Journal: OCTOBER 2022-June 2022

october 17 2022

A couple weeks ago we compared POSITIVE Self-talk to NEGATIVE Self-talk:

From Big Life Journal

It’s so important to recognize when you’re doing negative self-talk and switch-it-up to positive thinking. Here are some strategies I came up with almost 10 years ago (with my 3 year-old Ruby):

The first part of your documentary on social media has made it clear that there may be a problem with social media. That maybe– just maybe– it causes tweens and teens to feel like they aren’t good enough, takes away from time spent in-person with your friends, and makes bullying worse.

So, now that we see a possible problem, it’s time to give your audience some solutions. That’s SOCIAL ACTION! Imagine if your documentary actually helped a struggling tween or teen to feel better about themselves! Imagine if your documentary SAVED A LIFE!

Here are some interview questions to help turn your documentary into social action.

  • What’s your personal strength?  Tell about a time you used it.
  • What advice would you give tweens or teens who want to feel more confident?
  • Have you ever helped a friend or family member who was being bullied on social media? If yes, how? Did it work?
  • What can you do to take a break from social media?

Open your journal, turn to someone at your table and ask them one of the questions. Write down their answer as best as you can.

october 13 2022

For today’s journal entry– pretend you’re about to do a documentary on cigarette smoking. What question would you ask someone you’re interviewing? Now, let’s watch this Island School film and see if they asked similar questions:

Yesterday many of us began the process of documentary filmmaking. So many things went right! Most of the people interviewed answered the questions thoughtfully and the filmmakers themselves were focused on capturing all the action. BUT there were some common mistakes too– let’s go over a few in this video:

Here’s another Island School documentary–this one is about ending the use of plastic straws. Before watching it, in your journal, think of a question you would ask if you were interviewing people about this issue.

october 11 2022

Let’s begin today’s session by watching an Island School documentary. As you’re watching, I’d like you to consider this: What makes a good interview question?

For today’s journal entry, Write down 1 of the questions below in your journal:

  • How much time do you spend on social media like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat each day?
  • Is there such a thing as spending too much time on social media?  Why or why not?
  • Do you know someone who was bullied on social media?  What’s their story? 
  • Is bullying online any different from bullying in person? Explain.
  • Do you think most tweens and teens are happy with what they look like? Why or why not?
  • Can social media make you feel bad about yourself? If yes, how?
  • Do you ever feel like you’re addicted to your phone (or tablet or computer)?  Explain.
  • Would you spend more time hanging out with friends IN PERSON if social media didn’t exist? Why or why not?
  • If you could sit at home and live your life in virtual reality, would you?  Why or why not?

Now, interview someone in the classroom using this question. Write down their answer as best as you can.

If you enjoyed interviewing people, grab a camera today and use these questions for a documentary about the effect of Social Media on teens!

october 7 2022

In your journal, answer the following question:

If there was one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?

This week, students brainstormed positive messages for tweens and teens. Here is what we came up with:

If you like one of the messages above, make some art we can put in the hallways!

october 4, 2022

Last session we discussed how social media often makes you feel not good enough. With all the influencers living a perfect life filled with perfect skin, super skinny bodies or bulging muscles, tons of money, and love– it’s hard not to look down on yourself. This leads to NEGATIVE SELF-TALK which poisons your life. It’s important to realize that these perfect lives are FAKE. Let’s take a look:

Now that you see the fakeness, let’s continue to create things that help us with POSITIVE SELF-TALK. Think of an important piece of advice you can give other teens so that they don’t believe the perfect world social media often shows.

Once you think of the advice, write it on a page in your journal. Use one of the fonts below to inspire your work:

OCTOBER 3, 2022

Last week you began creating mugs. Once they dry, they’ll need to be glazed with a color. But what color? Welp, there’s a whole art and science dedicated to how color makes you feel. Below is a circle that connects different colors with emotions.

Grab your Maker Journal. Paint the mug you drew with a color that matches what you want to feel when you use the mug.

While you wait for your mug to dry (it takes a week!), create the plate that it will sit on top of. Here’s how:

SEPTEMBER 29, 2022

In order to do the important social action work for this class, you need to be MOTIVATED. That means feeling like you can make a difference. We spent this month identifying your personal strengths. It’s easy to forget them and instead feed yourself negative messages.

