Monday, June 29, 2015

Eco Camp in Review

Eco Camp kicked off our summer camp series at ALEC and was a big hit!  This camp was for grades 1-4 and ran from June 15-25.  The driving idea behind the lessons at Eco Camp was to learn about the Earth, how to take care of the Earth and healthy eating choices.  A typical day at Eco Camp included free time, Food Science with Mr. John and an Eco Camp lesson.

Day 1:  The first day of camp set the stage for Eco Camp.  In Food Science, Mr. John began talking with the kids about what exactly is food and how food is filled with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, other digestive aids.  He also talked about just how important water is to your body.  The Eco camp lesson talked about Oikos, the ecosystem and how the Earth is our home.

Day 2: The second day of camp, the kids dove deeper into learning about nutrients during Food Science.  They talked about the differences between fats, carbohydrates and proteins.  During the Eco lesson it was all about energy and the different forms energy can take.

Day 3: The third day of camp, Mr. John talked to the kids about the differences between vitamins and minerals and how they are important to your body! In the Eco lesson, the kids learned about the water and carbon cycle, complete with a cool experiment involving vinegar and baking soda! We also had our friends from the Carnegie Public Library come and read books about water!

Day 4: The fourth day of camp was especially tasty. Food science was all about fruits and vegetables and the importance of eating foods that are different colors in the rainbow.  The kids even had a chance to sample some different fruits and veggies! Yum! In the Eco lesson, the topic of the day was bees! The kids learned that bees are very important to flowers and with out bees we wouldn't have very many yummy fruits and veggies!

Day 5: The fifth day of camp, Mr. John talked to the kids about protein! The learned the difference between animal and plant protein and even talked about serving sizes.  Today's Eco lesson talked about the importance of cutting down pollution, not littering and habitat destruction.  The kids were sad to learn that so many animals homes were in danger! But the kids had an awesome way to help the earth by making seed bombs! They loved playing in the dirt!

Day 6: The sixth day of camp, food science was focused on going more in depth about what exactly are carbohydrates and they talked more about serving sizes.  Reduce, reuse and recycle was the focus of the Eco lesson.  The kids talked about ways to reuse, re-purpose and adapt different objects to help cut down on waste.  As an example, they kids helped melt down old broken crayons in order to reuse them into making new crayons.

Day 7: The seventh day of camp, the kids learned about planning a meal! They talked about how its important to look at the nutrition facts, calorie sources, have a variety and follow the serving sizes.  Mr. John also had them vote on a couple different foods and helped them plan their own meal!  The Eco lessons today were jam packed!  Our friends, Jean and Maggie,  from Carnegie Public Library came and read us stories again! During the Eco lesson, the kids also went on a little walk to throw their seed bombs! Not only will the seed bombs help the bees, but it will help beautify the neighborhood!

Day 8: The eight and final day of camp was extra special.  During food science, the kids have spent the last two weeks talking about healthy eating and on day seven, the kids planned out a meal and today they were able to make that meal happen! The kids helped make fruit salad, regular salad, baked beans and potatoes and were able to have a little picnic! It was delicious! The Eco lesson was spent reviewing what the kids had learned the last two weeks while coming up with different ways for the kids to reduce, reuse and recycle at home!

Eco Camp was a great success this week and the kids had a blast learning about how to eat healthier and how to take better care of the Earth!

- Jen

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Zine Scene

Come create your own scene with your friends!
Open to youth in 2nd - 7th grade 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fruits and Vegetables: A Rainbow of Flavor

Each day of the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center's ongoing ecology-focused day camp, Eco Camp,  begins with a lesson about the science of food and how we can care for the ecology of our own bodies. On this day, the food science lesson focused on fruits and vegetables.

After a quick lesson, introducing the vitamins and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, the tasting session began!

The fare was far from exotic, featuring sample-size pieces of navel orange, carrot, celery, green bell pepper, cucumber, blueberries, broccoli, and mango. Nevertheless, some students were not willing to try all of the fruits and vegetables.

We like to encourage our students to try new foods, even though they may be leery of them. Some kids start out with trepidation...

...only to find there was never any reason to fear! We like to acquaint our students with a diversity of fresh foods because in variety there is nutrition and health.

The food science lesson closed with a discussion about the best and most nutritious sources of fruits and vegetables. The kids learned to choose fresh or frozen produce over canned, when possible.

The final point introduced to idea of "eating the rainbow", a popular dietary guideline based on the color of produce and the related antioxidants and nutrients that different-colored foods can offer.
We kept it pretty simple, words like 'anthocyanin' and 'flavonoid' are a lot to explain in 30 minutes, but the image and link above (along with many, many other sources from the web) provide good information about which foods provide what nutrition.

Pictured: the Brashear Kids' favorite fast food
- John

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bee Pollination Fun

On Thursday August 18th, the lesson was based on Bee Pollination! Our entire world full of lush vegetation is due to bees and their ability to pollinate plants.  The loss of bees over the past few years has the potential to seriously hurt our environment. About one-third of the human diet is derived from insect-pollinated plants, and honey bees are responsible for 80 percent of this pollination. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts such as almonds. The loss of bees in other parts of the world has forced scientists and farmers to actually go out and pollinate the bees themselves. Pollinators are a very important part of our ecosystem and must remain. 


The kids in my class have an age range between 1st and 2nd grade and are perfectly set up to learn about the importance of our worldly pollinators. We began our lesson with a video on bee pollination and continued on to where we made our bees. The kids had the option to decorate their bee abdomens and glue the head and wings onto popsicle sticks. I’ve found that this group of kids really loves building and creating. Every chance they get, they take time to express their creativity through art. The bee creation was quick but helped the kids to learn about the various body parts to a bee.

Finishing with the flower and pollen, the kids were given coffee filters to color with markers. They had done this similar project one day prior and LOVED IT! My group really loves to make “authentic” looking flowers and took their time to make very beautiful works of art. I was able to explain that in the center of each flower where the bees come and pollinate. The kids took their time decorating the petals of their flowers and in the center we glued on a little bit of gold sparkle dust. This was to represent the very important pollen. This concluded their bee pollination lesson.

Thanks for reading !

-- Mackenzie 

Let Me Introduce Myself: Mackenzie

Today we would like to introduce our new summer AmeriCorps KEYS member, Mackenzie! Read on to get to know her!

Name: Mackenzie Check

Age: 22

From:  Warren, Pennsylvania

School: University of Montreal

Major: International Relations and Modern Languages B.A

Enjoys: Traveling and trying new foods

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be: Adventurous

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want to bring:

     Ship Wreckers Guide for Dummies – For Help

     Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – For comfort

     Lord of the Rings Return of the King – For inspiration

If you could have any pet in the world what would it be and why: A Pug! They are so cute.

Cats or dogs: Both

Vanilla or chocolate ice cream:  Both

Who has been the biggest influence on your life: My Teachers

How would you like to be remembered: I would like to be remembered by the Community Service work  that I hope to continue throughout my life.

I'm excited to be spending my summer AmeriCorp term with The Brashear Association!

- Mackenzie 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ALEC's Grand Opening & Photo Club Art Show

Photo Club is a collaborative photography project created by Renee Greenlee for the students at the Brashear Association's Allentown Learning & Engagement Center (ALEC). Photo Club students exhibited a selection of photographs at the Grand Opening of ALEC's new location, 827 E. Warrington Ave. Thirty-five images were chosen, showcasing the students' portraits coupled with their vision of their community.

During the Photo Club sessions, students used their cameras to document the world around them, making images that show their unique perspective of their community. We took cameras out of the classroom and on to the streets, learning together to see Allentown in a new way. When we returned to ALEC, we downloaded the photographs so that students could choose their favorites. For the Grand Opening and Art Show, we created an exhibition of some of the students’ top choices.
Our student photographers are: Aaron, Alanna, Alaya, Amier, Divine, Jeffrey, Justice, Lamar, Mehki, Nicholas, Robert, Shay and Tre’Jawn.

The Grand Opening and Art Show served as a significant milestone in the life of Brashear's education programs, celebrating a transition to a larger space with more room for after school and summer programming. ALEC is equipped with classroom spaces, a demonstration kitchen and an outdoor area for future basketball games and garden beds.

For the opening, Venture Outdoors, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Big Brothers, Big Sisters set up tables with games, activities and information. We also set up a button maker so that students could choose more of their favorite images made during Photo Club to make wearable art.

The goal of Photo Club is to provide students with the tools and skills that they need to be the authors of their own visual stories. Photo Club was supported in part by the Spark Fund for Early Learning at The Sprout Fund.  Special thanks to Pittsburgh Filmmakers for their support of the project. Catch up with the Photo Club's past adventures: part onepart twopart threepart four.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Working At The Brashear Association: A College Student’s Perspective

My name is Jacob and I have been working at the BrashearAssociation for about a year and a half. I was hired as a ‘Program Aide’ in January of 2014 after I applied for the position through Duquesne University’s work-study program during the fall of my freshman year.

