Thursday, December 8, 2016

An Sanguine End to a SWSG Season

Hello, dear blog followers. This week we eagerly awaited Wednesday, as our friends from Strong Women, Strong Girls promised us a going away party! The holidays are almost upon us, which means we will have to wait until next year to see our wonderful woman mentors again.

Strong Women, Strong Girls just celebrated their tenth anniversary serving in the Pittsburgh area this year. Their presence is truly essential to our program, and we can see the benefits of the relationship they have with our girls in plentiful ways. At their age, ranging between second and fifth grade, guidance in navigating their increasingly complex social lives and support in fostering camaraderie is extremely important. Young girls need role models to display ambition, self-determination, good self-esteem and positive reinforcement growing up in this world. Their program has been with us at ALEC for a while, but we continue to be in awe of their benefits!

Alas, every season must come to an end, but what a great reason to throw a party. Our Strong Women mentors arrived carrying mysterious boxes and... umm, err, toilet paper? They know how to keep us guessing!

Well, the activity for this day started off with "roses and thorns" as usual, which gives each girl an opportunity to share the good and bad qualities of their days in a supportive environment. Afterwards... we discovered that we would be having a fashion show, featuring designer dresses composed of... you guessed it, the toilet paper! Check out the creativity below:

And finally, to wrap up this long awaited day- our mentors held an award ceremony. Each of our girls, who have grown to have very close relationships with our mentors- were given certificates based on their wonderful personality characteristics and accomplishments. It was a wonderful gesture and you can see how they responded to such a sentiment here:

Thank you, Strong Women, Strong Girls! And thank you, blog enthusiasts, for remaining in the loop of our programming here at ALEC. We appreciate you.

In strength,


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In a Maze of Marbles!

Ms. Laura from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh stopped by ALEC for another adventure in reading!  The students joyfully listened to Ms. Laura read "Snappsy the Alligator" and "Are We There Yet?".  

After our reading, the students were instructed to design their own marble maze and were each given a marble from Ms. Laura.  They enjoyed designing, but were even more excited to give them a try!

Check out these finished marble mazes below!

Clockwise from left: CJ, Hezekiah, and Edwin display their finished marble mazes.

Check out these videos below of the mazes in action from our YouTube channel!

We hope you've enjoyed our adventure in reading with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Mt. Washington!  Check back with us in the future for more happenings in reading!

- Anna

Thursday, December 1, 2016

We're RAVING about ROBOTS!

We missed you over our short break, blog enthusiasts! What better time to catch up than the beginning of December?

The YMCA has taught us a lot in the past couple of weeks, the most important of which being the simple fact that... ROBOTS RULE.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to learn about the mechanics behind building a robot that can be controlled to do simple movements, sights and sounds! The YMCA brought in hummingbirds, which are simple circuit-boards that can attach LED lights, motors, sensors and more! You can learn all about how the kits work at:

This is a great opportunity for our kids to explore simple mechanics, commands, algorithms, and technological design. We just know they are going to come up with some fantastic results. 

One of our groups begins designing the "look" of their Panda Cheerleader robot! 

 Our kids begin building the body of their robots! 

More from the beginning stages of our robotics unit!

We hope you stay tuned for the next stages of this amazing project, and that the anticipation is not too much! Try to remember to "recharge" in the meantime. 

Thank you, dear readers. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Conductors & Insulators in Ms. Anna's Classroom

Over the past couple weeks, Brashear Kids and the YMCA Hilltop have been learning about conducting electricity.  More specifically, conductors and insulators!  Conductors are materials that electricity passes through with ease.  Insulators could be considered to be the opposite- electricity cannot pass through as easily.

During our first lesson, Mr. Eamon from the YMCA introduced conductors and insulators through a game of hangman.

Above right: Kiyanah enjoyed solving the hangman puzzle!

Students then tested materials found throughout the classroom to discover which were conductors and which were insulators.  Items ranged from lead pencils, pennies, paper, a pine cone from Ms. Anna's desk, paper clips, and more.  Students enjoyed testing these different materials then using them to make music (see video below from our YouTube channel)!

Above: Edwin and ElayJaih conduct music.

In our next lesson, Mr. Eamon then presented his own fitness monitor.  The students were excited to try it out!  The students were then encouraged to begin thinking about what their own fitness monitors would look like.

Left: Jeffrey triumphantly conquers the fitness monitor.  Above right: Shane gives the fitness monitor a try.

Our third lesson centered on student creation.  The students were asked to form groups in order to discuss and collaborate on their own fitness monitors.  Up-cycled materials were utilized, emphasizing the importance of reuse and recycle here at ALEC!

In the video below, Keliyah and Krystal demonstrate their fitness monitor.  We can't wait to hook all the monitors up to a computer next week and give them a try!

