There are a lot of ideas and events that could top our list of things to focus on this month. These include immediate questions like how can we stop the violence against Asian Americans–a discussion we started in February. There are also important long-term questions like are the machines we are programing racist? But, for April, we’ll take on the question of how do we get every American to get vaccinated?
It seems like The United States is now turning the corner on our battle against this Coronavirus. With the help of vaccines, the number of people who can get and give COVID-19 is growing smaller. First off, what is a virus?
OK, so now that you have a sense of what a virus is, how does COVID-19 work?
Next question: How do COVID vaccines protect our bodies?
Quick summary: The vaccine sends a messenger (mRNA) that gets cells to build imitation COVID-19 spikes. Your immune system learns to fight these harmless spikes. The real COVID-19 virus has the same spikes. So, when COVID-19 invades your body, your immune system attacks and kills the virus because it was trained!
Now that you know what a virus is and how COVID-19 works, it’s time for everyone to get a vaccine to battle against it, right?
While some people against getting the vaccine are “Anti-Vaxxers”– others are just scared. How can we create art, podcasts, videos, and songs to educate and motivate them to get the vaccine? To that end, an organization called Amplifier is having a contest to create posters with those messages. Click HERE to learn more.
Here are a few videos made for kids by the government– they’re not horrible, but I wonder if you could make something that feels more relevant to teens.
When you think about your neighborhood– the Lower East Side and East Village– where do you go for BBQ’s 🍖, to walk your dog 🐕, to hang out with your friends 🤪😜, play sports ⚽🥎, or simply get some fresh air 🌅? For many of you, the answer is the East River Park.
Did you know that NYC plans to cover East River Park with mounds of landfill and build a new elevated park on top of it (that many feel is ugly)? Surrounding the park will be a HUGE 8-foot cement wall.
The $1.45 Billion dollar project starts Fall 2021 and will take over 5 years! It’s called The East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project. Click below to learn more about the project and those protesting against it:
Many in the community feel the wall is both environmentally unfriendly and community unfriendly. Working with the community, a beautiful design was created that would use marshland to absorb water, replace artificial turf on the fields with natural turf that absorbs water + cools the air, and create more natural hills that redirect water back into the river instead of a wall. Check it out:
So What can we do about it?
FILM A DOCUMENTARY OR RECORD A PODCAST 📹🎤
How do you, your family, friends, and community use the park? Where would you go if you no longer had the park to do those activities? What would losing the park mean?
Can you think of better solution than building a HUGE wall that blocks the view of the river and the breeze? Remember: as water rises in the coming years, the wall will stop being effective. One example of a better design is to close a lane of the FDR highway and build a wall there instead.
RECORD A SONG 🎶
Use SoundTrap to pour your heart into a song against concrete walls and what it’s like to have a park taken away. Imagine a better way.
CREATE A BEAUTIFUL DESIGN FOR EAST RIVER PARK THAT BLOCKS STORMS 🖼️ ✍️
-Use art materials like paint, markers, and clay to create a new design. Or create a 3D design using a program like Tinkercad.
CREATE ART 🎨💎
Paint, photograph, use woodwork, or make jewelry that shows the beauty of the East River Park and why it’s important to you, your friends and family, and the community. Here are some examples:
This month we’ll be talking about a virus that has spread alongside COVID-19: racism against Chinese people and those who are thought to be Chinese.
For this discussion, we’ll be learning some new vocabulary. The vocabulary isn’t EASY, but we’ll be diving into them all week, so just get the basic idea today.
Xenophobia: FEAR or DISLIKE of people that are “FOREIGN” or outside of your culture. For example, “Mexicans are coming into our country and stealing our jobs.”
While the Chinese– even those born and raised in the U.S.– are the current target for blame and anger having to do with the coronavirus– they are not the first Asian Americans scapegoated (falsely held responsible) in our country. In 1942, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into incarceration camps throughout the U.S.. They were blamed for a bombing in Hawaii done by Japan. Let’s learn more about this by visiting TheOrangeStory.
Marginalized: On a piece of paper, the MARGIN is at the edge of the paper. It’s rarely used and not important. In society, marginalized people are put at the MARGIN of society. Those in POWER try to keep them powerless. For example, people who are transgender are often discriminated against when looking for jobs. This leads to unemployment and poverty.
–> THERE IS NO VIDEO EXPLAINING “MARGINALIZED” IN AN INTERESTING WAY. CAN YOU MAKE ONE???
