Journal: September 2018-june 2019

June 26

Last week we began our Sex Ed unit. We discussed the need to speak openly about our bodies, about pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. This week we’ll be talking about what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Start by taking this quiz: Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 9.49.48 AM Healthy relationships begin with trust: you need to trust that the person really cares for you, you need to trust that the person won’t hurt you physically or emotionally, and you need to trust that the person will be there for you when times get rough. Below is a quick video that summarizes what NOT to do in a relationship. You can learn more by visiting Disrespect Nobody. The opposite of a “healthy” relationship is a “toxic” relationship. The videos below do a great job of showing what toxic relationships can look like and decisions you can make to avoid them.
Toxic relationships, don’t have to be just about boyfriends and girlfriends. It can also be about friendships. Click on the cards below to see some more toxic behaviors in friendships and romantic relationships and some humorous responses to them:
In a romantic relationship, deciding to have sex is a big deal. Only you can decide what the right age is, but no matter the age, you need to wear protection NO MATTER WHAT. But how do you know if your partner is ready? The word for being ready is “consent”. This video does a good job of explaining consent: As a social activist, YOU need to get other teens to know what consent means and why it’s the only way you can go all the way.
You see, there’s something called “rape culture”. It’s a bunch of messages you secretly get from TV, songs, advertisements, and a bunch of other places. It gives you the message that girls actually like getting forced into sex and it’s your right as a man to do it!
Island Schoolers (and all you other teens), let’s send the message that rape culture has no place and consent is the only way to have sex.

June 10

Penis. Vagina. Anus. Sex.  These are some of the most exPLOSive words you can use in the human language.  Why is that?  Why is talking about these body parts and this natural act so scary, embarrassing, and inappropriate? Welp, in my opinion, it is important to talk about them.  In fact, according to the NYC Department of Education, it is a requirement to teach sexual education (SexEd) in middle school!  Here are a few reasons why:
  1. Talking about how your body develops when you reach puberty helps pre-teens and teens feel more comfortable with the changes they are going through.
  2. EVERYONE has questions surrounding sex.  What is a wet dream? Can girls get pregnant when they are on their period? How old do I have to be to buy condoms?  Is my penis a normal size? What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?
  3. If we don’t talk about how to have safe sex, people are more likely to get pregnant and/or catch a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Would you rather be a little embarrassed talking about this stuff or be pregnant or get an STD? Hmm?
There are a bunch of resources on, but my absolute favorite is 100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents (ask me for the password).
As you learn more about SexEd, some of you may decide that this is an issue you care about.  In past years, my students have created videos,  songs, and art to help other kids feel more comfortable with their bodies and their relationships.  What will you make?

June 3

Even though it’s a short week, there’s a lot going on in The Tech Café and in the news. We’ve been doing a lot of arts, crafts, and filmmaking surrounding Catcalling. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s Josh and William’s documentary: I’d still love to hear someone make a song that talks about what it feels like to be catcalled and why it’s not OK. Here’s a song that doesn’t perfectly capture the anger, shame, fear, or ignorance of it all, but at least shows that catcalling exists: In other news, many states have been trying to pass laws that ban or limit abortions. These include Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. Some of these state laws have been blocked by courts, but others still may pass. The law in Georgia is called the “heartbeat bill” because once the sound of a heartbeat is detected at 6 weeks, an abortion is no longer allowed. The problem is most women do not know they are pregnant until they miss their period after 4 weeks. This gives them only a small amount of time to figure things out, get the money, transportation, and location for an abortion. Here’s the point of today’s lesson:
death GIF by Julien Piau
Whether you believe abortions are right or wrong, millions of women have them each year.   When abortions are illegal, women often have them done in unsafe ways-- leaving them injured or dead.
You can learn more about what an abortion is by watching the video below: So where do you stand with this issue? Do you believe that we should ban abortions even if it means women are going to get them illegally and put their lives in danger (pro-life)? Do women have a right to control their own body (pro-choice) or should the rights of an embryo or fetus be considered first (pro-life)? 2 out of 3 abortions take place in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Click HERE to see the stages of growth during pregnancy to get a sense of what is being aborted.
Designed by Margarita- Click on Image to view/purchase
In years passed, women used hangers to give themselves abortions. Knowing that states are trying to limit access to abortions, are you interested in speaking up against this or are you happy that it’s happening? It’s not the Techbrarian’s place to decide, but if you’re interested in supporting safe choices for women seeking abortions, you should create arts, crafts, music, and films to express that!