Stay tuned for more adventures in STEAM!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Civic Engagement: Peaceful Protest

Wednesdays here at the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center are for community!  While female students worked with Strong Women Strong Girls,  the male students received a lesson in civic engagement.  Specifically, peaceful protesting. Peaceful protesting is a great way for people to express dissatisfaction for an issue without the use of violence.

In the beginning of our lesson, we discussed key words related to civic engagement (chart pictured below).  Students worked in groups to match these words to their definitions and were encouraged to engage in a discussion about their favorite word.  After, students were shown examples of signs displayed during peaceful protests.

a moral or legal entitlement or privilege to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.
Duties to other people, the government or society.
People who are legally recognized by a nation as owing loyalty to that nation and being entitled to protection by the nation; also, living in a certain place or member of a certain community.
A group of people who share an environment
a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. My role in this community is as a son/daughter, sibling, grandchild, etc.
any institution at which instruction. My role in this community is as a student
a district, especially one forming a community within a town or city. My role in this community is as a neighbor.
an incorporated municipal center. My role in this community is as a resident.
a territory considered as an organized political community under one government. My role in this community is as a resident.
a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. My role in this community is as a citizen.
of or relating to the whole world; worldwide. My role in this community is as a human.
publicly recommend or support a particular cause or policy. Citizens must do this to affect change in their communities.

We then asked students to discuss what issues are important to them.  Once they decided on an issue to tackle, they were given markers and paper for their protest sign!

Above left: Azare snapped a group picture of our lesson! Above right: Raymair decorates his protest sign.

Above: Shane and Raymair's peaceful protest signs.

Above left: Edwin protests "pen pals for every student at Grandview".  
Above right: Cayden protests "No Guns".  Hezekiah and David passionately complete their protest signs.

The students were elated to present their signs with the issues that are important to them.  It was great to see what the students care about; from "better lunches" to "get an education", and everything in between.

- Anna

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pre-Holiday Happenings at ALEC

Hello folks! I hope you are taking care and getting excited for the holiday season to begin. It's just starting to get chilly, and we've been busy here at ALEC as the first snow begins to fall!

We wanted to walk you through a brief description of our happenings here at our facility. Between building robots, expressing our gratitude's and taking the time to celebrate, we know you're in for a treat! 

Our friends at the YMCA always get the creativity flowing before a science lesson with a fun, interactive warm-up activity! This week, it was "never have I ever".

Then, we began our unit on building robots- starting with these circuit boards that can give our final projects simple commands! We cannot wait to see how the final projects turn out. 

One of our students is a photographer of sorts... he is fantastic at capturing the human face in it's many forms! 


Later on in the week, we had a such a succsessful homework completion that we decided to have a dance party to encourage this theme! Some students were more enthused than others...


Finally, we had a lesson on expressing gratitude, and wrote cards to ourselves and loves ones! This is an activity that pairs with an important lesson: being thankful for what one has. 


Thank you for reading, and I hope this holiday is filled with joy and cranberry sauce, a real favorite here at ALEC! 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dear Mr. President

Hello, blog followers. We hope you are doing well this week. As all of us are aware, our election results came through last Wednesday, November 9th. We here at the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center remain non-partial when it comes to political happenings, as we want to foster an environment that encourages scholars to think for themselves. We DO, however, want to keep our students informed on how to raise their voices and be heard. Voting is one form of civic duty, reserved only for us legal adults in this nation. We decided to explore, then, what other forms of civic engagement are available to today's youth- whom are aware, invested, and affected by such things as the election results.

The lesson was brief and, on November 10th, was kicked-off by a brainstorming session around how youth can be agents of change. Local politics matter, and writing to our representatives is a great way to directly reach out to foster change in our communities. The children, 2nd through 5th grade, added different ideas to our discussion to transition into what we would do next: write to both our President Obama and President-Elect Trump. We made sure to differentiate between the two. All that were provided were sheets of paper and writing utensils, and the rest- their ideas, thoughts, and hopes for the future- were there own.

 This student wrote this concise, respectful list of concerns out for our President-Elect

 Another student took the time to express some anxieties centered around recent comments made by our President-Elect

This thoughtful goodbye is a wonderful sentiment to send to our President, and acknowledgement of change

This student asks our President to speak to the President-Elect on their behalf

 Another respectful goodbye sentiment is pictured above 
And last but not least, this student wishes the President well in his next venture 

Overall, this was a very positive experience. The letters pictured above are not even half of what was created. Our youth felt empowered in new knowledge of the inter-workings of our government and we believe it was a cathartic experience to get out their emotions, as many of them had been needing to do so throughout the week. We at ALEC hope they will continue to use their voices in all arenas of their lives going forward, as citizens of this country and world.

"When they go low, we go high" - President Barack Obama

Thank you for reading,



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