Category Archives: Electives

Plastic Bags To Sleeping Mats, What?

March 8, 2013, by

This blog post is on a project I have completed (and continuing) for the Hurricane season course, where I was to create a sleeping mat from upcycling plastic grocery bags. The purpose of this project is to take an action against an unnatural disaster and mine is misuse and non-reuse of reusable objects and sources. I am proud that I have been able to work ont his project because it has made me grateful for so many things that I have and that I know about. What I learned from this project was that to up-cycle is to have great amounts of fun and also I learned 2 different stitches for crocheting. Please read on and see what I completed for this project and the time it took me to do it! There is a video here on how to make it also! Check that out too!

DIY Upcycled Sleeping Mat from J M on Vimeo.

The link to the double stitch video is in the description of the Vimeo post.

sleepin mat

Statement of Purpose

The problem I am responding to by taking this action is the problem of the misuse/non-reuse of reusable & non environmentally friendly objects. My intervention for this problem is to create a sleeping mat out of plastic bags which is a form of upcycling. Upcycling is taking an object that had previously been used and creating something new from it. I am doing this action to show just how many uses we can make for a bad pollutant. What I hope to accomplish with this project is to bring more people to see just how much we misuse objects and pollute with simple things we get every day. Something that I wish that I and other people can get out of this project is the ability to become more creative and be able to upcycle more reusable objects.


    The effects my project had were great on a personal level. After completing this project, it shows me just how much waste and pollutants we create by doing little things. I feel that now, I want to upcycle more and what I mean by that is I want to maybe continue making these mats just with more time and less hassle. I also am motivated to become more creative and start upcycling with more objects.

     The most rewarding thing for me was the ability to even say that I would like to recieve donated plastic bags and actually recieving some. The reason why that is rewarding is because it really shows you whether other people were listening to you and what you had to say. It was also rewarding to be able to learn how to crochet different stitches and to also learn how to upcycle in fun ways.

    The most challenging part for me was… having to work and create my mat within the time I had for the project. I really liked that it was challenging though. I liked it was challenging because it showed us just how to take action and upcycle.

    What I will do to keep this action affecting this community is by creating a video on how to upcycle these recycled materials. I will continue to affect the community so that people realise almost just how much we pollute and waste even if it is just with a little tiny thing.


Hello GCE!
So for those of you who don’t know in Hurricane Season, our 4th action project is to interact with the community and make a difference through tackling an unnatural disaster we disagree with and wish to make a difference on. My project in particular is a take on up-cycling (reusing materials) to decrease the amount of plastic we toss into landfills. I plan to do this by collecting Plastic grocery or shopping bags people in our community no longer are using and I will be crocheting them into sleeping mats for the homeless of our city to show them a little bit of comfort in a time in which they may not have much comfort.
But, in order to complete this task, I NEED YOUR HELP! 😀 I am going to need a lot of plastic bags for this project and I am wondering if the community of GCE will be willing to help out with this project by donating your very own plastic Jewel or shopping bags. It would be extremely generous and nice. 2 Requirement for the bags though are: they must be clean but have already served one purpose, and they must be PLASTIC!
Thank you all for taking your own time to read this email.And I hope you are all staying warm on this cold day and that you donate some bags! =D

– JM

Reducing GCE’s Carbon Footprint by HM

March 8, 2013, by

For my fourth and final project in Hurricane Season, we were required to take action on an issue we feel strongly about in a community we feel we belong to.  To ensure that it would correspond with all that we’ve been studying over the course of the term, the issue had to stem from either displacement, environmental injustice, or state violence.  For my issue, I chose to focus on global warming and so then decided I wanted to reduce GCE’s carbon footprint by increasing recycling.  Since we are a very progressive school in our thinking, I feel we should also be progressive in helping our environment and quite frankly we have not been.  This project took a great deal of research, time and energy.  It pushed me to limits I have not been pushed to so far this year and although it was incredibly tiring and overwhelming at times, I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made and hope my peers continue to work along side me.

