Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Goodbyes from Maraina

     It is time for me to say goodbye to ALEC. This summer has been one of the most memorable summers of my life!

   As an AmeriCorps member I was placed at the Hilltop YMCA in Mount Oliver. From there, I was sent to ALEC to be a representative and help run Tech Camp. The Hilltop YMCA helped us order materials, and let us use some of what they already had to teach the kids about LED lights, motors, and all sorts of fun things. We had some Little Bits Kits for the kids to play with during free time throughout the summer. The Hilltop YMCA also helped us do a Tech Party where the kids, their parents, and anyone from the community could come and see what we have to offer here at ALEC. I truly hope that this partnership continues throughout the rest of the year. 

  I was a little wary at first of leading lessons during tech camp, however my fears were unfounded. The kids were great, and seemed to be truly interested in learning about new things. My background is in sculpture, and it was very satisfying to be able to help the kids in their own creative process throughout the summer. During free time the kids could bring out the box of tech materials and start making whatever they wanted.

The cardboard was also a hit. We had been collecting cardboard for Tech Camp, and once that was over, they were free to use it as they saw fit. Thus the box trolls started, and stayed a running theme throughout Venture Outdoors Camp and Maker Camp. Overall, it’s been a great summer! 

Goodbye From Miss Jen

It's hard to believe that my summer is winding to a close and my time at the Brashear is over.  When I first contacted Amber about an internship with her, I wasn't really sure what to expect or what my summer with them would look like.  All I knew, was that I was excited to work with her and the kids up at ALEC.  I wasn't expecting to make such great friends with the ALEC staff, go on adventures, have the opportunity to interact with other members of the community, or even learn new things that the kids were learning during their camps.  There were some challenges along the way, sure.  It can be difficult to get elementary aged children to listen and stay focused for hours at a time, especially if the particular activity we are engaging in doesn't necessarily interest them.  Luckily, those aren't the memories that stand out to me, but the fun moments with the kids are what will stick with me from this summer.  But overall, my time working with the kids was great and I would not change a second of it.  Here are some of my favorite memories and stories from the summer:

Outdoors Camp:  Hands down, my favorite camp this summer.  I've never been a huge outdoorsey person, but Venture Outdoors made being outside just so darn fun!  I really loved kayaking with the kids.  The first time we went out, I went with Jamie, who was super nervous about kayaking on the river.  The first half hour or so, she was still super nervous and wasn't really enjoying herself quiet yet, but the moment she was finally like, "this isn't so bad" we had a ton of fun working together and would try and beat the other kayaks in races.

Which, we won several of them!  We also got completely soaked from the intensity of our paddling and trying to race the other kayaks.  Also, another thing I loved about Outdoors Camp, was the Venture Outdoors staff exposing me to these really great hiking sites, like at Grandview and Frick Park, that I had no idea existed before camp.

Art Journals:  Amber had the kids make art journals last summer and we decided to bring them back during Tech and Outdoors Camps.  We would set out blank journals, markers, magazines and postcards out for the kids to draw and find fun pictures to put in the journals.

The kids loved them.  It was so great to have the opportunity to just sit and talk with the kids about their lives, their interests and their hopes and dreams during this time.  It was also fun to play the game of whats the silliest picture we can find.  This one day, Nick, was flipping through magazines just cutting away.

Next thing we know, he has this giant watch and necklace and different manly jewelry cut and taped onto him and just walked around with them on the rest of the day.

Box Trolls:  Making costumes out of extra cardboard boxes started during the end of Tech Camp but didn't really take off until Maker Camp.

Lilly started the box troll phenomenon.  She would put on a box, and just walk around, and when she would see another person, she would go, "Ah! Human!" and drop down and hide in her box.  Pretty soon, more and more kids joined in and there was just this little box troll community going on.

Also, Cardboard Iron Man made an appearance.  It was always so fun seeing the kids creativity come alive.  Who knew cardboard boxes would be such a hit.

Trying New Foods:  Amber is really big on getting the kids to try new and healthy foods.  I always enjoyed the convincing game of getting the kids (and sometimes staff) to try new foods.  I think my favorite new food was fried zucchini.

The kids were super super skeptical of fried zucchini.  The looks on their faces before the first bite and during the fist bite were absolutely priceless.  And you know what,  9 times out of 10, the kids ended up surprising themselves by liking the new foods they tried.

Selfies:  The kids love getting their picture taken.  What they like almost more than that, is taking selfies.  They were too much fun.