May 28

This week we’re continuing our work on ending Street Harassment, AKA Catcalling. Students felt that females should be able to walk down the street– wearing whatever they want– without fearing what will be said or done to them. Click HERE to read stories of Catcalling and show the writers “I’ve got your back.” Click HERE to see the CatCallsofNYC Instagram page.
Here are a few great videos on the subject: Beyond cool art, it would be awesome if some of you interviewed each other about your thoughts and experiences with catcalling. It could look something like this student documentary:

May 20

Man, we have been making some amazing art for people with visual impairments using screws, drills, nails, and canvas. Moving forward, there are so many ways we can enhance our art by adding textures like string, clay, sandpaper, and feathers. It would also be great if you added a description of your art written in braille placed on your art so that with visual impairment can further understand what they’re feeling. For viewers who are not visually impaired, consider adding colors to your screws and canvas as well. In other news, I’ve been reading this incredible book called The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. It’s a deep book about life as a Dominican girl named Xiomara living in Harlem with a very religious mom and a twin brother who is gay. She is a poet and writes the whole book in verse (poetry). Early in the book, she is talking about walking down the street and getting harassed in the summer:
Shake my head as even the drug dealers posted up near the building smile more in the summer, their hard scowls softening into glue-eyed stares in the direction of the girls in summer dresses and shorts: “Ayo, Xiomara, you need to start wearing dresses like that!” “sh&%, you’d be wifed up bore going back to school.” Especially knowing you church girls are all freaks.” But I ignore their taunts, enjoy this last bit of freedom, and wait for the long shadows to tell me when Mami is almost home from work, when it’s time to sneak upstairs.
Reading this passage reminds me of our unit on Street Harassment (AKA “Catcalling”. We asked the question, “why do men feel like it’s ok to make sexual comments to females whether or not they are dressed in “sexy” clothes?” We saw examples of catcalling in videos like this: Last week I played a game that brought back some of these ideas about Street Harassment as well as tying into our talk about stereotypes. You can click below to play it:
So, the question for the week: What can you do to prevent Street Harassment? What can you make to let boys and men know it’s not OK. What strategies can you use to wake them up to how it feels and remind them to step up and be a good human (what if it was your sister getting whistled at?).

May 13

Last week was jam-packed with activities including learning Braille and continuing our work on prosthetic arms.
We also spoke about the importance of “People First” language when talking about disabilities: People have disabilities, but they are not disabled. I mean, would you call Marcus handicapped or a boxer with a disability? This week we are going to talk about art & accessibility. The word “accessible” means being able to physically reach something or understand it. So, here’s a question: how can we make visual ART accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired? Here’s one solution: So, what do you think? Are you ready to grab a drill, some screws, and create an accessible piece of art?

May 6

Last week we saw the amazing skateboarding feats performed by Dan Mancina who happens to be blind. What if we stopped looking at someone like Dan as disabled and start looking at him as a person with a disability? What’s the difference? It’s called “people-first”. When you use the word “person” first and their disability second, it helps everyone focus on what’s important: that we’re all the same: people– some of whom have disabilities.
Image result for freckle art
Think of it this way. Rashawn has a ton of freckles. They cover his face and they’re hard for other people not to notice. So who is Rashawn? Is he “Freckled” or a person with freckles. Do you see how the first example, puts the main focus on Rashawn’s freckles and not on him as a person? Anyhow, many people with disabilities prefer not to be called “disabled”, “handicapped” or, of course, “retarded”. Here are a few more examples:
Positive Phrases Negative Phrases
Person who is blind Person who is visually impaired The blind
Person who is deaf The Deaf Deaf and dumb
Person who uses a wheelchair Wheelchair-bound Confined to a wheelchair
Person with a disability The disabled Handicapped
Person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability Retarded Mentally defective
Person who is hard of hearing Suffers a hearing loss
Person with a physical disability Crippled Lame Deformed
Person who is unable to speak Person who uses synthetic speech Dumb Mute
Person with a psychiatric disability Crazy Nuts
Person who is successful, productive Has overcome his/her disability Is courageous (when it implies the person has courage because of having a disability)
Person who is in recovery from a substance abuse disorder Addict
Click HERE for a lot more examples of people first language. We are all made of the same stuff, right? Brains and skin, blood and breath. We all laugh at stupid stuff and get heated when someone does something super annoying. And, (this is the part that we need to push ourselves to see) we all have talents. The tricky part is to find those talents, grow them, and show them to the world. For Christopher Duffley, a 10-year-old boy who is blind and autistic, it took his uncle to rescue him and a religious community to embrace him, for his talents to shine through. Nowadays, Christopher has a podcast where he interviews inspirational people. He records and edits it with a laptop that has a bunch of accessibility features enabled: Which brings us to today’s topic: Tools to help people with disabilities to shine. One of the most important tools for people who are blind is Braille. Invented in the 1800’s this is still the main way for people who are blind to read and navigate the world. Today, let’s begin by learning 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. BONUS! Try to do the same thing, but with words instead of letters!
Now, let’s explore some of the accessibility features on our Macs (you can find similar features on all your devices). One rule: whatever you “enable”, please “disable” when you finish this activity. 1- Check one of the videos below about Accessibility controls on the mac (you can find more HERE):
2- Enable one or more of the Accessibility Controls for VISION.
3- Now, put on one of the special glasses we created last week.
4- Open up Google Docs. Try to type the Happy Birthday song without any spelling mistakes.

April 29

Before Spring Break we were talking about how having EMPATHY is essential for being good inventors. After all, if you don’t know what someone is going through and how it really feels, then how do you create a solution to their problem? To do this, we tied up our hands to limit our mobility and wore special glasses to simulate visual impairment. We also learned that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do awesome things like start funny YouTube channel and be a great athlete. Here are a few more examples:
Part of the reason that those facing physical challenges can rise above them are the inventions people have created to better their lives. We saw amazing prosthetic legs, collapsible walking sticks, and modified computer keyboards. Of course, there are a million more inventions, like this: Island Schoolers have been creating inventions for the disabled too— like these cardboard prosthetic hands:
Spend some time looking at the Hero Arm to get some more ideas on how to enhance your cardboard hand. Perhaps you want to add motorized movements? Maybe a vibration motor that signals the arm everytime the hand squeezes shut? OK, so now here comes this week’s question: we are calling people who have issues with their bodies DISabled. We have been making inventions so that they’ll be “normal”. But, what if our inventions made them SUPERabled? For example, what can you do to make a prosthetic hand light up dark rooms? One that plays music?

April 15

The last few weeks have been spent finding better ways to express ourselves than using the same old boring curse words. We also spoke about the horrible history and present-day pain brought about by slurs like the N-word and homophobic name-calling. While we will be moving on to a new topic, please continue to make posters, art pieces, songs, and films about more creative ways to curse. This week, we’re going to switch gears and talk about empathy and how it can help us create art and inventions to help others. Let’s begin by learning what Empathy looks like: As you can see in the film, empathy means feeling someone’s pain by putting yourself in their shoes. It means thinking about a time you’ve felt something similar. Sympathy means feeling bad for someone, but not making it too personal. You care about someone’s suffering, but don’t feel it. Having empathy for people with different abilities can help us to design art and inventions to better their lives. (The following ideas and activities are borrowed heavily from Mouse’s Design with Purpose Course) Except, what if the person you are designing for is very different from you? What if they have totally different abilities? Let’s take a look at a video of someone with a very different set of challenges than most students at this school:
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: Get a sheet of paper and a pen. 1- Take a roll of masking or duct tape and use it to tape up your hand and thumb together. 2- Using just your taped hand, try to sign your name on the paper 3 times.
a hand totally taped up
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?

April 8

illustration gay GIF by Martina Scott
Of course, the N-word is not the only slur that is used at the Island School. How many times each day do you hear: Yo, no homo, but… Stop, you f-ing f@gg#t That’s mad gay Using language like that is called “homophobic“. Last year, we watched the animation In a Heartbeat.  While we watched the movie, the reactions ranged. Some were negative like “ew!”, “f@gg#ts” and “yuck!”. Some were curious: “is this saying it’s ok to be gay”? Thankfully, some were positive: “aww he broke his heart!”.
Image result for no homo
Afterward, some people argued that “God put us here to be straight–being gay, goes against his wishes.”  Others said, “you should be able to love who you want to and it’s no one else’s business.”  A bunch of other people said: “I don’t mind gay people, I just don’t want them around me.” A lot of students felt that this last comment was homophobic. After all, if you don’t want someone around you, then you DO mind them.  So, for those students who are pro-LGBTQ rights, what kinds of projects can we create to get the word out that these slurs are not ok? Can one of you brave souls interview other students and get their opinion on homophobic slurs? How do they feel when they hear them? Is it no big deal? Without naming names, do they have a friend or family member who is LGBTQ? Do they feel comfortable around them? Does everyone in their life accept them?

April 1

Last week, we talked about cursing (AKA profanity). We learned that profanity comes in 3 forms: (1) cursing God and spirits, (2) having to do with sex or excrement (poo or pee), and (3) slurs. Using the first two types of profanity at the right time and place– out of school with friends and certain family members– is OK. However, Slurs are NEVER ok. Slurs include talking negatively about someone’s gender, sexual orientation (LGBTQ+IA), culture, religion, and, of course, race. This week, we’ll be talking about the most notorious slur: the N-Word. The N-Word is used quite a lot at The Island School– and I know we’re not alone. So here’s the first question: Is it ever OK to use it? Some people argue that it is OK for black people to call other black people the N-Word. They say: “we are taking the power away from white people and making the word our own”. Some people believe it’s ok for anyone to say it— it’s just a word. But many people, including myself, believe that you can’t separate a word from it’s history. The history of the N-word is all about hate, violence, disgust, and discrimination. It was (and is!) a stereotype of black people saying they are lazy, stupid, dangerous, dirty, worthless nobodies. YOU might not find it offensive, but saying it around others reminds them of these stereotypes. It’s like smoking: you may think it’s ok, but you are damaging others with your second-hand smoke. So, what do you think? Are there times when it’s ok to use the N-word? If not, what can you create to help people say “NO” to using this ugly word?

March 25

brazil flip GIF
If you’ve ever spent time in The Tech Café, then you know what happens when someone curses in here. LANGUAGE! you’ll hear me yell. Some students ask me (1) “why does it matter if I curse?” and (2) “what, you don’t ever curse?” The answer to question 1 is that, to me, cursing inside a classroom says, “this is not a special space and you are not a special enough person to me –Dr. Lahana– to be on my best behavior”. So yeah, I take it really personal. Just like how you’d behave on your first day at an awesome new job or if you were on stage doing your graduation speech or if you were having a deep conversation with Barack Obama, time in the Tech Cafe should bring out the best parts of you. The parts that are caring, creative, and passionate.
a christmas story GIF
  Question 2? I definitely curse. BUT it’s all about time and place. I do it after work and only when I’m with certain friends and family (or by myself). Next question: Why do we curse in the first place? Both VSauce And XDINAF do really good videos on the subject. Some interesting highlights from those videos are that there are 3 types of curse words:
  1. GODD@MN1T! Ones against God, Spirits, or demons.
  2. F-U YOU POS! Ones about Sex or poop.
  3. Slurs. These are saying something hateful about someone’s race, religion, culture, class, gender, or sexual orientation. To be clear, this type of curse is NEVER ok.
quentin tarantino oscars GIF
According to these videos, cursing is not all bad. It can help lessen pain! It can make people like you more! It can also be used to let people know that trouble is coming. But, returning back to the original point, cursing at our school is out of control. Students use the words in class, in the hallways, and especially in the gym. With all that cursing, it sometimes feels like kids forget that these are even bad words! Bad words are supposed to be different then regular words…they are supposed to SHOCK US. But with so much cursing, the words have lost most of their power. In the end, cursers just look sad– like their brains can’t think of anything original to say.
confused the lord of the rings GIF
So, Island Schoolers. Do you think it’s possible to get students to not curse as much? How can we create a movement to make this happen? Can we give students better alternatives to curse words like THIS?
I mean, it’s weird, usually I find a million things Online about our social issues. This time, I’ve found very little about the “cursing problem”, how people avoid cursing, or how they’ve found alternatives. Maybe one of you needs to make a documentary answering these questions!

March 18

As you know, The Island School shares our building with P94, The Spectrum School. Many students at this school have a condition called Autism. Autism can take many forms, but autistics often have difficulty holding conversations that appear “normal” to those who don’t have autism. Some autistic people have trouble speaking or understanding what others are thinking or feeling. Another characteristic of autism are repeating motions like flicking their fingers in front of their eyes or rocking. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder meaning that some show little of the signs mentioned above, while others show them all. Let’s learn more: 1 in 59 people in the United States are autistic. If you’d like to get a sense of what if feels like to be autistic, watch this video: Do you know someone who has autism? What has been your experience with that person? There are a lot of myths about autistic people. One thing YOU can really help with is teaching others what’s not true about autism. Here’s an ugly graphic that can help. Can you make one that actually looks good?
People without Autism are sometimes called “Neurotypicals”. Lots of people with Autism and those who care for them believe that being Neurotypical isn’t necessarilly “better”. In fact, being autistic gives them strengths. For example, people with autism often have amazing math, computer, musical, and artistic skills. Autistic people often pay attention to details that others miss and have great memories. Maybe we need to start focusing on these strengths when we think of Autistics! Can you create something that puts out that idea? Can you help people better understand Autism? Or do you want to be like this guy?:
disability GIF

March 4

So, last week, many of you were not convinced that Speciesism matters. Who cares if animals feel pain– I LOVE BACON! Welp, this week, I’m going to give it one more shot. I’ll try to convince you that reducing the amount of meat you eat, switching away from cow’s milk, staying away from wearing animal skin and fur, and using cruelty-free cosmetics like this makes sense. Here’s the problem, though, the videos that will help to convince you are so ugly and violent, it will be too hard to handle for some of you. So this weeks journal should mostly be viewed on your own, if you feel ready to see some truly horrible acts. Now, lets watch a little bit of a Twilight Zone episode that deals with Speciesism. Spoiler Alert: it reverses the idea of Speciesism–making us no longer at the top of the list. Like the Twilight Zone episode, a few students are making projects that flip around Speciesism. For example, Elemiah is making a game where non-human animals are trying to capture and eat humans. Jevin is making a foil pig and covering it with a jacket made out of human skin (felt). But why does Speciesism matter? It matters because we are causing unimaginable pain to other animals without thinking twice about it. For example, here’s where your milk comes from (WARNING: VIOLENCE): If you feel prepared to watch more of these types of videos, go to PETA’S (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s) site where they investigate what happens to non-human animals you use. So, now that you see the horrors of animal abuse, what can you do about it? Check out this video about an organization fighting for change in the way we treat non-human animals: Are you ready to make posters, videos, jewelry, games, and art that shine a light on what’s right when it comes to how we treat other animals? Are you ready to take a break from eating them at least once a week? Let the world know and we can spread our #CrueltyFree message on social media.

