Journal: September-december 2019

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December 18

Last journal entry was jam-packed with art, music, and videos describing how the United States has lost its way. Once we were a beacon of hope for those seeking to escape poverty and fear or those simply seeking a better life. Now we are a country who jails hard-working immigrants, separates them from their families, and deports them back to the dangerous or impoverished land from which they came.

So what can we do to make a difference? One strategy for making your voice heard is to protest. You can organize your own or participate in one:

Another way you can help is to let immigrants know their rights. Create posters or other art pieces to help them understand.

Finally, for ICE to operate, they need resources like copy machines, computers, the internet, cable TV, and mail delivery. They also need the technology that helps them identify faces in crowds or simply walking down the street. Guess who helps ICE with that? Amazon.

Remember how you subverted the logos of companies that experiment on animals? How about doing the same thing with companies that help ICE? Here is a list of some of these companies:

Here’s are some examples of how you might subvert the logo to express how they help ICE:

Courtesy of Zack!
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December 9-17

My dad, Daniel Lahana, was born and raised in Mexico City. When he was 14, he, his three sisters, and parents packed up their car with all their belongings and drove to California. They rented a house in Los Angeles and with all the family’s savings they opened up a toy store. My dad didn’t speak a word of English. He struggled like heck in school and his mother, Fortuna, told him, “hopefully you’ll be a janitor when you grow up.”

But he studied like an animal in school and after a while became fluent in English. He loved science and eventually went to medical school– becoming a doctor. Somewhere along the way, his family became citizens and he became another immigrant living the American Dream.

Thing is, these days, most immigration stories don’t have a happy ending like my father’s. No, it’s more like a living nightmare. Let’s begin with why people flee their country. One big reason is that the country they live in is dangerous– drugs, poverty, and violence make it nearly impossible to stay. Here’s one such story:

If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to flee to another country, watch THIS documentary.

Seeing how desperate people are to save themselves and their families from terrible conditions, it’s natural to wonder, why doesn’t The United States just take them in?

The answer is complicated. But, here’s the thing: when we arrest immigrants for trying to come into our country, we treat them horribly. Why we do that is not very complicated– it’s because not enough people care about immigrants to rise up and say, THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

So my friends (shout out to our newest activists at The Evergreen School), now that you know where they are keeping immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life, what are you going to do to help them? How delivering powerful spoken word poetry?

What about creating a song about the immigrant experiences you’ve seen or about your family’s own experience?

Here’s Gaby Moreno’s song about immigrants crossing the Rio Grande river to get from Mexico to the United States:
La Santa Cecilia – Ice El Hielo, part the #Not1More series
What are some of the jobs that immigrants do, that U.S. citizens don’t often want to do?

How about creating powerful art pieces like the ones you saw HERE to fight for immigrant rights!

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December 2

Last session we talked about consent and how that’s at the heart of all physical relationships. Being in a loving relationship means trusting each other too.

Take this quiz to see what choices might come your way when trying to have a healthy relationship:

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These days, a lot of our relationships take place through technology. We send texts, emojis, videos, and images to feel connected to each other. Every once in awhile though, there might be a person on the other end asking you to send images and videos of yourself naked or doing over-the-top sexy stuff. This is known as sexting.  Check out these That’sNotCool Videos about it:

There are a few problems with doing Sexting:

  • First, off it’s actually illegal.  When you get someone under 17 to send nude pictures and videos and/or send friends those pics, it’s considered the possession and distribution of child pornography.  Teens have gone to jail for this!
  • Naked pics and videos rarely stay on the person’s phone you send it to.  They get passed around.  This can be deeply embarrassing and also lead to bullying and even suicide.

Imagine if you were hanging with your friend and they were about to send a Sext. What would you do to convince them not to?

To learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of healthy relationships, take this quiz (which also talks about Over Texting):

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So what can we do to prevent students from Sexting at The Island School?  How about making an Anti-Sexting movie like THIS that has over two million views:

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November 18

This week I hope many of you continue to create projects about what it means to be an Ally of the LGBTQ-IA community. What art can you create to fight for people’s right to be who they want to be and love who they want to love?

In Chile another step was taken to recognize the dignity of people.  Because the right to be oneself is a basic right.  # GenderIdentity Law.  ? (in Barrio Lastarria)

But we are also going to add in a little bit of Sex Education into the mix. Talking about Sex is always a tricky subject in middle school. After all, who wants to talk about sex with their teacher! Nevertheless, most of us other than Asexual people, will grow up to do it– so we need to talk about how to build healthy, safe, and loving relationships. What a lot of it boils down to is making good decisions.