I could go on and on about different stories and memories from this summer, but I'll save you from reading a crazy long blog post!  My point is, these kids are so great.  And it was an honor to have the opportunity to work, play and talk with them this summer.  The point of our summer camps was to teach them new things, but they taught me a lot this summer as well.  I will miss spending my time at ALEC, and I hope that i will have the opportunity to work with the kids again in the future, even if it's only for a short visit.

Thank you Brashear Kids for an unforgettable summer!

- Jen

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Goodbyes from Mackenzie

This summer has been one amazing experience! It was a privilege to work with everyone here in Allentown and get to gain so much first hand experience with mentoring children of all ages. At the beginning of this experience, I was a little nervous. I questioned whether or not I would "fit in" the community of Allentown. It has been three amazing months of hard work and some stressful day but I'm very sad to be leaving :/

The Brashear Association is a great place to work and my colleagues are some great people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. ALEC taught me so much about patience, consideration, and thinking out side of the box. The kids here in this neighborhood have a lot to offer and I hope their generation has a chance to make big changes to our society. It will be sad to leave ALEC but my time here will never be forgotten. Thank you everyone for having me .

- Mackenzie

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Crocheting

Since Miss Mackenize's Saturday culture club had ended, our education coordinator asked if I would like to teach the last Saturday program of the summer.  I said sure! I decided to teach a lesson in crocheting.  I love to crochet.

My mom taught me to crochet when I was in middle school and it has been a lot of fun learning new stitches and trying new projects over the years.  I've made scarves, hats, headbands and even blankets.  I hope one day to make a sweater!  Only about 4 kids came to crocheting class (3 of which were boys), which was good because I was the only teacher there who knew how to crochet.

Any time you're learning something new, you have to start with the basics.  First, I showed the kids how to tie a slip knot.  Second, I showed them how to hook the knot onto the crochet hook.  Third, I showed the kids how to hold the hook and the string.  Fourth, I showed them how to chain stitch.  This is where the struggle began.  The kids were having trouble holding the string and hook while trying to chain stitch because of their little hands and chain stitches can be tricky.  So we came up with an easier solution of having the kids hold the hook between their knees and using their fingers to guide the hook through the stitches.  After the kids sort of got the hang of chain stitching, we moved on to the next row and used a single stitch.

There was some frustration and some of the kids wanted to give up because they couldn't get the hang of it right away, but they kept trying on trying and found it got easier! All of the kids were able to get 3 rows done during our hour-long class!

I was impressed that the boys enjoyed learning how to crochet and that all the kids kept up their good work!

- Jen

Friday, August 14, 2015

Maker Camp in Review

Summer programming ended with Maker Camp!

For the last two weeks, the kids have been learning what it means to be a Maker and have been exploring their creative side.  We had Mr. Anthony from the Millvale Library Maker Program come and lead camp.

The focus of Maker Camp was to use elements from the STEAM education curriculum to teach the kids more about math, science, technology and applying that to the kids individual, creative ideas.

Week 1:

Monday: On the first day of camp, Mr. Anthony had the kids create their very own board games out of cardboard.  Once the kids learned that this was on the agenda for the day, they wanted to instatnly jump in and start cutting cardboard up and building things.  Mr. Anthony used this opporunity to teach the kids about the importance of planning.  He gave them a scrap piece of paper and told them to sketch out their ideas.

After they had their game idea sketched, each child had the opporunity to stand up in front of the class and explain just how their game would work.  During this time, the kids not presenting were able to give their input to aid the game creator with new ideas and help fix potential problems with their game.  Next, materials were passed out and the kids ideas that started on paper, turned into real life games.

It was really awesome to see the kids working together and using the tools of planning.  In addition to games, the kids also made mazes and some even had a chance to play each others games!

Tuesday: On the second day of camp, the kids became scientists for the day!  They learned all about measurements, observations and even a little chemistry.  During observation time, the kids were given a Styrofoam bowl.  Then, on a piece of paper, they had to write down exactly what they saw, smelled, touched, tasted and heard in regards to the bowl.  Mr. Anthony taught the kids about water and how 2 Hydrogen and 1 Carbon molecule make up water.  He even had a demonstration where two kids got red water and one kid got blue and they mixed them together to create "water"!  It was a great visual demonstration to help the kids!

 After that, Mr. Anthony took the kids outside for a bit of a messier experiment.  He showed the kids that if you took a bottle, put some vinegar in the bottle and then put some baking soda in a balloon, attached the balloon to the bottle so the baking soda would fall into the bottle, that the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar caused the balloon to fill up!

It was really cool and the kids loved it!

