Guest Post on SA Blog

This Teacher is Vegan, and Yes, She Has an Agenda

Danielle Pottberg – January 15, 2016


I stopped eating meat when I was 10 — the day I was eating a hamburger on a train, looked outside, and saw two cows on a bright green pasture. I had once biked up to those cows and touched their soft pink noses. I had named them Henry and Frank — and now I was eating a dead animal.

It would be my last. I have been a vegan ever since.

As an arts educator, I carefully infuse my philosophies around kindness, wellness, health, human rights, and advocacy into my art-making classes, and my “Philosophy of Food” elective was no exception. On Day 1, I told my Success Academy high school scholars, “I am vegan, and yes, I have an agenda. I want you to know where your food comes from, and for you to make educated choices about what you eat. I want you to know the science behind how your food affects your life, energy, and health, and I want you to leave empowered, knowing that you can make choices that will protect you, the planet, and its people. I want you to leave this course charged with the power that you can exercise your compassion for all living things through the simple, everyday acts of what you choose to consume .”

I want you to know the science behind how your food affects your life, energy, and health, and I want you to leave empowered, knowing that you can make choices that will protect you, the planet, and its people.

I decided to teach this class during our school’s Winter Opportunity Academy in December because many children are not fully informed about their food choices and don’t question what they eat. I believe that this lack of education around food is the reason so many Americans are overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. Some children think the chicken in their storybook is different from the chicken on their plate. If children don’t know what they’re eating, how can they make informed decisions about what to put on their plate?

In class, I introduced students to scholarly research and documentary films that helped them understand the difference between organic and processed foods, the treatment of animals in factory farms, and the influence of the meat and dairy industry on the American diet. In one class, scholars studied cafeteria posters to understand how they were being tricked into believing that meat and dairy products are good for their health. My students learned that most dairy is produced not by farmers, but by corporations that operate large factory farms. They watched documentaries showing how animals are mistreated and fed unnatural diets in these horrifying places, and they contrasted these images with those that appear on commercials and billboards. Turns out that the idyllic image of a happy cow in an open pasture that you see on milk cartons is a lie. They discovered that farming, as we know it, is no longer a symbiotic relationship among animals, humans, and the earth, but a profit-first abuse of power by corporations that torture animals, create massive amounts of pollution (if you need a visual, Google “GoPro factory farm”), marginalize poor communities, and violate workers’ rights.

My job as an educator is not just to teach the amazing power of art-making and visual expression, but to ensure that when these young artists and scholars get into amazing colleges, they will know how to choose foods that will give them energy to pull the all-nighters, to write impressive dissertations, and to create those poignant works of art. My goal is for them to have healthy lifestyles that support their success. Without education around healthy food choices and knowledge of food industry practices, our students may leave college not just with a bachelor’s degree, but also with heart disease or diabetes. The question I repeatedly ask students is, “How much suffering will you tolerate for your food?”

For their final project, students created pamphlets, posters, and paintings to illustrate what they learned in my course. One of my students, Lexi Torres, emailed me her pamphlet early to get feedback, and later asked me in class, “Can we pass these out to other students to educate them as well?” Yes, Lexi, please do.

- See more at:

Holistic Approaches

What can you expect in my classroom studio?

When you enter into my art studio you will see a variety of projects happening at once.  The daily schedule set up for maximum amount of student led learning, experimentation and exploration.  Materials are organized in centers or specific cabinets, allowing for full ownership over the working space.  Tables are arranged to suit students' needs throughout the year. Sewing centers with dress forms transform into printmaking centers and later fold into a mounting center closer to art show time.  The room is responsive, moveable, and alive. The week opens with skill acquisition, followed by work days, and later reflection/critique days.  Students may work alone, in pairs, or in large groups depending on what interests them. 

So what approach do you actually follow? 

