journal

FEBRUARY 7 2023

We’ve talked about how calming anxieties is one reason people turn to THC. But anxiety isn’t the only mental health issue that leads to drug use. Another is Depression.

We’ve all had times when we’re sad, cranky, and not interested in doing things that usually make us happy. That’s part of being human! But if you experience these feelings for weeks or months, it may be a sign of depression. Spotting and treating depression in healthy ways can help you avoid turning to drugs like THC to feel better.

Let’s learn more about depression.


What does depression feel like? Do you know someone who has battled it? Did they win or lose? What’s the story?

How about writing a song? Here’s an example:

FEBRUARY 6 2023

Art Idea: divide a canvas in half. On one half, draw what stresses you out. On the other half, draw yourself surrounded by things that make you feel calm.

Journal entry:

Draw or write about something you’re addicted to


For those who regularly use marijuana to escape anxiety, there is serious risk of addiction. Neuroscience can help explain why.

Remember how we talked about neurotransmitters? These are the chemicals sent throughout your brain (through neurons) to trigger feelings, thought, and actions. The neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure is called “Dopamine”. When you drink Alcohol and or take drugs like THC, it releases a ton of dopamine — much more than other activities. Your body is not used to so much dopamine and craves getting it again. As a result, you seek out THC over the things that may have brought you dopamine before.


So, how do we teach others about the Hierarchy of Survival?

Here’s an idea: create a wood shelf with clay pieces representing what brings you the most dopamine (AKA pleasure). On the top of the shelf would be your most important need, on the bottom, something that brings you dopamine, but isn’t as important. In the middle would go objects that aren’t the most, but aren’t the least pleasurable. OR, you could make a shelf representing the Hierarchy of Survival for a drug addict or alcoholic.


How about making a stress-relief pillow with a strategy for calming yourself? Here’s how:

Here are some pillow inspirations:

For your pillow, you can write the message with a fabric marker, heat-press vinyl, or embroider the message. You can also add a scent in the filling for aromatherapy!

FEBRUARY 3 2023

OK! We’ve done so much learning and exploring neuroscience and THC. It’s time to test your knowledge:

january 30 2023

There are many reasons teens use THC. One big reason is feeling anxiety and wanting to escape it. What are you stressed or anxious about? School being hard? Problems with friends or someone you have feelings for? Family members who make your life hard?


Journal entry for today:

What is the most stressful thing going on in your life right now? When you get stressed out, what do you do to calm yourself?

Whatever the reasons there are tons of ways to deal with anxiety other than getting high.


Represent better ways of dealing with anxiety by doing a Stress-Relief photo scavenger hunt:

january 23 2023

This week is all about the Hippocampus and memory. Memory takes place in 4 phases.


So, how does this have to do with THC? THC messes with your Hippocampus. It doesn’t allow memories to be formed or be sent to your long-term memory:


How can you show the effect of THC on memory through music or art?

  • How about making a song about a weed smoker whose memories are fading or who can’t concentrate in school?
  • How about painting or making a collage of a brain full of memories and then smearing or erasing parts of it? This can show the damage THC does to your memory (hippocampus).
  • Use Perler beads to create an anti-THC message:

-Create a podcast or documentary about THC/weed. Here are some sample questions:

january 20 2023

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

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

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

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

(Play from 2:00-3:00)

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

Journal Entry:

Draw a mask showing what it’s like to experience psychosis.

Here are some images to inspire your mask:


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

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

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

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

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

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

Click below for a Kahoot!

January 17 2023

Last week we spoke about Neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messages sent between neurons that trigger us to think things, do things, and feel things. I showed you a list of 8 of the most popular Neurotransmitters:

But, what I didn’t tell you was there was one more neurotransmitter. It’s the MOST popular one that sends the MOST messages to the MOST parts of the brain. In fact, it controls how much you get of all the other Neurotransmitters!

This neurotransmitter is called ENDOCANNABINOID.

Endocannabinoids decide what neurotransmitters can and cannot be released

Think of all the things that the 8 neurotransmitters control. By controlling all the other Neurotransmitters, Endocannabanoids affect learning and memory, mood, and motivation. It also affects your sleep, hunger, and how much pain you feel. That’s a lot!

Because Endocannabanoids affect so many things, your body makes sure there are just the right amounts. BUT, when you take in THC, it FLOODS your system with cannabanoids. Cannabinoids are so similar to endocannabinoids that your body uses them the same way. Suddenly your perfectly balanced amounts of neurotransmitters get sent around wildly. Here’s an explanation:

*Something to know for this video: Anandamide is a type of Endocannabinoid

Your Maker Journal entry for today:

Write or draw about something in the past you practiced over and over again to become good at. Now, write or draw something you want to accomplish in the future that will require you to practice over and over to become good at.


There is SO much to talk about when it comes to Neuroscience. We could spend YEARS. But one of the most important ideas is Neural Plasticity. This is the idea that your brain parts are connected and form pathways (also called circuits). These pathways can get stronger or weaker or completely fade away. Here’s an explanation of these pathways.

Stop this video at 2:21

Question: Thinking of the roads in the forest analogy above, what do you think THC does to the construction of these roads?


Project idea: Use Perler Beads to make a symbol for what you’ll need to be focused and committed in order to achieve. The reason for making this symbol is to remind you to stay away from THC so that you can accomplish this goal.

January 13 2023

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

This video is about alcohol– but gives a good description of the hippocampus

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

Watch until at least 2:22
(This video gets boring after 2 minutes)

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


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

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

THERE IS ONLY ONE RULE:

DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BOTTLE. TO MAKE A DROP, JUST TIP IT OVER. IF YOU CANNOT FOLLOW THIS RULE, YOU WILL SIT OUT.


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

January 3 2023 (NEUROSCIENCE EDITION!)

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

January 3 2023

What’s the message of this video?

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

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

Memory and Learning, Motivation, and Mood.  

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


December 19 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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