Friday, November 13, 2015

Express Yourself!

This week in new artists we learned about expressing our emotions through our art and how to use color as a tool to do that. We looked at a few paintings, like the one above by Van Gogh, and talked about how they made us feel and what role color played in that. Would the painting of sunflowers look happy had they been all blue, or would they have looked sad and lonely? We then took a quick look at our color wheel of emotion.

We talked together about what we thought of the words on the wheel and what we might agree or disagree with. Next we put what we learned to use. On one sheet of paper, split into 4 squares, each student drew one happy, sad, angry, and scared picture. We used facial expression and scenes as well as color to try to display these emotions. 

Some of the kids decided to keep the picture the same and change just a few things which completely altered the mood of the piece. Once the kids got the hang of it we each drew our own larger drawing expressing whichever emotion we wanted and putting our own spin on it.

As you can see the kids really each went very different ways, but all came up with unique drawings that showed a whole lot of emotion.

It was great to see the different interpretations of each mood and to give the kids a chance to figure them out and put it down on paper. Art is a great tool to explore and express emotion and the kids really got into it!


Brashear Teens: Do you arcade?

Hey guys! Danyelle here from the Hilltop! Have you seen the movie Tron? Do you like classic arcade games? Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a computer programmer? Are you curious about Artificial Intelligence and robotics? Then Armagetron is for you!

Armagetron Advanced is a computer game that mimics traditional arcade games and is based on the 1982 Disney film Tron. In Tron, a computer designer has to hack back into his computer to face his own program (the computer) to save his father, whom is lost in the program.

What's really cool about this program is that you can partially design the game and control the programming. After you set-up the controls, you can play against various computer players (the artificial intelligence component), comically named after Microsoft Office programs (ie Excel, Notepad, Word, etc.).

Even though it could be frustrating at times, the kids had a lot of fun challenging the computer and showed me up on several occasions! They even got me hooked on the game-and I'm not a computer person at all!

Next time, we're thinking about working on hooking the laptops up together with HDMI cables and playing each other instead of the computer. There's a lot to explore in terms of programming and the kids are ready to jump right in! Are there any computer programming applications you think we should explore? Let me know by calling/texting me at (412)620-8234 or e-mailing

Keep arcading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nature's Next Artists

    Our latest trip with Venture Outdoors once again brought us to beautiful Grandview Park, where the kids were able to make Nature Art.  Trip leader Brittney tasked our group with finding things in nature that we could use to make art.

    While the final pieces ranged from houses of sticks to collages of leaves, most of the groups were able to collect their materials and begin building within just a few minutes. 

    And as always, the kids were proud of the fruit of their labor, although they were reluctant to have to take it all apart.  Part of what Venture Outdoors taught us back in October was "leave no trace", which means we should leave nature in the same or a better condition than we found it.  Thus we dispensed with creating art, and returned our materials to their homes to allow nature to get back to its business.

    And so another Monday with Venture Outdoors came to close, and we were fortunate to once again have really nice, sunny weather so late in the year.  Until next time!

- Steven

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How About a Smoothie?

    Hey all!  This post is a special something that Amber contemplated doing with the boys during the Wednesday community time, when the girls are with the Strong Women Strong Girls volunteers from Point Park University.  We introduced the idea as a way to show our neighbors in Allentown that we love healthy snacks.  We felt the best way to do this that would allow the boys to brainstorm together would be - you guess it - smoothies!  The boys decided that peaches and raspberries would go great together, as well as bananas and pineapple juice.  After a few minutes of making the smoothies, off we went!

    Our first stop was to Hilltop Alliance and Pittsburgh Works, our neighbors upstairs, who were pleasantly surprised by our "intrusion", but enjoyed the refreshing snack towards the end of the work day.  They support the Brashear Association in several ways, so we definitely wanted to treat them!  Back to the street we went, looking to stop at the....

....police station!  While we weren't able to go inside the precinct, we managed to grab the attention of this fine officer who quickly devoured the smoothie.  He said it was refreshingly cool on an unusually warm October day!  Before heading back onto Warrington, we stopped to chat with our good friends in....

