! The question is: how can we get them to do it?

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

How about creating interviewing friends and family about whether they’ve considered being vegetarian? You could also film an experiment about what happens when you take a break from meat once a week. What does your family say at the dinner table (or wherever you eat)? Here are some films to inspire you:

What if you had to kill what you ate?
What if you ate what are usually pets? What if your pets were what we usually eat?

What about creating jewelry to speak up for chicken, cows, and pigs.

What about an amazing song from the perspective of a cow in a factory farm or promoting veggies and plant-based meat.


Click HERE for the full version

Here’s how to get started making your own song:

Here’s how to add words:

Here’s how I made a complete song about COVID:

january 10 2022

This week we’re talking about YOU- yes you.  Whether you believe it or not, each of you has an incredibly powerful story inside of you (probably more than one).  No one’s life is boring. We all struggle with family drama, have weird issues with friends, and do random stuff that we regret. We all have secrets that we hold inside, gross memories, and times we laughed so hard our bellies hurt.  We have all loved deeply and cried when we lost something important.  Yep, each of you has a story.

Reading Book Read GIF by Laura Salaberry

So, you might be wondering what does this have to do with Social Action?  Well, think about it this way: have you ever felt like no one has understood what you are going through– felt alone in your struggle?  When you tell your story, you are offering up the chance for a bunch of people to relate and not feel so alone.  That is Social Action!

So what’s the best way to tell one of your stories. One way is to create a StoryBooth like this:

Click HERE to visit the Covenant House Website

To submit your story to StoryBooth click HERE.

You can take home a camera (or use your phone) to create a documentary about your life:

Gabriela reveals to her mother that she’s been molested.
A family struggles to survive after the father is incarcerated.

Another way to tell your story is through art. Friday Kahlo created a series of self-portraits that were surrounded by important objects in her life.

Yet another way to tell one of your stories is through music.

Kapone talks about the struggles he’s facing after his uncle commits suicide and his sister is out of control. Click HERE for the lyrics.
Here, Dakari tells the story of a victim of Domestic Violence.

You can also write a poem and film it to create a Spoken Word Poem like Island Schooler Melanie:

In the past, many students have come to me privately and spoke about intense events that happened in their lives– stories about drugs, relationships, and violence.  I told everyone the same thing: TELL YOUR STORY.  But, if your story reveals details that embarrass you too intensely or gets anyone in trouble, change the names in your story and ask me not to reveal you as the author.  If you’re creating a film, choose actors to play the characters from your life.

Can’t wait to learn your story!

january 3 2022

The work we do here in the Tech Café can sometimes feel overwhelming. We go over SO MANY social issues and use SO MANY tools to talk about them. But here’s the thing: my goal is for you to find ONE issue that you truly care about and run with it!

Stick with it like how you need to jump a thousand times to the rim before you can dunk.

Stick with it like a dog shaking its favorite toy.

Stick to it like cotton candy to your face.

Create mind-blowing projects about the ONE issue that get others to understand the problem and help make it better. Here’s some highlights from this year so far:

Let’s take a moment to review what we’ve spoken about in 2021 and figure out what you’d like to stick with and make 🤯 projects no one has seen before.

We started the year by creating PERSONAL POWER symbols. We were inspired by symbols from throughout history and used tools like stamp making, button making, jewelry, and clay to show off our symbols.

Next we spoke about what it means to be LGBTQ+IA and how to be an ALLY.

After that, we talked about how your SELF-IMAGE is affected by what you see on TV, the music you listen to, and the advertisements you see. This can affect what you think it means to be a “real” guy or girl and a “real” black, Dominican, Muslim, Puerto Rican, etc..

We then did a bunch of activities to “walk in the shoes” of people with visual impairment and mobility issues (AKA feel empathy). Seeing how some of these people overcame their disabilities, lead us to see them as having SUPER-ABILITIES.

DECEMBER 20 2021

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“.

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?

Now that you’ve learned to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships as well as how to safely get out of them, quiz yourself!

DECEMBER 13 2021

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:

Here is a list of 10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship. How can you teach others what to look for? One idea: look at the symbols used in the list– how can you create jewelry or clay pieces that show them?

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 darkness. How can we shine a light on these masks?

What do the wires and lock symbolize in this mask?

*Sometimes I hear students say, “I’ve already created a mask”. Please remember that some artists spend their WHOLE LIVES creating different masks. These masks are wildly creative, using all sorts of interesting materials.

As you saw with the short films made by OneLove, sometimes it’s better to see what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like, than to just talk about it. One way to show people about these relationships is to create comics. Watch how to do it below:

The Code for 5th Grade is:

The Code for 6th Grade is:

The Code for 7th Grade is:

The Code for 8th Grade is:


Last we spoke about The Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships: Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion–>Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion. Opening people’s eyes to this cycle, may help them exit the relationship before it gets worse:

We also watched a rap video about an abusive relationship. In it, the boyfriend made his girlfriend change her outfit when she was going dancing. He FaceTimed her in the Supermarket to make sure she was actually there. He also islotated her from her friends by lying, saying they had made moves on him.

Taking control of someone’s life like that is called crossing boundaries.

Image result for look out for red flags
A Red Flag is a warning sign that tells you something is going wrong.

When your partner frequently crosses boundaries, it is a RED FLAG.

Here’s a StoryBoard with some examples:

Let’s dive deeper into the idea of boundaries.

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 out 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 a healthy or unhealthy relationship in a comic?

Are you in a relationship or wondering whether you’d be a good partner? Take this quiz:

Not into relationships? Click HERE to see some tips for healthy friendships.

Here are a few project ideas for those interested in working to end Domestic Violence:

Take your masks to the next level by adding clay to create DV Monsters or victims:

*Create posters that show what good relationships look like.

*Create posters about Boundaries– what are RED FLAGS to look for?

Create a Pixton Comic showing healthy or unhealthy relationships. –> 6th Graders click HERE to join, 7th Graders click HERE to join, 8th Graders click HERE to join.

Write (and perform?) a spoken word poem about DV like this:

Make a podcast!

November 29 2021

This month we will be talking about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Domestic Violence (DV) will be a big part of this discussion.

For many students at The Island School this social issue will not be easy. Please let me know if you need to take a break outside of the classroom during the mini-lessons– I’ll give you an activity and have one of my assistants hang out with you.

There’s nothing worse than having someone in your home who hurts you and the people you care about. Homes are supposed to be safe and full of love. When they’re not, it can tear your world apart, making it hard not to feel sad and angry. It can interfere with friendships, with school, and every other part of your life. You might blame yourself for not being able to stop it or be filled with a need for revenge against the abuser.

For this social issue, some students who have experienced DV might choose to tell their stories. Telling your story is important for lots of reasons. First, when your release your dark experiences into the world, it can feel like taking a weight off of you. For some reason, that’s how humans work. Second, when you shine a light on this darkness, you can make others feel less alone who are experiencing abuse. Finally, you can help people recognize if they’re in an unhealthy relationship and show them how to get help.

Telling your story can include creating art, music, podcasts, pottery, embroidery, T-shirts, or documentaries. It is important for your family’s safety and privacy that you don’t use your real names or images in this storytelling.

In abusive relationships, there are patterns of abuse. These are things that you’ll find over and over again. One of these patterns is called “The Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships. Here’s what it looks like:

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 graphic novel? Maybe you can create your own film? What about interviewing someone who has gone through this (but remember to keep their identity private).

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