Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gardening with Grandview's Mrs. Airesman

    Brashear Kids recently took a trip to Grandview Elementary to help Mrs. Airesman with her garden, located out in the front of the school.  We had a smaller group than expected, but some unexpected help arrived.

    Mrs. Aireman's sister also helped the students with the garden that day.  She explained what they would be doing, as well as some of the plants and vegetables they would be planting.

    And then, it was time to garden!  Each student had the chance to plant at least one plant in the garden, which involved digging up a hole for the plant, and then transferring it from the milk carton.

    More help arrived from University of Pittsburgh in the form of three of the student's pen pals from the college.  They encouraged the students while planting, and helped with the other activity...

    Terrariums!  The Pitt students helped the youth make their own terrariums using recycled water bottles and small pieces of sponge.  The sponge was put in the area of the cap to help absorb water up into the soil.  Small seeds were planted in the dirt within the bottle as well.

    Each student received their own terrarium to bring home, and they all had a chance to help with the garden.  It was great to be a part of that and to show the students that gardening is great and happens in places other than at ALEC!  Plus, it was a beautiful day!  Thank you to Mrs. Airesman and Grandview for having us up to help!

- Steven

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bird House Decorating

Last week we worked with Jamie from Friends of South Side Park to decorate bird houses.

Jamie started off by showing us a map of where their bird houses will be hung at Bandi Schaum Trailhead in South Side Park.  Students were also given a copy of the map to take home. 

They had several questions during the presentation and learned about how the birds will find materials to make nests inside the bird houses we made.

Each student got to show their creativity by hand painting their own premade bird house.  Their designs included everything from stripes to Chinese symbols.

They each put a unique signature on the bottom of their bird house so they can identify their own when they visit the park.

Our Saturday program was able to go orienteering at South Side Park in April.  Now they will be able to go back to find their bird houses.

Thank you to Friends of South Side Park for including us in this project. 


Remake Learning Days: ALEC Open House

    Allentown Learning and Engagement Center was chosen as a host site for Remake Learning Days on Thursday, May 12.  We held our open house that afternoon and had activities lined up from 4-6pm.  Let's get into it!

    We wanted the students to be super pumped about this event.  We talked with them the whole week leading up to it, getting ideas about what sort of snacks they would want to serve to guests, as well as what sort of activities we should have out to show and let our guests use.  

    One of the most popular snacks throughout the year at our program was sauteed brussel sprouts.  As far as vegetables go, this one really hit home with a majority of the youth.  Just a little oil, halved brussel sprouts, and a dash of lemon juice and salt gives them a delicious - yet simple - flavor.

    Another popular snack was fruit smoothies.  Frozen fruit (strawberries and raspberries) combined with ice and occasionally pineapple juice was often all that was needed to make these treats.  We froze ripened bananas that were cut into smaller chunks to ensure that it was refreshingly cold.  

    Along with having the students showcase the games, we had them pass out these particular snacks to grown ups and youth alike.  We also had cheese and fruit platters available.

    One of the students' favorite lessons this year was using Popsicle sticks and rubber bands to make catapults.  Let's be honest though, who doesn't enjoy launching things into the air?  

We also recently acquired snap circuits; learning kits that teach about electronics, electricity, and circuitry.  The kit pictured above is the "Green" snap circuits kit, which includes a solar panel and a propeller/fan to generate electricity with wind.  

    The other kit is the snap circuits extreme kit, with 4 booklets containing over 500 projects, including some that require a computer.  This kit has more parts and can create larger projects on the snap board, some requiring two sets of battery packs to power.  There are resistors, switches, LED lights, and a device that emits many unique sounds depending on what and where other pieces are attached.

     While we had that technology in the back room, we also had our Lego set out for anyone to create and imagine with.  While we anticipated some of the younger kids would be likely to go for these, we also knew that our own students thoroughly enjoy quality time building planes and cars and exploring the rooms with them.

    The final station we had was our KANO.  It is a small computer that the students put together, and once hooked up to a screen (any screen, be it TV or computer, that has an HDMI port works) allows the youth to explore coding, the internet, and what makes a computer tick.  We had quite a long line for that one, since it had games like Minecraft and Pong (which, interestingly, is over 40 years old).  It has been widely popular at our program and we anticipate it will be for quite some time.

    All in all, it was another awesome open house at ALEC.  We are really proud of what our students do each year and we are incredibly thankful that we get to show off!  We eagerly await our next opportunity to show why after school matters!

