Welcome to Techbrarian– home to the brave ✊, ever-growing 🌱, glowing 🌟, deep-felt ❤ social activism of The Island School.
You’ve landed on the Journal: a place where you’ll find lessons on social activism and superb student projects. But the journal doesn’t have all of our work. Check out our videos and sounds, and Twitter as well. Here are a few highlights to get you started!
OCTOBER 18 2021
We’ve spent the first month forming symbols of our personal strengths so that we can draw on them to do social action. We also spoke about the importance of blocking stereotypes that poison our self-image. Helping other kids see the toxic images that the media feeds to us and teaching them to block it out is a hugely important social issue– please keep working on creating paintings, pottery, embroidery, and stamps for this issue if you care about it!
For our next topic, we will be talking about inventions to help people with disabilities. Let’s begin by learning about some of the challenges that people with disabilities face and how they overcome them:
Have you ever heard the expression: Walk a mile in someone’s shoes? What does it mean?
Imagine if I created a large clear cube with wheels and a navigation system to get you where you wanted to go. It would never get close to anybody so you'd never bump into them. It would be big enough so that people would move out of the way on the sidewalk. Now imagine if, instead, you created a set of small wheels (like Heelys)in a pair of shoes that also contained a navigation system to get you where you wanted to go. Which would feel better to use?
Great inventors get into the shoes of the people they are trying to help. But they don’t just try to think the way they think 🧠, they try to feel how they feel ❤️. How does it feel not to be able to walk around a new city and find the Mexican restaurant you are looking for? The better you understand how something feels, the better your solution will be. That’s because you can judge whether your invention would make you feel better.
FEELING what other people feel is called EMPATHY. The trick to feeling empathy is to find a time in your life where you faced a tough challenge. Go back to the time and feel the emotion you felt then. Then, tell yourself, THIS is something like what that person is feeling.
Now, because we are trying to EMPATHIZE with humans with different abilities, let’s do a couple of activities to experience their world.
1- Click on the maze below and print it out:
2- Now, take a pair of goggles that have been specially transformed. See if you can complete the maze with them on.
After you finish, be prepared to answer these questions when we meet back up:
- What was it like to try to complete the maze?
- How would it have gone if you didn’t have to wear the goggles?
- How do you think being visually impaired changes the way you live?
For your next empathy activity:
1- Get a sheet of paper and a pen.
2- Take a roll of masking or duct tape and use it to tape up your hand and thumb together.
3- Using just your taped hand, try to sign your name on the paper 3 times.
After you finish, be prepared to answer these questions when we meet back up:
- What was it like to have limited mobility?
- What changes would you have to make to your daily activities if your arm was like this permanently?
Here are a couple of project ideas:
- Create the navigation shoes using Lego, wood, and/or cardboard
- Make a Cardboard Prosthetic hand by clicking HERE.
OCTOBER 12 2021
Last week we focused on GENDER stereotypes and how media like TV and Instagram feed you images of what you should look like, act like, and want. Boys should be tough, muscular, sporty, rich, and, of course, be players.
Girls should dress sexy, be flirty, have perfect skin, and let guys be in control.
If you don’t match what they feed you, then you are not an attractive or important guy or girl. Then, when you look in the mirror, you don’t feel good enough.
To keep a healthy SELF-IMAGE, we need to value what’s important, so we made masks that reflect what’s important about ourselves.
Of course, stereotypes about GENDER aren’t the only thing that affects your SELF-IMAGE. As with the Kim Kardashian commercial above, the media also pressures people to be skinny. Here are some graphics that battle against this pressure:
Sanaa, an 8th grader, was inspired by the cactus graphic. She used pottery, wood, and bottles, to make an art piece about accepting your weight:
Open up your Journal. Write or draw who you see and what they’re doing, when I say the following words:
MUSLIM * ASIAN * AIRPLANE PILOT * DOCTOR * JANITOR * NATIVE AMERICAN
When I said Muslim did you think of a doctor, a filmmaker, a terrorist, or something else?
When I said Doctor, did you think of a White man, a Native American, someone Transgender, someone in a wheelchair, or something else?
When I said Asian did you think of a dentist, a choreographer, a Chinese restaurant cook, a computer programmer, or something else?
When I said Janitor did you think of a black or hispanic man, a Jewish lesbian, a blind Latina, or something else?
When I said Airplane Pilot did you think of a Black woman, a grandmother, a gay Asian woman, a white man, or something else?
When I said Native American, did you think of a man in a headdress, a young choreographer, a deaf computer programmer, or something else?
We often use stereotypes as shortcuts instead of taking the time to learn about people we meet. It’s hard to change people’s negative stereotypes, especially when TV shows, video games, music videos, and social media keep pushing them onto us. We need to push back by showing the world why their stereotypes are wrong and how each of us is more amazing than the lame stereotypes we’re given.
Use the page below to help you create anti-stereotype portraits. These portraits can shake people free from their negative stereotypes and open them up to seeing each stranger as uniquely awesome.