There are tons of reasons why people stop focusing on their strengths. One is social media. People who spend a lot of time on social media end up feeling negative about themselves. This is because what friends and influencers post is often not what they really look like or feel like. So, you end up comparing yourself to a fake life that no one actually has!

To battle against this is hard work. It starts by seeing through the lies social media feeds you. But it also involves telling yourself positive messages. This is called SELF-TALK.

From Big Life Journal

Examples of Positive Self-Talk from Big Life Journal

For today’s Maker Journal Entry, draw a mug and write some positive talk on it.

Afterward, if you’d like, create a real one using clay!

September 22, 2022

Here are some of the highlights from this week!

For today’s journal entry we’re taking a break from talking about our personal strengths. Instead, we’re going to focus on Empathy. What is empathy? Some people define empathy as walking in someone’s shoes, others say it’s feeling with someone. Part of having empathy is knowing that people have stories– DEEP stories– that go beyond what you see when you run into them in the hallways or on the street.

So, for today’s entry, open a journal page and divide it in half. On the left, use any art material to draw the rock just as you see it. On the right, use your magnifying glass to look closer and draw what you see. Hopefully, this activity reminds you that when you are ready to judge someone, take the time to look deeper and consider what is going on with them beneath the surface.

September 20, 2022

We’ve been talking about the importance of holding onto personal strengths to do battle against forces that make you feel like you’re NOT ENOUGH. Check out this Prince Ea video that dives deeper into this idea:

What’s a line that sticks out to you?

For today’s journal entry, you’ll be using Shrinky Dink to create art or jewelry that has an inspirational quote from Prince Ea:

September 19, 2022

For today’s Maker Journal entry, we are going to create a “Mirror Message” T-shirt. The goal of this T-shirt is to remind the wearer of their personal strength every time they look in the mirror.

Begin by drawing a T-shirt in your journal. Next, take a personal strength slip of paper from your Maker Journal’s pocket. hold it in front of the mirror and draw the letters exactly how you see them. Once you’re done, your strength should appear normal when you hold it in front of a mirror!

If you like the results, grab a real t-shirt and use fabric pens or cut out vinyl to create your “mirror message”. Here’s how:

September 14, 2022

Here are some A+ Maker Journal covers and Personal Strength Jewelry from this week!

Check out the symbols below. What personal strengths can they represent?

For today’s journal entry, take one of the personal strengths from your Maker Journal pocket. Think of a symbol that represents this strength. Now, use a permanent marker to draw the outline of this symbol. Fill in the symbol with watercolor.

Here’s a technique called TRANSFERRING that you can do to get the symbol onto your journal:

September 12, 2022

Below, you’ll find some highlights of our DIY journals.

Now that you have a journal, it’s time to start filling it up with ideas, designs, and inspirations! Sometimes that will mean collecting things to spark your projects. To do this, create a pocket in your Maker Journal. Here’s how:

Once you create the pocket, write down on a slip of paper 3 words that describe your personal strengths. Even if it’s something you’ve only been like once, but you want to be like all the time.

Now that you’ve chosen a few words that describe your personal strengths, create a piece of jewelry that reminds you of it. To do this, use a blank metal circle to stamp the word. Next, connect it to a necklace cord or keychain.

Below is a tutorial on how to stamp blank metal jewelry:

You can also stamp on (fake) leather!

September 8, 2022

Last year BURST with creativity and social activism!

For our first week, let’s talk about what it means to be a member of our Makerspace. We’ll begin by seeing some of the issues and the projects that students worked on last semester.

As you watch, think about the art and technology tools you will want to experiment with. In the video below, what social issues are students talking about? What’s your experience with them?

This year we will be using Maker Journals to collect our thoughts and designs for projects. Here’s a little description about journals and how to make your own:

Take a few minutes to construct your journal and decorate the cover.

2022 final social action project requirement!

So! As you know, the Tech Cafe is not an art class. It is not a jewelry, woodworking, pottery, or T-shirt making class either. It’s not a coding or music class. It is a SOCIAL ACTION class. Here, we talk about problems in the world and create projects to open people’s eyes to them. This year, we’ve spoken about:


To get an A+ in this class this semester, you need to choose one of the social issues on Then, you must spend at least 3 class periods creating a project that opens people’s eyes to the problem you’ve chosen. You need to teach them something they didn’t know or showing your opinion on it.

