Missing stuff

OCTOBER 25 2021

Last week, we spoke about the SUPER-abled people who have overcome physical challenges to successfully live in a world built for those with typical bodies. Here are some more examples.

Next, we explored EMPATHY and how it can help us build better inventions for people with disabilities. Here’s another example of an invention to help people in wheelchairs:

This invention would not be possible without GEARS!

To further understand how inventions like this stand-up wheelchair works, let’s explore GEARS:

Gears are found in tons of everyday inventions like bicycles and watches. A few important ideas you need to know about gears:

  • When two gears come together it’s called MESHING.
  • When two gears mesh they move in the OPPOSITE direction (A and B below). Add another gear, and it once again goes in the same direction as the first (A and C below).
  • When a LARGE gear drives a SMALL gear , the SMALL gear goes FAST. When a SMALL gear drives a LARGE gear, the large gear goes SLOW.
BLUE = SMALL YELLOW = LARGE

For your activity today, design a “gear train”– a bunch of gears meshed together so that the first gear drives the others:

Now add A LOT of gears!


This week we will also dive deeper into a revolutionary invention created to help people who are blind and those with visual impairment to read and write. It’s called Braille. For this activity, you will be reading and writing Braille:

  1. Choose a partner.
  2. Take a braille tablet, stylus, and a piece of paper.
  3. Study the chart HERE.
  4. Place a piece of paper in the tablet and write a single letter (Your partner should NOT be watching you).
  5. Take the paper out of the tablet and have your partner close their eyes. Pass the paper to your partner and have them read the braille.
  6. Have your partner try to identify the letter.
  7. Repeat, but this time switch who writes the letter in braille
  8. Now, do the same, but this time, choose a 3-letter word.

OCTOBER 18 2021

We’ve spent the first month forming symbols of our personal strengths so that we can draw on them to do social action. We also spoke about the importance of blocking stereotypes that poison our self-image. Helping other kids see the toxic images that the media feeds to us and teaching them to block it out is a hugely important social issue– please keep working on creating paintings, pottery, embroidery, and stamps for this issue if you care about it!

For our next topic, we will be talking about inventions to help people with disabilities. Let’s begin by learning about some of the challenges that people with disabilities face and how they overcome them:

Have you ever heard the expression: Walk a mile in someone’s shoes? What does it mean?

Imagine if I created a large clear cube with wheels and a navigation system to get you where you wanted to go. It would never get close to anybody so you'd never bump into them.  It would be big enough so that people would move out of the way on the sidewalk.

Now imagine if, instead, you created a set of small wheels (like Heelys)in a pair of shoes that also contained a navigation system to get you where you wanted to go.  Which would feel better to use?

Great inventors get into the shoes of the people they are trying to help. But they don’t just try to think the way they think 🧠, they try to feel how they feel ❤️. How does it feel not to be able to walk around a new city and find the Mexican restaurant you are looking for? The better you understand how something feels, the better your solution will be. That’s because you can judge whether your invention would make you feel better.

FEELING what other people feel is called EMPATHY. The trick to feeling empathy is to find a time in your life where you faced a tough challenge. Go back to the time and feel the emotion you felt then. Then, tell yourself, THIS is something like what that person is feeling.

Now, because we are trying to EMPATHIZE with humans with different abilities, let’s do a couple of activities to experience their world.

ACTIVITY 1

1- Click on the maze below and print it out:

2- Now, take a pair of goggles that have been specially transformed. See if you can complete the maze with them on.

After you finish, be prepared to answer these questions when we meet back up:

  • What was it like to try to complete the maze?
  • How would it have gone if you didn’t have to wear the goggles?
  • How do you think being visually impaired changes the way you live?

ACTIVITY 2

For your next empathy activity:

1- Get a sheet of paper and a pen.


2- Take a roll of masking or duct tape and use it to tape up your hand and thumb together.

3- Using just your taped hand, try to sign your name on the paper 3 times.