February 27

So, you’ve heard of racism and sexism, but have you heard about Speciesism? This is when we, as humans, feel we are superior to non-human animals.  In fact, we are so supremely better than other animals that we can kill trillions of them, use them as entertainment (think: circuses, bullfighting, rodeos), experiment on them, and use their skin and fur to clothe and decorate us. Ok, so now that you’ve seen what we do to other animals, do you see how this is Speciesism?  How about creating an art piece that persuades others that animals should have rights and that we need to end cruelty to them? A foil cow covered in human skin (brown fabric)? A clay sculpture of a lamb covered in gems with the words “she is not worthless…”. Jewelry stamped with a reminder to take a “meatless monday”?

February 14

So, we’ve been talking about stereotypes and how they can lead you to judge people negatively. Sometimes people can even see themselves negatively because of stereotypes that we see in movies, commercials, video games, music videos, and social media. To battle these stereotypes, we’ve begun creating anti-stereotypes– individuals that don’t match what you see in the Media. By making a lot of anti-stereotypes it can teach others that judging someone by how they look, leads to a lot of mistakes.
Yudith’s Anti-stereotype: A Female Muslim Programmer who is gay and loves breakdancing.
Today, we’re turning to the subject of hair. In the past, I’ve shown a fantastic Sesame Street music video called “I Love my Hair“. Why was it necessary to create this video? Well, many people of color feel like they need to change their hair from how it grows naturally into being straight. In fact, many men and women have been discriminated against because of wearing their hair naturally. In NYC, it’s now illegal for employers to do this.
People of color in this class with curly/wavy/afro-texture hair, have any of your friends, family, or strangers judged you based on your hair? Are you given the message that only a certain kind of hair is “good hair”? It’s time to call this out through filmmaking art, music, jewelry, clay, and game design. Here’s a woman in the Dominican Republic doing something to battle discrimination and promote natural hair:

February 7

Close your eyes. What’s the first type of person you think of when I say the following words:
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. Something we did last year, that all you artists might want to try this year, is to use the page below to 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.
Here are a few videos that help to banish stereotypes.
Last week we spoke about the negative stereotypes brought to you by media like Facebook, music videos, movies, games, and advertisements. How do we combat them? One way, is to pick a stereotype– like we did with “thick”, “curvy”, or “plus-size” females– and create messages that battle the negativity and focus on the positive. Let’s return to the idea of stereotypes. How do you identify them so you can battle them? Sometimes we see a stereotype so often, we come to believe it, and don’t even recognize when it’s being presented to us. Other times it’s hidden. Last year, I created a handy guide to finding hidden stereotypes. Here it is:
Watch a few commercials and see if you can recognize one of the stereotypes shown in my guide.
Now that you’ve had some practice identifying stereotypes, how can we battle against them? Here are some videos that do just that:
So who are you? Do you look, feel, and act like your stereotype or are you different? Take a picture in Photobooth, print it and then add words, colors. and pictures that represent you. Feel free to include words and pictures that DO NOT represent you and make big fat X’s accross them. How about writing a poem to battle stereotypes? Here’s a recipe from DesignForChange:

I AM by (Your Name)

I am (2 special characteristics you have) I wonder (something your curious about) I hear (an imaginary sound) I see (an imaginary sight) I want (an actual desire) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) I feel (a feeling about something imaginary) I touch (an imaginary touch) I worry (something that bothers you) I cry (something that makes you sad) I am (the first line of the poem repeated) I understand (something that is true) I say (something you believe in) I dream (something you dream about) I try (something you really make an effort about) I hope (something you actually hope for) I am (the first line of the poem )


scared reflection GIF
Who do we see when we 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 what you show others on Instagram, Facebook, Snap, and so on… Finally, what you see in the mirror comes from what the media (music videos, advertisements, movies, TV shows…) tell you should look and act like. That’s what we’re going to talk about this week. Let’s start by looking at a set of images and a Drake Video. You probably recognize some of the people and places. As you look at at the images and video, enter into the Padlet what you should look like and act like to be part of each world shown.

Made with Padlet
Imagine if you had a 5-year-old. First off, congratulations– although it would have been nice had you waited a little longer to be a parent. Anyhow, for your sweet child, which words would you want them to hold in their minds as they grew up? What would you want them to see in the mirror? Here’s are a couple videos that may give you ideas on what you could tell your child as they grow up. For your next project, how about creating something that helps people see and feel positive things when they look in the mirror? How about jewelry with positive messages to keep people’s spirits up?  How about a Scratch Game about a compliment shooter that saves people who feel bad about themselves? How about creating a poster in Canva to tell others they can be themselves without having to be tough, skinny, or anything else from the Padlet images.
Last idea: print or draw one of the mirrors below. Inside of it, draw your your son or daughter’s face. Next, add ONLY 5 WORDS that you want to describe their life. These can include the same ones from our Padlet.