Microaggression: Everyday acts that contain a hidden insult directed at someone from a marginalized group of people. People who commit microaggressions might not even be aware of them. For example, clutching your purse when a person of color passes by, saying things like “You don’t look like you’re gay!” “Can I touch your hair?” or “where are you REALLY from?”.
So, as always, we’re here not just to learn about a social issue, but to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! These high school students made documentaries to raise awareness of the issue:
Or create a children’s book to educate young kids on how to EMBRACE our differences.
A few more ideas: What can you paint that shows people being brought IN from the margins? Can you make a podcast about you or your family’s experience with microaggressions? How about a video exposing what microaggressions look like in real life. For example, do you get followed by owners in Bodegas? Do people automatically look at your body when you wear certain things? Do people expect you to be good at certain things because of your race or gender?
Ever notice how some songs get completely stuck in your head and refuse to get out? Some songs make us feel hyped up and energized– feeling the lyrics so deeply that it’s like we wrote them about our own life– or at least what we want our life to be like. Other songs are mellow and get us tired, down, or thoughtful. Lots of songs tell stories– real or imagined.
Some songs have ugly words and ugly histories. For example, there’s a song called “Turkey in the Straw”. I know for a fact you’ve heard it. The song is what’s played when the ice cream truck tells you it’s here!
While ice cream is delicious, unfortunately, the song is anything but sweet. In the early 1900’s the melody was used to create a song called “N—r Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!”. Watch below to learn more:
A musician named RZA decided it was time to stop having kids hear that disgustingly racist song every time they were about to get a treat. So, he created a new ice cream truck melody. Watch the video below to hear it!
And it’s not just the ice cream truck jingle that has racist roots. The United States’ own National Anthem has racism baked in. In the long version of The Star-Spangled Banner, the writer Francis Scott Key insults black slaves who fight alongside the British troops to gain their freedom!
In the same way that RZA re-imagined the ice cream truck jingle, can you re-imagine how the New National Anthem will sound? At a time when so many of us feel scared of a virus, feel fear and anger toward each other, and can’t stop polluting our earth– a new anthem could help unite us. It’s worth a try! You can do it with or without words– your choice!
Not interested? Here’s one more idea 🙂 How about writing a song– for kids or adults– that shows what it’s like to live during the age of COVID-19. Here’s an example:
Wanna do it? Here’s a tutorial on how I did!
Hi! ? So, guess what? I’m the seventh-grade English Language Arts and Math teacher this year ?. I have NEVER taught either of those subjects, but I’m going to jump right in and find ways to bring social activism and Making into them. I’ll show you what students come up with right here in this journal.
BUT, I know folks from many corners of the world come here for ideas on how to inspire kids to do social action. So, each month, I’ll put some ideas out there.
Yesterday, Ruby (my 11-year-old) and I were walking to her softball practice. To entertain ourselves, we like to answer my Random Questions. She was answering question 122 which asks you to create your own holiday.
She said: I would create a memorial holiday for victims of COVID-19. I thought, man, that’s a great idea.
So, here’s this month’s challenge: Imagine we have finally found a way to defeat COVID-19 and the pandemic is over. Envision a memorial holiday for COVID-19. What would people do during that holiday to remember the lives lost and the suffering that so many of us went through during the pandemic? Here are a few ideas:
As our school year comes to an end, our passion to create a more just and beautiful world does not. Island Schoolers: your work inspires activists and artists from around the world and I will continue to show off your pieces throughout the summer. Please continue to send me your beautiful poetry, films, music, animations, arts, and crafts– that goes for you too 8th graders! Once you’re a member of The Tech Café you are a member FOREVER.
I’ll leave you with 8th-grader Isatou’s spoken word poetry video. It is just one more example of how Island Schoolers are the lions and flowers of the jungle– commanding your attention through strength and beauty.
Adrian Brandon created portraits of Black people killed by police officers. He colors each portrait in for as long as the person was alive: 1 minute of coloring for each year of their life (From left to right: Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor). For example, Tamir Rice was 12, so he painted this portrait for 12 minutes.
Here are some pictures of people of color killed by police. Can you draw a portrait to honor them?
Sometimes, life can be overwhelming. From the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of racism to just daily life drama –it’s a lot! That’s why poetry is so awesome. You can capture your thoughts and feelings and let them fly free. Click HERE to revisit my video on poetry.
