March 25

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If you’ve ever spent time in The Tech Café, then you know what happens when someone curses in here. LANGUAGE! you’ll hear me yell. Some students ask me (1) “why does it matter if I curse?” and (2) “what, you don’t ever curse?” The answer to question 1 is that, to me, cursing inside a classroom says, “this is not a special space and you are not a special enough person to me –Dr. Lahana– to be on my best behavior”. So yeah, I take it really personal. Just like how you’d behave on your first day at an awesome new job or if you were on stage doing your graduation speech or if you were having a deep conversation with Barack Obama, time in the Tech Cafe should bring out the best parts of you. The parts that are caring, creative, and passionate.

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Question 2? I definitely curse. BUT it’s all about time and place. I do it after work and only when I’m with certain friends and family (or by myself).

Next question: Why do we curse in the first place? Both VSauce And XDINAF do really good videos on the subject. Some interesting highlights from those videos are that there are 3 types of curse words:

  1. GODD@MN1T! Ones against God, Spirits, or demons.
  2. F-U YOU POS! Ones about Sex or poop.
  3. Slurs. These are saying something hateful about someone’s race, religion, culture, class, gender, or sexual orientation. To be clear, this type of curse is NEVER ok.
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According to these videos, cursing is not all bad. It can help lessen pain! It can make people like you more! It can also be used to let people know that trouble is coming.

But, returning back to the original point, cursing at our school is out of control. Students use the words in class, in the hallways, and especially in the gym. With all that cursing, it sometimes feels like kids forget that these are even bad words! Bad words are supposed to be different then regular words…they are supposed to SHOCK US. But with so much cursing, the words have lost most of their power. In the end, cursers just look sad– like their brains can’t think of anything original to say.

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So, Island Schoolers. Do you think it’s possible to get students to not curse as much? How can we create a movement to make this happen? Let’s brainstorm!

March 18

As you know, The Island School shares our building with P94, The Spectrum School. Many students at this school have a condition called Autism. Autism can take many forms, but autistics often have difficulty holding conversations that appear “normal” to those who don’t have autism. Some autistic people have trouble speaking or understanding what others are thinking or feeling. Another characteristic of autism are repeating motions like flicking their fingers in front of their eyes or rocking. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder meaning that some show little of the signs mentioned above, while others show them all. Let’s learn more:

1 in 59 people in the United States are autistic. If you’d like to get a sense of what if feels like to be autistic, watch this video:

Do you know someone who has autism? What has been your experience with that person? Lots of people with Autism and those who care for them believe that their condition also gives them strengths. For example, people with autism often have amazing math, computer, musical, and artistic skills.

Autistic people often pay attention to details that others miss and have great memories. Maybe we need to start focusing on these strengths when we think of Autistics! Can you create something that puts out that idea? Or do you want to be like this guy?:

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March 4

So, last week, many of you were not convinced that Speciesism matters. Who cares if animals feel pain– I LOVE BACON! Welp, this week, I’m going to give it one more shot. I’ll try to convince you that reducing the amount of meat you eat, switching away from cow’s milk, staying away from wearing animal skin and fur, and using cruelty-free cosmetics like this makes sense. Here’s the problem, though, the videos that will help to convince you are so ugly and violent, it will be too hard to handle for some of you. So this weeks journal should mostly be viewed on your own, if you feel ready to see some truly horrible acts.

Now, lets watch a little bit of a Twilight Zone episode that deals with Speciesism. Spoiler Alert: it reverses the idea of Speciesism–making us no longer at the top of the list.

Like the Twilight Zone episode, a few students are making projects that flip around Speciesism. For example, Elemiah is making a game where non-human animals are trying to capture and eat humans. Jevin is making a foil pig and covering it with a jacket made out of human skin (felt).

But why does Speciesism matter? It matters because we are causing unimaginable pain to other animals without thinking twice about it. For example, here’s where your milk comes from (WARNING: VIOLENCE):

If you feel prepared to watch more of these types of videos, go to PETA’S (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s) site where they investigate what happens to non-human animals you use.

So, now that you see the horrors of animal abuse, what can you do about it? Check out this video about an organization fighting for change in the way we treat non-human animals:

Are you ready to make posters, videos, jewelry, games, and art that shine a light on what’s right when it comes to how we treat other animals? Are you ready to take a break from eating them at least once a week? Let the world know and we can spread our #CrueltyFree message on social media.

February 27

So, you’ve heard of racism and sexism, but have you heard about Speciesism? This is when we, as humans, feel we are superior to non-human animals.  In fact, we are so supremely better than other animals that we can kill trillions of them, use them as entertainment (think: circuses, bullfighting, rodeos), experiment on them, and use their skin and fur to clothe and decorate us.

