JOURNAL: January-March 2020

March 16

Last week we spoke about how fear of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can lead to racism against Asian Americans. The fact is, everyone in the U.S. is equally at risk of having it. It is not our job to judge what another culture eats– after all, here in the U.S. we eat pig’s feet and crocodile. Keep in mind, diseases have started because of cows as well. Asian Americans wearing face masks are not a sign they have it– it simply means they are worried about getting it, just like non-Asian-Americans. Let’s keep getting out the facts through our art, crafts, music, and films.

I wanted to start this week by pointing out that jewelry is an excellent way to do social action. By having people wear their beliefs, it reminds them of their beliefs and to fight for causes that are important to them. I mean, isn’t that why people wear religious jewelry like crosses or Jewish stars— or maybe it’s just decoration ??

Our Tech Cafe has tons of tools to create jewelry for teens– whether you’re a boy, girl, or non-binary (a mix or neither), you should give it a try. Mix wood, Sculpey, metal, and paint to create awesome designs like THIS ARTIST.


There are a million tutorials on YouTube for DIY jewelry. Here’s one:

One last thing, during these stressful times, it’s important to keep your mind healthy and happy. Assuming you are washing your hands, not touching your face, staying home if you’re sick, and not getting too close to people, what can you do to keep positive? Here are a few ideas:

  • LAUGH!
  • Contact a long lost friend on social media and start up a conversation
  • Start a new hobby! If you’d like, borrow materials from the Tech Café like embroidery hoops, shrinky dink paper and markers, clay, Legos, and dream catchers.
  • Make art that reminds you to THINK POSITIVELY.

March 9

Let’s take a quick break from talking about plastic pollution and talk about what’s on everybody’s mind: The Coronavirus. First off: DON’T PANIC! For nearly everyone, getting Coronavirus is similar to a mild Flu. Speaking of the flu, did you know that 40,000 people die from it in the U.S. each year? So far, under 30 people have died from Coronavirus in the U.S.! If you have a healthy immune system (which nearly everyone does except for babies and the elderly), you’ll be fine in a couple of weeks if you get it. Here are some resources to learn more:

It’s also important to remember that just because Coronavirus may have started in China, it doesn’t give us an excuse to be racist. After all, just because Mad Cow disease began in Europe, doesn’t mean that British people are dirty, disgusting, or have gross food taste.

So, what can we do about the Coronavirus? For one, you can spread correct information about how to spot it and how to prevent it:

Second, you can create art, crafts, movies, games, and songs that battle against Coronavirus stereotypes:

So far students have come up with slogans like:

  • FIGHT THE VIRUS, NOT THE PEOPLE
  • VIRUSES DON’T DISCRIMINATE, NEITHER SHOULD WE
  • BE SAFE, NOT RACIST
  • TIME FOR FACTS, NOT FEAR
  • THE VIRUS IS OUR ENEMY, NOT CHINA
  • SHARE FACTS, NOT FEAR
  • DISEASES CAN MAKE ANYONE SICK REGARDLESS OF RACE
  • SPREAD FACTS–> NOT SICKNESS: COUGH INTO YOUR ELBOW

Remember: Asian Americans are no more likely to have Coronavirus than any other American


February 24 – March 6

A couple of years ago I read a mind-boggling article in the New York Times about how plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda.  People are literally getting imprisoned for using them.   That may be a little extreme, but plastic is a huge problem– it’s filling our oceanskilling sea animals, and it’s bad for our health

Most people know that plastic bags aren’t good for the environment, so why is it so hard for us to break the habit? Make a list of these reasons and think about what you can MAKE to help people overcome these reasons. After all, plastic bags have only been around since the 1980’s. We can survive without them!

For more art inspiration click HERE and HERE.

On March 1, 2020 plastic bags will no longer be available in NYC stores except in pharmacies and take-out restaurants. In supermarkets, the see-through plastic bags for fruits and veggies will still be available:

Besides banning plastic bags, bright people around the world have come up with amazing solutions for reducing plastic including edible packaging and a Plastic Bank that pays people to bring in plastic:

Last year, at The Island School, many students decided to go Strawless and stop using plastic Straws for at least a week. We made amazing art, created our own paper straws, and created this documentary:

What can we make this year to end the use of more single-use plastic products like bags? How can we protect nature so that it can continue to provide us the food, clean air & water, and weather that keeps us alive?


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February 3



Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is difficult and sometimes dangerous. Just because it’s a good decision to leave, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Abusers often trick victims into feeling like there is not a problem or it’s their own fault– this is called “Gaslighting“.

Have you ever seen someone Gaslighted? What’s the story?

To someone outside the relationship, it may seem obvious that the relationship is awful and needs to end. But the victim may still be holding on to feelings from the honeymoon stage and want to ignore the tension and explosions.

When they decide to end the relationship, it’s important to have a safety plan in place. Some steps that should be taken are:

  1. Don’t do it alone– have someone you trust with you.
  2. Have a cell phone around– in case you have to call for help
  3. Don’t make the abuser angrier than is necessary– breaking up will obviously make them angry, don’t make it worse by saying something that may trigger them to be even angrier.
  4. Tell a trusted friend or family member that you’re going to exit the relationship so they can quickly check-in after.
  5. Set a time limit on the conversation to limit possible manipulation from the abuser.

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CAN YOU MAKE A POSTER, STORYBOARD, OR MOVIE FOR ONE OF THESE?

How can you teach others to make Safe Exits?


