Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Window Paint-by-Number Tutorial

This tutorial will help you plan a fun project for kids where they get to paint on the windows. Gasp! At ALEC, we decided to make a "Happy Thanksgiving" window mural for the holiday. It went so well that we are planning on re-creating this project again for a Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa holiday mural. 

What you need:
  1. Printer
  2. Paper
  3. Tape
  4. 10 Plastic Cups
  5. Acrylic or Tempera Paint (Colors depend on your design)
  6. Paint Brushes

Step 1
First, you want to plan your template. So, you need to figure out what you want on your window. Holiday themes work really well. Once you decide your theme, you will put together a draft template, which will be important later. For this, you can search online for coloring pages of objects in your theme. I searched for "turkey coloring page", "pumpkin coloring page", "apple coloring page", and I continued this until I had a good amount of objects to work with. Now rearrange your objects until you have a composition you are happy with.

Step 2
Next, you will need to print out each object. This can be tricky so be patient and think big. To expand an image, I used Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader. Stretch your image so it fills up one page on Word. If this size is large enough for your window mural, go ahead and print it out just like that. If it needs to be even bigger, like our turkey and pumpkin pictured above, you will want to print it as a "poster". First, click on File->Export and create a .pdf version. Once your document is opened in PDF Reader, click on File->Print and then under Page Size & Handling click on Poster. Here is where it can be a little tricky. Change the Tile Size to a number larger than 100%. Play around with the size percentage until you get the size you want based on your draft template from step 1. When your poster image prints you will need to cut and tape it together. It's not too hard I swear!

Step 3
After you have printed your template images, now you need to decide what colors you will need. Number each color and then write a number on each section of your template. Make sure to print a Color list for your students to refer to.

Step 4
The next step of preparing your template is hanging it. Since, we are expecting rain and snow this week, I decided to have the students pain on the inside of the window. Because of this we hung the template on the outside of the window with tape. You may need to have your image facing inside. HINT: If you have any words, make sure they are facing outward if you want people passing by to be able to read your greeting.

Step 5
The final step for preparing the template is painting the outlines. We used black paint and made sure all of the outlines and detail lines were painted on. This is important because it's the first layer and it will help your image pop! Also, I noticed it really helped guide the students.

Step 6
Now comes the fun part! Number your plastic cups based on your color list and fill each cup with it's corresponding color. Have your kids or students go up in small groups with one cup each. We let them decide the color they wanted and gave them about 5 minutes per group to paint.

Encourage them to paint the whole section they chose, so there are no white or clear areas showing. Also, the younger ones may need reminded to paint in the lines. :) However, we had some paint outside the lines and it still looks wonderful! I went back over some sections to make the black outlines more apparent.

Step 7
Now, for the reveal! As students were wrapping up the painting, a few students came outside and removed the template from the window. The paint-by-number mural is now complete!

Oh and in case you were wondering, acrylic paint and tempera paint wash off with water! So, clean up will be a breeze. No worries!

The students had such a fun time painting and they were thrilled to go outside and see their finished Happy Thanksgiving mural. A few passerby's and community members told us that it looked great and that they were thinking of doing this project with their kids.

I hope you have fun doing your very own Window Paint-by-Number project!

- Corey

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guest Artist: Angela Fullard's Tutorial on Mixed Media Collages

"The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire." - Pamela Hansford Johnson

Let's talk about how much fun we all had when Angela Fullard from Oddity Illustrations was our guest artist for the New Artists program! The students were pumped to see her unique, mixed media illustrations. When they found out that they too were going to be able to make a collage with tissue paper, magazines cut-outs, paint, and cardboard, they were giddy with excitement. Read on to see what we did!

Before the students began their art project, they got to know Angela and her art a little better. She told them about what she does as an illustrator. Some of the students guessed that an illustrator makes the pictures for books. Miss Angela passed around a lot of her art and she told them about her process of using watercolor, oil paints, ink, and paper. She layers a lot of her work to get her unique finished illustrations. Once she has her composition the way she likes, Angela scans her art. Once it's scanned onto her computer, she edits her piece to complete it and then orders digital prints. 

