Friday, July 29, 2016

Go! Camp: Week Two!

This week, the Brashear Kids soldiered on through Go! Camp! Even though it was an exceptionally hot summer week, we kept active, stayed hydrated, and refueled with a bunch of healthy snacks! 

On Monday, Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community came by Grandview Park to run some drills with us and teach us the basics of soccer. The coaches taught us how to properly warm up, how to best control the ball, and what kinds of foods can help your body prepare for a big game.

Keeping the coaches tips in mind, we traipsed back to ALEC to prepare the day's healthy snack. Using the basil we have growing in our garden, we made pesto with whole grain pasta! Pesto is a light, delicious alternative to heavy sauces, and whole grain pasta is a great way to carb load before a day full of moving around! Some of the kids found the green color of the pesto a bit off-putting at first, but with some gentle encouragement to try it, everyone was pretty pleased with how it turned out. And who knew it was so easy to make at home?! 

One of our pickiest eaters goes from apprehensive, to delighted, to waiting for thirds while announcing "I LOVE THIS!"

On Tuesday, Ms. Corey, a former KEYS Service Corps member who served with Brashear, came to show us some neat hula hooping tricks! The kids learned that hula hooping isn't just for playgrounds; there are tons of people who incorporate hula hooping with dance! And if there is one thing our kids love to do, it is dance. Ms. Corey even donated 10 brand new hula hoops to us so that we can keep practicing on our own! 

After we hooped for a bit, we learned about healthy foods we can eat that can also help keep us hydrated. We ate a ton of watermelon and played for the rest of the day. 

Thursday brought two guest instructors from Y on the Fly! Ms. Brenna and Mr. Jordan got us running around our outdoor space with games that focused simultaneously on teamwork and healthy competition. 

After we were all tuckered out from the games, Mr. Jordan and Ms. Brenna showed us how to make our own salsa. They were super impressed when we added some peppers from our garden to their ingredients list! Later, one student said that the salsa was her favorite snack of the week, because it was fresher than "the nasty stuff you buy in the cans." I can't say I disagree with her. Before they left, Mr. Jordan and Ms. Brenna gave everyone a goody bag with a t-shirt, calculator, and healthy recipes. Not a bad haul!  

 Unhappy squinty faces can be attributed to the sun shining directly in their eyes

On the last day of summer camps, we usually go to the spray park down the street and have a picnic. It was not in the cards this week, since the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms. As Mr. Dave taught us during Tech Camp, you definitely do not want to be standing in a giant puddle of water when lightening strikes. Our back-up plan: movies & smoothies! Despite being cooped up indoors, we had a pretty good day. Besides, it's important to balance a lot of physical activity with adequate rest! 

Thanks so much to all the partners and volunteers who make this week possible. We couldn't have done it without you! Stayed tuned to hear about the adventures we'll have during next week's Outdoors Camp!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Go! Camp: Week One!

We had an exceptionally busy week at ALEC! We kicked off GO! Camp, and we never stopped moving. 

Go! Camp is all about staying active, eating healthy, and being kind to our bodies. On Monday, we learned about moderation, balancing rest and activity, and fun games to keep us moving indoors on rainy days! We tangled and untangled ourselves with the human knot game, played balloon volleyball, and topped it off with peanut butter roll ups. 

On Tuesday, we went hiking through Allentown and Mount Washington! We stopped along the way to admire some beehives and gardens, and remembered some of the things we did during ECO Camp. A mile and a half later, we found ourselves at the Mount Washington branch of the Carnegie Library! We took a break to mix our own trail mix, learn about the 90,000 book Summer Reading Challenge, and check out some of their resources for kids! 

On our way back to ALEC, we stopped at Grandview Park to play and hang out for a little bit. Even though we hiked more than three miles, we still found the energy to play freeze tag! 

On Wednesday, special guest teacher Ms. Mara stopped by! Ms. Mara is a competitive Irish step dancer, and the kids were in awe of her fancy footwork. She taught us a few new dance moves. Even though it was hard to keep up with her, some of the kids really caught on! 