Projects are due no later than June 17th. UPLOAD pictures of your project to Google Classroom.

Here are some examples from students this year:

June 13 2022

Quick entry! I was reading about the new designer birdhouses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and I thought of you! Some of you have already designed birdhouses– but how cool would it be to upgrade them so that they not only feed the birds in our neighborhood, but beautify The Lower East Side as well!

In other news, your final projects are due THIS FRIDAY! Here are a couple examples of final projects recently submitted.

June 1 2022

Last Tuesday 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. The gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others.

This is not the first school shooting in the United States. Here’s a list since 2000:

PHOTO: Deadly Mass School Shootings Since Columbine

Let’s take a moment to learn about the victims of this tragedy:

Mass shootings like this happen because there are too many guns in the United States. They are easy to get– no need to have a license. Even though most American want less guns, lawmakers are scared to pass laws to make them harder to get. This is because they get money from The National Rifle Association (NRA) and because they don’t want to lose the votes from the small– but noisy– voters who want no limits on guns. The NRA’s response is that to combat bad guys with guns, we need more good guys with guns. So let’s arm teachers 🙄!

So what can we do? Well, first of all, it’s important to recognize warning signs that someone you know is at-risk of becoming a school shooter:

Next, remember how I said that the voters who want to keep guns easy to get are noisy? We, the people who believe that guns should be harder to get, have to be louder! We did it 4 years ago:

Now you can do it on June 11th!

Also, show your support by wearing orange on June 3rd-June 5th.

Here in the Tech Cafe we can make shirts, art, and jewelry to support gun control like this:

A while back I featured an artist who paid tribute to victims of police violence by creating portraits of them.

What about paying tribute to one of the Robb Elementary School shooting victims by painting them?

MAY 27 2022

The second half of this year has seen some real musicians emerge. On the guitar, three students have been practicing hard each week– even taking them home on the weekends. Other students have recorded their own songs about relationships, domestic violence, and inspiring kids who might have lost their way. It took bravery to put themselves out there and speak their truth– respect that by finding what to like about it, not what to make fun of.

Here are these songs:

Paul telling his story of domestic violence:

Click below for the lyrics:

Darelys, about relationship struggles:

To read the lyrics click below:

Joseph, about helping kids who’ve lost their way:

Click below for the lyrics

Another way to express your ideas about a social issue is through using Pixton to create a graphic novel.

The Code for 5th Grade is:

The Code for 6th Grade is:

The Code for 7th Grade is:

The Code for 8th Grade is:

Click below to see an example that Jermaine is working on (not done yet)!

MAY 22 2022

This week, we’re going to focus on two types of projects that you can do for your final project– which is now due JUNE 17th: Poetry and Graphic Novels.

Poetry can, of course, be written and read silently by others. But poetry can also be created to be read aloud with spirit and emotion! This is called Spoken Word poetry. For your final project, you can choose a social issue and create a spoken word poem out of it like these:


Want to see more Spoken Word? Click on a video below:

MAY 16 2022

Last week was a FANTASTIC one for documentary filmmaking! Students asked tough questions about social issues. What they heard in response were stories about weed smoking and vaping, how to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, red flags of unhealthy relationships they’ve witnessed, and opinions on animal abuse. For those who want to keep diving deeper into issues, click below for questions on the topics of:

Social Media



Healthy Eating

Of course interviewing others is only one part of documentary filmmaking. Once you film, you have to edit it. Check out the difference between these two clips I edited:

Some things you might have noticed:

  • I cut out everything except the answers and only chose the best ones.
  • I used transitions– like fading in and out– when the news footage came in and out.
  • I tried to get rid of background noise using iMovie’s “remove background noise” tool.
  • I raised the audio levels.
  • The interviewer was not mic’d, so I recorded myself asking the questions in iMovie
  • I added quiet music in the background.
  • I put video clips or images that I found on the Internet.

Anyhow, looking forward to seeing what you all film and edit!

MAY 7 2022

I love how into making documentaries so many of you are. I wanted to remind you that after you’re done interviewing, you should add an introduction to tell what your documentary is about and why you’re making it. Go back to and watch videos about your social issue so you sound smart!