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January 27

Part of becoming an effective social justice warrior against domestic violence (DV) is being able to recognize it. But sometimes DV is hard to see: victims wear masks and abusers hide what they do in public. But there is a way to spot warning signs when you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. We spoke about the cycle of unhealthy relationships (honeymoon –> tension –> explosion), but there are many more Red Flags. Here’s a series of videos that show some of them:

Recognize signs of abuse

Now, using the list below, let’s watch this video. Help identify what signs you see in the videos:

  1. What is a red flag you noticed?
  2. Describe what the behavior looked like.
  3. What would have been a healthy way to act in that situation?

Now that you’re getting skilled at identifying “red flags” of unhealthy relationships, let’s take a second to see signs of healthy relationships– click on the image below:

Can you act out what goes into a HEALTHY relationship?
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January 19

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about the different “ingredients” that go into domestic violence. We began by speaking about the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships: honeymoon–>tension–>explosion. Next, we discussed the importance of boundaries: making them clear at the beginning of a relationship and recognizing when they have been crossed. Today, we’re going to talk about another cycle: The Cycle of Abuse. This is the idea that people who grow up with abusers become abusers themselves or enter relationships where they are abused again. Here’s a slideshow to start our discussion:


When people are trapped in an abusive relationship, they often do not share with others what is going on. It’s like they are wearing a mask that on the outside tells everyone things are OK. But on the inside, they are filled with the darkness. How can we shine a light on these masks?

What would the mask of an abuser look like?


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January 13

Last week we spoke about the cycle of abuse (honeymoon –> tension –> explosion) and the importance of setting boundaries. This week we will be talking about more Red Flags when it comes to abuse. Red Flags can be divided into Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Financial Abuse, Digital Abuse, and Stalking. HERE is a list of what each one looks like. I WOULD LOVE IT IF PEOPLE COULD MAKE RED FLAG POSTERS FOR EACH ONE. They could include both words and illustrations.

Art can encourage DV survivors to tell their story and tell them they are not alone.

If you’re interested in learning more about what kind of partner you are (or if you’re not in a relationship just pretend), than take THIS QUIZ.

Shining a light on domestic violence to scatter the darkness can take so many forms. One way is through poetry:

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January 8

Image result for dv purple ribbon

Earlier this week, we spoke about domestic violence having certain ingredients or patterns that you can find in most abusive relationships. The first pattern we identified was called The Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships: Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion–>Honeymoon–>Tension–>Explosion

Today we’ll be talking about two more ingredients for abusive relationships: boundaries.

Unhealthy relationships don’t start out that way at the beginning– if they did no one would stay in them! Relationships often turn unhealthy in the “tension” part of the cycle we talked about last session.

To figure out when a relationship is turning unhealthy, it’s important to look for certain things. Let’s call these things RED FLAGS.

Image result for look out for red flags

Detecting red flags as soon as possible is important so that you know when it’s time to have a serious conversation with your partner or leave a relationship. One red flag is when your partner crosses boundaries. Here’s a StoryBoard with some examples:


Imagine if I were to do this activity:

  1. Fist bump someone sitting next to you
  2. Now, lean on each other’s shoulders
  3. Now, go forehead to forehead

When I say that last one, your reaction is likely to be “UH…NO!!!” Welp, this is the idea of crossing boundaries. In Unhealthy relationships, the abuser often crosses boundaries. It’s important at the beginning of a relationship to set boundaries, call your partner when they cross them, and leave if they keep crossing them. Here are a few boundaries to discuss with your partner:


We can also look at the reverse. What does a good relationship look like? Here are some ideas:

How could you show this with a StoryBoardThat?
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January 6

Milagros writes: When the blood is from a battered woman. The wound belongs to everyone. What does that mean?

Last week, I took a survey as to whether students felt like the topic of Domestic Violence was too intense to bring up in class. The majority of Island School students felt that they could handle it– so we’re going ahead with it.

PLEASE: IF YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS ISSUE, LET ME KNOW AND ONE OF MY CO-TEACHERS WILL WORK WITH YOU ON SOMETHING ELSE DURING THE MINI-LESSON.


For many students at The Island School, having someone at home who hurts them and other members of their family emotionally and physically is a reality. There’s nothing worse and we can’t ignore it. Sometimes shining a light on darkness makes the evil scatter away. Shining a light also helps guide the way for others.

In ELA class, we talk about concepts like theme (big idea), character traits, setting, and plot (conflict & resolution) in what we read. Often, books share common themes, character traits, settings, and plots. In the same way, there are common themes, character traits, settings, and plots in abusive relationships. Put together, these are called patterns of abuse.

For the next few weeks, we will talk about all the ingredients that go into patterns of abuse including the cycles of unhealthy relationships, being controlling, breaking boundaries, and gaslighting. We’ll also discuss safe ways to leave abusive relationships. Finally, we’ll be talking about ways you can speak up against domestic violence and help to end it.

Let’s begin by watching a rap video about a woman struggling with domestic violence. As you watch it, focus on the cycle that keeps happening:

How many cycles happened in the video?

Now that we have begun talking about domestic violence– here comes the hard part: doing something about it. For those of you touched by this issue, how can you help others to see the cycles of unhealthy relationships? How would you paint it? What would your song sound like? How about making a Storyboard? Maybe you can create your own film? What about interviewing someone who has gone through this (but give them the option of hiding their faces or having their voices distorted). Remember:


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January 2

We’ve reviewed a lot of issues this Fall: self-esteem, smoking, animal rights, LGBTQ+IA rights, and immigrant rights. Let’s take this moment to review them through a Kahoot! Quiz: