Monday, April 20, 2015

Cooking Together: Kevin Sousa & Snow Pea Risotto

Kevin Sousa of Superior Motors came to visit ALEC, Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, last month and shared a snow pea risotto recipe with our students and their families as our 2nd guest in our Cooking Together Series.
When I asked Kevin if he would be interested in being a guest chef he did not have to think long about it. He liked our mission for ALEC and the series, he also believed it aligned with the ongoing work of Superior Motors in Braddock and the Braddock Youth Project.

Kevin wanted to share a simple and adaptable recipe with our students to be used in any season or whatever frozen vegetables are available to a family at any given time of the year. 

He brought peas and fresh pea shoots from the Braddock greenhouses and shared about the importance of eating fresh and in season produce.  One student asked if everything was made from scratch, Kevin was able to elaborate further on how you can avoid many extra chemicals and preservatives that you may find in pre-boxed meals if you make recipes from scratch. 

Several boys were very interested in the recipe and a few stood the majority of the demonstration to watch intensely, comment and beg to help with each step of the recipe. 

A student was asked to read the recipe aloud, ingredient by ingredient and step by step. This allowed Kevin to go over each ingredient and even share where it was sourced and/or bought or if there  was also a substitute for it. Since the group as a whole discussed each step  of the process together through the recipe reading they asked a lot of questions about the food and the process. 
I feel that this approach to recipes was helpful to our students so that they felt as if they were also making it and not just watching a demonstration. 

Sofia Sousa, Kevin's daughter, helped to stir the pot and keep the risotto from burning and worked with one of our students to help add water/broth to the mixture to get a good consistency. 

We blended up snow peas with a a bit of salt and pepper to be added to the risotto mixture. The kids thought this was fun and looked a little like slime. 

2 qt.s vegetable stock (or water)
1 oz. unsalted butter
1 oz. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 pound arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (water or stock can be substituted)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring the vegetable stock (or water) to a boil and keep hot. In a 3 qt. saucepan, combine butter, olive oil and shallots. Saute over medium low heat until shallots are translucent.
Add the rice and toast for approximately 5 minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
Add the white wine (or hot water or stock) and continue stirring until the wine has evaporated.
Add the hot vegetable stock, just enough to barely cover the rice and continue stirring until all the liquid is evaporated.
Repeat the above step until the rice is cooked al dente, about 15 minutes total cooking time.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: We blended snow peas in a blender to make a mixture to add to the risotto, topped with pea shoots.

There were happy faces and satisfied taste buds at the end of the session and all went home with the recipe to make for themselves.
This is a great class to attend together as a family. Parent and child can interact in the process, discover if it is a recipe they all like and go home to recreate it together as a family.

Our next Cooking Together class will be Saturday, April 25th with food blogger Quelcy Kogel. Make plans to attend as a family!

We had a blast with our first Cooking Together guest, Bek of Sweet Peaches, she shared her Black Bean Sliders recipe with us. Go check out the blog post for more information.

We are so appreciative of all the excellent chefs and cooks in Pittsburgh who have such giving hearts. Thank you! 

If you are a Pittsburgh chef and would like to be a Cooking Together guest please contact Amber at

Thank you so much Kevin and Sofia Sousa for giving your time, energy and creativity to our students and families!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Confessions of an After School Teacher

I have a few confessions to make:
Sometimes I forget our students have been in school all day and they have most likely been told to sit down several times over.
Sometimes I forget they are just kids and they do what kids do, which is run and jump and make insane noises and laugh and play jokes.
Sometimes I forget to sit down with them and ask them about their day and just have a genuine conversation with them.
Sometimes I forget they are tired, that a few may have taken afternoon meds, and that all they want is a cushy piece of carpet to lay down on.
Sometimes I don't always know what drama has happened at school or if a home situation has shifted.
And sometimes I feel as though the class was a little out of hand that day and I go home feeling that I could have responded to situation differently with a more positive outcome.