Here are some of my favorites from the year, what were yours?:

Battling Against Stereotypes
Recognize signs of abuse

To supercharge your documentary, add footage from YouTube in between interviews. For example, if you’re talking about vaping, include video footage of people vaping.

Anyhow, keep up the good work! Here are a few more student documentaries from The Island School to inspire you:

APRIL 25 2022

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #7

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winners:

🏆 First Place Winner:

This week, we will be reviewing 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!

A few years ago, I did a unit on Straws– we talked about why we really don’t need them and where they go once they’re used.  Anyhow, while I was researching straws, I came across this site called There is No Away.   This idea really stuck to my brain:  we throw things “away”, but they really don’t go “away”.  

There are so many social issues surrounding garbage.  This week we’ll be discussing Food Waste.  Did you know that 40% of food produced in the U.S. is wasted— that equals 133 billion pounds!  In fact, 20% of our landfills are filled with food waste.  Every second, 3000 pounds of food is wasted in the U.S.  Meanwhile, 1 in 6 Americans are hungry.    3000 pounds of food would feed 650 Americans for the entire day.  The video below shows just how much food is thrown out in NYC:  So what can you do?

Change your behavior: (1) Freeze food you’re not using. (2) Learn how to compost your uneaten food.  (3) Don’t just throw away food because it’s passed the expiration date– smell it and look for mold.  (4) Donate your uneaten food to the homeless.

Change others’ behavior:  Create projects that show people how much food we waste on The Lower East Side and why it matters.  For example (1) take photos of food waste in our school and in the community and create art with it. (2) Make a documentary investigating how much food we waste or how much other students know about food waste. (3)  Create a Scratch game that shows people how to avoid food waste. (4) Create “reminder jewelry” that gives food waste tips like “freeze it”, “smell test”, or “compost king”.

Finally, a great way to reduce your waste is to “Upcycle”. Upcycling means taking things that are no longer useful to you and making them into something awesome! Here are a few examples:

T Shirt Bags!

APRIL 11 2022

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #6

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winners:

🏆 First Place Winner:

This week, we will be reviewing 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!

Anyhow, click below for a Kahoot!

APRIL 3 2022

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #5

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winner:

🏆 First Place Winner:

Describe the Message to teens of each video

Last week we spoke about the effects of Marijuana on the development of your brain. When you smoke, eat, or drink it, there can be a huge impact on your ability to learn, make memories, feel healthy, and be happy. Here’s a deeper dive into the science of how Marijuana affects you:

We also discussed how Marijuana can affect your mental health– causing panic attacks and, in some cases, psychosis. Here’s a little more information on Psychosis:

To feel what it’s like to have psychosis, watch the video below:

Did this video make you feel like you were actually experiencing psychosis? What part was most disturbing?

So, how can we teach other tweens and teens about the dark side of marijuana? How can we give them the strength of going 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. Can you make your own? What are your goals for the future that you don’t want to be influenced into dropping?

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, 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:

You can also wire wrapped rings with the letters DB (Dream Big) or AI (Above the Influence. Here’s how:

march 28 2022

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #4

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winner:

🏆 First Place Winner:

🏆 Honorable Mentions:

Ready for more? Click on SCAVENGER HUNT 13 and SCAVENGER HUNT 14

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.

So, why not do it? This week, 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.

OK, before we get started, let me point out that there’s two parts of marijuana: CBD and THC. CBD is safe and is used in things like creams for headaches 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.

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”.

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:

Marijuana can also trigger panic attacks:

It can also 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). When you eat Marijuana, it actually becomes more powerful leading to unexpectedly bad experiences.

What art, songs, T-shirts, documentaries, and podcasts can you create to help?

march 21 2022

I was speaking with a student on Friday. He and his friends are ridiculously skilled at rapping. Period. They ride the beat perfectly and their vocals ring clear and strong.

Strength In Truth graffiti

That said, I feel there’s a way to take it to the next level. I’ll call it telling the “Ugly Truth”. When you are telling a story about your life, it doesn’t always have to be what you want it to be like or how you want people to see you. Talking about all your money, how much you smoke or pop pills, and what will happen to people who mess with you can sound good!