After you finish, be prepared to answer these questions when we meet back up:

  • What was it like to have limited mobility?
  • What changes would you have to make to your daily activities if your arm was like this permanently?

Here are a couple of project ideas:

  1. Create the navigation shoes using Lego, wood, and/or cardboard
  2. Make a Cardboard Prosthetic hand by clicking HERE.

OCTOBER 12 2021

Last week we focused on GENDER stereotypes and how media like TV and Instagram feed you images of what you should look like, act like, and want. Boys should be tough, muscular, sporty, rich, and, of course, be players.

Girls should dress sexy, be flirty, have perfect skin, and let guys be in control.

If you don’t match what they feed you, then you are not an attractive or important guy or girl. Then, when you look in the mirror, you don’t feel good enough.

To keep a healthy SELF-IMAGE, we need to value what’s important, so we made masks that reflect what’s important about ourselves.

Of course, stereotypes about GENDER aren’t the only thing that affects your SELF-IMAGE. As with the Kim Kardashian commercial above, the media also pressures people to be skinny. Here are some graphics that battle against this pressure:

Sanaa, an 8th grader, was inspired by the cactus graphic. She used pottery, wood, and bottles, to make an art piece about accepting your weight:


Open up your Journal. Write or draw who you see and what they’re doing, when I say the following words:

MUSLIM * ASIAN  * AIRPLANE PILOT * DOCTOR * JANITOR * NATIVE AMERICAN

When I said Muslim did you think of a doctor, a filmmaker, a terrorist, or something else?

When I said Doctor, did you think of a White man, a Native American, someone Transgender, someone in a wheelchair, or something else?

When I said Asian did you think of a dentist, a choreographer, a Chinese restaurant cook, a computer programmer, or something else?

When I said Janitor did you think of a black or hispanic man, a Jewish lesbian, a blind Latina, or something else?

When I said Airplane Pilot did you think of a Black woman, a grandmother, a gay Asian woman, a white man, or something else?

When I said Native American, did you think of a man in a headdress, a young choreographer, a deaf computer programmer, or something else?

We often use stereotypes as shortcuts instead of taking the time to learn about people we meet. It’s hard to change people’s negative stereotypes, especially when TV shows, video games, music videos, and social media keep pushing them onto us. We need to push back by showing the world why their stereotypes are wrong and how each of us is more amazing than the lame stereotypes we’re given.

Use the page below to help you create anti-stereotype portraits. These portraits can shake people free from their negative stereotypes and open them up to seeing each stranger as uniquely awesome. 

Summing it all up, is my favorite poet, Prince Ea:

scared reflection GIF

OCTOBER 4 2021

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

It’s both an easy question and a hard one. On the one hand- it’s just you! On the other hand, the way you see yourself comes from how your friends, family, and neighborhood see you. It also comes from social media: what you show others on Instagram, Facebook, Snap, and so on…

What you see in the mirror also comes from what the media (music videos, advertisements, movies, TV shows…) tell you that you should look and act like. That’s what we’re going to talk about for our newest social issue: SELF IMAGE.

self image = how you see your abilities, appearance, and personality.


Let’s begin by watching some videos. In your journal, write down all the ways girls and boys need to act, what they need to care about and look like to be part of the world in the videos..

Made with Padlet
VIDEO 1: FAST AND FURIOUS
VIDEO 2: CARLS JR.

Now let’s watch some videos that try to push back against what boys and girls should be like. Again, what do you need to be like to fit into this world and what do you need to own?

https://youtu.be/koPmuEyP3a0
VIDEO 3: GILETTE
VIDEO 4: NIKE
VIDEO 5: P&G

Finally, let’s watch a couple of projects that challenge you to think deeper about your self-image:

https://youtu.be/0WySfa7x5q0

Hopefully, you’re beginning to see how self-image isn’t something you’re born with and stays the same. Instead, it gets affected by the music you listen to, the videos you watch, the social media you take in, and the way your friends and family treat you. If you believe that everyone should be able to be themselves and not be trapped by what others want you to be like, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas, but please think of your own too!