We shared a post last June titled 7 Secrets of After School Teachers.  We wanted to share how we keep things in perspective, organized and focused on our students to provide safe and fun educational programs without going a little nuts. 
I felt that it was time again to share my views, or confessions rather, how our program really looks like some days. 

Many days look like the photo below...
+ Quick clarification of a lesson with our AmeriCorps teachers
+ One child just wants to hold a hand
+ Another wants pretzels and gets up to walk around
+ And another makes funny faces to his peers...
The list goes on.

If my first year as Education Coordinator has taught me anything, it is to know when to let go and to choose my battles.
Sometimes a young student just does not want to participate or follow directions. Sometimes they yell or use other means to get attention or to show their disapproval of our current activity. Sometimes it can be hurtful to themselves or those around them.

Instead of repeating over and over the directives I would like for them to do, I have learned to give them the choice and remind them how their choices now, are affecting their privileges later on, such as free time or technology time. Instead of screaming to get their attention I stand and wait patiently with little reminders of how much free time they are currently losing for the group due to chatting and carrying on with their peers instead of focusing their attention on the teacher.

Lamar (below) has a difficult time with lessons and sitting still. It is hard for him to calm down when what he wants to do is create something, entertain someone or just play.  It took me half the year to realize that he listens and interacts with a lesson better when he is creating something.
So I put paper, scissors and markers in front of him and said "Make me something."
His body immediately calms and quiets down and when a teacher asks a question about the lesson he eagerly raises his hand to answer.
He usually cuts out hearts for me to wear or draws me storm troopers (or the white people as he refers to them) because we like to talk about Star Wars together.
We can't do this every time, but there is a time to let go and assess what is best for the student and the class in any given situation. Sometimes it is to sit next to them and help them listen and other times it is to remove them from the group and give them paper, scissors and markers and say "Make me something."

Sometimes I throw out the original plan for the day, to go with what the kids are feeling which can lead to rquested games of hot potato, going to the park, doing the cha cha slide and lots of silliness and laughter.

Let's be honest, no one is perfect. We all have days where things do not go quite as planned. Kids don't always do exactly what we ask of them in our program.  It is not always smooth sailing. Kids can be unpredictable at times. One child can set the tone for the whole classroom.
How we react to those times
is what our students are watching for. 
If we ask them to not throw the markers on the floor when things don't go their way, maybe I should be more patient with them when they are not following directives like I have asked. Maybe that is a time I sit down on the floor with them and pick up the markers and discuss with that child how their day was at school.

Smiles go a long way with our kids.
Stop, smile, high five, make a silly face, these are a regular routines for myself and our staff.  
It is amazing how many situations have been remedied with a deep breath, a giggle or a high five.
We are fortunate to have a great team supporting our Brashear Education Department, from our hard working Americorps to our reliable Duquesne students to our generous volunteers

We do not claim to be perfect or to have it all together but we strive hard each day to make it a little bit better for the students we come in contact with and our community around us.


Follow us on Twitter

 Brashear Kids on Twitter

To stay up to date on all events, articles and projects we are working on, follow us on Twitter!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Photo Club: On Warrington Ave.

One of the goals for Photo Club is to build a sense of connectedness to the community.  Warrington Ave., the main artery of Allentown, is where our students spend their time walking to the store, to ALEC, to school, and to the bus. On our tour, we talked with friends and neighbors who were curious about what we were doing. Our students were able to share their story and learn some new stories along the way.

Photo by Divine

Photo by Robert

Photo by Alaya

One of our exercises was to look for elements of design. They photographed texture and used lawns and sky as "white space" within the photograph. Some of our students also noticed reflections and images within images, creating interesting compositions.

Photo by Aaron

Photo by Amier

Photo by Lamar

Photo by Nicholas

Photo by Divine

Finding public art was also a great way to enrich our conversation of what it means to engage in the community: articulating a vision and beautifying a space. These are two of the murals that can be found just off of Warrington Ave.

Photo by Nicholas

Photo by Tre'

Photo Club is a project designed by Renee Greenlee, a Photography Intensive student at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  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. 

