Journal: november 2022-december 2022

December 19 2022

Before we get started with our new social issue, marijuana, let’s take a listen to Norimar and Citaly’s Vaping song. Remember, just because we’re talking about a new social issue doesn’t mean you can’t keep making songs, documentaries, and art about vaping.

OK, it’s time to talk about Marijuana, AKA cannabis, AKA pot, AKA weed, AKA 420, AKA a million other names. It used to be that weed was hard to get. Nowadays it’s easy– stores are popping up all over NYC, there are fun-colored ice cream trucks that have edible pot gummies, and some parks have stands that sell joints right in front of police officers.

This is video mentions New Jersey– but everything it says applies to NYC as well.

So, why not do it? For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try to convince you. It’s not going to be easy, because you’re surrounded by music videos, friends, and laws that seem to be telling you DO IT.

When we spoke about nicotine, we began diving into its effect on the brain and behavior. Nicotine not only causes mood swings, depression, and anxiety, but also rewires your brain– makes you have a more ADDICTIVE personality. This idea, that a drug can rewire your brain, is really important and worth talking more about.

So, for our discussions on Marijuana, we will be diving much deeper into the brain and what can go wrong with it. The study of the brain is called “Neuroscience”. Understanding how the brain works can be a superpower, because it explains a lot about people’s behaviors, abilities, and disabilities. Yep, while other people are left confused and wondering– you will have some important answers. Hopefully, it will also explain to you why you should avoid marijuana and alcohol.


Let’s begin by getting a big picture look at how the brain works. Then we’ll learn about it’s individual parts:


Now that you’re beginning to see why it’s important to stay away from drugs and alcohol, how can we give kids the strength to go up against the music videos, the shops and vans, and even their friends?

One campaign is called ABOVE THE INFLUENCE. Being “Under the Influence” can mean two things. It can mean being on drugs and it can mean being influenced by your friends to do drugs and to let go of your dreams.

Above the Influence’s symbol is an arrow facing up. Here are some student versions.

For your journal entry today, draw the Above the Influence symbol. Inside, write or draw, your personal strength from our first lesson of the year :), a big goal for the future that you don’t want to be influenced into dropping, and one of your talents.

DECEMBER 16, 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:


For your journal today, take some of the words below and put them together to form the start of a song:


Once you write down your song, practice it with one of these instrumentals:


Here’s an example from Island Schooler M.L. at Ohio Studios. Try to sing his first verse while the beat plays:

Looking at this song, what I see is a super strong start. It’s as if he’s speaking from the perspective of the vape. He adds his own words to make sense of the jumble of rhymes I provided you about vaping and nicotine. For your journal today, change or add to one of the lines in M.L.’s verse so that it continues to talk from the vape’s perspective– all the evil things they bring to you.

Click HERE to make a copy of the Google Doc.


OK! so now we’re cooking! We have a verse or two for our song. Now we need a hook (AKA a chorus). That’s something simple and catchy for people to remember. Listen to the hooks below from Island Schoolers:

Love cannot just be torn, can we work it out? I know I’m not the “perfect girl” but just give me a chance


Cuz that’s what daddy do, cuz that’s what daddy do

With this in mind, let’s try to think of a few words that a vape might say to us or how we can do battle against it. You can speak your chorus, sing it, change your voice to sound deeper…experiment! Here’s are a couple of examples:

I’ll tell you those lies…feed you that bullSh…..

CAN’T QUIT TIL I TRY, CAN’T SIT STILL, CLOUDS ARE ON MY MIND– I FEEL ILL

december 5, 2022

Steal one of these ideas for a shirt, bracelet, button, or art piece!

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.


Here’s a “Nic is a Trick” bracelet by Arri to show how nicotine tricks you into being a Vape Addict.

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.