Purpose Statement: The purpose of my overall project and action is a response to climate change, most specifically global warming. This is such a big topic of my generation and something that as time goes on, becomes more and more relevant in my everyday life. Since I knew I couldn’t conquer global warming all on my own, I thought I would start with the individual. My intervention is to reduce my schools (GCE) carbon footprint. That is still quite a large task so I decided I’d begin with recycling because I’ve noticed it’s been a large problem all year. First off, we only have about 3 recycling bins and I honestly don’t know if they’re properly disposed of but even larger problem I’ve noticed is our trash can after lunch. Everyday, we put recyclables and food in one large trash can and throw it into a dumpster, never thinking twice. I thought that needed to be changed. Overall, I hope to make my peers more environmentally aware so that when they do have something that is recyclable, they know that it is, and they take the extra step to recycle it. Although I can’t force the people around me to do a certain action, I can hope that my workshop and refresher of why this is so important and how truly simple it is will stick with them and will be something they carry out now and for as long as they live.

Post-project Reflection:  Since the change I’m trying to make is not an immediate one at all and not only in my hands, it’s hard to say what effects it has had.  Hopefully, it will result in a more environmentally aware GCE and we will be able to recycle more and successfully. I think what was most rewarding for me was being able to get everything done.  This project has felt daunting since the day it was assigned and being able to push through and consistently putting forth my best effort was not always easy but it has paid off in the end.  I’m so proud of all the work and research I’ve done and how much I’ve expanded my mind in the process. I can easily say that the most challenging part of this project for me has been how much I’ve had to think through.  I would often get to a place in my work where I thought I didn’t have much more coming and was so close to be done and then one of my teachers would remind me there is so much more to fully think through.  It was hard for me to come full circle because I always thought I was, until I took a step back.  More than anything to keep affecting change on this issue, I want to change my own personal habits, not only in school, but everywhere I go as well.  There is a lot I could do personally to reduce my carbon footprint.  For example, I could drive much less and we don’t recycle at my house so that is something I plan to change.  While still at school, I need to reach out to administration to create a recycling drop-off chart so we can continue to successfully and correctly recycle and not just allow it to fall through the cracks since my assigned project is over.

Please watch my video below!

Recycling at GCE from HM on Vimeo.

Here are some examples of the different types of media I used to get my peers involved!

Poster 1Poster 2GCE Trash Can

The worlds more threatened tribe.

March 8, 2013, by

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 1.54.38 PMFor this action project we were learning about how we can become better activists for positive social change. We were asked to pick an unnatural disaster that is happening around the world. Then we were asked to figure out a way we can help find a soultion to this problem. I decided to talk about the Awa-Guaja people of the brazilian forest. Since the 1600’s the Awa people have faced displacement and now genocide.

This entire project shocked me. It was sad to see that a culture in need is being treated this horrible. Doing this project aspired me to want to do more for the Awa people, hopefully in college i will get the chance to learn more about Indegenous cultures. For this project I had my friends and family watch two videos and respond with a sentence or two. It was a great feeling seeing all what my friends had to say about the topic. I was proud to enlighten them more about what is happening beyond the city of Chicago. I hope I grabbed their attentions and they want to further their investigation into the Awa people.

I asked my friends and family to watch these two videos:

Here are some of the reactions to the video:

“ It sounds really terrible. Greed is a powerful thing. It’s more powerful than many voices. And more powerful than laws. It’s more powerful than human life. It’s going to take a lot more than an email address to fix this problem. And even if it’s fixed, it’s probably not permanent. If there’s a hell, I’ll find satisfaction in knowing the greed driven folks are going to it.” – Mason G.

“These videos opened my eyes with people who suffer around the world. This tribe is suffering a lot of pain due to the logging industry and other people trying to make money at cost of their lives. I felt angry and sad for the indigenous tribe and want to know how we can help. How can we advocate for them? What are the current laws in that country that need to be addressed? I also want to hear the testimony of the people causing the damage. What kind of people are they, and why are they doing those acts? Thanks for opening my eyes. “ – Kenny B.