For those of you not sure about what to write, the New York Times created a cool activity: take the words below and rearrange them into a poem. Feel free to add or repeat words:
As your teacher, I want to not just help you feel cared for during this troubled time, but help you understand why this is happening and what you can do to create a better world.
This week we'll tackle the question: Why are people of color treated differently by the police?
When it comes down to it, people of color are thought of as “less than” by many in our society today. Why? The answers are like puzzle pieces that, put together, show the full picture.
One BIG piece: people today are taught to be racist (two other puzzle pieces include slavery and segregation). Through books, TV, advertisements, and music, there are hidden racist messages. We spoke about this in our Media Literacy unit last year.
Yep, it’s easy to teach humans that (for no good reason) one group is less than another. Just watch this social experiment:
So, back to our question: why are people of color treated differently by the police? One big answer: police have been taught that black lives are worth less than white lives. They’ve been taught this by their families, by media, and by those they work with.
But, the truth is, we are the same in many ways and different in many ways– but we are all equal. We need to remind many people of this basic fact.
What can you make this week to show that we are the same in many ways and different in many ways– but we are all equal?
Option 11: Create a protest sign:
Some types of change will not come unless we protest ✊.
When it comes to peaceful protesting, there are a million ways, including: walkouts ?–>??????????????? (we’re leaving unless there’s change!), sit-ins ?<—????♂️??♂️?? (we’re NOT leaving unless there is change!), and marches ?? ??.
Protest signs tell the story of the problem you are fighting against and the change you want to see. Your protest sign can be proudly displayed at protests or you can take a picture of it and display it on social media. HERE IS A LINK to protest signs on Pinterest. Feel free to use one for inspiration, but make it your own!
Over the past couple of days, there has been a flood of interesting thoughts from Island Schoolers about protesting, justice, and looting. A lot of middle schoolers felt that there was a big difference between peaceful protesting, violent protesting, and looting. Here are a couple of student reflections:
I agree in the peaceful protests but feel that it’s not gonna change anything. It’s been like this for years. It’s gotten worse with the president. After he was elected you saw more racism come out. I don’t believe in chaos. I felt so bad seeing manhattan and places in the Bronx looted and destroyed. There is violence against police officers. Violence is not the answer. Not all police officers are bad. And also there are people that worked hard to grow their businesses (immigrants and Americans ) and to see those places destroyed broke my heart.Jessilee, 6th grade
if protests work and things change they’d have to change deep with the police force cause there are tons of police chiefs and executives that have ignored complaints by people on police who already have tons of bad reports on them. it seems like for solid change to happen –that lasts forever– we have to start all over and change the people in charge of the police…
I would give <officers> a bunch of children’s books that deal with racism and equality and then have a talk with them about what they understand/didn’t understand and repeat that until they understand their purpose for being a cop and all of their wrongdoings.reion, 8th grade
June 4th was George Floyd’s funeral. Reverend Al Sharpton gave a chilling eulogy (a speech to praise someone who died).
George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks– because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being, is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.-Reverend al sharpton
Next question: If the protests work and the lawmakers are ready to listen, WHAT RULES WOULD YOU MAKE FOR HOW THE POLICE BEHAVE? ?♀️
For example, can they search you without asking ??? ? Can they still carry guns ? ? Should they have body cameras ? ? Should they have to live in the neighborhood they police ???
–> Using art, music, graphic novels, or words, show the new way police would behave.
On another note, during these tough times, I put together some messages of hope and strength from Island School students and teachers. Enjoy!
So, I planned on introducing a new art activity this week. BUT because this is a Social Action class, I need to also speak on the protest movement triggered by events including the murder of George Floyd. Watch my lesson below- which was inspired by the words of Trevor Noah:
To think and learn more about this issue, watch Prince Ea’s video below and read Isatou’s poem.
Question: Do you think the looting from shops, the lighting of fires, and the throwing of things by protestors HELPS or HURTS the message that we need change?
Mission: If you believe that things must change in the way people of color are treated, what can you MAKE to show it?
May was a month that tested our spirits. How can we remain energized and creative locked in our homes? Many Island Schoolers found that focusing on making art, poetry, and music FREED them– even for just a little while.