Before I applied to any work-study positions, I evaluated a number of factors about each one in order to determine my respective levels of interest. Namely, since I am a psychology and sociology double major, I was very eager to work somewhere that would enable me to apply the knowledge that I would gain throughout my college education. However, what was more important to me throughout my work-study job search was finding a position that involved working with and helping others. Duquesne University prides itself on serving God by serving others, so they offer a number of work-study and volunteer opportunities through local agencies that serve individual communities and the larger Pittsburgh community as a whole. And as I researched each one by searching the Internet, local newspaper articles, and the agencies’ individual websites, I soon realized that I could apply psychological and sociological knowledge to nearly all of them. Resultantly, it was difficult for me to decide which such opportunity I wanted to pursue the most; I had to evaluate and determine which one would be the most important and meaningful to me as a person—which one I would be most passionate about. To me, this became the most important factor to consider when making my decision because in my opinion, passion is what makes people perform their job function most effectively, and it’s also what creates strong, meaningful, and mutually beneficial connections between staff and community members in any community service. I didn’t just want to do a job well—anyone can learn how to successfully perform a community service function without actually caring for what it is or whom it benefits. Rather, I wanted to passionately perform my job function.

In light of all this and some careful introspection, I soon realized that I most passionately supported The Brashear Association’s mission, values, and strategic plan and, as a result, felt most passionate in my desires to help them continue bringing these things to fruition. After realizing this, I applied for the ‘Program Aide’ position and eagerly accepted the Brashear Association’s invitation to hire me.

My primary functions as a ‘program aide’ during the after-school and weekend programs entail providing homework help, reading, drawing, and playing games with students, walking students to the program and their homes, resolving conflicts and behavioral issues, teaching lessons, providing support for other staff members while they teach lessons, making and passing out snacks, cleaning our space, and numerous other things. Most of these things are also done by every staff member and volunteer there, so I like the teamwork aspect of performing these functions. 

Additionally, I thoroughly enjoy doing these things because they enable me to help our staff to provide students with opportunities that they may not otherwise receive. For instance, we educate many of our students about a variety of subjects—such as art, culture, nature, healthy eating, and community, to name a few—that they may not otherwise learn about in their elementary school. Similarly, we work very hard to educate our students about ways to appropriately and maturely respond to adverse situations such as conflicts, difficulties learning, etc. Their initial responses may involve violence towards others or doubting their own abilities, so we do our best to cultivate more positive attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors in these contexts. Whether or not our students are afforded these opportunities in other situations, I am glad to play some kind of role in providing them in our center. In light of all this, I think all of our staff members and volunteers enjoy the job so much because (1) the activities and games, etc. are fun to participate in and (2) we play a role in educating students.

However, in doing these things, each staff member also gets to know and build meaningful connections with our students as well. In my opinion, this is the aspect of our job that everyone seems to appreciate the most. I don’t think there’s ever been a day wherein staff members couldn’t find a great deal of humor in our students’ personalities; and as we get to know their personalities more, it seems like they only become funnier and funnier. Not to mention, as time goes on, we have the opportunity to see them grow and evolve—for better or worse. This allows us to recognize and appreciate the instances in which it is clear that our program has significantly impacted a student for the better, which is a very rewarding feeling for any teacher, community service worker, or professional who works to help others. Furthermore, because of the rapport that we build with our students, I think that all of our staff members and volunteers take pride in being a role model of sorts and knowing that we have the potential to shape our students in positive ways as a result.

Since the other Duquesne work study employees / volunteers and myself are of a younger age than the other staff members, I think that we are in a unique position to be especially effective role models for the students. I think this is because so many of them have older siblings and cousins who are in our age range, so they are used to viewing these people in a different light than they view people who are closer in age to their parents. This certainly seems to be the case in our programs, as many students talk about learning ‘cool’ and acceptable things from these people. Therefore, I think we (work-study employees and volunteers) are in a unique position to model behaviors, habits, interests, etc. that may not otherwise be modeled for our students. I think we all find this to be very rewarding because it reminds us that we do have an impact on them, which further motivates us to maximize the positive impacts we have. This is certainly not to say that our other staff members are not positive role models for our students, however; they too are role models that benefit our students in their own unique ways. Nonetheless, my point of saying all this was mainly to give an idea of what it’s like to be a work-study employee or volunteer at The BrashearAssociation.

In conclusion, I honestly cannot think of a work-study or volunteer opportunity that I would enjoy doing more than I enjoy working at The Brashear Association. I am very grateful that Duquesne University provided me with the means to obtain this position, and I am equally grateful that The Brashear Association provided me with this opportunity.

I hope to write more blog posts in the future, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this! 

- Jacob


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