Today I’m throwing out a couple of things that I hope to interest you. First off, some of you are interested in making serious games that talk about social issues like THIS ONE from an 8th grader a few years back. I came across a really powerful game about escaping war-torn Syria. Here’s the preview:
Second, I’ve been learning a lot about “implicit bias” this month– it means secretly believing stereotypes about people. For example, because black men are often portrayed as “criminals” on TV, games, and movies, many people are scared of them (even though they hide it from themselves). To test whether you have that bias, you can click on the link below:
Finally, I found a few new resources for learning about the dangers of E-Cigarettes. Click below to visit them:


Click above. Literally, the best video on Climate Change ever.
Last month we spent time talking about the causes of climate change.  We learned that some of the villains were familiar– like the CO2 created from burning oil (AKA fossil fuels) to power our factories, cars, and make all of the plastic we use.  But we also found out that the farm animals we eat and the rotting garbage we throw away create a gas that worsens climate change called Methane. Scary stuff– If we don’t change our ways, The L.E.S. could be underwater for your grandkids ?
Making the food for cows takes a HUGE amount of energy
We spoke about the idea that we can’t say there’s nothing we can do about it. After all, there are 2.5 Million 10-17 years-olds in NYC alone! If we motivated a bunch of them to do things like turning off lights in rooms they’re not in, have a “Meatless Monday”, or take their food scraps for composting, it would make a big difference– especially if we could get the adults in our families to make these changes too.
So how do we do it? How do we get these 10-17 year-olds to change? No offense to the other 10-17 year-olds who follow, but a lot of tweens and teens look up to kids from New York City. We make the trends that other people follow. For real. We need to keep making art, songs, films, and crafts to post on social media. As you learn more from watching AMAZING videos like THIS, add ideas below:

Made with Padlet
And, just in case you didn’t think people were noticing, check out our growing audience: We had 3,359 plays so far on our SoundCloud channel and 17,000 views on our Vimeo Channel! Sadly only 243 followers on Twitter though  ?.


I had a challenging conversation with the eighth grade on Friday. They insisted that nothing they did would make a difference in preventing climate change.  “Even if the whole entire school stopped using plastic, how would that change anything?”  They have a point.  A small group changing their behavior won’t stop climate change. Life Drowning GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY But, if each one of the 327 Million people in the United States decided to make small changes, like not using straws, turning off our lights in rooms we aren’t in, freezing the food we aren’t using (rotting garbage creates greenhouse gasses), or riding buses and bikes instead of cars for short trips, it would add up to a big change. Island Schoolers: through our art and crafts that we post on Twitter, songs on SoundCloud, and documentaries on Youtube we should be pushing other teens and adults to make these small changes.  And, of course, we need to keep pressuring big companies to stop burning coal to make the stuff we buy and instead use non-polluting renewable energy like solar and wind power. Watch, as a teen like you, spoke  to leaders from around the world this week: Donald Trump doesn’t believe Climate Change is happening— even though 97% of scientists do.  He withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement— a plan by most countries on earth to stop climate change.  Thankfully, this week, the other countries decided not to end it. Lastly, imagine if you had the chance to start this world all over again. Play this game to see if you have what it takes to make a better world.  Warning: the game takes a few minutes to get the hang of— stick with it!


Climate Change has been in the news this month even more than usual.  It’s getting worse each year and one day, very soon, your life will be affected by it.  Let’s begin by learning what Climate Change is.  I included a Brainpop video (ask for Password) and a more grown-up video that explains it– you choose.
Now click HERE to take a quiz to see what you’ve learned: To learn more about the craziness that Climate Change can wreak, you can play Stop Disasters!:


This week marks the end of our discussions about Trash and Waste.  I feel like NONE of you watched this incredible video about where garbage goes after we throw it away.  I’ll post it one more time just in case (you know the password): There’s some really cool art you can create about trash based on infographics like this: Here’s a cool art piece that shows people laying with the trash they’ve created in a week.  Click HERE to see more:


Today we are going to talk about a new way to do social activism.  It’s called Craftivism.   Craftivism is when you use crafts like sewing, knitting, and embroidery to get important messages out into the world.  Today we’ll be learning embroidery.   Below are a couple of tutorials to get you started: Embroidery is so much fun, BUT it’s important that the message you embroider shows your passion for one of the social issues we’ve discussed in the Tech Café.    That message should be powerful and memorable.  Creating a message like this is called a “slogan”.   Click HERE for my guide on creating Slogans.

-november 2-

In September, when we were talking about 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”.  They have to go somewhere–but rarely do we think about or care where that place is.  There’s a great TV episode that talks about garbage.  you can watch it here (ask for password). 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 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".

-october 29-

Two weeks ago, we spoke about the power and importance of telling your personal story like THIS ONE.  Below are a couple of examples of what it looks like to tell your story through song:  As you listen, ask yourself the following question:
What steps would it take to create a song out of my personal story? Lyrics can be found HERE
This is a song called Scowling Crackhead Ian. I don’t like the word “crackhead” and it does not belong in school.  However, I think it’s a powerful example of a personal story through song, so I included it: Lyrics can be found HERE
Like Scowling Crackhead Ian, your song does not have to be a rap.  But, for those who would like to do that, I created a rap guide last year that helps you to create one:
Here are a few free instrumentals that you can use for your Personal Story song:

-october 26-

flowers GIF by Maori Sakai Our work in The Tech Café is all about making the world a better place.
The problem is, we often don’t care that much about people who are struggling.  To understand and share the feelings of others is called “empathy” and it’s not always easy to do.
sad best friends GIF by Lisa Vertudaches
Yep, it’s hard to put ourselves in the shoes of someone begging for money on the street, someone whose boyfriend is beating them, someone addicted to smoking, or someone trying to enter the
U.S.A. for a better life. But without empathy, we cannot truly solve these problems.  Only when we put ourselves in their shoes and feel our heart ache for them– even for a few moments– will we be able to create powerful songs, outreach projects, videos, animation, jewelry, and art to make a difference. Today, you’re going to learn Dr. Lahana’s 2 steps for building empathy™.
Step 1: Realize that everyone has a struggle.  Sure, some are dealing with more pain than others-- but no one has it easy.  Once you take that outlook, your job is to find out their struggle and imagine what it would feel like if it was you dealing with it.
Step 2: Once you realize what a person is struggling with, do an act of kindness that lets them know the world is not a dark place.

So, what are you going to do or create this week to make someone’s world better?


Juppi Juppsen animation loop illustration media GIF It’s storytime, my friends.  Read it below and then let’s discuss:
Imagine that one day you wake up as a robot that cannot talk, dress, or move itself around.  You, the robot, are wearing a simple white t-shirt and simple white pants.   Your eyes are open, but you realize that someone is now controlling you.  The man that is controlling you stands behind a curtain.  You cannot see his face. He has never spent time with someone like you or your family...although they have seen TV shows with someone who kind of looked like you in it.  This stranger goes to the mall and buys clothes for you that match ones he'd seen in a rap video. The stranger has no idea what you like to wear, but they dress you up anyway.  

Muchmoji GIF
The stranger than presses a special remote and you walk down the hall to your kitchen.  The stranger swears "!@#$", realizing that the fridge is empty.  You stand there, unable to move.  He returns 20 minutes later with bags of stuff they think you might like-- food that he'd seen in the same TV show with that kid who kind of looked like you.

The stranger than presses the button that controls you to go to school.  On the way out of your apartment, your mom stands smiling at the doorway.  The stranger has no idea what to have you say to your mom, so he has you say, "later bruh!"....something you'd never say. 

When you get to school,  the stranger has you give a random handshake to your friend.  Your fingers are flying, making shooting noises, and banging around like a pigeon stuck indoors.  Your friend shakes her head and walks away....
adventure time mind blown GIF OK, so that might have seemed a bit random, but let’s push forward.

Why did the stranger dress you, feed you, and have you behave in such odd ways?

It’s because he didn’t know you, right?  Well, here’s the thing:  the people who create most media (TV, movies, video games, commercials) don’t know you either.  They often do not look like you, live in your neighborhood, or have life experiences like yours. But, because they are the ones telling the stories, it doesn’t matter!  They can make you say or do anything, whether or not it makes you look foolish, scary, or crazy. And that is why you need to tell your own story– through media like podcasting, art, game design, music, and filmmaking.  Tell your story; because if you let strangers tell it, they won’t get it right.  Worse, when they get it wrong, they will miss out on how amazing your are. How, even though there are moments of drama in your life, you still manage to make your friends laugh, have the courage to learn something  brand new, be there for a friend who is super upset, and never, ever, call your mom “bruh”. that's all folks no GIF by Lil Yachty
Click on “Show More” below to see more student films that tell their story.  As you watch them, think about what yours is and how you will tell it better than The Stranger:

-october 15-

alfonso de anda fox GIF by Animation Domination High-Def Last week I overheard a conversation between two 7th graders.  One said, “I can’t wait, after school, I’m going to buy one of those vape pens, I heard they’re mad good.”  She’s not the only teen excited by e-cigarettes.   Put together, 14% of middle and high school students smoke them. 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. There are two big problems with e-cigarettes:
  1. They contain dangerous things like propylene glycol and metal particles.   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.   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).
  1. E-cigarettes contain Nicotine. Nicotine is E X T R E M E L Y addictive and ruins the tunnels (veins) that feed your body blood. 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. So what can we do about it?  Just like what we did with straws, we can get teens to understand why they’re so bad and get them to stop.  Here’s the story of a teen who made a documentary against e-cigarettes. Learn more about E-Cigarettes by visiting StillBlowingSmoke and Truth.  Next, share that knowledge by making your own film, animation, T-shirts, clay, and jewelry projects!

-october 9-

Once again, I am so proud of what Island Schoolers have done to get rid of single-use plastic straws.  Here’s Marilyn’s documentary on some of your experiences doing the Strawless Challenge: This week will be devoted to engineering for social action.  Let’s begin by watching the video below about a special suit: Engineering” has a ton of definitions.  Here’s the way we’ll be using it in this class:  imagining, designing, and building things that solve problems and make our lives better.   Click HERE for a bunch of videos I gathered on different inventions engineered to improve people’s lives like these: Here in the Tech Café there’s no easier way to start engineering than to build with Legos.  Below are some models you can make and then improve upon to better our world. 


illusion hiding GIF Last week, we spoke about the power of personal stories.  Many students came to me privately and spoke about intense events that happened in their lives– stories about drugs, relationships, and violence.  I told everyone the same thing: TELL YOUR STORY.  But, if your story reveals details that embarrass you too intensely or gets anyone in trouble, change the names in your story and ask me not to reveal you as the author.  If you’re creating a film, choose actors to play the characters from your life. Here are a few more examples of personal stories:
Gabriela reveals to her mother that she's been molested.
Kapone talks about the struggles he's facing after his uncle commits suicide and his sister is out of control. Click HERE for the lyrics.
A family struggles to survive after the father is incarcerated.