“I was moved by the videos in multiple ways: first, I feel a sense of belonging to the forests of the world in a primordial way — not because of being Brazilian, but because I feel that the land is mine and yours and of all… all that feel the sense of belonging instead of the sense of profiteering destruction. Becoming aware of the people that protect the forest is essential in a world that forgot that the very word Human comes from “Humus”, the living dirt, the land. Brasil means land of the Amber, a lot of Amber (“Brasa” in Portuguese); an unfortunate meaning, when you consider logging…  I wish it would be land of the green forests; or that the amber were a metaphorical phoenix with enough time to reforest itself.” – Carlos L.

“It’s really sad that they’re disregarded like that, but when you have all the money and all the guns, you get to make the rules. It’s not right, but that’s how businesses work and maximize their profits. They don’t think about how it effects others, they just think about their bottom line.”  – Erin W.

“The videos just remind me of how destructive Capitalism is to the world. Money can turn humans into monsters, focused on profit and profit only. Its really disheartening to think about the complete ignorance we have of this planets affairs when it comes to the people most directly effected by the out come of this broken system.” –Ethos F.

“I got the chills watching the men give first hand accounts of how the land is being robbed from them, and how intricately connected they are to the land. And the man’s account of his family being shot and killed made me cringe thinking about how unbelievable it is to me the dehumanization that is taking place. What a blind sense of superiority, of westerners over indigenous people, worshipping profit over human and natural life, greed over the Divine pulse of existence.” – Naima P.

“It is appalling that they are not only destroying the forest but killing innocent people.  The Awa depend on the forest for their livelihood.   Without it, where are they to go?  The Awa live peacefully and sustainably.  We can learn so much from them about sustainable forest management.  We cannot let loggers destroy the forest or its dwellers.” -Emily G.

“The fact that greed can fuel something so terrible makes me lose faith in humanity. These people are innocent, and deserve nothing less than the peace they ask for. The forest, people, and animals are sacred, and something needs to be done.” -Samuel M.

“Watching these short clips filled me with great amounts of sadness. This is similar to how the Spanish came and invaded the Americas, taking the lives of countless people who lived there peacefully before them. I hate to see that history is constantly repeating itself. Have we learned nothing from past event.” -Becca R.

The Land without Evil – by GL

February 22, 2013, by

For my Hurricane Season course, we were asked to research an unnatural disaster that is meaningful to us. Our requirements were to find an unnatural disaster happening (or that happened) both  here in the U.S. and somewhere around the world. After finding and comparing the disaster we had to create an annotated bibliography explaining our research. Another requirement for this project was to create an artistic piece explaining the disaster. Overall this was an amazing experience and I really enjoyed doing this project. I hope to further my interest of indigenous tribes in college.

For my Unit 2 project I will be investigating the problems faced by indigenous people around the world. I will focus my studies on the struggles of these native societies. Indigenous people of the world have had many difficult setbacks as individual cultures, while having their land and natural resources taken away. While dealing with lifelong discrimination, they also have to be the pillars keeping their culture alive.

I will be focusing my studies on how the Lakota societies of Pine Ridge, in South Dakota, and Guarani-Kaiowá Indians, in Brazil, have had a recent rise in suicides due to the conditions, discrimination their people have suffered. They both feel as if they have no other place to take refuge.