....Black Forge Coffee House!  Nick and company (aka his customers) eagerly accepted the smoothies to balance out the heat from their coffee/tea-infused drinks.  The boys also told them who we were and why we were dropping by with the afternoon snack.  And so the journey continued as we next stopped at....

....Spool!  The neighborhood sewing/quilting/tailoring/etc. experts and guests were surprised by our mission but nonetheless gratefully accepted the treat.  What a long journey it was; being only halfway done, we attempted to speed up our pace to visit as many stores as we could.  With our supply dwindling rapidly, we made a few more stops on that side of the street before we supplied Marge, our friendly neighborhood crossing guard, with her own smoothie.  After crossing the street, we stopped by the Boost Mobile phone store, Paisanos Pizzeria, and Leon's Caribbean Restaurant.  Our assemblage made its way back to ALEC after having dispensed all of the smoothies to our neighbors.

    With a hard days work behind us, we returned to ALEC and enjoyed the rest of our free time before heading down to dinner at A Giving Heart.  A big thank you to our neighbors along Arlington Avenue and Warrington Avenue who were willing to try our healthy snack!  For more info about them, check out the websites below!

- Steven

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Geocaching 101: Introduction to Outdoor Exploring with Venture Outdoors!

Hey everyone!  Last Monday we were blessed to be able to hang out once again with Venture Outdoors on a beautiful fall day!

We had a little difficulty getting ourselves ready to go (probably because of those manic Mondays), but once we set out for the park the kids seemed to enjoy the weather.  Upon reaching the Grandview Park overlook, we were introduced to GPS devices.  1 point if you know what GPS stands for!

The kids were very interested in using them, and as we split up into groups we decided it would be easiest to let everyone have a turn trying to lead us to an object.  This is called Geocaching; using GPS to locate pre-placed items with locations previously plugged into the GPS.  Most of the kids knew what it was in theory, but in practice was a different story.  Luckily for us, our brilliant Venture Outdoors activity leaders were on the ball with a few techniques to practice reading and using the GPS.

Groups scattered throughout most of the park area looking for one of several points.  When we came back together, it turned out that only one or two groups had been able to find the hidden caches.  While the kids were sort of bummed out about not finding a cache, they still seemed to relish the time spent outdoors and were already asking when we could use do the activity again.  All in all, it was another fun, crazy day that saw the kids enjoying the awesome park that we are so fortunate to be close to.  Thanks for another great activity, Venture Outdoors!

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." 
- Aristotle

- Steven

Monday, November 2, 2015

Optical Illusions and Brain Tricks

For our science experiment today we explored optical illusions and tricks you can play on your brain. First we viewed a few classic optical illusions we found on the NIH web page. Next one of our Duquesne volunteers Brooklyn stepped up and showed us a few cool hand trick illusions.

It was crazy to see the tricks right in front of us and to get a chance to try them out. As a fun craft the class had an opportunity to create our own illusions. We used directions I found on a great blog "What We Do All Day" linked here to create thaumatropes, a toy which combines two images when you spin it.

Step 1: cut out two matching circles from a sheet of plain paper
Step 2: draw two images that go together like a fish on one side and a fish bowl on the other

Step 3: tape these two images back to back on a straw
Step 4: spin and watch it work!

Check out some of the kids finished products in the video below!

Such a great experiment to keep kids thinking and having fun!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Don't fret your fears - pop em!

Our visit with Strong Women Strong Girls last week provided a chance for the girls to talk about their fears.  As we entered the Halloween season and are now closing in on that ghoulish day, spiders, ghosts and vampires become all too common a fright for kids.  Thus the girls went around the circle and each shared a time they had to overcome a fear. It was great to hear all of these experiences.

For a fun activity the girls each got a balloon and wrote down a fear they have. The next step was to pop those balloons! We stepped on, sat on, and poked our balloons and our fears!

While the girls were hanging out with the mentors, the boys were participating in a fun activity with the Carrick Library. They brought in folding papers and instructions for some fun Halloween themed crafts!

The boys had a great time creating these spooky designs and working together.

We are so lucky to have partners like Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Strong Women Strong Girls that we can always count on to bring us a great time and really care about the kids. Thank you!

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt



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