Wednesday:  The third day of camp was all about My Plate and smoothies! Yum! The kids were split up into two groups and one started at the smoothie station and the other at recycling.  In the recycling station, Miss Mackenzie taught the kids about the importance of My Plate.  My Plate is the new food Pyramid and is used as a tool to teach kids (and people in general) the importance of a diet that is balanced, full of variety and is properly portioned.

The kids went ahead and made their own plate that they filled with good food with correct portions. In the smoothie station, the kids split up into teams.  Mr. Anthony brought a variety of smoothie ingredients including : carrots, kale, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, granola and even coconut. Working together, each group picked a couple different ingredients for their smoothie.  Next, Mr. Anthony showed the kids how to properly clean and cut their ingredients.

Some of the kids even got to learn how to properly use a knife!  Next, all the ingredients were added to the blender and VIOLA! We had ourselves a smoothie!  Each team got to try their own creation first and then they got to switch and try the other teams! It was a delicious day at camp, that's for sure!

Thursday:  It was station day on the fourth day of camp! There were four stations around ALEC: a Measuring station, a Little Bits station, a Makey-Makey station and an iPad station.  The kids were able to use this time to just explore the different stations and let their imagination blossom.

The kids had a lot of fun going around to the different stations.  During free time, the stations were left up so that the kids could continue exploring different kinds of technology.

Week Two:

Monday: Week two of Maker Camp started off with Mr. Anthony teaching the kids about the different kinds of energy found in the world.  The kids learned about solar, water, wind energy to name a few!  Before the main activity could begin, the kids got to make their own playdough!

That was a big hit!  After the playdough was made, the kids were split up into groups.  In each group they were given a piece of paper to plan an eco efficient art piece.  Each piece was given a location, a color, a shape and a type of energy the piece had to use.

The kids talked about their different ideas and then sketched them on the piece of paper.  After that, they used materials like playdough, cardboard and wire to create their art piece!

Tuesday:  Today was all about Makey-Makey.  Makey-Makey is this cool gaming system of sorts that uses different materials that are considered to be conductive (like playdough, apples, celery) and you use those different materials as a game controller to play different games on the computer.

The kids again used their planning skills they have been working on and drew out their own controller for the Makey-Makey.  After that, it was time to bring that drawling to life! Some kids made arrows out of apples, or playdough dogs and hearts as their controllers!  They had fun using their creative controller to play fun games like Frogger.

Wednesday:  Its a bird, its a plane, its superman! Just kidding! Its paper airplane day! The kids made paper airplanes today, which was a ton of fun!  There were planes of all different shapes, sizes and colors.  Some planes flew faster, some flew farther and some (like mine) just flew straight into the ground.

The kids measured how far and fast their planes flew and then compared them to each others.  After that, they tried to figure out how to make a plane that would be the fastest and fly the farthest!  It was a fun day of competition!

Thursday:  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle was the last day of camps theme.  Mr. Anthony had the kids draw different objects like, jars, cardboard, bags, wood, etc. and figure out if you could reuse or recycle them!

To the kids surprise, you can reuse and recycle a lot of things instead of just throwing it away!  To give the kids a real life example, we headed over to the new coffee shop, Black Forge, which is right across the street from ALEC.

There, we welcomed Black Forge to the neighborhood and they gave us their coffee grounds!

Mr. Anthony told the kids that we can reuse the coffee grounds as compost in the garden at ALEC! During the end of day, we had a end of camp party! Parents came to check out our space and to see what kinds of fun things the kids have been up to at camp!  It was a great way to end a great summer!

- Jen

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Goodbye from Sebastian

It’s time to say goodbye to one of the most rewarding summers of my life. Here at ALEC, I’ve made great relationships with youth and coworkers alike. I started the summer coming from AmeriCorps and the Hilltop YMCA, not really knowing what to expect, but ready for anything. What I found was a cool space with motivated teachers. I’ve learned a lot about connecting with kids and being a positive role model.

The kids were rowdy at first, as all kids are at the start of summer, but as we got to know each other camp began to run smoothly. I used my past experience as a camp counselor to introduce games and help run activities outside. Of course, I try to act a little goofy when I play games, especially when it comes to the cowboy game.
A child approaches me, slowly, but smiling, “You’re weird, but in a good way.”
“Thanks H.”

 After Tech Camp I was no longer in charge of lessons, allowing me to participate in the kids’ activities a little more. It’s cool to be working with someone and have them suddenly ramble on about their life, telling you random facts and stories about themselves, completely unrelated to the topic at hand. It’s also fun when you’re the one that’s distracted.

But after countless hours playing (and beating you kids at) 4 square, soccer, catch, moss, tips, and potato ball, I have to say good-bye and I wish you all the best in your future lives, or as we say in the wild west, later partners!

- Sebastian 


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