I was trained as an art educator at Rhode Island School of Design, where the focus was on project based learning, teacher as a guide and mentor, and open ended projects with backward planning.  The curriculum that I write does not have a fixed ending product in mind, the children create the piece, not me.  I believe wholeheartedly in the approaches of the Reggio Emilia schools, and Maria Montessori's teachings.  Within my courses I infuse the ownership and love of exploration and student led projects through open ended, theme based discussions and honoring and respecting the ideas, processes and discoveries of my students.  Children are people in their own right, in every stage of their life, my role is to guide and teach my students.  While I am the facilitator and guide, the students have equal rights to be respected and to be heard.  The respect I refer to is not only in the form of an atmosphere of respect, but also the respect of their ideas, aesthetic and values. 

My goals in my teacher practice are: 

    • Create and uphold an alive environment for the students, show the proper storage and care of materials, and help them to take care of their materials and their space through guidance. 
    • Allow for space for the opening and closing and reconnecting to projects through the artists' process with a flexible curriculum and process grading systems. 
    • Foster responsible, adaptive artists who are have a thirst for knowledge and who are problem solvers
    • Promote learning in an inquiring, cooperative, nurturing atmosphere through student and teacher initiated experiences
    • Support learning through the senses. 
    • Promote mindfulness and meditation as well as journaling as an integral part of self discovering and nurturing one's inner artist. 
    • Teach outside the four walls of the studio through outdoor, gallery, and museum exploration and experiences. 

I believe in learning through living and that the best learning takes place in a creative, unrestricted setting where we can embrace limitless ideas that target the whole child. 

If I can empower each child to be confident, creative, intelligent and reveal their unlimited potential, they will change the world. 

Love & Kindness


A conscious parenting minimalist holiday gift guide for toddlers

Being a minimalist has its amazing perks: it is easier to get dressed in the morning, I have more money freed up for experiences like travel, and the ability to focus more on life, and living it with less focus on "stuff."

One time when being a minimalist and conscious shopper gets tricky is during the holiday time, especially those certain holidays that involve 8 days of gifts, or loads of presents under a festive evergreen tree.  I do not want my daughter's memories to be fed by consumerist culture, I want to build memories based on family time spent together learning and experiencing life. 

Being a mother and a minimalist means quite simply that I work my very best to purchase or acquire a specific type of toy for my child.  Toys that encourage imaginative play, are made with fair labor standards, can be passed down and stand the test of time. This way, the toys and gifts are selected and curated in a way to add value, and not deplete resources or discourage imaginative play. 

For me choosing a toy isn't about a "good toy" versus a "bad toy", rather it is about bringing consciousness to selecting purchases and what she plays with. Is it beautiful? Does it feel good to the senses? Does it leave room for imagination (or conversely do all of the thinking work for the child)? Will it inspire imaginative play? Is it made ethically, can it be sourced fair trade or second hand, and will it stand the test of time? 

Below are my picks for a conscious, loving holiday.

In my opinion the best gifts are experiences, love and time well spent with one another, but a wooden tool set is also a great addition. 

 Wooden Toy Workbench: handmade in USA

Wooden Toy Workbench: handmade in USA

 Hammer Balls: made in Thailand

Hammer Balls: made in Thailand

 Wooden Tree Branch Blocks: handmade in Germany

Wooden Tree Branch Blocks: handmade in Germany

 Sensory Activity Play Pack: Fair Trade, assembled in Nepal

Sensory Activity Play Pack: Fair Trade, assembled in Nepal

 Waldorf Doll: handmade in Brazil

Waldorf Doll: handmade in Brazil

Dolls and lovies with sensory appeal and without fixed faces help a child develop their sense of exploratory imagination.  Imagine cuddling a plastic hard toy with a fixed grin and playing a nurturing mother to this item? Children love to emulate and imitate adults and their daily activities. By giving children objects that are not fixed, that are malleable both in touch and image, the child can use that toy for more than one thing.  A doll with a less fixed emotional face gives their imagination free reign. Waldorf dolls are warm and soft, so they are appealing to the senses and have a calming effect on a child. This minimal face helps the child cultivate their inner picturing abilities. 