Have you ever been eating a burger and fries with some friends, and someone just took a fry off your tray and ate it? Have you ever had a bag of chips and someone took some without asking? Me too. The kid who took your food did not have your consent. In romantic relationships, consent means giving another person permission to touch you.

Let’s begin with an exercise.

hand hello GIF by MadaGarbea
  1. Take a page of circle stickers.
  2. Walk around the room and place stickers on the back of other students’ hands. BUT, ONLY PLACE IT THERE IF YOU GET PERMISSION. Do not place the sticker any place other than the back of someone’s hand.
  3. After I call time, return to your seats.
Oli Frape typography lettering consent sayno GIF

Now that you’ve done the activity, here are a few discussion questions:

  1. Did someone try to put a sticker on you without your permission? What did that feel like?
  2. Did someone say no to you when you asked them to put it on their hand? What did that feel like?
  3. Did you put a sticker on someone’s hand without their permission? Why?
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November 4-15

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So here’s something that confuses 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.

At the same time, though, I hear a lot of students saying things like, “no homo…” and “that’s mad gay!” How can both those ways of thinking happen in the same school?

confused confusion GIF

In your journal answer the following questions:

What are the reasons people say NO HOMO to each other? Do you say it? Why or why not?

In The United States, even though we’ve made a lot of progress in getting rid of negative stereotypes of LGBTQ+IA people, they are still discriminated against. Think about it, why would “no homo” and “that’s gay” be something bad, if being LGBTQ+IA was something positive.

Let’s begin by talking about the idea of gender. It seems simple– “I’m a boy or I’m a girl”. But, as you’ll see, it’s more complicated than that.

There are 4 parts to gender:

  1. Identity–>do you feel like a male or female deep inside?
  2. Expression–> Do you act, dress, and socialize like a male or female?
  3. Biological Sex–> Do you have male parts or female parts?
  4. Sexual Orientation–> Are you attracted to males or females?

Image result for transgender flag

Some groups within LGBTQ+IA are particularly discriminated against. For example, President Trump outlawed Transgendered people from serving in the military. Check out THIS social experiment to learn more.

Image result for intersex flag

The “I” in LGBTQ-IA means Intersex– here’s a video to explain what that means.

Image result for ally lgbt

Finally, what does the “A” mean? Two meanings are often given: Asexual and Ally. Asexual means not being sexually attracted to anyone. Ally means that you support LGBTQ+I people and are willing to stand up against the discrimination they face.

Coming out is hard– just ask anyone who has done it. Maybe it’s time to think about people who come out as brave. As Makers, think about helping kids and teens feel good about being themselves like Jazz did in her book.

If you believe that people should be who they want to be and love who they want— why not create some art that speaks that truth and kills “no homo”.

How about making a 2020 version of this video:

Test your knowledge with this Kahoot:

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October 28

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the cruelty to non-human animals that we support when we eat meat and use cosmetics that test on animals. Remember, non-human animals feel pain and dream just like we do:

We also talked about solutions, like making our own cosmetics and having Meatless Mondays. You can also make cruelty-free cleaners– for more directions click HERE.

Speaking of Meatless Mondays, here’s a quick chart to show some of the foods we can eat instead of meat. As you can see, they have plenty of protein to keep building our muscles:

Some people argue that meat is the only way to get a lot of PROTEIN. Here are the facts. How about creating some art to make one of these proteins look awesome to eat?
How can we shame the meat industry?
Why eat one and not the other?
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October 21

Last week, we discovered the horrors of what goes on inside the Meat and Dairy Industry. You learned that non-human like animals cows, chickens, and pigs are treated like objects instead of beings that feel pain and dream. You created amazing art including:

But creating food out of non-human animals is not the only way they are tortured and murdered. We also abuse and kill non-human animals for the things we wear and the cosmetics we use.

Click HERE to see what it Animal Testing really looks like. *WARNING: SUPER DISTURBING*

As you’ve seen from the video and infographics, there are many reasons to buy products that are cruelty-free. But instead of buying cosmetics like perfume and cologne, today we’re going to make our own– without hurting a single animal 🙂

To create a great-smelling perfume or cologne, one thing you’ll need to learn about is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is when you use scents (called “essential oils”) to help people feel good mentally and physically. Here’s a little guide:

For today’s journal, create a simple set of 5 numbered boxes on a page. We will be passing around scents. For each numbered scent, put two adjectives that describe them. For example:

Wet grass
Nacho cheese
Wet Dog
Cardboard Box

You can use this wheel to help you:


If you’re interested in creating more cosmetics, we have the supplies and an actual PERFUMER (a professional perfume and cologne maker) to help you along.