-september 24-

suspicious kenan thompson GIF by Saturday Night Live This week we’re talking about YOU- yes you.  Whether you believe it or not, each of you has an incredibly powerful story inside of you (probably more than one).  No one’s life is boring. We all struggle with family drama, have weird issues with friends, and do random stuff that we regret. We all have secrets that we hold inside, gross memories, and times we laughed so hard our bellies hurt.  We have all loved deeply and cried when we lost something important.  Yep, each of you has a story.Reading Book Read GIF by Laura Salaberry So, you might be wondering what does this have to do with Social Action?  Well, think about it this way: have you ever felt like no one has understood what you are going through– felt alone in your struggle?  When you tell your story, you are offering up the chance for a bunch of people to relate and not feel so alone.  That is Social Action!  Of course, your story doesn’t have to be serious, just super personal and have a lot of details.  Let’s check a few out:
If you are interested in filmmaking, begin by making a storyboard for each scene in the movie. Show it to me and borrow a camera to get started!
Alize's song tells the story of her parents relationship. Click HERE to read the words.
The last animation is from a site called Storybooth.  Spend some time checking out more stories by clicking HERE.  If you’re interested in creating your own, check out the tutorials below for the animation software Powtoon (use and the usual password). 

-september 17-

Wow, so many of you have taken the Straw-Free Challenge and even convinced your friends to do the same.  I’d love someone to borrow a camera, write some interview questions and get students’ thoughts on going straw-free.  Like, why did they take the pledge?  What has been the most challenging part?  Will they go straw-free forever?  
Another interesting straw-related issue popped up today:  Students were upset because the cafeteria was sending up breakfast to the classrooms with lots of straws.  How do we get them to stop that?!?  I’d love to know your thoughts.
How about taking cool pictures like this?


For those brave souls who have committed to be #straw-free and want to take it a step further, it’s time to think about other forms of single-use plastic we want to get rid of: Here are a few ways to reduce single-use plastic in your life:
  1. Bring or make your own shopping bags like this one from old t-shirts to use instead of plastic bags.
  2. Buy a reusable water bottle (if you can’t afford it, ask me in private and we’ll work it out.)
  3. Bring your own forks and knives whenever you’re planning to eat fast  food.
Lonely Whale Sticker


Last week, we spoke about the environmental disaster created by our use of disposable plastic straws.  All of us in the Tech Cafe were upset when we a watched a straw being removed from a sea turtle’s nose and surprised at how easy it was to create our own paper straws.  We were introduced to bamboo and metal straws and had fun sipping water from licorice sticks. So, Island Schoolers (and all you other students following this journal), are you ready to make a pledge to stop drinking from disposable plastic straws?  If so, next time you are at a restaurant or Starbucks, say “no straw, no lid, please.”  Maybe you can also create a card to place next to a straw dispenser encouraging others to do the same?  How about a T-Shirt with a cool logo or slogan against straws?  Maybe a rap or poem?  How about a game to stop people from using straws?  Maybe you can invent something even cooler than this: In other news, remember how I talked about my goal to get more of our products on the Etsy shop?  Well, I made a video to help you do it without me!


After watching videos like THIS about how straws pollute the sea and kill sea life, my daughter Ruby made a pledge to no longer use plastic straws. Did you know that 500 Million Straws are used in the US each day?  It’s true! And by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.  “But Dr. Lahana, isn’t most plastic recycled?”  Nope, less than 10% of plastic is recycled.  Plastic is made from fossil fuels (AKA oil) and takes hundreds of years to break down.  Plastic straws are especially bad because they escape the filters that catch plastic before it goes to the ocean:

-september 5-

WELCOME BACK TEAM!  I am so so excited to see what social issues inspire you this year and what you create to better our world. Here’s a video recap of our work: So what’s in store for us this year?  Here are a few of the issues: Fake News, our nation’s opioid addiction, Eating disorders, Autism (ask for password), and straws! 3 of my goals for this year are (1) grow our Etsy Shop.  We make such cool stuff here, it should be seen and bought by our fans so that we can donate to our charities and purchase more materials for the Tech Café. (2) More filmmaking. After Jibeh’s award-winning film changed so many people’s idea of Hijab’s, I really want more students producing films– in fact, I have a documentary filmmaker coming in once a week this year to help out.  (3) Have a few amazing activists create a campaign like former Island School students Kat & Judy did for Blessing Bags. So let’s get started!