Yep, think of creativity as a key ? when you use it, it unlocks ? your spirit ?! Here are just a few examples of Island Schoolers’ spirits flying free!:
This week’s goal is to open up your creativity even further– especially if it’s feeling locked up. Artists often do “exercises” to loosen their thinking. Rappers might freestyle, photographers might focus on taking pictures of a single color, and painters/illustrators might do “Blind Contour” drawings. Sounds fancy, but it’s easy and fun! All you have to do is draw a person or object without looking down. Watch the tutorial below:
Last week, we took a closer look at Option 5: Poetry. As always, Island Schoolers wrote breathtaking poems and also continued to create beautiful work from our other options:
This week we’re zooming into Option 2: Creating a Song. In the past, we’ve talked mostly about making a rap song (click HERE for my guide). This week we’ll be taking your poetry or just a few words running through your mind to create any kind of song. It could be rap, but also electronic, rap, or country!
Start by reviewing the video I created in Week 2 to see how to use Soundtrap to create a song:
OK, so you’ve watched the video on how to create a song, BUT some of you don’t feel comfortable singing your poem. Others might not have written a poem at all. There’s a solution for that! Listen to Chris’ song. He uses a Robot Voice Generator to talk about what’s it’s like being stuck indoors for months during the pandemic. Chris feels like he’s losing his brain. The song uses no more than 20 words– but gets the message across wonderfully:
Last week we spoke about how being creative sparks a fire ? that burns away bad feelings ? and makes good feelings glow brighter ?. Below are a few student projects that show just how brightly Island Schoolers shine:
This week we are taking a closer look at Option 5: Poetry. Watch the video below to hear the world premiere of the Big Nose Poem, to Listen to Island School Poets, and to learn a zillion ways to make your own poems!
To review the poetry and ideas from the video, look at the slideshow below:
It’s no surprise, but it must be said: Island Schoolers are jaw-droppingly talented. Last week the projects kept arriving– each more spectacular than the next. We might be trapped inside, but our creativity shows no bounds.
QUICK REVIEW: For the rest of the year your job is to choose a project option. Each week, you can choose a NEW option, REPEAT an option, or IMPROVE the same option. Your options so far include:
1) ? A closeup of an object in your home
2) ♬ A song about any social issue
3) ? A podcast about any social issue
4) ? A comic or graphic novel about any social issue
5) ✍? Poetry about any social issue
6) ? A self-portrait
7) ??♀️ A Hero of COVID-19 Illustration
8) ⚙️ An invention to help out during COVID-19
Today we are adding Option 9: Collage
This week’s option is to create a collage about a social issue discussed this year. Watch the slideshow below for more Info!
Man oh man, Island Schoolers are creating ridiculously powerful pieces of art and writing over the past few weeks. Your classmates are impressed and, because your work is posted on Twitter and Instagram, the WORLD is impressed.
This week, we are NOT adding any new options– you can choose from any of the previous options. Instead, we are returning to Option 3- creating a Podcast. Over this year we have spoken about a zillion issues including: Animal Rights, LGBTQ+IA Pride, Cigarettes + Vaping, Immigration, Thinking Positive, and, of course, COVID-19. How about selecting one of these issues and creating a podcast using Soundtrap? Below is a tutorial on how to create a podcast and another on how to interview a guest.
Here are some podcasts that Ruby and I created over the weekend. They are EXTREMELY SHORT and LEAVE A LOT OUT. They are meant to inspire you to do your own. Enjoy– I can’t wait to hear your podcasts!
Here is the latest batch of PHENOMENAL Island Schooler projects!
While this pandemic has brought out fear and loneliness, it has also sparked creative problem-solving. In order to keep our healthcare professionals safe and banish the virus that has created all this chaos, inventors have been busy creating products. Below are a few examples:
Option 8: COVID-19 INVENTION
Your job is to create an invention to help YOURSELF, healthcare professionals, or the everyday heroes we discussed last week. Like any good inventor, start by thinking of a problem these people face during this pandemic. Here are a few examples, but try to think of your own!
- Scratching and itch on your face without touching it with your dirty fingers!
- Grabbing something from your pocket without touching it with your dirty fingers!
- Feeling close to friends without touching them
- Taking and giving money back to customers buying food or supplies at stores
- Helping kids not to have nightmares about the virus
- Getting fresh air without going outside
Your invention can be a drawing, a written description, or a model you create using Tinkercad. Whatever you create should be detailed enough so that someone else wishing to build it, would have a very good idea about how to do it. Here are a few examples of inventions described by kids– some of them were made into usable products!
