12th Grade
English and Computing in the Arts
Rachel Nichols and Margaret Noble

On Tuesday, May 10th, 2016, the graduating seniors of High Tech High Media Arts presented a compelling and provocative interactive art exhibition on the current state of social, cultural, technological and ideological constructs emerging in today’s modern teenagers . Fifty students presented short talks and interactive art experiences on topics ranging from bullying, depression, education, media addiction, feminism, sports injuries, the judicial system and many more contemporary issues. All of these projects were uniquely authentic as the sources of inspiration came directly from the teenagers living these realities every day. Through their rigorous research, personal experiences, artistic renderings and computer programming, these 50 teenagers provoked their peers and adults to reconsider their notions of the challenges, habits, practices, and rich cultural experiences that impact the leaders of tomorrow today.
This curriculum and exhibition was facilitated as an interdisciplinary project through Rachel Nichol’s English class and Margaret Noble’s Art and Technology class. The work received press write-ups in US News and World Report and The Voice of San Diego. This project is also featured on Expeditionary Learning as an educational model of excellence.

Project and Exhibition Documentation


3Carlos“I am sure you all know what “juvie” is. I am also sure that you know its purpose for being around. Well, it turns out that this system that was meant to help troubled adolescents instead hurts them and worsens their condition. There are 1.7 million delinquency cases that are handled in the US every year. 1 out of every 5 of the cases results in the detainment of the young offender, they are then placed into detention centers or residential facility to await their court hearing. One quarter of detention centers are at or over their holding capacity as a result of this, the facility is impaired to do its job and care for the adolescent youth. This has led to many many problems. In juvenile detention centers 1 out of 10 delinquents have been sexually victimization, this can lead to violent behaviors within the adolescents and cause them to act out after their release. 34% of all adolescents that are released are rearrested for violent or other crimes.”




“In a world where teenagers have the reputation of being lazy, rebellious and apathetic, there is still a surprising number of teens that care about what happens in the future. They fought hard to raise awareness about their cause, and they have been put up on a pedestal to be looked up to by kids, teens, and adults alike. These people are in their own special kind of hall of fame, which alienates them from the rest of those in their age group. Despite their best efforts, the rest of teenagers just can’t shake off the stereotypes and bad reputation that they have unjustifiably attained. They are still being seen as lazy, problematic, and rebellious.”


2RyanCameron“Most parents believe that by tracking or surveilling their kids they can positively and subtly influence their children’s decisions with restrictions which help their teens grow. We believe that these well-intentioned parents are actually slowing or completely stopping the development of their children’s ability to practice responsibility. Teens need to be able to make mistakes and learn things for themselves. Of course parents can, and should, guide them to make non-life altering decisions, but it is important for a teen to learn and develop adult responsibilities by themselves.

Through today’s cell phones and social media platforms, parents can already monitor their teens lives in ways like never before. In the past, if you couldn’t see a teen, they could be doing anything. Now, teens have little to no privacy. We are expected to act and make decisions like adults, but we are treated like children in ways that parents think are best for us but we feel are invasive and oppressive.

Teens who are constantly watched and micromanaged by their parents can lack a sense of trust, which can be detrimental to their transition to adulthood. If your parents think you are untrustworthy, why wouldn’t you prove them right? Perhaps parents over surveillance leads teens to make unusually risky decisions just to be the person their parents seem to think they are. And, maybe not. If you would like to know more and discuss this tension, come to our booth and play a game where you can be a teenager who avoids being caught by his/her parent or you can be a parent who desperately tracks your teen.”

R.H. and C.P.


1MeganMikaela“The beauty industry has essentially designed us to see our worth in our appearance. A large majority of conversations between females have to do with their appearance or the appearance of other girls around them. The detrimental problem with this is that the talk is negative. We aren’t taught to celebrate another woman’s beauty, we instead compare ourselves to another thus degrading our beauty and others beauty. We unconsciously tell ourselves we’ll never be good enough, so we buy products with the hope of correcting our “flaws.”

M.B. and M.W.


6BlakeXimena“If you’ve ever watched the news in the wake of a teen related violence and tragedy, you’re bound to have seen music targeted as a cause for the tragedy. As early as the 1950’s when musician’s began to face censorship for songs deemed to be too violent for impressionable teens to handle. Even instrumental pieces featuring the lightest of distortion or aggression in their tone were thought to instantly transform teens into drug frenzied criminals. And even though we’ve come along way in our society’s view towards artistic mediums like music, we still face misguided hate and misunderstanding towards artists aiming to expand cultural norms or who want to question the status quo. The idea that music can influence a teen isn’t without merit, as music can actually be an incredibly positive influence at times. It’s the idea that music can rewire a teen’s mind and turn them into a violent psychopath that’s just as ridiculous today as it was sixty years ago.”

B.B. and X.P.


26Dorian“Many people believe that creativity is a given quantity when you’re born. And if you are one of the few people who believe in that. You are Wrong! Creativity can be developed throughout our lifetime. However, during our lifetime, in our teenage years we develop creative interests better, than in our adult years The explanation for this comes from neuroscience: due to undeveloped neural connections in the teenage brain. You may ask, “If teenagers have an advantage when developing their creative interests, how come teenagers don’t take advantage of it at all?” Well, it’s because teenagers have an unmanageable impulse control. Thus, the purpose of my code is to help teenagers, and adults who dare develop and experiment with their creativity.”




