summer 2020

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!


Ashley’s stunning portrait won’t let you look away– even when her subject is…

As our school year comes to an end, our passion to create a more just and beautiful world does not. Island Schoolers: your work inspires activists and artists from around the world and I will continue to show off your pieces throughout the summer. Please continue to send me your beautiful poetry, films, music, animations, arts, and crafts– that goes for you too 8th graders! Once you’re a member of The Tech Café you are a member FOREVER.

Dashana lays out her thoughts on Covid-19: her sick grandmother, being stuck indoors, racism, and her hopes for the future

Gianna’s protest sign blends a powerful message with eye catching colors and symbols

Elijah’s poem teaches us to respect nature and embrace diversity

I’ll leave you with 8th-grader Isatou’s spoken word poetry video. It is just one more example of how Island Schoolers are the lions and flowers of the jungle– commanding your attention through strength and beauty.


Adrian Brandon created portraits of Black people killed by police officers. He colors each portrait in for as long as the person was alive: 1 minute of coloring for each year of their life (From left to right: Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor). For example, Tamir Rice was 12, so he painted this portrait for 12 minutes.

Here are some pictures of people of color killed by police. Can you draw a portrait to honor them?

Sometimes, life can be overwhelming. From the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of racism to just daily life drama –it’s a lot! That’s why poetry is so awesome. You can capture your thoughts and feelings and let them fly free. Click HERE to revisit my video on poetry.

For those of you not sure about what to write, the New York Times created a cool activity: take the words below and rearrange them into a poem. Feel free to add or repeat words:

Bonus: Grab some scissors and a newspaper and create your own poem from scratch!


As your teacher, I want to not just help you feel cared for during this troubled time, but help you understand why this is happening and what you can do to create a better world.

This week we'll tackle the question: Why are people of 
color treated differently by the police?

When it comes down to it, people of color are thought of as “less than” by many in our society today. Why? The answers are like puzzle pieces that, put together, show the full picture.

One BIG piece: people today are taught to be racist (two other puzzle pieces include slavery and segregation). Through books, TV, advertisements, and music, there are hidden racist messages. We spoke about this in our Media Literacy unit last year.

What was the Black man like toward the Asian woman? How did she “make things better”? What does this teach us about Black men?

Yep, it’s easy to teach humans that (for no good reason) one group is less than another. Just watch this social experiment:

So, back to our question: why are people of color treated differently by the police? One big answer: police have been taught that black lives are worth less than white lives. They’ve been taught this by their families, by media, and by those they work with.

But, the truth is, we are the same in many ways and different in many ways– but we are all equal. We need to remind many people of this basic fact.

What can you make this week to show that we are the same in many ways and different in many ways– but we are all equal?

Option 11: Create a protest sign:

Some types of change will not come unless we protest ✊.

When it comes to peaceful protesting, there are a million ways, including: walkouts 🏢–>👩🏾‍🤝‍👨🏽👩🏾‍🤝‍👨🏽👩🏾‍🤝‍👨🏽 (we’re leaving unless there’s change!), sit-ins 🏢<—🧎🏽🧎🏽‍♂️🧎🏽‍♂️🧎🏽 (we’re NOT leaving unless there is change!), and marches 📢🗣 👥👥.

Protest signs tell the story of the problem you are fighting against and the change you want to see. Your protest sign can be proudly displayed at protests or you can take a picture of it and display it on social media. HERE IS A LINK to protest signs on Pinterest. Feel free to use one for inspiration, but make it your own!

A few more ideas and inspirations for protest signs


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).

Why does Rev. Sharpton keep repeating: You had “HAD YOUR KNEE ON OUR NECK”?

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. How about selecting one of these issues and creating a podcast using Soundtrap? Below is a tutorial on how to create a podcast and another on how to interview 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…