If you’re interested in creating an invention using Tinkercad, watch the video below:
To combat COVID-19, we have been told to “stay inside”. But, in order for us to have food, to move around the city, get our mail, have our city be clean and safe, and to be taken care of when we get sick, there needs to be brave workers out there. They are putting their lives on the line for us and they are HEROES.
Option 7: Hero Illustration
Create a poster that honors a health care worker (like a doctor or nurse) or everyday heroes like postal workers, police officers, firemen/women, bodega shopkeepers, MTA workers, and sanitation workers.
You can use the pictures below to guide your drawing or find your own.
Here are some more fantastic projects from Island Schoolers this week:
Beautiful projects have been rolling in– and to be honest– a lot of them are heartbreaking ?
Many of you are feeling really down– and why wouldn’t you? Being stuck at home without friends or fresh air for this long is no joke. But just like every HUGE moment in history, it passes. This WILL pass and you are NOT alone. EVERYONE is having moments hopelessness, sadness, or panic.
What you CAN do, is take all of that negative emotion and channel it into your projects. Sometimes being creative is healing because it transforms the ugly into something wonderful ???????♂️????????????
SO CREATE SOMETHING WONDERFUL TODAY!
Here are just a few examples from Week 2’s Projects:
Welcome to week 3 of The Virtual Tech Café. Last week, students created an extraordinary set of poetry, essays, close-up drawings, music, and graphic novels. You might be wondering….
I didn’t finish- IS THAT OK? YES! Doing amazing work sometimes can take weeks or months. I do not expect everyone to finish by Friday. What I DO expect is that every Friday you submit a draft in Google Classrooms that shows you’ve worked 3 hours on your project that week.
CAN I DO A CHOICE FROM LAST WEEK? YES! You can do any choice from any week. Just submit it each Friday in Google Classroom to show you’ve worked for at least 3 hours.
Option 6: ART- Self Portrait
Look at this Slideshow about Frida Kahlo and then create a self-portrait using one of her works as inspiration. Use a mirror or a picture of yourself and then draw or paint it.
IF you’re interested in learning how to draw faces, you can watch the tutorial below:
Well, its been quite an eventful couple of weeks since Techbrarian.com has been updated! Now that school has gone virtual, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions like, “When people are facing an insane virus, are any other social issues worth talking about?” and “What can students make when they’re stuck at home without all the awesome tools in our Makerspace?”
My solution was to have our first assignment be a StoryBoardThat about our life. I figured it was an easy way to help us feel like we’re all struggling both in the same ways and in different ways. BUT several things were wrong with this. First, everyone does not have the technology to do a StoryBoard. Second, not everyone wants to use a StoryBoard to communicate what they are going through or their hopes for the future!
So, here on out I will be giving you a menu of options. Choose whichever you’d like to do. The only rules are:
1. Submit your work on Google Classroom each Friday
2. Before submitting, look at the Rubric to make sure your work is high-quality.
3. Check Techbrarian.com every day to see if there are any updates
Option 1: ART- Close-up Drawing
Look at this Slideshow about Georgia O’Keefe. Zoom into an object inside your room that brings you joy. Draw or paint it. Create one SPECTACULAR art piece or three good ones.
Option 2: SONG
Create a song on SoundTrap that talks about your struggles these days. It should have at least a few words– but preferably three verses and a chorus! Here’s a tutorial:
Option 3: PODCAST
Create a podcast using Soundtrap (see tutorial above) where you interview your family about their struggles or wishes for the future.
Option 4: COMIC OR GRAPHIC NOVEL
A lot of you complained that StoryboardThat didn’t have enough characters, backgrounds, and props to let you be fully creative. I hear you loud and clear, so now I am giving you access to a better application called Pixton.
Here are the codes to join your class:
6th Grade: akqn8 7th Grade: dwrq2 8th Grade: ccb5n
Watch the following tutorial:
For those of you who liked doing comics or graphic novels, read the Ms. Marvel graphic novel in Google Classroom. Use it as an inspiration to create a graphic novel about battling the COVID-19. Inspirations from Ms. Marvel might include:
- Friendships and family relationships that are REALISTIC. Use language that your friends and family actually use in everyday life. Make them say things to make your reader like them (or be frustrated by them) like you are.
- Have a conflict or problem that needs to get solved. It gets worse as the story goes on and then gets solved in the end.
Option 5: POETRY
Write a long poem (at least 2 pages) or three short poems (each 1 page) from the perspective of the virus or from someone who has been infected. You can also write the poem from your own perspective– your fears, your hopes, your dreams…