    A special thank you to APOST and Urbankind for their kind contributions to this event, and Remake Learning for making events like this possible!

- Steven

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Big Brothers Big Sisters Family Game Night - May Edition!

     The second Monday of May we were pleased to host another Family Game Night in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

    Games such as the one pictured above tested your physical strength but also your nerve, as it was not quite as simple as we thought.

    Puzzles made from cut-up cereal boxes provided a test of comprehension and patience.  Our pictured youth was the night's big prize winner for that game, finishing all three in the fastest time out of all of the youth!

    A break from the games was found in the form of alien plants, where the youth could decorate and draw the body on the cup and then a face as well.  Seeds were put on the bottom of a  stocking and then covered with dirt.  It was then tied off and flipped over in the cup, so that the seeds were on top.

    The other game was all about patience and hand-eye coordination.  The youth had to raise the m&m to their mouth.  The two pencils were tied together with string, which was looped around both ears.  Pulling the ends of the string brought the pencils closer to the youth's mouth.  However, if you didn't pull slowly and evenly, the m&m would fall off the pencils pretty quickly!

    It was yet another great family game night, and we are very pleased that Big Brothers Big Sisters continues to partner with us to provide these events for the area youth!

- Steven

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

End of the Year Art Show!

Our time with this year's New Artist has come to an end. It has been such a great and fun year! No matter what the lesson was I knew I would be coming to a class who could appreciate and enjoy all types of art! They had so much energy and I had a lot of fun teaching them. For our last week we focused on finishing all our work and talking about our favorites styles of art. Putting together their art for their show we looked through all of their work and chose the best 5 pieces. 

The art show went really well and every family showed up to appreciate all the work the students put in this year. They were really proud and loved showing everyone around and explaining the lessons behind each piece. The turnout was great and most guests stuck around for snacks, coloring, and talking with all of the other families supporting the art club.

It was a really great time and we appreciate everyone who showed up! I'm so proud of each student and I hope they continue to create and explore many types of art!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Snacks, Seeds Bombs, and Searching for Bugs!

    Earlier in May our Saturday program took a field trip to Bigbee field in Mount Washington to make seed bombs and try to catch some butterflies.  Our trip was led by Judith, who works for City Parks.

    We started off the outing with a quick introduction so Judith would know the names of some new faces.  

    We were then treated to some great snacks, including apples, pretzels, grapes, and rice crackers (chocolate and apple cinnamon).

    And so our first activity began: seed bombs!  The students lined up to receive an aluminum tray with dirt and seeds, and then we poured water on top so they could mix it all together and mold it into fist sized balls.

    Not everyone was thrilled about having to get their hands dirty, however.

    When everyone was finished, they switched their seed bombs over a paper plate, and we moved up the hill to get ready to throw.

    Obviously, the best part for the youth was the actual throwing of the seed bombs.  Some flew apart upon leaving their hands, while others managed to stay together until making contact with the ground.  The seeds inside were a variety of wildflowers.

     Our second activity for the day was to catch butterflies with nets.  Or, as one of the youth put it, "hunting for jellyfish in the jellyfish fields".  That's a Spongebob Squarepants reference, in case you didn't know.

    The youth stuck to the trails and had to stay with a partner while looking for the butterflies, but unfortunately they were a rare find that day.  A few of the youth managed to catch small bugs or small moths, and we did see a few smaller butterflies, but it just wasn't our time!  Nonetheless they enjoyed being able to explore a bit outside, and the weather was absolutely perfect for the activities.

    A huge thank you to Judith and City Parks for providing us with such a great time!

- Steven

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Photography Adventures!!

In our last New Artist sessions we focused on the art of photography. We started in the classroom to get to know our cameras. Working in groups each kid was able to set up their own photo shoot to practice the different tools we discussed such as framing, perspective, and subject. We had a lot of fun modeling and trying to find different ways to see things.

The next week we took our newly learned skills out to the streets to capture things that we found interesting or beautiful in the neighborhood. We walked a few blocks around the school looking at things we might see everyday more closely than before. By zooming in and out we were able to see the same subjects with different perspectives and the kids were able to try out their own styles! We ended the walk at Cupka Joe's where Ms. Shannon treated the class to strawberry smoothies! It was the perfect sunny day for our trip!

The kids all got so many great shots, a few of which you can check out below! 














It was great to see the perspective each student had on their neighborhood and classroom and the things they found important. The photo walk was definitely the most  fun class of the year for all of us!



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