Week 13

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?  In ELA, you have been talking about argumentative or persuasive writing.  Today, we’d like you to create an art piece that persuades others that animals should have rights and that we need to end cruelty to them.

Week 12

Today marks the end of our E-Cigarette Game creation unit.  Next week (Maybe Friday?) we’ll have some students from other classes come and play them. In the meantime, if you’re done, have another 8B group play your game!  As you watch them play, think about things you want to improve on.

If you haven’t yet created a game or want to abandon yours.  Here are some last minute inspirations:

1- Make your own Monopoly game using Google Sheets like the one below. Instead of buying properties, how about buying healthy choices.  The can include things like playing basketball, eating kale, and sleeping 8 hours.  Instead of using money to buy health, you can spend health points.  The Chance and Community Chest cards as well as the Go To Jail space can be about the dangers of E-Cigarettes.

2- DIY Operation Game.  Draw an E-Cigarette smoker and all the parts of their body that will be affected by smoking.  Make holes in those spots.  I’ll help you wire it up so that when you touch the holes it buzzes.

Image result for homemade operation game

3-  Make your own memory game with fact about E-Cigarettes.  Below, they do it with popsicle-shaped cards…but you could do it with E-Cigarettes!

Week 11

This week, we’ll begin by doing some independent research on E-Cigarettes using two sites:

Please write down 3 new facts on you learned on the Padlet  and include it in your game.

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Made with Padlet

Week 10

alfonso de anda fox GIF by Animation Domination High-Def

Today, we’re switching gears and talking about E-Cigarettes.  Even though most of us know they aren’t harmless, more and more teens are starting to smoke them each day.  Put together, 14% of middle and high school students smoke them.

Bubblegum, Mango, and Cucumber.  Who doesn’t love those delicious flavors?  One reason that kids are so into e-cigarettes is that they are attracted to the flavors added to the “pods” or liquids used to create the smoke.  The e-cigarette companies KNOW this and are marketing it to you on purpose, even though you’re supposed to be 18 to buy their products.

There are two big problems with e-cigarettes:

  1. They contain dangerous things like propylene glycol and metal particles.   Propylene glycol has been linked to “popcorn lung” which is a disease where your lungs crackle when you breathe, makes you cough and feel short of breath.   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).
  2. E-cigarettes contain Nicotine. Nicotine is E X T R E M E L Y addictive and ruins the tunnels (veins) that feed your body blood. One pod contains the same nicotine as 20 cigarettes.  Kids who start smoking e-cigarettes find it nearly impossible to quit and often end up smoking regular cigarettes.

Today we are going to do a design activity to alert other teens to the dangers of smoking E-Cigarettes.  We are going to design our own games.  Let’s begin by talking about the games we know:

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Now we are going to design our own games.


Find 10 facts about E-Cigarettes


Figure out the goal of your game, the tools players will use, and how they will play.  If you’re too overwhelmed by creating a board game, you can always do a simple game of Memory.


Create dice, playing cards, characters, rewards, or whatever else you’ll need to play the game.


I think this activity will take 3 sessions, so be ready to clean up when i ask you to…

Week 9

This week we will be working with the idea of character traits.  Sometimes in our writing, we get stuck on simple character traits like: good, bad, happy, and sad.  The problem is that when your character has simple character traits it makes your writing simple.

What art supplies did I use to create Bertha?

Meet Bertha, she’s Dishonest, Impolite, and Bossy.  One day, right after she got her paycheck, she passed by a homeless woman with a skinny dog– it’s ribs were showing.  The woman asked, “can you space some change?”  Bertha responded, “nope, I don’t have a dime.  And, I must say, It’s time for you to get a job honey.”

Now, close your eyes: I’m going to say the following traits and I want you to imagine the first person that comes to your mind when I say them (they can be real or fake):






For this activity, we’ll be taking adjectives from a character trait list and building a character.  Here are the steps:

STEP 1: Click on the following lists and choose 3 traits:

STEP 2:  Build a Character (real or fake) from the art materials inspired by the 3 traits you chose.  Get creative!  Here are some funky portraits to inspire you:

STEP 3:  Write the 3 Character traits you chose somewhere on your character.

STEP 4: Think of one thing you could write about that your character did to show these character traits.

Week 8

Today we’re going to be doing a design challenge about A Long Way Gone.  Your job is to form teams of 2-3 people and create a piece of art that represents at least two of the following ideas:



1- You can only use the materials on the table: 2- You have exactly 20 minutes.

3- Someone in your group needs to be able to talk about your art piece.

4- There is no “right way” to do this, it can be big or small have color or no color, use two of the materials or 10 of the materials.  But it must have to do with A Long Way Gone.

 baby book story reading GIF

week 7

Today, we are going to do an art activity called “found poetry”.  Let’s begin by listening to this short clip from A Long Way Gone:

Now, your next job is to grab a page torn out from a discarded book.  Quickly scan the page.  Now, circle the words that remind you of what you just listened to or any other section from the book.  This will form your poem.  Now cross out the words that are not part of your poem. Feel free to decorate the page as well!  Here are a few examples.

skull brain GIF

Week 6

You might be wondering how child soldiers are able to do such horrific things to their community members and total strangers.  Good question.  A word used to describe changing someone’s beliefs and behaviors is “brainwashing”.

cat laundry GIF

It’s not easy to brainwash someone and it doesn’t always take place in the same way.  Here are some basic steps.  As we go through them, think about the soldiers in A Long Way Gone and how they went from villagers to killers.