  • Create a documentary about gender sterotypes. What do people in this school think they have to be like to be accepted. Do they every go against sterotypes?
  • Write and perform a spoken word poem like Prince Ea
  • Make jewlery and t-shirts that show off your true identity!
  • Make a claywork that has a stereotype object like a dollar bill or gun cracking open to reveal something deeper inside like family symbol, a diploma, or a job symbol.
  • make a self portrait with paint or Legos. Your portrait can be surrounded by the people and activities that make you you.

september 27 2021

This week we’ll be talking about the “T” in LGBTQ+IA. It stands for Transgender and non-binary.

GENDER IDENTITY = THE GENDER YOU FEEL DEEP IN YOUR HEART

GENDER IDENTITY ≠ WHO YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO OR WHAT BODY PARTS YOU HAVE

If you’re transgender it means that the gender you’re assigned at birth doesn’t describe what you feel deep in your heart. Instead, most transgender people feel that they are of the opposite gender.

“Bi” means two. If you have a binary gender identity it means you feel like either a (1) girl or a (2) boy. If you’re non-binary, it means you don’t see yourself as falling in the category of girl or boy. Instead, you may feel like a unique blend of genders (gender creative) or neither a girl nor a boy (agender).

So why is this important to learn about? Well, first off, there are likely many people in your life (or maybe you yourself) that are transgender or non-binary, but are afraid to say it. The problem is that when you can’t be your REAL self it’s depressing. Many transgender and non-binary people get bullied, kicked out of their homes, and may consider suicide because of this rejection.

What can you do about it? BE AN ALLY! Help create a welcoming vibe at the Island School and in your community. If people are being homophobic or transphobic, stand up for them!





It’s also important to learn the “pronouns” transgender and non-binary people want to be called. Here’s an explanation:

What can you create to help people better understand Gender Identity and create a more welcoming environment in our school and your neighborhood? Here are some ideas:

  • Create a clay symbol to show the acceptance of all gender identities
  • Make Ally buttons
  • Make a children’s book like this one from Jazz, to help young children to under different kinds of gender identities

september 20 2021

Related image

One of the ways this class works is that we talk about problems that are really happening in our lives. Here’s a problem I’m having that started last week.

On Monday, at recess, I heard a student going around saying, “Hey, you heard? ***** is gay.” On Tuesday two students were teasing each other: “yoooo, that’s mad gay!” On Friday, another student started his compliment of another’s sneakers by saying, “No homo, but…” All three of these comments are homophobic–can you explain why?

This really confused me. In many ways, The Island School seems like a really welcoming place for the LGBTQ+IA community. We have gay, lesbian, and bisexual students who speak about their sexuality openly. On the other hand, you still hear people saying the stuff I heard last week.

So here’s my first question:

Is the Island School a safe place to be LGBTQIA? Why or why not? Tell a story to prove it.
Are you surprised that Lil Nas X faces homophobia as a rapper?

In our Makerspace, what can we create to help expose the homophobia we see around us and teach each other how to be more welcoming to our LGBTQ+IA community? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a documentary film that interviews people about about how to get rid of homophobia in our school. Or, create a fictional movie about someone experiencing homophobia in school.
  • An Ally stands up for the LGBTQ+IA community (even if they themselves are not LGBTQ+). Make an ALLY symbol out of clay, as a stamp, or button. Click HERE to learn more about what an Ally is.

september 13 2021

I don’t have to tell you, there’s a lot wrong in this world. People continue to get sick from COVID-19 and many refuse to get vaccinated. Kids are feeling depressed after all the death and isolation created by the pandemic. There are homeless everywhere, lots of guns leading to lots of unnecessary deaths, women on tv and in video games being nothing more than sexy bodies to stare at (instead of creative and powerful minds to listen to), police and politicians treating some races and classes better than others, advertisements everywhere making you feel bad about yourselves, kids getting bullied online, the climate changing in scary ways, people getting addicted to all sorts of things…just to name a few.