After Ms. Mara's lesson was over, we refueled with some summer salad. We picked some leafy greens from our garden, and piled them on our plates with strawberries, apples, blueberries, carrots, green peppers, craisins, sunflower seeds... The list goes on! Everyone built a healthy salad suited to their tastes, and almost everyone was clamoring for seconds. 

On Thursday, we took another hike! We stopped for delicious peanut butter bagels before hitting the trails in Grandview Park. We topped our bagels with fruit and agave nectar, proving once and for all that you can have a sweet snack without a ton of refined sugar. Yum! Of course, we each had a water bottle to carry, because hydration is important when you're on the go! At ALEC, Ms. Amber makes us water infused with fruit and herbs that come from our garden. Some of the kids kept that in mind, and made their own infused water with strawberries and apples! It was cool to see them take an idea and modify it on the fly. 

After our snack, we went through the woods, poked some stuff with sticks, and wound up at the playground again. We let the kids vote on whether they wanted to stay late at the park, or return to ALEC early and have Tech Time. They voted unanimously to stay at the park! Once you get moving, it's hard to stop. Especially when you're sharing a beautiful day with your friends. 

Go! Camp continues next week, and we've got some really cool guests lined up to teach our kids new sports and activities! We can't wait!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Tech Camp in Review: Hello/Goodbye from YCS Dave!

Hello Brashear community!

My name is David Fuhrman. I am a KEYS Service Corps AmeriCorps member serving as a program facilitator from The Y Creator Space (YCS) at the Hilltop YMCA. It is my role to deliver STEM programming, especially robotics and tech programming, to different sites in Pittsburgh. YCS delivers STEM programming through the lens of design thinking, to engage kids in problem solving. Our philosophy is that STEM knowledge can usually be attained through a quick Google search, while the experience of problem solving through STEM-related challenges enables kids to learn how to tackle problems involving uncertainty, which leads to preserving a sense of wonder, higher educational attainment, and a richer intellectual life. 

These last two weeks I have had the pleasure of working with ALEC to bring their kids STEM programming, and what a ride it's been!

We explored mechanical engineering and computer programming using Hummingbird Robotics Kits, Create Labs Visual Programmer, and SNAP! 

We constructed LED flashlights to learn about circuits, and electromagnets to learn how DC motors work. 

We deconstructed some electronics, including laptops, a VCR, and a large 100 disc CD player, to learn about the various components that make up the electronics in our homes. 

In our discussions and during free time we touched on STEM careers, like engineering and programming, and we even learned a bit about Rubik's Cubes, binary, and hexadecimal.

It was such a fun week for me, and it went by so quickly. The way ALEC is run, and the staff relationships with the kids, created an ideal atmosphere to bring in YCS programming. The kids here were immediately engaged and focused on learning from the experience. Behavior problems, which can sometimes eclipse lessons, were mostly absent thanks to ALEC's staff and their thoughtful approach to behavior management.

The kids went from having little to no experience with robotics to building and programming their own robot animals in four days. They engaged with electronics actively, instead of passively turning them on for normal use. They tackled a lot of STEM material in two weeks, and best of all they enjoyed it. 

I feel grateful to have worked with ALEC, the awesome staff here, and especially such a wonderful group of kids! 


Friday, July 15, 2016

TECH Camp: Week 2!

From left to right: Team Mole Panda, Team Dragon, Team Turtle, and Team Poodle

Mr. Dave from the Y Creator Space was here again this week, teaching us all about technology! 

For inspiration, Mr. Dave showed the kids a robot that he made from a stuffed animal! We all agreed that the diabolical robot puppy was equal parts cute and creepy. Then, the kids got to work finishing the robot animals that they started constructing during week one of TECH Camp. We ended up with some fascinating specimens! 

While last week's focus was mainly on the blueprints, background, and physical construction of the animals, this week incorporated a lot more coding! Our robots have limbs that flail, eyes that light up, heads that turn, and mouths that open. One even breathes (fake) fire! In fact, our robots are so cool that they'll be on display at the Hilltop YMCA's Family Fun Night on Friday, July 22! Anyone interested in robots can stop by from 4:30-6:00 PM to see them. 