Please take a look at my poster below and check my annotated bibliography.’ photo (22)


(1) Red-Cloud, Henry. “Help Save Lakota Babies’ Lives.” Indiegogo. Indiegogo, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. <>.
This website is to help raise money for Indigenous people of the world and was a vital part to my research. Within it I found specific information within an article about the Lakota tribe. It allows me to find statistics about the Lakota tribe, as well as information about the current events they are currently dealing with. The Lakota tribe is facing a rise in death rates, which as of 2013 are the highest in the USA. They go on to talk about the recent death of the Lakota children: “Our children are sacred; they’re our future. If we don’t save our children, then our culture won’t survive,” Donald Warne, of the Oglala Lakota tribe said. Due to the recent and mysterious deaths of these children the mothers then go into extreme depression. With this increase in depression many of the mothers think the only way they can be relieved of their problems is to commit suicide. I believe this is a very reliable source, I say this because a man who is a big part of the Lakota tribe community wrote this article. Speaking from personal experience it allows him to share the story of his people on a personal level without leaving out any information.

(2)   New York Times/Wall Street Journal Statistics – Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota

In this news article it explains that Indian neighbors of the Lakota tribe decided to help build a National Healthy Start Program. HS, as they call it, is a program that provides all the resources the Lakota Tribes people would need mentally and physically. This program was aimed specifically to reduce the death of babies and help the mothers with their psychological problems on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I learned that the statistics on Indian health are disastrous and preventable. “[Nearly] every young mom who goes into Healthy Start tests off the scale for depression.” says a worker at the HS. I believe this source had quality information about the National Healthy Start Program . The New York Times is known to be a creditable source for all information.

(3)   Giago, Tim. “High Suicide Rate on Indian Reservation Near Epidemic Proportions.” The Huffington Post., 01 June 2010. Web. 13 Feb.

     This article in the Huffington post gave me a lot of information as to why not only the mothers but many of the Lakota tribe members suffer with depression. “Many of the Native Americans grew up ashamed of their culture and traditions. The shame and guilt impose generations of Native Americans became a part of a new culture; one that had many Indians searching for themselves and finding absolution in alcohol and drugs.” Iron Cloud; an important leader to the Lakota says. Iron Cloud then goes on to say, “If you think the government can fix everything, ask an Indian.” To help create a better a positive outlook the people of the Lakota tribe need the money the government offers. The government’s promises are never fully fulfilled so they intend to find a solution to the problem of the high suicide rate on the reservation by going back to the culture, traditions and the spirituality of their ancestors. This article was written by a very credited source as well; The Huffington Post. The writer of this article was assisted by Iron Cloud another important figure to the Lakota Tribe, giving me the assumption that all he information is reliable.

(4) The Movement for Tribal Peoples. “Guarani – Survival International.” Guarani – Survival International. Survival International, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. <>.

This website was the only website I used to research the Guarani-Kaowai. Survival international is a website to help people around the world understand the struggles and hardships that indigenous people around the world have to face.  “For as long as they can remember, the Guarani have been searching – searching for a place revealed to them by their ancestors where people live free from pain and suffering, which they call ‘the land without evil’.” says a writer from Survival International. Due to the fact that the Guarani-Kaowai have been pushed off their land and now suffer displacement suicide rates have risen to an ultimate high. For fifty years Marcos Veron had been a leader of the Guarani-Kaowai tribe in Brazil; his people had been trying to recover a small piece of their ancestral land, after it was seized by a wealthy Brazilian and turned into a vast cattle ranch. Some have no land at all, and now live in plastic sheet tents on the roadsides of a highway. These ranchers have done everything in their power to make these people leave the land. A community of Brazilian Indians says “Their main source of water has been poisoned by one of the state’s most controversial ranches.” After being kicked out by the ranchers Marcos Veron led his people to back onto their land. The ranchers then took the Indians to court where the ranchers won the right to kick the Indians off and get all their land back. Marcos Veron said, “This here is my life, my soul. If 
you take me away from this land, you take my life.”  During another attempt to return peacefully to their land, employees of the ranchers viciously beat Marcos. He died a few hours later. Veron’s killers have not been charged with his murder, but they were charged with lesser crimes related to the attack. The Guarani suffer from racism, discrimination and harassment from the Brazilian police. For example  “It is estimated that there are over 200 Guarani in jail with little or no access to legal advice and interpreters, trapped in a legal system they do not understand. This has resulted in innocent people being condemned. Many are serving disproportionately harsh sentences for minor offenses ” Says local tribe member. The result of these people being arrested and discriminated against have led to high suicide rates, with a total of 517 dead since 1999. Overall I think this was the most useful source. This website is very credible and allowed me to find all the information I needed.

