Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guest Cooking Lesson with Kelsey Weisgerber

The 2nd and 3rd graders at Allentown Academy were treated with a guest cooking lesson from Kelsey Weisgerber, the Food Service Director from Environmental Charter School. Kelsey brought great energy and enthusiasm to our cooking session. Not to mention a super healthy and delicious dish: Vegetarian black bean and mushroom tacos with pineapple salsa!

Kelsey brought a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables for our recipe: tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, mushrooms, lemons, limes and avocados. Students helped to wash the produce. Kelsey then passed out the cutting boards and divided the produce. With the help of the adults, every student was given a knife and began cutting the ingredients. Kelsey taught us important safety tips, like keeping your fingers curled like a claw while you hold the vegetable you are chopping. There was not a single call for a band aid!

The students did a great job matching the slice of the pieces to Kelsey's direction. They quarted mushrooms, deseeded bell peppers, learned how to peel cilantro leaves off the stems, mashed avocado and smashed garlic. It was exciting when the pineapple was introduced into the mix. I was impressed by the small dices the students achieved with their handy knifework!

Another new experience was juicing limes. After we mixed up our salsa, Kelsey showed us how to use a press to sprinkle it with tasty lime juice.


While students finished chopping, Kelsey turned on her portable stove and began to heat the black beans and mushrooms for the taco filling. Soon it came time to clean off the table and add all of the chopped ingredients to plates for colorful toppings. I believe we were eating every color of the rainbow except for blue.

After a lot of cooperative work preparing the meal, it came time to eat! Students were served plates with every ingredient we used. Kelsey told us that one of the rules for the session was that we try everything, even if you think that you might not like it. After all, our taste buds change every seven years. Kelsey also outlawed the term "nasty," when trying food. She emphasized positivity, mindfulness and gratitude for the food we eat.

It felt like we were a big family as we ate together! The most popular components of the meal were the pineapple in the salsa and the multi-grain tortilla chips. Many students asked for second helpings. We had a plentitude of fruits and veggies from all that chopping. Kelsey is definitely a champion for healthy eating in schools. She works hard to provide wholesome, prepared-from-scratch food for lunch at the Environmental Charter School. She also is a champion for composting scraps and preventing food waste. I'm honored that she came to cook with us!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Allentown Academy Smoothie Lesson

Our 4th and 5th graders of Allentown Academy had the chance to make smoothies at our after school programing a couple weeks ago!  Before making the smoothies with the students, we tested the recipe at the Brashear office.  So often, kids crave a sweet, chocolate get-me-up at the end of their long school day; so I found a recipe with a healthy spin to it to try with the students.  With some inspiration for the smoothie recipe from pinterest and many healthy blogs--this is the recipe I followed the closest. 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie Recipe:
-1 peeled banana
-1 tablespoon of peanut butter
-1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
-1 cup/handful of spinach
-1 cup of almond milk
-6 to 8 ice cubes
Upon hearing that we would be putting spinach in our smoothie, the students got a little worried.  Luckily, the spinach only made the smoothie have a green tint, but it's tasteless in our drink!  Plus, spinach is a great source of vitamins--what could be better than that!  When we made the smoothie during our after school program, the students were eager to be helpers.  Everyone tried to contribute in making this delicious and healthy drink.

Overall, the chocolate smoothie seemed to be a hit; although some of the students were a little intimidated by the funky brownish-green color.  I love trying out simple, healthy recipes with our students in hopes they will try it at home sometime.  A couple of the 4th and 5th graders even requested the recipe! 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Picture Pals Art Show with Haitian Families First

Mark your calendars for April 26th! The students enrolled in Allentown Academy, our afterschool program at Pittsburgh Grandview K-5, have been creating artwork through Picture Pals, a cross-cultural art exchange program by Haitian Families First.  

Our students are proud to display their artwork for the community to see, and we are excited to host the show at the CLP pop up library location in Allentown. Following our show in Allentown, their artwork will also be on view at Assemble on Penn Avenue, beginning Friday, May 2.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Guest Artist Visit: Blaine Siegel

Our New Artists class at Phillips Elementary is still talking about our amazing visit from artist Blaine Siegel. He captured our attention by his engaging presentation and intriguing art philosophy. Blaine Siegel is an artist who practices several disciplines, including installation, sculpture, drawings/paintings, and video. Most astounding, though, was when he turned our classroom into an installation space.

Students instantly knew something was different when they entered the classroom. Blaine altered our space before we arrived by strewing garbage bags and crinkly aluminum ducts on the floor.  Our New Artists were put into a curious, inquisitive state of mind, which was appropriate for the spectacle Blaine was about to show us...

He had one of our students switch on a motor, which pumped air into the ducts and began to inflate the mysterious garbage bags. We realized that the bags were melded together, as an otherworldly structure began to form. The students looked on in fascination as they witnessed a kinetic sculpture take shape.

Blaine shared with us his conceptual interests as the sculpture continued to grow. This gives testament to his engaging presence, because despite being really excited by the plastic bags taking over the room, our students were still listening and engaged.

Blaine discussed his use of recycled materials, impermanence and he taught us a new word to further describe his projects: "quotidian," which describes materials that are everyday and ordinary. His installations breathe life into everyday objects that people would usually throw away. What is more quotidian than garbage bags, after all? And yet, they are transformed when fused and inflated and presented as sculpture.

The aesthetic properties of the sculpture were revealed as it reached its capacity, filling up a sizable portion of the room. Black trash bags were contrasted with white plastic bags and sections of bubble wrap. Stretched taut, the bags made intriguing shapes and textures. "What does it look like to you?" Blaine asked us. House, grapes, a blackberry, a sea creature, a microbe... the amorphous sculpture brought all sorts of associations. It even became an interactive piece when Blaine invited a student to enter it and hop around inside.