On day 2, Mr. Dave brought in an old VCR, a big CD changer, and two laptops. We got to rip them apart and figure out what makes them all tick. Do you know what diodes, capacitors, or solenoids are? Because our kids do! 

Day 3 brought about some smaller maker projects. We learned about circuits, and put that knowledge to use by making popsicle stick flashlights. We also made small electromagnets, and some of the kids opted to help Mr. Dave make a spin art machine during their free time! 

Day 4 saw the end of TECH Camp. We thought the kids deserved a treat for working so hard these last two weeks, so we herded them down to the spray park and splashed around for a few hours! We had a little picnic with healthy snacks, and had a ton of fun. The kids made up their own version of water tag, and thought up obstacle courses for each other. Good things can happen when you just let them play!  

Thanks again to Mr. Dave for all the cool activities he planned for us! We learned a lot, and we had a blast doing it. Go! Camp starts next week, and we are jazzed to get moving with all the kids! 


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Farewell from Sarah

This past year at ALEC I had the opportunity to work as both a teacher and mentor to the youth in our program and in the community. Though I wasn’t there long the experience was amazing and worthwhile.

I was able to explore so many different topics and learn a lot of things for myself teaching the different lessons. We had so much fun creating exploding science experiments and learning about being a part of a community. The youth were always so much fun to be around and watching them learn and grow. Working with other organizations like Venture Outdoors, Strong Women Strong Girls, and the YMCA really helped to make this year amazing for the kids and for our whole program. It was always a blast getting to try new things myself along with the kids.

Along with my position at ALEC I was able to run the New Artists club at Philips Elementary School. Designing the curriculum I was able to explore what makes art fun and how it can be different for everyone. The kids were so creative and willing to jump into any activity with everything they had! 

Working for the Brashear Association was so much more than just teaching and tutoring. The best part was getting to know the kids and being able to support them in any way I could. Though some times it was a challenge it was always worth it at the end of the day. 

I feel like I have learned a lot over the past year and I am very grateful to have played a role in this organization. Thanks to everyone working at Brashear and all those who supported and worked with us to provide such great service to the community. It's been great!

-Sarah Long

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Saturdays: Marble Painting!

Saturdays at ALEC are a bit more laid-back than weekdays. Drop-ins are welcome to come and participate in a maker activity, and then hang out! This Saturday, we made marble paintings. We coated marbles in a teeny bit of tempera paint, and rolled them around on sheets of paper! The kids ended up with some pretty nifty designs.

After the activity, some of the kids tried to wager extra tech time with Ms. Diana over a game of bingo. She wasn't having it, but she did agree to bet some juice boxes. The kids won, and juice was had by all!  
We had a great time just hanging out on the comfy puffs, playing games, and reading. We can't wait to see what next Saturday will bring! 


Friday, July 8, 2016

TECH Camp Week 1: Robot Petting Zoo!

This week, the Brashear Kids are learning all about technology. Mr. Dave from the Y Creator Space is here for our two week TECH Camp to show the kids how to build their own robot animals! 

Before the kids started building, Mr. Dave taught them how to use the Hummingbird Robotics kit. Hummingbird technology was first developed in Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE lab, and it's so cool that our kids get to continue the Pittsburgh tradition of programming! 

The kids split into teams, chose the animals they wanted to build, and got to planning. Some of the blueprints were very well thought out! While they were designing, the kids thought about how they wanted their robots to make people feel. Eventually, they came up with names and backstories for their robots! 

The robot petting zoo is awesome because the kids not only get to learn about motors, coding, and programming, but they get to be creative! They diligently decorated their robots in ways that expressed their own personalities, and the backstories they came up with were so imaginative and entertaining. Also, the materials they used to build their robots really reinforced the concepts of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that they learned during ECO Camp

After three days, a mountain of cardboard, and a few minor hot glue injuries, the kids were starting to see the fruits of their labor. Team Mole Panda (pictured above) successfully programmed their eyes to light up and their legs to start moving. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing all your hard work pay off! 

Of course, using all that brain power can get exhausting, so we made sure to keep things goofy and fun. We even had two birthdays to celebrate this week! 

We can't wait until week two of TECH Camp to see how all the robots turn out! Thanks, Mr. Dave!



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