The students thought it was really neat to see her work in progress, her collages, and her digital prints. It was like taking a journey through an artists process. The students also had a chance to ask her questions. A few asked her how she came up with her characters. One student asked if the main character was her. So intuitive! Angela said that she does give one specific character her likeness. Another student asked if she ever draws animals. To answer this question, Angela revealed 2 prints she had created that showed some creatures. Angela showed the students her "blueberry" bats. Some of the students wanted to know how she came up with her ideas. To this question, Angela said that she wanted to create her own world and loved the freedom of being able to make animals, characters, and creatures look just how she wanted, even if that's not how they would look in the real world.
There were lot's of "oohs" and "aahs" during the beginning of class. I think they really liked her art!

Next, Angela and I instructed the students about collages and how to use different mediums. A medium is something used in art such as acrylic paint, oil paint, markers, pencil, magazine cut outs, found items, etc. A mixed media collage uses a blend of different mediums. 

For this project, students created their own Seascape collage. This art project had a few different parts. There is the background, which resembles a sunset; blue painted paper cut and ripped, which resembles the ocean waves; and magazine cutouts and cardboard, which resemble a sailboat. When all these parts are put together it looked like an awesome Seascape.

In the above picture, you can see the process of how to create the background of our Seascapes. We used a new technique to "paint." First, I collected quite a few large sheets of tissue paper in various warm colors (red, pink, orange, yellow, etc.) and cut them into strips. Then, the students wet their paper with sponge brushes and water. Next, they layered their tissue paper strips all over the paper. Some overlapped a lot and some just a little. A few put a ton of water and some put just a bit. Once the water dried a bit, we removed the tissue paper and our colorful backgrounds were revealed!

Each resulted in a unique backdrop for the Seascape collage. If you are trying this at home, make sure the tissue paper is the bleeding kind (the kind we used specifically said "bleeding paper"). Also, the ink from the tissue paper will stain, so exercise caution! :)

They loved finding interesting textures and designs in the magazines to cut out. This tied in really well with our previous lesson on texture. The New Artist students also enjoyed cutting and ripping their painted blue paper to make sea waves. 

After everything was cut and dried, the students found themselves layering everything and using glue to place their waves and sailboats where they wanted. After some trimming of edges, their collages were complete! Check out a few of our students finished designs.

The students had such a great time creating their collages. Thank you so much Angela for inspiring our New Artists!

- Corey

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brashear Kids go to the Opera - Otello

The Brashear Association has been a partner with the Pittsburgh Opera Education program for several years and our students and their parents greatly benefit from this partnership. Our Education Department at Brashear firmly believes in exposing our students as much as possible to various experiences, chief of which is the arts. 

For each Opera performance we attend, Marilyn Egan the Director of Education with the Pittsburgh opera, conducts a workshop where our students are able to learn more about the opera that they are are about to see. Through audio, slideshow and puppet plays the students and parents discuss the plot and the characters as well as learning more about the composer and the actors chosen to play various roles.

Each performance our students and parents attend is different and unique. It is a great experience for both child and parent as this is not a class field trip but a family experience and the students can go home and discuss the performance together with their parents. 

We recently attended Otello, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. This opera was high in drama and following the workshop our students knew what was going to happen and talked animatedly about it as they would their favorite television cartoon. 

Although students are always advised by Miss Egan to take a nap after school before the opera, we inevitably lose at least one little one by the end of the opera. It can be a long day for our third graders who have been in school all day. 

We are so pleased to continue this ongoing partnership with Marilyn Egan and the Pittsburgh Opera Education Program. We are anxiously anticipating the next opera in March! 

Thank you so much to Marilyn for all her hard work and effort put into this wonderful program and to all the parents who invest in their children's educational experiences and expose them to the arts. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

ALEC Sign Language Class is a Hit!

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." - Mark Twain
Recently, we began sign language classes for our awesome elementary students at ALEC. I'm happy to announce that it's a hit! Every other week, sign language classes have been taught by Michelle from Lend an Ear Consulting. Each class builds on the previous, and this past week the students have been learning new words and phrases.

Michelle and our staff are extremely impressed at how fast our students have picked up phrases, words, and the alphabet! We would love for you to check out our video of the students practicing with Michelle. Their enthusiasm honestly inspires me!

Michelle kicked it up a notch this week by having students recall, from memory, a list of words, as well as, mixing up the order in which she has the students repeat words. They enjoyed the challenged and were able to show off how much they know. Frequently, students will even remind me of how to sign a specific word I can't remember.

As our students learn new vocabulary and basic structural words such as, who, what, where, when, and how, we have began to incorporate a few phrases into our everyday class management. We use sign language to ask the students to "focus, please." And we remind them to say "thank you" in sign language too.

Michelle has been a wonderful teacher for our students. We look forward to her visits and enjoy the challenge of learning a new way of communicating. We are so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you Michelle!

- Corey

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mexico Culture: Holidays & DIY Horchata

Recently, students at ALEC learned a few new tidbits about Mexico for Culture Day. We explored sights, tastes, sounds, and more. We learned a lot and had fun! 

First, the students located Mexico on the map. Then, we peered into a classroom located in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. The students love to compare their classrooms with others around the world.

Next, students learned the difference between Halloween and the Day of the Dead by looking at the following infographic. Some of the students thought the holiday sounded spooky at first. The more they learned about Dia de los Muertos as a celebration, they went from spooked to excited! 

 Muy Bueno Cookbook
Image courtesy of Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

For some multimedia fun, students watched the following short film, Dia de los Muertos, a CGI Student Academy Award Winner. This short film does a great job at capturing the beautiful spirit of this Mexican holiday. A few of the students were actually familiar with it. 

Learning happens in many forms. We needed another activity to really make learning about Mexico, a treat. So, why not make a traditional drink that is fun to make and very tasty? I introduce to you, Mexican Horchata! After some searching around, seemed to have done all the hard work of researching and trying out the best authentic recipe. So, I decided to give it a go.

Authentic Mexican Horchata

This was so fun to make with the kids! What is awesome about this recipe is that it only has a few ingredients which tend to be around the house already. If you are trying this at home or school, be prepared to spend some time on the prep work. The rice and almonds need to soak for 5-10 hours. So, I did the initial prep work and the kids finished the recipe.  Just be prepared! It's worth it.

What you need to get started:
  • Long-grain Rice
  • Almonds
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cheescloth (Local Grocery Store)
  • Blender
  • Small Pot
  • Medium Pan
Yields 12 Servings

Step 1:
I boiled water and added 2 c. of almonds for 1 minute and then rinsed them in cold water.

Step 2:
Then comes, what I would consider, the fun-at-first-then-soon-tedious part. I then pinched each almond. This causes the almond to fly out of the skin. This is needed for toasting (see next step).

Step 3:
Next, over medium heat, I added the blanched, skinless almonds to a pan to toast them. I didn't have a pan so I ended up using the pot I had. So, I didn't do the best job on toasting the almonds but, not to spoil the surprise, the horchata still came out awesome.

Step 4:
Now for the rice flour. I blended 2/3 c. of rice in a blender until it was a fine powder. This was fun because I've never done this before and I was interested to see what the flour would look like.

Step 5:
Next, I added 2 cinnamon sticks, the rice flour and almonds to 6 cups hot water. I used hot tap water microwaved for a minute. FYI: The container you add this into needs to be big enough and have a lid.

Step 6:
Let the mixture cool down to room temperature then cover and let it sit on the counter for 5-10 hours.

Step 7:
Make some simple syrup. You will need 1/2 c. - 1 c. of simple syrup depending on the sweetness you desire. To make simple syrup I added 2/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. water into a glass dish and put in the microwave for 3 minutes. I stirred halfway and at the end. (I stored this in a container for the kids to add later.)

Fast forward 5 hours later! This is when the kids got involved. Lets just say, they weren't sure about the weird looking mixture at first but they loved helping out!

Step 8:
Remove the cinnamon sticks and blend the mixture with 4 cups cold water. We used our new Vitamix blender which allowed space for all the liquid, but you may need to blend in two parts. 

Step 9:
Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth into a bowl. We lined a strainer with cheesecloth and it worked okay. If I were to do this again, I would buy another piece of cheesecloth to avoid some of the gritty rice and almond pouring over the side. This little bit didn't alter the taste of the final drink though. 