Ok, so now that you’ve seen what we do to other animals, do you see how this is Speciesism?  How about creating an art piece that persuades others that animals should have rights and that we need to end cruelty to them? A foil cow covered in human skin (brown fabric)? A clay sculpture of a lamb covered in gems with the words “she is not worthless…”. Jewelry stamped with a reminder to take a “meatless monday”?

February 14

So, we’ve been talking about stereotypes and how they can lead you to judge people negatively. Sometimes people can even see themselves negatively because of stereotypes that we see in movies, commercials, video games, music videos, and social media. To battle these stereotypes, we’ve begun creating anti-stereotypes– individuals that don’t match what you see in the Media. By making a lot of anti-stereotypes it can teach others that judging someone by how they look, leads to a lot of mistakes.

Yudith’s Anti-stereotype: A Female Muslim Programmer who is gay and loves breakdancing.

Today, we’re turning to the subject of hair. In the past, I’ve shown a fantastic Sesame Street music video called “I Love my Hair“. Why was it necessary to create this video? Well, many people of color feel like they need to change their hair from how it grows naturally into being straight. In fact, many men and women have been discriminated against because of wearing their hair naturally. In NYC, it’s now illegal for employers to do this.

People of color in this class with curly/wavy/afro-texture hair, have any of your friends, family, or strangers judged you based on your hair? Are you given the message that only a certain kind of hair is “good hair”? It’s time to call this out through filmmaking art, music, jewelry, clay, and game design. Here’s a woman in the Dominican Republic doing something to battle discrimination and promote natural hair:

February 7

Close your eyes. What’s the first type of person you think of when I say the following words:

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.

Something we did last year, that all you artists might want to try this year, is to use the page below to 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.

Here are a few videos that help to banish stereotypes.


Last week we spoke about the negative stereotypes brought to you by media like Facebook, music videos, movies, games, and advertisements. How do we combat them? One way, is to pick a stereotype– like we did with “thick”, “curvy”, or “plus-size” females– and create messages that battle the negativity and focus on the positive.

Let’s return to the idea of stereotypes. How do you identify them so you can battle them? Sometimes we see a stereotype so often, we come to believe it, and don’t even recognize when it’s being presented to us. Other times it’s hidden. Last year, I created a handy guide to finding hidden stereotypes. Here it is:

Watch a few commercials and see if you can recognize one of the stereotypes shown in my guide.

Now that you’ve had some practice identifying stereotypes, how can we battle against them? Here are some videos that do just that:

So who are you? Do you look, feel, and act like your stereotype or are you different? Take a picture in Photobooth, print it and then add words, colors. and pictures that represent you. Feel free to include words and pictures that DO NOT represent you and make big fat X’s accross them.

How about writing a poem to battle stereotypes? Here’s a recipe from DesignForChange:

I AM by (Your Name)

I am (2 special characteristics you have)
I wonder (something your curious about)
I hear (an imaginary sound)
I see (an imaginary sight)
I want (an actual desire)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I pretend (something you actually pretend to do)
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary)
I touch (an imaginary touch)
I worry (something that bothers you)
I cry (something that makes you sad)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I understand (something that is true)
I say (something you believe in)
I dream (something you dream about)
I try (something you really make an effort about)
I hope (something you actually hope for)
I am (the first line of the poem )


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Who do we see when we 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 what you show others on Instagram, Facebook, Snap, and so on…

Finally, what you see in the mirror comes from what the media (music videos, advertisements, movies, TV shows…) tell you should look and act like. That’s what we’re going to talk about this week.

Let’s start by looking at a set of images and a Drake Video. You probably recognize some of the people and places. As you look at at the images and video, enter into the Padlet what you should look like and act like to be part of each world shown.

Made with Padlet

Imagine if you had a 5-year-old. First off, congratulations– although it would have been nice had you waited a little longer to be a parent. Anyhow, for your sweet child, which words would you want them to hold in their minds as they grew up? What would you want them to see in the mirror? Here’s are a couple videos that may give you ideas on what you could tell your child as they grow up.

For your next project, how about creating something that helps people see and feel positive things when they look in the mirror? How about jewelry with positive messages to keep people’s spirits up?  How about a Scratch Game about a compliment shooter that saves people who feel bad about themselves? How about creating a poster in Canva to tell others they can be themselves without having to be tough, skinny, or anything else from the Padlet images.

Last idea: print or draw one of the mirrors below. Inside of it, draw your your son or daughter’s face. Next, add ONLY 5 WORDS that you want to describe their life. These can include the same ones from our Padlet.

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