Aside from actually making cosmetics, what will you create to wake people up to the suffering behind their clothes, sneakers, and cosmetics?

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October 15

Pablo creates a fresh remix of the Meatless Monday logo using Shrinky Dink
Ginasia used a Wacom Pad to create a better logo for Meatless Monday

Today is a big of a catch-up week. When I went on StoryBoardThat, only a few of you completed your storyboards. Here are a couple of good ones:

Brahima and Zachari’s StoryBordThat talks about the dangers of Nicotine.

Notice how both of these storyboards show *NEW* information that we learned by researching (watching videos, visiting websites, and playing serious games). Please do not include information you already new like “cigarettes cause lung cancer”. Also, don’t include obvious ideas like “smoking is bad for you”. If you need to gather more information, visit:

In your journal, answer the following questions: What did the boy feel about the dog at first? Why? What caused him to change his mind? Write or draw the story of when you changed your mind about someone.

Last week we started out by talking about climate change. We brought up the idea of how cows’ farts, burps, and poop are causing more heat to be trapped into Earth. But, what really seemed to catch everyone’s attention was how animals are treated in factory farms. Some of you were even brave enough to watch the disturbing videos on PETA’s website about how animals are abused.

Your assignment this week is to create a Powtoon animation. In it, someone is about to eat a hamburger and you tell them why they should think twice about it. To help you, let’s do a quick Pro and Con:

For some ideas, click HERE *WARNING: BAD LANGUAGE*

Oh, and one last thing– isn’t it weird that we drink cow’s milk?

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October 7

Last week, we spoke about the HUGE issue of climate change. Many of you felt that no matter what an individual does, it won’t make a difference. How can it? Especially, when companies are polluting our environment and countries are cutting down their forests to make room for cows to eat grass. Today we’ll be focusing on one cause of climate change: The Meat and Dairy Industry.

Want to see what it really looks like?  Click HERE (Warning: Extremely Disturbing)

Like Big Tobacco, the Meat and Dairy Industry care about only one thing: MONEY.  They destroy the environment, treat animals like objectsabuse their workers, and put us, the eaters, in danger. The Meat and Dairy Industry is also a leading cause of climate change:

So what can we do about it? It’s true, no one person can make a difference in halting dangerous climate change. However, if all 42 million teens skipped eating meat twice a week, it could make a huge difference! The question is: how can we get them to do it?

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I gotta say– the Meatless Monday logo needs an UPGRADE. Can one of our Island School artists do it?

That’s where you come in: by making amazing songs, documentaries, commercials, art, and craftwork, you can help convince them. What about telling the story about what happens when you decide to not eat meat twice a week? What does your family say at the dinner table (or wherever you eat)?

Image result for vegan jewelry

What about creating a whole jewelry line from Coke cans that say “free the cows”, “Meatless Mondays”. How about a commercial that advertises trees? What about an amazing song from the perspective of a cow in a factory farm.


Find the longer video here.

Your journal assignment today is:

  1. Draw a cow.
  2. Watch The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers or look through THIS infographic:
  3. Write down THREE facts or ideas you learned. They should include:
    • How much meat do we eat here in the U.S.?
    • How much land and water do cows use?
    • Why shouldn’t cows eat corn?
    • Why are cow farts bad?
    • Why is eating meat bad for you?
    • What can we do to lessen the negative impact of cows?

–> Bonus: What can you create to get other teens to eat less cow?

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October 2

Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays in 2018 as a “school strike” to draw attention to the climate crisis. Her protests have launched a global movement among youth.

So what can we do to combat this massive problem? Keep in mind, the adults who caused this only have a couple more decades to be alive. After that, YOU will be in charge. What are you going to do with the power?

One way to be part of the solution is planting trees. In fact, ask me for an elm tree seed and soil!

Right now, you can also consider taking small steps to reduce your “carbon footprint”. Carbon Dioxide is one of the main reasons for climate change. Buying stuff like clothes, jewelry, and electronics creates more Carbon Dioxide. This is because the factories that make the stuff you buy burn lots of fossil fuels to operate. Burning fossil fuels = more carbon dioxide.

To combat this, you can repurpose stuff you’ve already bought and make it into something useful that you may have shopped for otherwise. Here are a couple of examples. For more, simply Google “Upcycle” and click on images.

Toilet Paper Roll Speakers
Denim Pocket Organizer
Headbands from T-shirts
Earings from Folded Coke Cans
Soda Can Pendants
T-Shirt Bags– Instead of Plastic!

Can you think of more ideas?!? Go for it, and I’ll post them here and on our Twitter account!