This project is supported in part by the Spark Fund for Early Learning at The Sprout Fund and is hosted by the Brashear Association's Allentown Learning & Engagement Center (ALEC). 

To learn more about Photo Club, check out our first two posts, here and here

Brashear Kids Go to the Opera | Carmen

Brashear Kids recently attended Carmen the opera at the Benedum Center! It was a wonderful evening full of excitement and color on the stage. This was our largest group, with 31 attendees, to attend an opera with the Brashear Association through our partnership with Opera Connections.  We are pleased with the growing interest from our students concerning the arts.
More was shared about this partnership with Opera Connections here.

This opera fell on one of our New Artists students birthday, Issac! He attended the workshop with Marilyn Egan prior to the opera and his parents were unsure if he would attend since the performance fell on his birthday. When I called to get a ticket count for the opera, his father informed me that Issac had been anxiously looking forward to the opera for the last couple weeks and had chosen to go to the performance over having a birthday party with friends that evening.  He stated that Issac would point out the billboards anywhere they went.
I mentioned all this to Marilyn and she was so impressed that she put together a little goodie bag of items for him including a cupcake, a signed birthday card from the group and a signed poster!  Needless to say, this made his day.

We were given a backstage tour of the Benedum prior to the show which was very exciting and full of animated stories from our knowledgeable tour guides.

Thank You Marilyn Egan, of Opera Connections, for the tour, the opera and the kind birthday gifts!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Announcing the 2015 New Artists Art Show!

On May 4th, the Carnegie Library of South Side will host the New Artists 2015 art show! Drop in for fun and refreshments and see what the New Artists have made!

 May the Fourth be with you!

- John

Monday, April 6, 2015

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's 2014 Community Partner of the Year!

Maggie McFalls, Linda Lieu, Amber Rooke, Renee Greenlee, Bruce Kraus, & Maria Joseph.
Photo courtesy of  Renee Greenlee Photography

We are extremely pleased to share that The Brashear Association was awarded the
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's 2014 Community Partner of the Year!  

"A new award, Outstanding Community Partner, was created this year as a way to recognize outstanding organizations and corporations that have enhanced library services and programs by building capacity through staff volunteerism, in-kind donations or sponsorship. This award, which was nominated by library staff, was presented to The Brashear Association for its partnership in the ALEC (Allentown Learning and Engagement Center), bringing a variety of literacies and education, such as story times and children’s programming, to the residents of Allentown and building a stronger sense of community."
-A CLP press release excerpt

Amber Rooke receiving the award on behalf of the Brashear Association.
Photo courtesy of  Renee Greenlee Photography
We were proud to be nominated along side so many hardworking and well deserving organizations, We are still in shock! 

What a great honor it has been to work in partnership with the Carnegie Library Lyncs team on transitioning the pop up space in Allentown into ALEC, Allentown Learning and Engagement Center. The Lyncs staff, Knoxville and Carrick libraries continue to be dear friends to our agency and more specifically our Education Department as we continue to partner through guest librarians, teachers and special programs at ALEC. To read more about our partnership go here.

Renee Greenlee, Brashear's former Education Coordinator, was instrumental in laying the groundwork between The Brashear Association and CLP.  She worked hard to make sure this partnership a success and a valuable resource for the Allentown community.  After Renee left the agency to pursue further schooling, Amber Rooke, continued  to grow the many efforts that had been established by Renee through continued after school and summer programming as well as the introduction of new Saturday programming and extra curricular events.

Mike Smialek, Emily MacIntyre, Amber Rooke & Renee Greenlee.
Photo Courtesy of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Further congratulations to Mike Smialek and Emily MacIntyre for receiving the Adult and Teen Outstanding Advocates of the Year!

A big thank you to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Lyncs team at Carnegie Library and all the hard work and effort put forth by The Brashear Association's Education Department team and volunteers for making Allentown Learning and Engagement Center a viable asset in the hilltop community.   A very special thank you to  Maggie, Maria, Linda, Dan, Holly and Christian.
Thank You!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...