After researching both tribes I found a pattern of displacement and racism which then both led to depression and suicide. Knowing that indigenous people of their nation can’t live in peace without some sort of higher power destroying their tribes and culture I believe is an extreme crime against humanity. Usually people are so distracted with the beautiful land they live in they never think about the land and how it was taken away from those who originally settled there.  By taking on this project I hope to spark an interest for others, allowing them to learn more about the topic and ask themselves how can I help? With the help from outsiders I believe these cultures do not have to become extinct. Better yet grow and strive to their fullest potential.

Researching Mental Illness Widespread by HM

February 22, 2013, by

In Hurricane Season, our second project as action was to find an unnatural disaster we feel strongly about and find a place in the US where it is a large issue and a place outside of the US that is also struggling with whatever this unnatural may be.  For my unnatural disaster, I chose to do mental illness as a whole, I wanted to find out where it is worst, why it is so bad there, and what these two places were doing in order to combat it.  After some research, I discovered these two places were Rhode Island and Ukraine and quickly dove deep in to find out as much as I could.  With this project, I’m really proud of the research I did and how much I was able to find out about mental health and illness as a whole, however I wish I had focused in on a certain illness so my research could be even more in depth.  Below is my annotated bibliography and artistic piece I created to represent what I learned.

Works Cited

“Study: Rhode Island Has Highest Rate of Mental Illness in US | Blogs.”WPRIcom Blogs Study Rhode Island Has Highest Rate of Mental Illness in US Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

This website is what first led me to where I wanted to focus on this issue in the US.  This article was pretty shocking for me to read because of the cold hard facts it stated.  For example, the mental health percentage in this state is 7.2, high above the national average of 4.6.  Finding this information was incredibly crucial to my research because it gave me a place to start from and really put into perspective for me how big of an issue this is and where people are struggling most.

“Global Study Finds Mental Illness Widespread.” N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.

Reading this article was helpful to me in trying to find where to focus my studies that are outside of the US.  What was most helpful to me in this website was a picture they had of the world and the mental health percentages around the world.  Another thing that I really liked about this article was that it focused on how to turn things around for their citizens.

Nordstrom, D L. “Ukraine Set to Act on High Suicide Burden.” N.p., 13 Aug.        2007. Web. 8 Feb. 2013.

As I was searching for a place to focus on that was outside of the US, Ukraine continually came up and this is absolutely the reason.  The numbers in this article are staggering.  Forty percent of the population faces some sort of mental illness and suicide is the leading cause of death.  As depressing and shocking it was to read this article, it was reassuring to know Ukraine was recognizing the issue and exploring ways to resolve it.

Niedowski, Erikka. “R.I. Tops Mental Illness List.” N.p., 7 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

Finding and reading this article was incredibly important in showing why the rates in Rhode Island are so high instead of just stating that they are.  For example, a direct quote from the article is, “The state has had a high rate of depression for years, in part because of environmental triggers like high unemployment and low wages, she said.”  In understanding why these rates are so high we are able to be cautious of them all over the world and hopefully prevent it from happening and affecting more individuals.  This source felt very reliable to me because it was one, a newspaper and two, had many direct quotes from professionals who work in this field.