Are we just going to stand there and let this all keep on going?  Are you just a kid who has zero things to say about any of this and zero power to DO anything about this?  

I. DON’T. THINK. SO.

Doing something about all these problems is called Social Action.

Social action can be dangerous.  You are fighting against problems that are often caused by people with lots of money or power or both.  Going up against them is risky. As game maker Zoe Quinn said, “lf video games have taught me anything, it’s that if you encounter enemies, then you’re going the right way.”  

And remember, during this journey, even though i don’t have all the answers,  I always have your back.   Whatever you need to make your project happen, we’ll do it.  period.


Because social action is dangerous, we need to focus on each of your strengths. Every superhero has their powers, what’s yours?

Over the next month, you will select your strength and create a symbol to represent it. In the process, you’ll learn how to use a bunch of the tools in our Makerspace (AKA The Tech Cafe). By the end, you’ll have your superpower symbol to wear proudly in preparation for your social action adventures. So let’s begin:

PART 1: ALL ABOUT SYMBOLS

PART 2: DRAWING YOUR SYMBOL

PART 3: MAKE YOUR SYMBOL COME TO LIFE!

april 2021

7th Grader Ruth created a COVID-19 Memorial. Using wood, paint, and fabric, she celebrates a nurse defeating the virus.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuTx5ZsDBHc

MARCH 2021

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?

Social activists like East River Park Action are rallying together to protest the destruction of the park (including 991 trees!) and offer a better solution.

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:

february 2021

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?”.

**WARNING: this video has a curse word

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?

november 2020

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:

Caution: This video contains racist language and imagery

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!

OCTOBER 2020

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:

1– Below is a Covid-19 memorial designed for Uruguay. Why not build your own with art materials or digitally design it in 3D on Tinkercad?

2- Honor the lives lost by choosing a New Yorker from THIS SITE and creating their portrait with pencil/marker/paint or digitally using SketchPad.

Portraits of Covid-19 Victims

3- Compose a story or poem about a victim of COVID-19 like THESE or about the struggles you’ve faced during this pandemic. We can get it published in teen magazines like Teen Ink.

The Poem “Repeat” by 7th Grader Darshany

JUNE 18

Ashley’s stunning portrait won’t let you look away– even when her subject is…

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.

Dashana lays out her thoughts on Covid-19: her sick grandmother, being stuck indoors, racism, and her hopes for the future

Gianna’s protest sign blends a powerful message with eye catching colors and symbols

Elijah’s poem teaches us to respect nature and embrace diversity

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.

JUNE 14

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:

Bonus: Grab some scissors and a newspaper and create your own poem from scratch!

JUNE 8

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.

What was the Black man like toward the Asian woman? How did she “make things better”? What does this teach us about Black men?

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!

A few more ideas and inspirations for protest signs

JUNE 5

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).

Why does Rev. Sharpton keep repeating: You had “HAD YOUR KNEE ON OUR NECK”?

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!

June 1

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:

Maybe, if you’re SUPER LUCKY, you’re drawing will turn out like this 😉

May 26

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:

Here’s my tutorial on how to use the Robot Voice Generator or a regular voice to create a song:

May 18

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:

May 11

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

option 9

This week’s option is to create a collage about a social issue discussed this year. Watch the slideshow below for more Info!

May 4

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!


April 27

Here is the latest batch of PHENOMENAL Island Schooler projects!


April 24

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!

CLICK ON THEM TO LEARN MORE!

If you’re interested in creating an invention using Tinkercad, watch the video below:


April 20

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.

SUBMIT YOUR WORK TO INSTAGRAM OR TWITTER WITH THE HASHTAG #HonorHeroes

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.

For those of you with tech devices, try using Sketchpad.io (for computers) or Sketchpad.app (for phones/tablets) to create a hero illustration. Watch the tutorial below:


April 17

Here are some more fantastic projects from Island Schoolers this week:

April 13

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!


April 6


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:


March 29

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

3fm now playing GIF by BNNVARA

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…