january 2023-APRIL 2023

april 3 2023

Today we’ll be doing an activity to get us thinking about healthy and unhealthy friendships. Below you’ll find a bunch of friendship scenarios. Think about which ones are healthy (green), show warning signs (yellow), and which are unhealthy (red).

This week I’ve been beyond impressed with the bravery and creativity shown by Island Schoolers doing Spoken Word Poetry. Kids have been asking to hear more poems and to be given more ideas to make their own. So here you go!

En español * Em português * 用中文(表达 * En français * На русском

Here’s an example from 6th grader Michael:

march 27 2023

This week we’re going to do a deeper dive into what is known as “Spoken Word” poetry. Spoken Word poetry isn’t meant to be read quietly on a bench along the East River. Instead, it’s meant to be spoken WITH EMOTION in front of an audience. Here are some examples:

What does this line mean to you: “You see, muscle is created by repeatedly lifting things that have been designed to weigh us down”

Why are each of them not saying their own stories?

We’ve spent this month talking about the dangerous journey that our new refugee/asylum-seekers had to take to get here. Because all students here come from families who have immigrated (except those from Native Americans), we all have stories of immigration. Here’s one:

It is important to tell these stories so that we can hold onto our traditions. It is also important to recognize the meaningful people, places, and things that make up who you are now. Here is an example from 7A:

Your job this week is to take inspiration from the poems we’ve listened to and write your own. You can use the template below to get you started. But, feel free to write your own.

march 14 2023

This month we’ve been talking about the incredibly difficult journey that asylum seekers face while coming to the United States. Our students have reported crossing 6 countries to get here. They walked hundreds of miles on foot, trudged through muddy jungles, and went across rivers on rickety boats. They were hungry, exhausted, and weren’t sure if they were going to make it.

But they (you!) made it! So let us not only welcome you, but let’s share stories. If you feel comfortable tell us about your journey and what your life was like in your home country. In return, students who arrived here a while ago can tell us about their family’s experiences coming to the United States and what parts of their heritage they still hold onto.

So how do you tell your story? Music and poetry are fantastic ways to tell stories about migration as well as heritage. Even if you are not a recent migrant in this country you still have an important story to tell about your own heritage. Here’s a project where 50 musicians across the world came together to sing about being an immigrant.

Poetry is another way to tell the story of your family and your culture. Check out this “I am From” poem.

One of our Makerspace staff members, Britney, created her own version of the poem. Check it out:

You can make your own WHERE I’M FROM poem by using the template below:


Quick note: Some students are asking WHY do Venezuelans want to leave their country?. One big reason is MONEY. In Venezuela, there are no jobs– and the ones available pay very little. The Venezuelan dollar (called “Bolivares”) is worth only 4 cents in the U.S.. It’s so worthless, that Venezuelans make crafts out of Bolivares:

march 13 2023

As we enter the Spring semester, I wanted to remind you that The Tech Cafe is not an arts and crafts class. It is not a Technology class. It is a Social Action Class. EVERYTHING you make in here should be about a social issue. Period. Here are some examples from this year by YOU!

Al entrar en el semestre de primavera, quería recordarles que The Tech Cafe no es una clase de artes y oficios. No es una clase de Tecnología. Es una Clase de Acción Social. TODO lo que hagas aquí debe ser sobre un tema social. Período. ¡Aquí hay algunos ejemplos de este año hechos por USTED!

march 3 2023

Have you ever heard of the Game of Life?  In it, you move towards your dream life. You can be a doctor living on the beach in The Dominican Republic with three children. You can be a programmer living on the top of a snowy mountain with your cat Malcom. You can live in NYC as a chef, living with your partner in a penthouse overlooking Central Park.

¿Alguna vez has oído hablar del Juego de la Vida? En él, te mueves hacia la vida de tus sueños. Puedes ser médico viviendo en la playa en República Dominicana con tres hijos. Puedes ser un programador viviendo en la cima de una montaña nevada con tu gato Malcom. Puedes vivir en NYC como chef, viviendo con tu pareja en un ático con vistas a Central Park.

Journal Entry:

Entrada de diario:



You might be wondering why we’re talking about your dream life? Well, one of your menu options for March is to build a game to teach others about the journey of migrants to New York City. It’s important that the game not only tell the story of the struggles that it took to get here, but also the wonderful future that our new students will have now that they’ve made it.

Quizás se pregunte por qué estamos hablando de la vida de sus sueños. Bueno, una de sus opciones de menú para marzo es crear un juego para enseñar a otros sobre el viaje de los inmigrantes a la ciudad de Nueva York. Es importante que el juego no solo cuente la historia de las luchas que se necesitaron para llegar aquí, sino también el maravilloso futuro que tendrán nuestros nuevos estudiantes ahora que lo lograron.