 Playsilks: Fair Trade from China and USA

Playsilks: Fair Trade from China and USA

Playsilks can become a cape, a veil, a belt, a fort, a den, waves, a baby blanket...the list goes on.  As a vegan I searched for ahimsa silk or non-silk playsilks but did not find any that were overall as eco-friendly and responsibly made as Sarah's Silks. If you have any other suggestions, please comment below. As always, finding these bright beautiful silks secondhand would also work. 

 Bolga Basket: Fair Trade from Ghana

Bolga Basket: Fair Trade from Ghana

 Olive Wooden Bowl: Handmade in Germany

Olive Wooden Bowl: Handmade in Germany

 Wooden Spoon Set: Handmade in Jordan by disadvantaged men and woman

Wooden Spoon Set: Handmade in Jordan by disadvantaged men and woman

 Rainbow Wooden Peg Dolls: Made in Germany

Rainbow Wooden Peg Dolls: Made in Germany

 bogobrush, compostable toothbrush

bogobrush, compostable toothbrush

 Owl Gourd Maraca: Handmade in Peru

Owl Gourd Maraca: Handmade in Peru

 Kid's Musical Instrument Set: Fair Trade Peru and Bali

Kid's Musical Instrument Set: Fair Trade Peru and Bali

With Love + Kindness, 


Equality for All?

My work gave us these equality bags to help promote equal access to quality education for all. I appreciate the sentiment, and was using my bag with pride.  Of course I believe in equal rights and that zip code should not determine the kind of education you receive.  

Of course I believe in equality.  

I just finished watching a documentary about clothing and fast fashion called "The True Cost," which illuminated some of what I already know to be true in the fashion industry, and opened my eyes to many other aspects of the industry that are quietly swept under the rug as we search for deals on the racks.  My undergraduate studies were in textiles, but I knew enough not to work in an industry which supports slave labor and sweatshops.  But sadly, like most American shoppers, only knew part of the story and acted accordingly. 



After viewing the movie I almost immediately looked to the inside of my bag to the tag, "100% cotton, made in India."  No other information is given of course.  How were the workers treated? Where is the cotton sourced? How much are the workers paid to make these bags? What does it look like in the factories in which these bags are made?  

My heart sank as I thought back to the working conditions I saw in the film.

I have to ask now, how the silkscreened word "equality" on this bag actually promotes equality? This bag is most likely sewn and produced by female workers who are paid minimum wage, how does that promote quality? Many factory workers are forced to chose between the education of their children and their low paying factory job, how does this promote equality at all? 

Whose equality is it? 

The message, which I truly believe in, is that we do not want zip code to determine opportunity.  This needs to expand outside of New York City, it needs to expand globally.

IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO promote thE ideaL of equality, while directly supporting the inequality of others. 

As I continue to educate myself around fair trade, sustainable companies which support worker's rights, I will post my findings here. 

For further reading/information about the documentary click here


Becoming Vegan in Elementary/Middle/High School

This blog post is dedicated to Zainab, who (just like I was when her age) is finding it tough to eat vegan at school. 

What oh WHAT is a teen to do?  You still live with your family (who have their own cultural beliefs about food and their own routines around dinner time), you don't yet have your own job to buy and prepare groceries, and if you are like many of the High School kids around the world, you don't know how to cook yet or feel you have time to learn.  

Let's not forget the fact that most High School cafeterias offer food which is provided by government programs (read: subsidized by the meat and dairy industry).  When I was in High School I remember that finding vegetarian and vegan lunches at school lunch required me to pull cheese off of pizza which was already made (therefore WASTING food which had already caused a great amount of death and devastation), or eating salad every day.  Oh but long gone are the days of salad bars even AVAILABLE in High School cafeterias around our United States. 


If you are a vegetarian or vegan student, you should let the administrators know.  You should tell them that the cafeteria does not offer food which aligns with your belief system.  You can give them some articles to read, or recommend books that shed light on factory farming and meat/dairy eating.  You can use the list below to offer up alternative lunch choices.  