Klepper, David. “RI Leads in Suicide Attempts, but Not Deaths.” N.p., 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

The first thing I noticed and I assume anyone would notice about this article is it’s title, “RI Leads in Suicide Attempts, but Not Deaths” is a pretty heart wrenching and jaw dropping to read.  A great part of this article that only some others I found had was that it gave reasons for why large amounts of suicide attempts were happening here.  It says, “Rhode Island’s high rate of suicide attempts likely reflect of jobless rates, substance abuse and other factors that can prompt people to consider ending their lives, mental health advocates told The Associated Press.”  In a lot of ways, this pushed me to think a lot about how peoples mental (in)stability is caused by their environment and what are big issues going on around them.  Finally, something I’m so glad and feel is so important that was touched on in this article was the stigma that so often goes hand in hand with mental illness.  Since it is such a large issue in Rhode Island, they felt there was less of a stigma, ultimately resulting in more people feeling open and comfortable in saying they were struggling.  This article feels really credible and well researched because it shows all angles of why the numbers are the way they that they are, instead of one biased opinion.

“Nationally, we lose one life to suicide every 15.8 minutes.” (

Dublin & Georgia’s Foreclosure Crisis By JM

February 19, 2013, by

Hello! In this blog post, I shall be talking about a project I have completed for my Hurricane Season Course. This project is based off of the idea of displacement through foreclosures that is occurring in both Georgia, Atlanta and Dublin, Ireland. The purpose of this piece is to notify people of how this is such a huge problem and how it effects us all. I am proud that I am able to notify and reach out to more people through speaking about these issues. I learned that there was even such a huge foreclosure crisis that exists inside of Ireland and that it is worse than how it is in the U.S.

act proj 3 hur seas.

Another Man Down by HM

February 15, 2013, by

For our first project as action in Hurricane Season, we were given the daunting but rewarding task of creating a video collage of a large “unnatural disaster” that has directly affected us and our community.  An unnatural disaster is a manmade catastrophe.  For my video, I chose to focus on the recent gun and youth violence that’s gotten out of hand in my community, Evanston which is the closest northern suburb of Chicago.  This was an incredibly long process that included a lot of a research and even getting interviews from people who I knew would have good input and have directly experienced the issue I chose to look at.  All in all, this video was definitely hard to make and was really overwhelming but I’m proud of my final outcome and how much I learned through the process of creating.  Watch it below!

Another Man Down from HM on Vimeo.

The Truth Behind Youth Drug Abuse.

February 8, 2013, by

IMG_2463In my Hurricane Season course we discussed that an unnatural disaster is something that is contrary to course of life. We then had to find an unnatural disaster and explain the effect it has had in our community. I decided to speak about drugs and the influence drugs have had on youth in my community. I interviewed three people who have been directly affected by drugs. All three interviewees had different relationships with this topic, so it was interesting how all testimonies blended together so well. After documenting the testimonies I then created a video. I enjoyed doing this project; I myself have been directly effected by drug use. I’m glad I had the chance to share these stories with the world. I hope people will watch my video and see the pain and damage drugs have cause to people in my community. Overall this project was a hard, this is a sensitive topic for me and by doing this project I felt like I was facing a fear of mine speaking about this topic. Along with the emotional part of this project being difficult I had technical trouble trying to put it all together. This project was difficult but im glad I got the chance to adress this problem hopefully people will watch this and learn more about the problem.

The Truth Behind Youth Drug Abuse from GF on Vimeo.

Hurricane Season: An Unnatural Disaster

February 8, 2013, by

Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 1.27.03 PM

For my first project as action in Hurricane Season, I created a micromentary on the incarceration of minorities in the U.S.

Please watch my video below!


The Foreclosure Crisis – by JM

February 8, 2013, by

This post is for the Hurricane Season elective course at my school. Hurricane Season is an elective course where we have been learning what unnatural disasters are (an avoidable tragedy resulting from artificial, abnormal, or man-made causes) and how they affect the world. For this first action project, we were to select an unnatural disaster that was affecting our community and I picked the subject of foreclosure. This piece of work is to show how Foreclosure is a form of displacement and how it not only effects who is being foreclosed, but it affects the entire community. I am proud of doing so much research to get such a great understanding on my topic. I learned how to use iMovie through this process which is always good!

Please watch below the video I created and possibly leave a comment on what you though? =D

The Forclosure Crisis – Jm from J M on Vimeo.