So, for option 5– create a game that shows the journey from South or Central America to the United States. Also, show the awesome future that new migrants will have here. We have directions and examples.

Entonces, para la opción 5, cree un juego que muestre el viaje desde América del Sur o Central hasta los Estados Unidos. Además, mostrar el increíble futuro que tendrán aquí los nuevos inmigrantes. Tenemos instrucciones y ejemplos.

FEBRUARY 27 2023

Before the break, we spoke about the incredibly difficult journey that immigrants/refugees must take in order to get to The United States.

As you can see, the journey to safety and security has not ended once migrants arrive. They still must find permanent housing, food, jobs, and school for their child. Here’s more on that:

Immigrants/refugees not only face challenges in getting their basic needs met in the United States, but also worry about being deported. The police in charge of deportation are called I.C.E.: Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

La Santa Cecilia – Ice El Hielo, part of the #Not1More series

It’s important to know that NYC protects its undocumented immigrants. Unless you commit a crime, ICE agents cannot enter your house (without a judge signing an order) or stop you in the street for no reason.

But, because many immigrants/refugees fear they will be taken by I.C.E., they avoid important services provided by NYC. It is important to know that in NYC, ALL people who are undocumented can still receive:

HEALTH CARE– Even if you are undocumented, you can go to hospitals for health care. Here’s a list:

A NYC ID (IDNYC) Apply HERE. This can be used to apply for jobs, schools, get a bank account, and even a library card! If you’re stopped by the police and have an ID, you get a ticket and won’t be taken to the police station.

EMERGENCIES: The NYPD cannot ask crime victims or witnesses if they are undocumented. So, in an emergency, call 911. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate help from the police, fire department, or ambulance.

It can be easy to look at our new immigrant/refugee students and think “they are different from me”. But remember: EVERYONE’S FAMILY IN NYC ARRIVED AS IMMIGRANTS (except Native Americans). Some families arrived recently– like our new students– and some families arrived many years ago. Either way, we all have stories. What’s yours?

In your journal, quickly write how your family came to The United States.

How about getting interviewed about it for a video or podcast?

What about making a poem about your or your family’s experiences as an immigrant? Here is an example:

What does “the deeper the melanin, the deeper the slashes” mean?

Or maybe you could create a song about the immigrant experiences you’ve seen or about your family’s own experience? Like these:

What jobs do newly arrived immigrants do that people born in the U.S. don’t want to do?

More than half of kids under 18 who come to this country without parents, end up working FULL-TIME. That means little or no school! Why do you think businesses use newly arrived migrant children instead of adults born in the U.S.? Why do these kids work instead of going to school like you?

FEBRUARY 13 2023

The Island School is a family. Just like any family, we go through changes. For our family, we recently gained a bunch of new members from all around the world. This includes Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, and even Russia!

Journal Question: Where is your family from? Tell the story of how they got to NYC.

Some of our new students have been through incredible journeys to get here. It’s our job to welcome them with open arms. Here are some descriptions of immigration journeys.

Life is like a book. There are evil characters out there who discriminate against these immigrants. It’s our job to be the heroes of this tale. What can we create to show we support the new members of our Island School family?

How about creating art to place around the school that welcomes them!

How about asking our new students what they went through to get here?  Here are some possible interview questions for a video or podcast:

Journal Activity: Take two or more popsicle sticks and create a family with it. Use a camera to take a family photo.

Actividad del Diario: Tome dos o más palitos de helado y cree una familia con ellos. Usa una cámara para tomar una foto familiar.

Задание для журнала: Возьмите две или более палочки от эскимо и создайте из них семью. Используйте камеру, чтобы сделать семейный снимок.


Activité de journal : Prenez deux bâtons de popsicle ou plus et créez une famille avec. Utilisez un appareil photo pour prendre une photo de famille.

Once you’re finished, use your popsicle stick family to star in the Immigration Photo Scavenger Hunt:

Creating worlds using miniature people is an art! Here are some fantastic examples to inspire your immigration photos from the Small is Beautiful exhibition:


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.

Journal Entry:

What’s the difference between sadness and depression? extra credit: draw a picture of 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?

Questions: Who did he turn to for help? Should his friend have called 911? How did he conquer depression?

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

Here are some inspirational pieces of art about self-care. Steal some ideas for your creative work!


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 4 rectangles stacked on top of each other like a sandwich. On the top layer put the thing that brings you the most pleasure. Something you must always have to be happy. Below that, put the 3 other things (in order) that are almost as important for your happiness. Here’s an example:


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!


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. PEER PRESSURE is one big reason. Another 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:

Click on the Scavenger Hunt above to see everything you need to find.

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.



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


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?