  1. Break the person’s mind by scaring them.
  2. Make them question who they are and feel bad about themselves.
  3. After they are broken, be kind to them.
  4. Have them make fun of their “old” self.
  5. Give them a new way of thinking.

Here’s some more information if you’re interested:

I was speaking to a student last week who told me: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.”  I’m posting a few StoryBoardThat’s on A Long Way Gone:

For more examples click HERE.


Ever since we started our discussions of Congo, the word “Empathy” has been front and center.  Thing is, it’s hard to make people feel empathy (understanding and sharing the feelings of others).  Today, you’re going to learn Dr. Lahana’s 2 steps for building empathy™.

Step 1: Realize that everyone has a struggle.  Sure, some are dealing with more pain than others-- but no one has it easy.  Once you take that outlook.  Your job is to find out their struggle and imagine what it would feel like if it was you dealing with it.

Step 2: Once you realize what a person is struggling with, do an act of kindness that lets them know the world is not a dark place.

As I mentioned on Week 1, having ELA class in the Makerspace is an experiment.  Well, last week, was a bit difficult.  Some of you had no idea how to take the tools in the Makerspace and use them to make a project about A Long Walk Home, Conflict Minerals, or FGM.

I get it, so CLICK HERE for a clear definition of your assignment.


This week we will be talking about FGM: female genital mutilation. As you watch these two videos, think about the following questions:

  1. What is FGM?
  2. Why is it done?
  3. What problems do girls/women face afterward?
  4. What can we do to prevent it?

week 3

Ok, so this is the week we begin working on projects that reflect our understanding of the INHUMANITY seen in the Congo in order mine the minerals for our devices and what is happening here in the United States to immigrants seeking a better life.  Here are some ideas and activities you can do– but feel free to create your own:

  • Create a song from the perspective of an immigrant.  Use this game to promote your understanding and empathy:

  • Use Sculpey and cardboard to create a diorama of mineral mines and surrounding villages:
  • Create a Scratch game where consumers need to avoid iPhones chasing them.  If they get hit, a message about conflict minerals comes up.  Here’s a similar example with cigarettes:

  • Make a wood phone, with a message about Conflict Diamonds.


cat book GIF

Quick Vocabulary lesson:

INHUMAN:  Cruelty without empathy

EMPATHY: Understanding and sharing the feelings of others

Last week, we learned about the inhuman ways that men and women are treated in the Congo in order for us to have our electronic devices.  Killing, maiming (injuring someone’s body), and raping are ways that the militias control communities.  We asked ourselves, “how can they be so lacking in empathy?”

But, in some ways, The United States is guilty of inhumanity as well.  Of course, we hold our bloody history of slavery and massive acts of racism like  Japanese Internment, but there are modern forms of treating others with inhumanity.  Watch this Music Video by Logic:

What forms of inhumanity do you see here?

How was humanity restored in this story?

What other forms of inhumanity do you see in your life?

How can you restore humanity in these cases?



In the past, we’ve spoken about the idea of Blood Diamonds- that Africans have been put into slave labor, raped, and killed in order to mine our diamonds.  The diamond trade has been using less of these “conflict diamonds” over the years because these practices have been exposed.  However, there are other resources that are still causing the same pain, death, and destruction: Conflict minerals used for technology.

In these modern times, a lot of people joke about rape.  “Yo, she’s raping me!”   In real life though, rape is the ugliest thing you can imagine.

  • The UN estimates that over 200,000 women and girls have been raped in the Congo over the past 12-plus years.  In some villages, 70% of women have been raped.  The age of the victims ranges from 3 to 75 years-old.
  • Violent gang rapes and mutilation lead to “traumatic fistula” – a medical condition causing a tear between the vagina and rectum or bladder that results in uncontrollable leakage of urine and/or feces.
  • Many pregnant women are left unable to conceive due to internal injuries.
  • Rapes are often public, and family members are forced to watch or participate – the goal is to humiliate.
  • Forced cannibalism and insertion of foreign objects into women’s genitals are tactics employed by groups.
  • Women and girls are abducted and taken as sexual slaves or “wives” by armed soldiers and militias.
  • The stigma around rape in Congolese culture means women and girls who survive are often left to fend for themselves, without family or community.

Below is are a couple of  **VERY GRAPHIC** stories of rape in the Congo.  Do not read if you feel like you cannot handle it:

Today’s Assignment:

Create a Shrinky Dink of one of the conflict minerals.  On it, write a word representing what you think of now that you know who mines them and how communities are terrorized to control who profits from the minerals.


BIG ASSIGNMENT IDEA:  Create a podcast, essay, or Storyboard that answers these questions.

  1.  What are conflict minerals?
  2. Which minerals are in Congo?
  3. What happens to the minerals?  Who profits?
  4. How has rape and sexual violence been used as a tactic of war in the Congo, why are these methods so effective at destroying entire communities?
  5. What can we do as consumers to stop Conflict Minerals?