After enjoying the sculpture, it came time to deflate it. As the bags shrunk down, Blaine explained that he made this piece in reaction to the plastic bags choking the ocean. He referenced the Trash Vortexes, the infamous patches of marine debris that collect because of ocean currents. Most of that debris is plastic, which does not biodegrade, but only breaks down into smaller pieces. Thinking about this issue, along with experiencing a recycled kinetic sculpture, makes you think twice before discarding a plastic bag.

Blaine shared with us another sculpture he brought, one that was plaster and charmingly painted with brightly colored dots. He told us that he had been inspired to make it from a drawing that his daughter made. Blaine also showed us some of his 2D work and described an animation project he was currently working on. To further enhance his presentation, Blaine introduced a collaborative, chance-based art project to the class. We made Exquisite Corpses, a classic drawing exercise made popular by the Surrealists.

Even the adults were invited to join in and draw sections of the collaborative creatures. After making the drawings, we went around and looked at them and giggled at the strange combinations. It was a jam-packed day at New Artists... we are very grateful to Blaine Siegel for transforming our classroom for an afternoon!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Special Guest: Saric Feng From the Andy Warhol Museum

A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine came to visit the 4th and 5th graders of Allentown Academy!  Saric is an Artist Educator at The Andy Warhol Museum.  As an Artist Educator, Saric teaches museum patrons how to do some of Andy Warhol's art processes in the open studio called, The Factory.  Along with that, she gives group tours to museum goers, facilitates various workshops, and outreach to schools--like she did with us.


In order to honor the legacy of pop artist Andy Warhol, the theme of our projects were based on the 4th and 5th graders favorite celebrities.  Before Saric came to visit, the students voted on their top favorite celebs; which included:  Nicki Minaj, LeBron James, BeyoncĂ©, Tyler Perry, Michael Jackson, and B.O.B.  To prepare the lesson, Saric created silk screens and materials for an acetate collage with the favorite celebrity faces on them.

To begin, students had the chance to first choose either Nicki Minaj or LeBron James for the silk screening project.  They could use markers to fill in the outline of Nicki and LeBron and add lots of bright colors before they silk screened.  The kids were incredibly creative and really dove into the project; adding beautiful color patterns to their artwork. 

Once the students were satisfied with their colorful picture of LeBron or Nicki, Saric introduced them to the process of silk-screening.  A couple of the students were asked to be helpers, and they eagerly stood by her side to aid in the process.  After silk screening, students had a chance to begin an acetate collage.  These collages had the faces of BeyoncĂ©, Tyler Perry, Michael Jackson, and B.O.B.  Students could add colorful paper to their acetate collage to give it the Andy Warhol feel.

I am so glad our students had the opportunity to learn about the fellow Pittsburgher Andy Warhol and had the chance to silk screen and collage their favorite celebrities.  Saric did an amazing job engaging the 4th and 5th graders by making the project completely relevant to the students interests.  The students really loved the visit and asked if she could come back again soon.  It makes me happy the kids took such an interest in learning about an iconic artist.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Field Trip: Fresh From the Farm Juices & Sweet Peaches

Through a special grant from Eat'n Park, we took the 4th and 5th grade students enrolled in our afterschool program at Grandview Elementary on a field trip. We went to  Fresh From the Farm Juices in the South Side and Sweet Peaches in Allentown.

Ankit, owner of Fresh from the Farm Juices, engaged our students in the process of making cold-pressed juice, highlighting the importance of local, organic produce.

Students washed and prepared spinach, kale, cilantro, carrots and apples to make Ankit's delicious Limey Green juice.

After everything was prepared, we saw the cold presser in action. Students loved being a part of the process, and they could not get enough of the juice. They asked for seconds, thirds, fourths...I think they could have finished off the entire supply of Limey Green juice!

After Fresh From the Farm Juices, we went to Sweet Peaches, a catering company on Warrington Avenue.  Bek prepared her famous Hilltop chicken salad wraps, fresh fruit kabobs with yogurt and honey dipping sauce, house made granola, and a bed of cous cous topped with vegetables.

Bek did a great job answering their questions about owning her own business, how to prepare a menu and of course, how they could make their own delicious chicken salad. 

They all wanted the recipe, and thankfully she made enough for them to be able to take home a wrap for later. 

Both the juice and the lunch were healthy and delicious, and we all learned so much about food preparation and owning a business. Thanks to both Ankit and Bek for making our field trip a great success. 


Monday, March 31, 2014

Our Healthy Go-To After School Snacks

We provide after school snacks on a weekly basis for one of our after school sites and we thought we would share what works for our students.  Maybe another appropriate title would be "After school snacks made easy." All of these options are quick and simple and require very little preparation. They also provide a smooth transition into teaching as they are easy to clean up and not very involved.

So here it is, a recipe for happy snacking kids:
Popcorn - They love it and seem to be thoroughly confused when we do no bring it.
Pretzels - Any shape or size.
Fruit - Mandarin oranges are always a hit as well as apples.

  We have found that our students really don't care for us changing it up too much. We have tried new things like pizza flavored pita chips, and there was almost a mutiny. Kids crave that consistency and really like the options we bring.

A few other things that have worked for us are:
Dried mango bits
Veggie straws

We realize that if our students have had a lot of sugars or things with extra additives, the class seems to be slightly more chaotic and the students do not focus on the projects as well. A healthy snack seems to directly correspond to smooth after school programming and attentiveness. 

Side note: The students actually directed the photography and styling of the shots in this post. They were very proud of how they set up their food for the photos.



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