Summing it all up, is my favorite poet, Prince Ea:
OCTOBER 4 2021
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
It’s both an easy question and a hard one. On the one hand- it’s just you! On the other hand, the way you see yourself comes from how your friends, family, and neighborhood see you. It also comes from social media: what you show others on Instagram, Facebook, Snap, and so on…
What you see in the mirror also comes from what the media (music videos, advertisements, movies, TV shows…) tell you that you should look and act like. That’s what we’re going to talk about for our newest social issue: SELF IMAGE.
self image = how you see your abilities, appearance, and personality.
Let’s begin by watching some videos. In your journal, write down all the ways girls and boys need to act, what they need to care about and look like to be part of the world in the videos..
Now let’s watch some videos that try to push back against what boys and girls should be like. Again, what do you need to be like to fit into this world and what do you need to own?
Finally, let’s watch a couple of projects that challenge you to think deeper about your self-image:
Hopefully, you’re beginning to see how self-image isn’t something you’re born with and stays the same. Instead, it gets affected by the music you listen to, the videos you watch, the social media you take in, and the way your friends and family treat you. If you believe that everyone should be able to be themselves and not be trapped by what others want you to be like, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas, but please think of your own too!
- Create a documentary about gender sterotypes. What do people in this school think they have to be like to be accepted. Do they every go against sterotypes?
- Write and perform a spoken word poem like Prince Ea
- Make jewlery and t-shirts that show off your true identity!
- Make a claywork that has a stereotype object like a dollar bill or gun cracking open to reveal something deeper inside like family symbol, a diploma, or a job symbol.
- make a self portrait with paint or Legos. Your portrait can be surrounded by the people and activities that make you you.
september 27 2021
This week we’ll be talking about the “T” in LGBTQ+IA. It stands for Transgender and non-binary.
GENDER IDENTITY = THE GENDER YOU FEEL DEEP IN YOUR HEART
GENDER IDENTITY ≠ WHO YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO OR WHAT BODY PARTS YOU HAVE
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.
“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 in 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).
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 do about it? BE AN ALLY! Help create a welcoming vibe at the Island School and in your community. If people are being homophobic or transphobic, stand up for them!
It’s also important to learn the “pronouns” transgender and non-binary people want to be called. Here’s an explanation:
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 under different kinds of gender identities
september 20 2021
One of the ways this class works is that we talk about problems that are really happening in our lives. Here’s a problem I’m having that started last week.
On Monday, at recess, I heard a student going around saying, “Hey, you heard? ***** is gay.” On Tuesday two students were teasing each other: “yoooo, that’s mad gay!” On Friday, another student started his compliment of another’s sneakers by saying, “No homo, but…” All three of these comments are homophobic–can you explain why?
This really confused 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. On the other hand, you still hear people saying the stuff I heard last week.
So here’s my first question:
Is the Island School a safe place to be LGBTQIA? Why or why not? Tell a story to prove it.
In our Makerspace, what can we create to help expose the homophobia we see around us and teach each other how to be more welcoming to our LGBTQ+IA community? Here are a few ideas:
- Create a documentary film that interviews people about about how to get rid of homophobia in our school. Or, create a fictional movie about someone experiencing homophobia in school.
- An Ally stands up for the LGBTQ+IA community (even if they themselves are not LGBTQ+). Make an ALLY symbol out of clay, as a stamp, or button. Click HERE to learn more about what an Ally is.
september 13 2021
I don’t have to tell you, there’s a lot wrong in this world. People continue to get sick from COVID-19 and many refuse to get vaccinated. Kids are feeling depressed after all the death and isolation created by the pandemic. There are homeless everywhere, lots of guns leading to lots of unnecessary deaths, women on tv and in video games being nothing more than sexy bodies to stare at (instead of creative and powerful minds to listen to), police and politicians treating some races and classes better than others, advertisements everywhere making you feel bad about yourselves, kids getting bullied online, the climate changing in scary ways, people getting addicted to all sorts of things…just to name a few.
Are we just going to stand there and let this all keep on going? Are you just a kid who has zero things to say about any of this and zero power to DO anything about this?
I. DON’T. THINK. SO.
Doing something about all these problems is called Social Action.
Social action can be dangerous. You are fighting against problems that are often caused by people with lots of money or power or both. Going up against them is risky. As game maker Zoe Quinn said, “lf video games have taught me anything, it’s that if you encounter enemies, then you’re going the right way.”
And remember, during this journey, even though i don’t have all the answers, I always have your back. Whatever you need to make your project happen, we’ll do it. period.
Because social action is dangerous, we need to focus on each of your strengths. Every superhero has their powers, what’s yours?
Over the next month, you will select your strength and create a symbol to represent it. In the process, you’ll learn how to use a bunch of the tools in our Makerspace (AKA The Tech Cafe). By the end, you’ll have your superpower symbol to wear proudly in preparation for your social action adventures. So let’s begin: