journal

DECEMBER 5, 2022

Simah Herman has started an anti-vaping campaign from her hospital bed. Credit: Instagram/simahherman

Last week we spoke about the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes. Many students were surprised at how much nicotine was in a JUUL Pod:

They were also shocked to find out that not only was Nicotine ridiculously addictive, but also permanently changes your brain so that you are more likely to become an adult addict. Nicotine also causes mood swings, depression, and irritability.

But what I think was most eye-opening for students was the idea that the cigarette companies that own e-cigarettes WANT kids to start vaping. Not only do they create kid-friendly flavors, but they put advertisements near schools on purpose! In fact, JUUL bought ads on CoolMath and Cartoon Network! YOU. ARE. THEIR. TARGET.

Test your knowledge about Vaping:

So what can we do about it? Just like the paintings you created about LGBTQ+IA rights, how about making art to get the work out about nicotine? Let people know that E-cigarette companies want to get kids hooked so they keep buying more and more and more.

Social Action means trying to bring about positive change in our communities. What about getting the bodegas near the school to stop showing advertisements for e-cigarettes near our school?

Art by Island Schooler Franli

When it comes to art, you can create SUBVERSIVE works that make fun of e-cigarettes and tells the truth about them. Check out this slideshow to learn more:


It would be really cool if someone created a documentary talking about vaping in school. Here’s one that Island Schoolers made about tobacco cigarettes:


-For those of you interested in writing a song about Vaping, I am offering a prize for every finished song with music and lyrics. Here’s an example:

Here’s a SoundTrap tutorial I did for making a Covid-19 song. You can use it as a guide to making a song about Vaping:

NOVEMBER 30, 2022

Vaping seems harmless– it’s not like stinky cigarettes. In fact, there are amazing flavors! Bubblegum, Mango, and Cucumber– yum!

The e-cigarette companies KNOW kids like flavors and they market 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.

november 29, 2022

For your journal entry today, create a “Mood Swing” mask to show the effects of nicotine. To do this, draw a face and divide it in half. On one side, create the face of positivity. On the other side, make a negative face.


If you enjoyed, this activity, use a mask to show how Nicotine causes mood swings. Here are some masks to inspire you:


Here are a few more ideas for how you can raise awareness of the dangers of vaping:

-Make a documentary about Vaping–maybe even interview neighborhood shop owners about it (must have an adult with you for this one). You can use the questions below:

-Create an anti-vaping clay sculpture. For example, you could make lungs with sad faces to show how nicotine makes you irritable, or create a skull to symbolize depression, or handcuffs to represent addiction, or a happy person next to a sad person to represent mood swings…

  • Make a Podcast episode on Vaping:

Use these facts to help out with your Podcast:

November 29 2022

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

Those students who’ve taken my class before know I’ve done a bunch of lessons on the dangers of vaping. These lessons included facts like these:

Despite these lessons, there are kids (maybe even in this school) who are still vaping! I think there are a lot of reasons for this. What are some reasons that come to your mind?

Here’s one reason not to Vape. 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).


But by far the worst ingredient in E-Cigarettes is Nicotine. Nicotine is EVIL. It is EXTREMELY addictive and can have seriously awful effects on your life:

Nicotine creates INTENSE irritability– you get angry too easily–everyone and everything BOTHERS you.

Once Nicotine hooks you, it’s RIDICULOUSLY hard to quit

Some people believe that Vaping (and the nicotine it has) actually calms you down when you’re stressed. That’s a lie:

So what can we do about it?  How can we get teens to understand why Vaping is so bad for you and get them to stop. Here are a few ideas:

-Create “Pledge” bracelets out of beads, metal, or leather (or both) that people can wear if they agree never to vape.

-Make posters that show teens the dangers of vaping that we can put up around the school.

For our Journal today, you are going to create an alien version of yourself that has been changed because of your addiction to nicotine. We are going to do this through an activity called “Blind Contour” drawings. Sounds fancy, but it’s easy and fun! All you have to do is draw yourself using a mirror or a classmate without looking down. Watch the tutorial below:

Maybe, if you’re SUPER LUCKY, you’re drawing will turn out like this 😉
Use a Blind Contour Drawing to create a message about Nicotine.

november 21, 2022

This weekend showed once again the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community for equality and safety. First, there was a horrific shooting at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado:


Then, we learned that Qatar, the host of Soccer’s World Cup, will be giving a “Yellow Card” (severe warning), to any player wearing an arm band in support of LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality is ILLEGAL in Qatar.


So, now more than every, we need to talk about how to be an ALLY to the LGBTQ+IA community. Warning: it’s not easy! Standing up to people who are LGBTQ+IA haters makes you a target.

Imagine if we had an ALLY toolbox. Just like grabbing a hammer from a regular toolbox to deal with a sharp nail that was sticking out, you could grab a smart response from your ALLY toolbox when someone was acting like an LGBTQ+IA hater.


In my opinion, most of the videos about being an ALLY don’t give enough tools to put in our ALLY toolbox. For example, after watching this video, would you know exactly what to say when someone acts like the gender or sexuality police?

The videos below describe how to be an ALLY when your friend or family member comes out to you.


For today’s journal entry, draw a button to support Gender Freedom or to show you’re an LGBTQ+ Ally.

You can use our button makers to create real buttons to support gender freedom and the LGBTQ+ community.

november 14, 2022

Related image

Last week we saw a film in which the main character named Terren was Trans. Classmates not only made fun of Terren, but physically assaulted them. Unfortunately, verbal abuse and physical violence against LGBTQ+ people are extremely common:

Do you think our school is friendly or hostile to students with different gender identities like trans, gender fluid, gender creative, and agender people? What about to our LGBTQ+IA students?


I can tell you that I hear a lot of “That’s mad gay!”, “Aye Yo’s”, and “no homo’s”. What about you? If the answer is “yes”, is there anything we can do to change how students act? Here’s a commercial that tries:

Here’s a movie that reverses the world to wake people up to LGBTQ+IA bullying at school:



So, what can you do to help change the culture at our school? How about making a podcast? Here’s one made by me and my daughter Ruby a while back:

Here’s how to create a podcast in Soundtrap:


For your journal today, fill out the first paragraph of this podcast script:


Here are a couple of examples from Island Schoolers this week!

november 7, 2022

Over the last few weeks, we’ve addressed gender stereotypes. This is the idea that there are correct ways to look and act like a “boy” or a “girl”. We learn these correct ways from places like TV, music, social media, and our families. When people remind you nicely or meanly that you need to look or act like the gender assigned to you at birth they are acting as The Gender Police (TGP).

The problem is that these gender stereotypes often don’t allow people to look and act in ways that feel good to them. Instead, they bury their emotions, interests, and ideas so as not to raise the suspicions of TGP.

We also learned that some people’s sense of their gender doesn’t fit neatly into the definition of a boy OR a girl. Instead, they may feel like a girl sometimes and a boy other times, like a creative combination of both genders or like no gender at all.


To make things more complicated, some people feel like they were assigned the wrong gender at birth (transgender). Along with this, some people have both male and female body parts and hormones. These people are called Intersex.


So! As you’ve seen there is A LOT to learn about gender. Now it’s time to add Sexuality into the mix.

Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to and it’s not the same as your gender.



Just like gender, there is no right kind of person to be attracted to. If it feels right, then it’s right (although doing something about it needs to be safe, consenting, and legal). And, again, just like gender, there are a lot of sexual orientations. Here are some flags representing different sexual orientations:

For your journal entry today, draw one of the flags to show your support. It does not need to be a flag representing YOU, just one that you could be an ALLY (defender) of.

If you’re interested, use embroidery to create a flag with or without a message.


Now, test your understanding with this Kahoot!:

october 31, 2022

Pretend students at your school are joining an organization called THE GENDER POLICE (TGP). As a member of the TGP, you must STRICTLY ENFORCE rules about what girls and boys DO at your school and what they should LOOK like.

So that all new members of the TGP can identify the correct way to be a boy and a girl, they created a training video. In your journal, make 2 lists.

GIRLS MUST:BOYS MUST:

Now, watch the following videos and fill out the list. Do not use your own opinions— just get your ideas from the videos.

While the TGP training video I made is fake, gender policing is real and it happens at our school. Sometimes people do it on purpose–“damn, you shoot like a girl”– while other people do it by accident– “Can I get some strong boys to pick up heavy boxes in the main office?”. TGP can be seen when people laugh or shake their heads at people who appear to be boys wearing skirts or makeup. TGP happens when people who appear to be girls get made fun of for shaving their heads or not shaving their legs.


Arri created this symbol to fight TGP

So, who among you will stand up to the TGP? Create a new symbol (and name?) for a force that goes up against TGP? Here are some ideas to steal:


Andre drew this symbol in support of gender freedom

This week we’ve been speaking about The Gender Police and how many of us are members without even knowing it. But gender isn’t always as simple as being a girl or a boy. “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 into 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).


For your journal entry today, create a color for each way of expressing gender:


Now that you’ve used color to form different gender expressions. Use the image below to inspire a drawing of a gender fluid person or a person who doesn’t fall under the spell of gender stereotypes:


Let’s keep diving into our explorations of gender. 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.

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 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 understand different kinds of gender identities

october 25, 2022

Learning gender rolls start at at a very young age. Just think about what boys and girls learn is “OK” to play with:

For todays’ journal entry, draw 2 pictures. One of a “boy” doing a “girl” thing and one of a girl doing a “boy” thing. If you don’t know what to draw, look at the list you created in your journal last class.

For those of you interested, partner with 2-3 people and do a photo shoot of girls doing “boy” things and boys doing “girl” things. Print out one of the pictures, glue it onto a canvas, and paint a question like, “WHY NOT?”.

october 24, 2022

Grab your journal and a pencil. Divide your paper into three columns. Title the first column “Girl Stuff”, the second column “Boy Stuff”, and the third column “Both”. Now, look at this list of things and write each in only one of the columns.

Question: Who decides what’s “Girl Stuff” and “Boy Stuff”?


A huge part of mental health is feeling comfortable with who you are and the life you live. What happens when the things that make you feel good are “wrong” for your gender? Let’s learn more:

How about creating art to crush gender stereotypes?


For those of you filming documentaries on social media, it’s time to start editing the footage. Here’s how:

october 18, 2022

Last week, we began filming documentaries about how social media can poison the way we see ourselves– making us feel like we’re not good enough looking, have enough stuff, or doing cool enough things. You asked questions like:

Below are a couple of examples of how technology like Photoshop changes bodies so that they are impossibly perfect.


For today’s journal prompt, write these words at the top of your page:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT BODY

Now, draw a very unique body under it. It can have star eyes, snake hair, multiple arms– anything to make it perfectly awesome!

If you enjoyed this activity, create a larger version on a canvas!