Here is the long answer: SORRY HOMIE, YOU GOTTA BROWN BAG IT. 

(that is until you have set forth a food revolution in your school, or as you are in the process of bringing about options/change). 

If you want to know some yummy awesome food to eat that does not include the torture of animals, you can easily check out my Pinterest page which has some of my favourite recipes: 

(look for recipes that say "vegan," I also have a tendency to pin things that I veganize). 

For the future, I am making a digital book which will have guides and recipes geared toward High School students and "non-cooks" alike, which will give you a run down how to be vegan easily. 

For now remember that instead of just omitting meat and eggs and dairy, you can also add a plethora of whole foods and fruits and vegetables.  The fact is, many people chose to eat SO little of the food available that happen to be vegan, bonus, these are good for you and no animals are hurt!

(food cart life? grab a falafel with tahini, say no dairy: they got you). 

To give you an idea of my usual weekly dinner plan it's like this:

Monday: lentil and bean soup with potatoes with goya seasoning

Tuesday: tostones and plantones maduros

Wednesday: mangu (made with earth balance instead of butter)

Thursday: red lentil kale soup

Friday: pasta with field roast sausage and kale, red sauce

Saturday: beans and rice

Sunday: wild card (may order Indian or Thai or Chinese vegan food). 

For breakfast we do cereals or bread and fruit or smoothies and lunch we just pack leftovers from the night before and add a salad.  Super easy! 

If you are packing your own vegan lunch and are not just wrapping up leftovers here is a list of options (jeez do I have to do everything for you?)

Monday: pita wrap with chopped veggies, hummus, chickpeas, tabouleh, a pear and vegan muffin. (didn't have time to make one this weekend? Skip Dunkin' Donuts and grab the blueberry muffin at Le Pain). 

Tuesday: Sweet Potato and spinach wrap, vegan pasta salad, banana and water bottle. 

Wednesday: Half day! (at my school), grab lunch at open kitchen or a falafel from the halal cart.

Thursday: Avocado Toast with cold peanut noodles, clementine, soy yogurt and water bottle.

Friday: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, apple, celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins (aka ants on a log), water bottle. 

Here is a list of snacks you could also bring:

  • Natural fruit leathers
  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit, such as apple rings or apricots
  • Trail mix (dried fruits with nuts and seeds)
  • Rice cakes or mini-rice cakes
  • Graham crackers
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Bagel crisps
  • Bananas
  • Clementines

Your partner in vegan yumminess and cruelty free choices, with love and kindness, 


January 1st

Happy 2016!

Many people make resolutions for the new year, swearing to be a diligent gym attendee, a person who has their finances together, and finally has that 6 months emergency fund saved up after going years living paycheck to paycheck.  As someone who had spent a lot of regular time at the gym before I gave birth, I can tell you that the time after the new years was always really frustrating to me.  Yes, I was so happy for everyone finally taking steps in the right direction and ending up in the gym, but what it really meant was about a month of me waiting for the weights and the treadmill, and by the time February rolled back around all was back to normal.  Those New Year's resolutions just didn't cut it for my fellow January 1st proclaimed gym rats.  

The fact that so many people cannot hold onto their resolutions may cause one weary to make a resolution at all.  You think, what the heck is the point? Right? Well, turns out, that if you do set goals, you are more likely to be successful than if you forgo the exercise. 

For New Years, I set intentions for the upcoming year.  I have learned not to make empty goals like "I will work out every day"...which by the way, unless this is already your jam, the working-out-every-single-day as a goal sets you up for failure.  The one Wednesday that something comes up and you don't go, you throw away the whole goal and are much less likely to return Thursday.  Instead of that kind of goal I make a list of what amazing things happened the year before, (reflect) and then also a list of what I will do next year (project).  I do a very similar thing for my birthday as well.  

I find that if you write these goals down, or share them with others, it makes it even more powerful.  So here I am, writing them out in the public.  Mostly for myself, but if you happen to stumble upon anything of use to you, well then that makes me incredibly happy. 