BUT sometimes the most powerful art comes from The Ugly Truth about what life is really like for you. Your real struggles– roaches on the floor, sirens at night waking you up, nasty cafeteria food, the person you like dissing you. Life isn’t always what you want it to be and others can relate! I’m not saying, don’t talk about the other stuff, but think about adding some REALness— some of that Ugly Truth to your music and poetry. Be brave and tell your story! Here’s an example:

[Verse 1]
It's probably been 12 years since my father left
Left me fatherless
And I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest
When honestly, I miss this &%#, like when I was six
And every time I got the chance to say it, I would swallow it
Sixteen, I'm hollow, intolerant, skip shots
I storm that whole bottle, I'll show you a role model
I'm drunk, pissy, pissing on somebody front lawn
Trying to figure out how and when the &%# I missed moderate
Momma often was offering peace offerings
Think, wheeze, cough, scoffing and he's off again
Searching for a big brother, Tyler was that
And plus he liked how I rap, the blunted mice in the trap
Too black for the white kids, and too white for the blacks
From honor roll to cracking locks up off them bicycle racks
I'm indecisive, I'm scatterbrained, and I'm frightened
It's evident in them eyes, where he hiding all them icicles at

But like I said, Island Schoolers can rap and I would never in a million years stop them (in fact, I rap). All I’m saying is that Drill Music is full of drugs, violence, and money– and sometimes forgets to also talk about other parts of life– like family, goofy friends, heroes, and the Ugly Truths that you see in your house or shelters. By the way, if I’m wrong, tell me why?

Rapping is an amazing way to tell your story. Here’s Raegan to bring that point home:

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #3

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winner:

🏆 First Place Winner:

🏆 Honorable Mentions:

Ready for more scavenging? click here for photo scavenger hunt #12

march 14 2022

Its been two weeks since our first Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest. Since then, even more students have picked up cameras and went looking for everyday people and objects– figuring out how to make the ordinary look extraordinary. Without further ado, here are the winners of Contest #2

📷 The Island School’s Photo Scavenger Hunt Contest #2

🏆 Third Place Winners:

🏆 Second Place Winner:

🏆 First Place Winner:

🏆 Honorable Mentions:

Ready for another hunt! Click HERE for Photo Scavenger Hunt #10

Now that you’ve gotten some experience taking photos, it’s time to share your work with the world using Wakelet. Here’s how:

Friday night I went to a film festival and learned about 15-year-old inventor JayJay Patton. I was incredibly impressed with how JayJay and her father took a real-world problem– kids not being able to easily write to their family in prison– and create a solution using technology. I hope it inspires you to think of a problem in your life that you’d like to solve.

JayJay used coding to create an app for getting letters more easily to prisoners. We haven’t spent much time learning to code. My favorite way to do this is through Scratch. Below are two books that walk you through games you can create. Please click on one, find the game you want to create, and follow the directions.

Ask me for the Username and Password
Ask me for the Username and Password

march 7 2022

MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 on Twitter: "On this day 5 years ago, 🇺🇦 chose a  course towards 🇪🇺 values and a civilized future away from the #Kremlin's  grasp of decay. Today on

It’s impossible to turn on the TV without hearing news of Russia’s evil war on Ukraine. Why is it happening and what can we do to help the Ukrainians? Here’s the best explainer I could find:

Ordinary citizens– bakers, bankers, grandmas, and grandpas– are taking up arms to fight against the Russians:

For more examples of how brave Ukrainians are standing up to Russians click HERE.

What does this art piece mean?

How can we help? Here’s where you can donate supplies:

My daughter Ruby and her friends set up a bake sale to raise money to help Ukrainians. Maybe we can set up our own on Houston Street and put out some jewelry to sell too? Then we can give funds to Veselka Restaurant that will send it to Ukraine…

In other news, I’ve been so blown away by your photography that I want to add another type of scavenger hunt to see what you come up with! You can continue to do photography, but we will now be doing video as well. Here’s the link to Video Scavenger Hunt #1.

While you’re shooting photos and videos, keep in mind that there are different types of shots. Try them out!

POV (Point of View) Shot:

Low-angle Shot:

High-Angle Shot:

Over-the-Shoulder Shot:


Extreme Close-up:

For more shot examples click HERE and HERE. To see camera movements click HERE.