“As you are all well aware, there are millions of videos on the internet. Today’s teens add videos and pictures constantly like every second of the day. They spend about 5 hours a week taking and posting pictures of themselves. Teens post videos for all kind of reasons. But many specifically post in order to show off their sense of style and fashion. How many of you have ever bought clothing hoping that when you wore it you would get compliment? Wanting to look good and be noticed is one of the contributing factors on why teens spend so much effort and time thinking about what they wear. On average teens spend about 55 minutes a day on their appearance. Teens want to be noticed and accepted by their peers and one way they do this is by buying certain styles that are trending or are popular. Wearing certain styles gives teens confidence, a sense of belonging, and an identity. While many adults might think that teens’ desire to buy fashionable, and often times expensive, clothing is a waste of money, we know that it isn’t. In fact, fashion is one way that teens express their individuality and exercise their freedom of choice. It is more than a passing phase, it is a critical part of their development.”

J.C. and C.H.IMG_1085

25KaylaChloe“Teens are under pressure from the standard to succeed in every aspect of their lives. School is the greatest cause of stress including SAT and college, closely followed by family expectations, social life and lack of time to do anything. Even social media, which is often seen as an outlet to relieve stress, creates a continuous connection to their social life and doesn’t allow teens to take breaks from it when they go home. Often, teen stress isn’t recognized as serious stress and pushed aside as unimportant. Dangerously, many don’t understand the true effects of teen stress on their overall health.”

C.R. and K.M.



“How many of you have seen a teen movie? How many of you have seen how overly emotional and hormonal these teenagers can be? Now how many of you knew that 1 in 5 teenagers suffer from mental illness? That’s 20% of the teenage population suffering from anything ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. While sometimes it may be true that a teen is being over dramatic, telling a teen suffering from mental illness that “it’s just a phase”, you disregard the seriousness of the emotional health of teens & telling them that they will naturally grow out of the unhappiness but that’s not always true and this rejects people who are suffering from an actual illness. It can also lead to the worsening of an already existing illness. This can be harmful to the parent-teen relationship as well as a teens relationship with themselves. It is crucial that parents take the idea that their teenager’s mood might be more than just a stage seriously.”

A.E. and T.P.


Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 1.59.40 PM“American media like books, television shows, advertisements, music videos, and films create an unfair ideal for teenage girls to aspire to be. Teenage girls are bombarded with the notion that the ideal is to be these beautiful, popular, feminine creatures that live life to the fullest. And yet they are also expected to be shallow, rebellious, and immoral. When teenage girls are raised in a society that tells them to meet this double standard, a sense of their identity is lost in the confusion and they become more prone to destructive behavior. Risky behavior, specific for teens, includes behavior that contributes to unintentional injury and violence, unsafe sexual behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy eating habits, and poor mental health.

Social media teaches young teen girls that in order to fit in, feel accepted or feel pretty that they have to expose their body and abuse, drugs, and alcohol. Some young teenage girls deal with low self esteem by exposing themselves all over social media, Statistics show that girls from the age of 12 through 14 post more Instagram selfies daily than teen girls in high school. Since they’re half naked some guys are going to obviously be attracted to it and give them attention. And this really makes a teen girl think that the only way to get a boy to like her is to wear very little clothing..

Unfortunately, in the modern world, teenage girls are expected to play roles for which they are not prepared because they don’t yet know who they are or who they want to be. That is why we named our topic, Inner Loss of Identity.”

V.M. and S.R.


8_PHilAlex“Technology is changing the way we socialize. Many believe that technology is ruining our communication skills and the way we interact with each other. Which is not true. Because of technology we are more connected and social than ever before. What technology is ruining is the intimacy when talking face-to-face with others. Sadly, making eye contact is quickly becoming out of style and what is taking its place is staring at a screen. How many times have you hung out with your friends to have fun but eventually everyone is on their phone staring at a screen. No eye contact is made, no human connection found. Teens spend more time looking at screens than looking at a person we’re speaking to. There so many screens, so many gadgets, so many distractions that we’re not living in the real moment, we are living in a virtual one.”

A.S. and P.D.


10EvanShawn“Each year, 200 students die from injuries during practices or while playing in games. The most common injuries that are found in high school sports are Concussions, broken bones, and ruptured organs. Some of these people can recover from but others it can be fatal. Full contact sports like football, soccer, and lacrosse are among the few contact sports that have become popular in American culture today due to high violence. Some of these sports in high school should be outlawed due to the intensity and amount of injuries that come out from them. Football is a common sport that includes tons of concussions, which can last to several hours to several weeks. But repetitive concussions can hinder the brain from completely healing and could cause fatality.”

E.G. and S.M.


14JobeShyloh“Social Media has grown so much bigger and so much more relevant in teenage culture from what it was like 20 years ago. Along with this new relevancy of mainstream media, there are added stereotypes. In every high school, whether silent or out in the open, we psychologically categorize other under certain labels or groups. Every school has their group of cool kids, nerds, potheads and everything in between.”

S.W. and J.P.


15TammyMishayla“Gossiping and labeling has been around for a long time, but now it isn’t considered bullying as much . Calling someone a name thinking is a joke to you, can hurt someone’s else’s self esteem. This can cause depression. Although we all gossip, we wouldn’t want people to gossip about us. So why gossip about others, knowing it can affect someone emotionally and harm them.

Gossip is everywhere. Especially if you’re a teen. You see it on social media, group chats, magazines. It may be about people you know or people you wish you did. A lot of people claim that gossip is “bad”, but we all do it. In the teen world it’s how we deliver and gain information about on another. Especially if it’s someone you don’t like. If you get caught gossiping you’re not to be trusted. The big question is, when does it go too far? In the medieval days when a girl was caught gossiping she was to be caged in the mouth with spikes. Now days the punishment isn’t that drastic, if punished at all. When it crosses the line to bullying, it can become a big deal. Since social media is more relevant than talking in person.”

T.G. and M.H.