In 2015:

I cultivated some wonderful new relationships with female artists, who I absolutely adore.

I had a healthy, happy pregnancy and an amazing little girl. 

I rode my bike until my knees were hitting my growing belly, then I walked most days to work. 

I travelled to NOLA and tried vegan creole food, I travelled to California and ran on the beach at the very last week of being allowed to fly pregnant. 

I moved from Brooklyn to NJ with my partner. 

I went to many Instameets, and took photos on rooftops, under bridges, in studios, in large boisterous groups, on boats, in solitude, in Jaguars. 

I practiced not complaining for a whole day and realized how much I actually complained prior. It was eye opening. 

I moved full time to teaching at the new High School and focusing on building the program there. 

I was honored to be chosen as the content lead for the talent team at the High School. 

I read books, so so many books. 

I took my passion for veganism into the classroom. 

I sat down and took a look at my school debt, with no blinders on, and made a specific plan with a pay off date. 

I painted, I drew, I sewed, I taught 3D printing, I loved my elementary school kids, I wiped away tears and belly laughed alongside of them, I answered hard questions about pregnancy and love. 

I tried to go camping, and snuck off with my friend to the car to sleep (it was cold and rainy you guys, like...really cold). 

I explored the city, ate brunches with friends, took photos all around Brooklyn and Manhattan, learned every place you can pee for free because straight up-you always have to pee. 

I put myself and my baby first ahead of my job and took time off before labor.  Only about a week, but it was so incredibly important and I was so happy to have the care and support to be able to do so. 

I packed up a full car worth of things to donate to those less fortunate than me, clearing my closet of almost all of my clothing, only leaving what brings me joy. 

I labored for 54 hours and gave birth to a beautiful healthy little girl with my partner and sister by my side and the best midwives anyone could ask for. 

I started an amazing new chapter of my life, and I got a little closer to realizing how incredibly lucky I am. 


In 2016:

I launched a new website with a blog section where I happily share my experiences and findings, and help others along the way to a thoughtful compassionate life. 

I travel with frequency, including Chicago, Portland, Canada, and the forests of Washington state. 

I am a leader in my school and help to cultivate a strong arts program, which makes an outstanding contribution not only to the lives of my students, but also contributes to education reform and the arts. 

I proudly display my work in multiple gallery shows throughout the year. 

I am honored to be published by multiple websites, and magazines and have self published my own text. 

I enthusiastically share my cross-curricular work in the arts at NAEA. 

I happily utilize my budgeting software, and through my careful planning prioritize debt reduction and savings over consumerism. 

I have a zero balance on all credit cards, and have paid down my total student loans by 40%. 

My relationships are based on strong communication, respect and care. 

In my family we speak frankly and openly about finances and make joint parenting decisions respectful of each other's ideals and ideas. 

I thoughtfully track and significantly decrease my screen time, allowing for more intentional focused time with my family and friends. 

I am intentional about what new purchases I make, knowledgable about who makes the goods and wares and how their life is directly affected by my purchase. 

I have joyfully decreased my current possessions, allowing more space to create, explore and learn. 

I listen to podcasts and read books which encourage creativity, thoughtful living and share stories of successes and happiness. 

I take risks with my artistic endeavors and pursue new styles of photography which are ignited by my passion for storytelling and spreading educational awareness. 

I enjoy journaling offline each day, and dutifully jot that which I am grateful for each morning. 

I am a positive role model for my daughter in terms what I eat, how I incorporate fitness and movement into my everyday, how I chose to spend my time, and markedly, the ways in which I interact with others. 

Looking forward to an amazing year. 

With love and kindness, 



A note about goal setting:

I write my goals as if they are currently happening, instead of "I will" use "I am" or "I have."  I also add qualifiers, I find this to be incredibly important). Here is an example of how to change a goal: I am out of debt vs. I happily work my budget each paycheck and easily set aside money.  I have a zero balance on my credit cards, and have paid down my student loan by 40%.