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September 26

Remember: Big Tobacco owns the E-cigarette companies

E-Cigarettes are evil. People are taking notice and things are changing. Here’s a sample of what’s happening in the news this month:

For today’s journal assignment today visit The Real Cost and learn a few new facts. Now, draw three boxes in your journal. In the first box, show your friend smoking. In the second box, show yourself talking to your friend and telling them why they shouldn’t be smoking. In the 3rd box, show their decision. If you HATE drawing, you can also use StoryBoardThat. Print it out and paste it into your journal.

An example from Cody
To gather more fact, click on the image above.

We go through so many issues here in the Tech Café and we move through them pretty fast. Remember: even if we move on to another issue, you can keep researching and creating products to get people to quit or never start smoking.

Some things about smoking we didn’t cover are:

1. that cigarette butts are the most littered object in the world– and they are not bio-degradable.

2. Pharmacies that are supposed to be selling you stuff to keep you healthy, sell cigarettes. Why???

3. Secondhand smoke hurts others. SO, smokers: you’re a bad person for creating that smoke:


Last session we talked about the fact that tobacco companies target communities Black and LatinX communities like The Lower East Side. For HOMEWORK, find an advertisement for a regular cigarette or e-cigarette in your community. Draw it in your journal and include where you found it (for example, on the corner of 3rd and Avenue D or on a bodega window a block from my house).

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September 23

Animated GIF
Smoking E-Cigarettes is D O R K Y

Let’s begin by grabbing your journal, some glue, a popsicle stick, and markers. Create an e-cigarette with a cloud of smoke. As we talk today, write down two facts about e-cigarettes inside the cloud that you didn’t know before.

Last year, we talked about E-Cigarettes and the idea that no one knows what they do to your body over time. These companies are basically using us as science experiments.

We do know that nicotine– a main ingredient in E-Cigarettes–is EXTREMELY addictive and can have seriously awful effects on your life:
Nicotine can create ANXIETY—>your heart beats fast, you sweat, worry, and feel super stressed.
Nicotine worsens mood swings–> going from extreme happiness to extreme anger or depression.
Nicotine creates INTENSE irritability– you get angry too easily–everyone and everything BOTHERS you.
Once Nicotine hooks you, it’s RIDICULOUSLY hard to quit

One pod contains the same nicotine as 20 cigarettes.  Kids who start smoking e-cigarettes find it nearly impossible to quit and often end up smoking regular cigarettes.

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September 20

golden state warriors smh GIF by NBA

Even though we discussed the dangers of Nicotine in class, a few Island School 8th-graders were found smoking E-Cigarettes in school! Why? One reason is flavoring:

Bubblegum, Mango, and Cucumber.  Who doesn’t love those delicious flavors?  One reason that kids are so into e-cigarettes is that they are attracted to the flavors added to the “pods” or liquids used to create the smoke.  The e-cigarette companies KNOW this and are marketing 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.

pop popcorn GIF by Regal Cinemas

Beyond addictive nicotine, E-cigarettes contain a chemical known as propylene glycol. Propylene glycol has been linked to “popcorn lung” which is a disease where your lungs crackle when you breathe, makes you cough and feel short of breath.   

Lastly, 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).

So what can we do about it?  Just like what we did with straws and cigarettes, we can get teens to understand why they’re so bad and get them to stop. 

Learn more about E-Cigarettes by visiting Truth.  Next, share that knowledge by making your own film, animation, T-shirts, clay, and jewelry projects!

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September 19

happy a plus GIF by Papa John’s

Grade-time! At the beginning of the year, I told you that your journals will be checked every two weeks. Today, during class I will call you up to show off your Idea Journal. Because it’s your first time having your Journal looked at, I’m simply going to see that you completed your assignments– not how well you did them. Next time, I will be looking at that as well. Here’s what I’m looking for today:

MirrorPocketDrawingShirt or ButtonResearch
(3 New Facts
or Ideas)
Extra Credit:
Garbage Can

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September 16

Being that The Tech Café is all about Social Action, how do we come up with a problem that matters to us? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and I don’t want to tell you what to care about. Instead, I created a section of that helps you discover problems affecting our world.

sherlock holmes GIF

Your assignment today is:

  1. Pick a partner
  2. Go to the Problems section (Statue of Liberty) of Techbrarian and find a problem that interests you.
  3. Spend at least 20 minutes viewing the music, videos, websites, and games that you find on Techbrarian.
  4. In your journal, create a piece of art or writing that shows another teenager what the problem looks like. Assume they know nothing about it.

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September 12

The stakes can be high if you let negative thoughts invade you.