Step 10:
Add the simple syrup from step 7 to the strained mixture and stir.

Step 11:
Pour over ice and garnish if desired. The students had apple slices for snack time this day so they came up with the idea to garnish their drinks with a slice. So cute!

After one taste, one of our 7 year old students said "Mmmmmm! This is really tasty!" This started a chain reaction and everyone else tried theirs and not one person disliked it. What a delicious adventure!

That wraps up our awesome culture day learning about Mexico. I hope you enjoyed reading about our fun-filled day. Before I go I just want to say, you have to try this recipe! Yum!

- Corey

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Terror in the Towers 2014

On Thursday, October 30th, the ALEC students made a chilling journey to trick-or-treat at Duquesne University's annual Terror in the Towers. The air was electric with excitement as we waited for that bus. The kids had their costumes and candy bags and were ready to go!

The ride from Allentown to Bluff was an adventure filled with amazing sights: fall foliage, brooding gray clouds, soaring towers, and arcing bridges over a murky river.

 We arrived with smiles, ready for anything!

Once inside the Towers, Duquesne students led us in making Halloween candy crafts.

We made candy creatures with lollipop bodies and bendable pipe-cleaner limbs. After crafting, we were ready for our trick-or-treat tour of the haunted tower! During our walk through, I entrusted my camera to two of our students to get their perspective.

Here's what they saw:

We were told or overheard so many great comments from our students during the bus ride and the tour at Duquesne. Here are a few of the comments:

"Woah! It's like we're on an airplane! Is this what it's like on an airplane?!" - 7 year old student during the bus ride.
"You're the best! And you're the best! And you're the best!" - 6 year old pointing to each teacher in his tour group because he was so happy.
"I'm so happy we came to this!" - 11 year old on the way back to ALEC
"Take a picture of the Ocean!" - 11 year old referring to the Monongahela River

Our students had a great time and would like to thank Duquesne University for inviting us again!
See our 2013 visit visit and 2012 visit!

- John

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brashear Kids Attend the Ballet

"The ballet needs to tell its own story in such a way it can be received without having to be translated into language." - Twyla Tharp

As the show began, the kids whispered excitedly, "It's starting!". The energy was alive, and as the conductor lifted his arms, the curtain raised. The classical ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, was just beginning and our students were already in awe.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performed The Sleeping Beauty at the Benedum Center located downtown. A very special thanks goes to Tickets for Kids for providing a few of our Brashear Kids, their parents and I free tickets to attend a special matinee performance. Our students have never been to the ballet before and having this chance to see professional ballet dancers really broadened their knowledge of the arts. Bravo! 

The Sleeping Beauty included a prologue, which is an introduction to the story; 1 Intermission, and 3 Acts. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra provided a whimsical experience to our ears while we witnessed the beautiful choreography of the ballet dancers. They played a composition by Tchaikovsky, who also composed Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Our students really enjoyed being able to figure out what was about to happen based on the mood of the music. The whole experience was captivating for the kids and adults. Check out a snippet of The Sleeping Beauty!

Intermission was a great time for us to talk about the story and characters, as well as, stretch our legs and take a quick break. During intermission Cecili came running from the bathroom to exclaim, "Sleeping Beauty is downstairs! You can get your picture with her! Can we go, PLEASE?!?"

It turned out that photos cost money, so I snapped this picture instead. Cecili was a little disappointed, so I decided to ask Princess Aurora if she would say hi to her and she agreed! I asked Cecili if she would like to meet her and she got really nervous all the sudden so I said I would go with her. Princess Aurora introduced herself and asked her if she was enjoying herself, which she was. Then the ballet dancer asked her if she would like to touch her tutu. It was beautiful up close! Cecili was grinning from ear to ear as we made our way back to our seats for Act 2 and 3. When we got back Cecili proclaimed, "I want to be just like her when I grow up!"

We had such a lovely time that a few of us didn't want to leave. But, we said goodbye while we talked about our favorite moments of the ballet. The whole week afterward, our students were talking about their experience. Thank you Tickets for Kids, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for an amazing time!
"There is incredible power in the arts to inspire and influence." - Julie Taymor
- Corey


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