Self-esteem has been the theme of the week. We’ve talked about the importance of focusing on our positive qualities, blocking out negative messages, and learning to embrace the parts of ourself that people tell us are ugly, awkward, or not good enough.

Many of you all have already done projects that send out these messages over the years:

For your journal entry today, draw a T-shirt or Button. Inside the T-shirt or button drawing, create a design that sends one of these messages:

  1. I love THIS about myself (you can use the words on your mirror).
  2. I’m proud to be a member of this group
  3. I am an ally (friend) of this type of person or group

pocket possum GIF

Homework: Place something small and flat that you find inside or outside of school into the pocket. You will be drawing it later. For example, something neat you saw in a newspaper, a food label, or a piece of grass.

Source: Journal Sparks by Neuburger

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September 10

hand GIF by Emory Allen

Today’s Idea Journal Activity involves your “non-dominant” hand– if you’re left-handed, your non-dominant hand is your right. If you’re right-handed, your non-dominant hand is your left.

  1. Pick an object from the table. Spend at least 5 minutes using a pencil with your NON-DOMINANT hand. Color it in with watercolor.
  2. Under your drawing, write one fun or cool thing you noticed about using your non-dominant hand.
  3. Bonus: Pick another object and repeat!

A thought: maybe surprisingly cool things come from parts of us that we don’t use often. Maybe we should spend more time doing stuff we’re not good at like playing a new instrument, trying a new sport, talking to a new person, or trying a new craft. Cool things can happen when you push yourself!

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September 9

Middle School can be tough, man. One big problem with it is that kids often judge you for surface things like your clothes and sneakers, your face, your weight, and your hair. And what do we do with all these insults? We often take them to heart and beat ourselves up over them.

Sad Spongebob Squarepants GIF by swerk

For example, when I was in middle school, they used to call me “Big Nose”. I had never thought twice about my nose. But after they began saying it, I immediately focused on it and started saying the same thing back to myself. But I’ve been thinking about how to draw strength from insults, so I wrote a song about how I overcame all the dissing about my nose. Click HERE for the lyrics.

Unfortunately, the way I dealt with it was to learn to diss kids back. Maybe I should have created a cool big nose logo and put it on fresh T-shirts that all the kids would fiend for….

The big question for today, is how do you battle against the crap people say about you and what you say about yourself? How can you be brave enough to admit what your weaknesses are and embrace them?

Lima embraces her skin condition called “Vitligo”. Instead of being down on it, she shows it off: The Vitiligo Queen.

What other ways could I have dealt with it? How could I have switched things up and made my big nose a strength?

If Lizzo heard you talking bad about YOURSELF, what do you think she’d say?

For today’s journal entry, draw or paste a mirror. Write all your best qualities that you see in yourself or others have said about you (if you appreciated it). Include qualities you are striving to become (for example, “courageous”).


Open your journal and draw or paste a trashcan on it. Inside the trashcan write all the names you’ve been called by others or the names you call yourself (inside your head). THIS IS A PRIVATE JOURNAL ENTRY. You may choose to share it with a friend or keep it to yourself. The goal is to tell yourself these ideas about me are TRASH. It may also serve as inspiration for art, music, a movie, a shirt…whatever!

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September 5

Welcome back to The Tech Café– our Social Action Makerspace! Last year we made incredible art, crafts, games, songs, and films to help solve problems in our world. Here’s a highlight reel of some of our work:

Before we begin our first project, I’d like to quickly go over how the Tech Café works– I know you know most of this already, but here it is anyway:

This year we are embarking on a new project: IDEA JOURNALS. Idea Journals help you to collect ideas through writing, drawing, and painting onto the pages. You can also glue and tape things into your journal that you find or create.

journaling express yourself GIF by Sharpie

NO TWO JOURNALS IN THE TECH CAFE WILL LOOK THE SAME. As you saw in the highlight reel, in our Makerspace students experiment with different low tech tools. For example, we design with embroidery, construct woodwork, mold pottery, and paint. Students also work with different high-tech tools. For example, we create films, code games, and record music. Finally, each student will also care about different social issues. These include homelessness, climate change, body positivity, and immigration. Put together, all these differences will mean each journal will look very different– and that’s a good thing! Click on the link below to see some ways to use an Idea Journal:

Your assignment today is to create a cover for your Idea Journal.

In the highlight reel, you saw 7th graders placing positive messages on the mirror in the girl’s bathroom. The goal was to remind lookers to see their best selves in the mirror. Just like that, have your Idea Journal cover reflect the things you like best about yourself and the qualities you want to continue to build.

Use materials like paint, markers, and pasted images to describe your best self, the things that motivate you, and what inspires you. Feel free to paste words as well. Here’s a quick tutorial: