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Kidsburgh : For Good

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Home run: Baseball group wins SVP Fast Pitch; many other groups get help, prizes

At 22 years old, just eight months out of Duquesne University, Maura Rodgers may be the youngest applicant to give a pitch to the Social Venture Partners-Pittsburgh (SVP) and win their annual Fast Pitch event, which coaches area nonprofits on telling their story effectively and rewards the best ones.
 
But the pitchers whom Rodgers helps in her own nonprofit are younger still, and even more impressive, she believes.
 
Rodgers is the executive director and only employee of The Miracle League of the South Hills, which runs baseball leagues that pair mainly kids (but also adults) with disabilities and their peers without disabilities. The kids without disabilities may run or hit for their baseball buddies, or they may just cheer them on. But both groups learn important lessons while having fun and making friends.
 
"What's innovative about the Miracle League is that we're giving kids with special needs the chance to become teachers and teach their peers about falling down and getting back up again… The Miracle League is changing our social fabric."
 
Her $20,000-prize winning message, she says, was not about why her group needs the money but about what the Miracle League is doing for the community and how the community can get involved.
 
After just a year and a half in existence, the South Hills League (there are two others in Pittsburgh) has 150 kids as young as age five on their Upper St. Clair field, and they are always looking for more players and buddies. "We're still growing and learning and SVP was certainly invaluable in that process."
 
The SVP gave all competing nonprofits seven weeks of coaching about everything from fundraising to sharing their story with a larger audience. "Very often it's hard to see what is appealing about your message," says Rodgers, "and what really connects with people in your community, because you're so close to your organization."
             
Indeed, says Elizabeth Visnic, director of SVP-Pittsburgh, the seven weeks of training is more important in the end than the prizes. The money and the time are investments by SVP's partners, working toward the group's goal of "growing philanthropists and strengthening nonprofits. Our focus on capacity building for the nonprofits was a step deeper" this year. The coaches, she says, helped the presenters become "incredibly inventive and articulate."
           
Nonetheless, the money certainly helps. Winners were chosen based on the innovation of their programs, their programs' impact or potential impact and their presentations' effectiveness. "This year it was anybody's to take," Visnic says of the first-place award. "Everybody was amazing."
 
SVP offered more prizes this year, including second place to Strong Women Strong Girls, the Coaches’ Prize to The Saxifrage School, and the SVP Kids Prize to Camp COPES. The SVP Kids are SVP partners' children who are learning about philanthropy as well; the prize, given for the first time year, came from money Kids' group graduates pooled by themselves. Finalists Beverly’s Birthdays and Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center also $500 prizes. Additional capacity prizes were awarded from the three judges and their organizations,including Pop City.
 
SVP gained three new partners through the event as well, who immediately gave $1,000 prizes of their own.
 
The Miracle League's award money, Rodgers says, will help them build a playground next to their field. It will contain adaptive features devised from working with special-needs professionals, parents and kids. "It's a place designed for development and growth and interaction with all children," she says. "Hopefully it will be unlike anything anyone in our area has seen before."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Maura Rodgers; Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners-Pittsburgh 

Hall of Fail? All part of new digital media works-in-progress site

Thanks to a Carnegie Mellon University team, local and international digital-media learning (DML) designers will have a newly valuable web home for seeking community input on their projects -- and for failing usefully. The revamped site will debut in mid-March.
 
"There are really amazing things happening in different spaces that don't seem to be connected together," says Anna Roberts, director of the team behind the redone Working Examples, a website dedicated to bringing together DML designers before their designs are done, or even conceived. "A work in progress is messy, but sharing them with others is how we move our work forward."
 
For scientists, "working examples" are ideas they think are good but that they want to put in front of their colleagues for critique. Drew Davidson, acting director of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, and James Paul Gee, a literacy studies professor at Arizona State University, created the site to bring the working examples idea to creatives in the DML field. Roberts' team was hired a year ago "to build something that would really address how [users] would interact with one another," she says.
 
Site users will be able to explore others' work, build new collaborations and have a larger impact on how technology is being implemented in education. Roberts also hopes that designers, who are trying to meld play and the work of learning, will have a fun, playful experience of their own on the Working Examples site.
 
Once a user has logged in, the site will feature content based on how the individual user has tagged him or herself and the people they are following. Users can share comments within a blog-like feature, as well as upload new items, including projects at various stages. Seed, Sprout and Bloom sections are designed to help users refine how they are thinking about their projects, providing a series of probing questions: What challenges and goals do you have? How is the project evolving? What surprises have you encountered? How successful has a finished project been, and what ought to be changed?
 
Users can also form public or private groups, with their own workspaces and the ability to comment more easily on work changes and collaborate more readily. Users' profiles will elicit deeper information about their expertise and interests, and allow fellow users to rate the helpfulness of their collected comments.
 
The site also contains news and job postings as well as a Hall of Fail, modeled after the Hall of Failure at DML's annual Games, Learning and Society conference.
 
"We're big believers in the fact that our missteps and 'failures' are big places to learn from each other," says Roberts.
 
The site will even be useful for people not directly involved in DML design, she says. Educators and other users of DML should "make a profile and come on and comment on people's projects. We're interested in getting a lot of voices who have opportunities to think about how it might be used in a classroom."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anna Roberts, Working Examples

Teacher development, healthy eating app, more coming from Early Learning Environment

A year after the Early Learning Environment website debuted from the Fred Rogers Center, it is poised to grow with new activities, directions and apps.
 
The Rogers Center and the "ELE" focus on children's media for kids through five years old, and digital media-based learning in particular. Too often in years past, notes Michael Robb, the Center's director of education and research, parents and other caregivers had thought of such media as mere babysitters.
 
"We try to encourage caregivers of young children to think about digital media learning more like they'd think of books … [and] think of digital media as a word-rich experience," Robb says. "That's time you spend having a conversation with your child and having fun with your child. The more language children in the early years hear and are exposed to, it has pretty substantial impact on their early literacy and school success."
 
The ELE offers caregivers multiple fun learning activities for kids: some best for home use, others for the classroom; some for adults to lead or teach, others for kids to undertake on their own. About 40,000 visitors from all 50 states and around the world have used the free site, while its 1,200 registered users are able to post and comment on the site and create their own curated sets of activities to send to fellow caregivers or fellow moms and dads.
 
Among the most popular activities are several Rogers Center-designed game apps -- Alien Assignment, Everyday Grooves and Home Superhero -- as well as finger-play videos by Reading is Fundamental and nursery rhyme videos by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, called Rhyme Time. Since debuting, the site has added new literacy-boosting activities that also focus on health-science topics.
 
"We're always looking to increase the number of quality offerings," says Robb.
 
Set to be released officially next week is a new app. Go NiNi, in which kids can help NiNi eat the right foods in the right quantities to run, play and maintain her active and healthy life. Kids will steer Nini toward Go Foods (those recommended for everyday eating) but not as many Slow Foods (those to eat in moderation) and the fewest Whoa Foods (all that junk we love to consume).
 
Next, Robb reports, ELE hopes to put in place more activities based on STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), and more Spanish-language content. In the near future, the ELE will be starting professional development activities in the region for teachers as well as family and other childcare providers around digital media technology.
 
Do Good:
Searching for more ways to help kids learn? Get involved with the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Michael Robb, the Fred Rogers Center

Digital cosmos, tissue engineering, nanotech, CSI for bugs: SciTechDays at Science Center

There's still room for teachers to sign up their classes for the March SciTechDays at the Carnegie Science Center -- or for educators to explore them with the chance to sign up for November's versions.
 
Aimed at middle- and high-school kids, the SciTechDays are focused on "getting kids excited about all these different careers in STEM," says Linda Ortenzo, director of STEM Programs (science, technology, engineering and math). "The whole idea behind it is to connect students with STEM professionals in a real fun and productive way."
 
Universities and companies from FedEx Ground to PPG, U.S. Steel, Chevron, Consol and others set up hands-on activities in biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, advanced materials and other areas that relate to possible careers in the Pittsburgh area. There are always 2,000 unfilled STEM-related jobs across this region, Ortenzo says, because kids aren't aware of what sort of schooling they need to prepare for STEM careers.
 
Kids who come to SciTechDays, she says, will be able to answer the questions: "'What's it take to work in robotics? What's it take to be a biotechnologist? How cool is it to be in tissue engineering and what does it take to do that?' It's a very exciting and energizing time for everybody, the kids and the teachers."
             
Each day offers a variety of sessions for the teachers to assign their kids, including a "new frontier" presentation for gifted and advanced students. The next middle-school days, March 5-6, and the next high-school days, March 7-8, feature sessions on "Creating the Digital Cosmos," "CSI Bugs, Bodies ...and Bananas?" "If a Salamander Can Grow New Limbs, Why Can’t People? Tissue Engineering Workshop" and others.
 
March 9 is a SciTechDay open to public, on the theme Math+Science=Success, with programs applicable to the full grade range of K-12.
 
Teachers wishing to register their classes should call 412-237-3400, extension 7.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Ortenzo, SciTechDays

Tour Your Future gives girls glimpses of STEM careers -- and hands-on experience

On Feb. 23 at AE Works, the East End design and building firm, a group of Pittsburgh girls ages 10-14 spent a day off from school touring the business, questioning women architects and engineers about their work and trying some hands-on tasks relevant to these careers.
 
It was all part of Tour Your Future, just one aspect of the Carnegie Science Center program called Can*Teen Career Exploration.
 
The program, says Nina Marie Barbuto, who runs the Girls' Math+Science Partnership in the Center, "is a lot of DIY science and making science relevant to kids."
 
Created in 2010, Can*Teen is now undergoing an expansion of its reach and efforts, allowing young girls (and boys online) to explore careers related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a variety of ways. Can*Teen centers on a series of STEM-focused challenges, which teach girls how to isolate and extract DNA from a piece of spinach, make their own camera, create a water filtration device, discover the science behind how magic markers work, and make bones less breakable -- by making them more bendable..
 
Barbuto's team is in the midst of sending interactive Can*Teen CDs to 2,500 middle-school librarians from here to Guam who have discovered Can*Teen, thanks to assistance from Motorola and the American Library Association. Can*Teen also has summer camps at the Science Center called "Livin' It," on June 24-28 and July 15-19 for girls 13-14 and on July 8-12 for girls 8-10, with each day lasting 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
 
For kids who want to try the Can*Teen challenges at home, instructions are available on the program's Website. The program is also developing a social media app for girls can contact selected women mentors at other times.
 
The next Tour Your Future date is March 2, when participants will meet the Girls of Steel, a robot designing and building team at CMU composed of 24 girls from 12 different schools. Future dates, scheduled through April 27, include days at TruFit Solutions, Alcosan, ModCloth, FutureDerm, Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University, Westinghouse and GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution).
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nina Marie Barbuto, Can*Teen

Bodiography creates ballet depicting kids' journeys from grief through Highmark Caring Place

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet has devised dances about heart transplants and other medical issues, but it's probably never tackled such a tough one, says Terese Vorsheck, director of the Highmark Caring Place: kids' grief for lost parents.
 
"People don't understand the impact of death on children," says Vorscheck. "People need support to go through the process, and the Caring Place is here if they need that extra support," offering children, as well as adolescents and their families, peer grief-support services in two local offices. Bodiography artistic director and choreographer Maria Caruso, she adds, "was just very inspired by what she saw in our work with children."
 
Caruso and the dancers worked directly with children at the Caring Place to tell nine of their stories in a new dance called Whispers of Light: A Story of Hope. "The dancers have been so warm with the kids, helping them understand that whatever way they express their feelings is okay," Vorsheck says. "It seems to have been a process that allowed the kids in a very unique way to express their grief."
 
The dancers have incorporated into their dancing some of the physical movements that they observed in or discussed with the children, such as the pacing one child said he did to cope with his anxiety and grief.
 
The ballet begins with the children on stage together, then shows the increasing isolation of those going through grief. The performance ends with the dancers' take on one of the therapeutic activities from the Caring Place, depicting the journey that lets each child "end up in a place that is much more hopeful," Vorsheck says.
 
Hunter Steinitz, 18, is a Caring Place participant who helped formulate the show. “As we work together in this ballet, I can see myself in the dancers,” she says. “We’re all piecing this show together, like we here at the Caring Place are piecing our own lives back together. Just like a ballet can’t be done by one person, you can’t heal all by yourself either.”
 
Tickets for the show and the VIP reception may be purchased here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Terese Vorsheck, Highmark Caring Place

Apply now: KaBOOM! putting 10 playgrounds here, thanks to Heinz gift

Sally Dorman has a message for community groups in Pittsburgh: "If they're ever going to apply for a KaBOOM! playground, this is the time. This is really an unprecedented investment by KaBOOM! and its funding partner."
 
The funding partner is the Heinz Endowments, which gave $800,000 to KaBOOM!, the national play-promoting organization, to help local groups build 10 playgrounds in the area in 2013-14. KaBOOM! has built more than 2200 playgrounds in its history. But, says Dorman, associate community outreach coordinator of KaBOOM!, "we usually only build one playground every two years in Pittsburgh. This opportunity is very rare, and we're very excited about it." In fact, she says, if more organizations apply and qualify for playgrounds, KaBOOM! will work with the Pittsburgh groups to find other funding partners, with a goal of 20 playgrounds total across this year and next.
 
"We're looking for groups that have a strong emphasis on community," she adds, since KaBOOM! works with each group to solicit community input for playground designs. It also help communities with tools and models for raising the $8,500 investment required. This encourages community groups to take ownership of their new playgrounds and to maintain them. The process is also designed to increase the number of active volunteers for future community work.
 
Applicants need to own or lease 2,500 square feet of -- ideally -- flat, grassy, clean space, which is a premium in our hilly neighborhoods. And chosen groups must invite their community to build the playground all in one day, using hand tools, in a process demonstrated here.
 
"The community will love that playground, because they put their own effort into it," Dorman says.
 
"It's an essential part of the project to keep the people invested in the community," adds KaBOOM! Communications Coordinator Alyssa Ross.
 
The Endowments are looking for applicants whose playgrounds are open to as many people as possible, Dorman says, with public-friendly design features such as benches, small stages, gardens or other elements. On April 13, Homewood Children's Village will build the first Heinz-funded playground.
 
KaBOOM! is accepting rolling applications now, but encourages groups to apply as soon as possible. As Ross points out, cities like Pittsburgh are fighting the national "play deficit." She cites statistics that show just 41 percent of kids have access to a community playground, while physical play leaves kids healthier, doing better in school and acting better as adults.
 
Concludes Ross: "We hope this inspires a lot of people to become involved in the play movement."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Sally Dorman and Alyssa Ross, KaBOOM!

MacArthur's half million-dollar grant helps Sprout create educational Hive

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation came to Pittsburgh on Feb. 8 to deliver half a million dollars to the Sprout Fund to create a new, experimental "Hive" network of educational resources for tweens and teens -- and to deliver the message that Pittsburgh is already a model for the nation.
 
"You guys are already networked," said Jennifer Humke, MacArthur program officer, "and that's exactly why MacArthur is investing in Pittsburgh. We see Pittsburgh as an ideal example for growing connected-learning systems ... We're going to be looking to you to help develop the tools and evidence to keep this movement going."
 
The Pittsburgh Hive Learning Network won't have specific programs or a focus dictated by MacArthur; nor will it have a physical space. Instead, it will bring together schools and after-school programs, museums and child-focused agencies, well-established organizations and young researchers to encourage fresh partnerships and new ways of serving kids 11 and older. The intention is to encourage innovative ideas and collaborations by linking local people who may never have worked together or even met before -- but certainly ought to -- and to provide funding to get projects started.
 
"We're really looking forward to seeing good projects for tweens and teens, specifically around digital media, making, and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, the arts and math] learning," said Ryan Coon, spokesperson for Sprout's Spark Program, after the announcement. Spark administers Pittsburgh's Kids+Creativity Network -- a kind of Hive for younger kids that was established three years ago.
 
"It's more of a support structure to bring the many disparate organizations that are doing or thinking of bringing about programs for teens and tweens into a cooperative network," said Coon of the Hive. "It's like Kids+Creativity writ large."
 
The Hive will roll out through this spring. On Feb. 22, the Hive will hold a funding workshop to describe projects that will qualify for funding -- projects similar in size and focus to those Spark now funds, at the intersection of digital media, the arts and education, Coon said. The first application deadline will be in April, with another round of funding slated for the summer. The Hive will officially launch in May.
 
The only other Hives in the nation are in New York City and Chicago. "What MacArthur saw in Pittsburgh was a region that was already behaving in multidisciplinary, cross-sector ways," Coon added. "We're really pleased to be recognized. It was a lot of people working hard for the last five years." In particular, Humke credited Sprout Executive Director Cathy Lewis Long and Deputy Director Matt Hannigan, as well as Grable Foundation Executive Director Gregg Behr.
 
Behr and the Benedum Foundation's Vice President James Denova introduced the Kids+Creativity Network to 400 people gathered at Carnegie Mellon University and paved the way for the Hive announcement. Denova noted that creating "a renaissance of wonder" for young people in our region "demands fresh thinking on our part to prepare them for futures we can't yet imagine."
 
Concluded Sprout's Cathy Lewis Long: "A robust learning ecosystem is developing in the Pittsburgh area … and we're propelling ourselves into a national conversation."
 
Writer: Marty Levine

Nominate youth for Jefferson Service Challenge awards now

"We're looking for young people who are already involved in a meaningful community project to honor them for their work," says Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which is accepting nominations for its third annual Youth Service Challenge. "There are so many young people in our region especially, with so much energy, doing such good work, that we want to encourage them."
 
Jefferson's Youth Service Challenge is looking for young people ages 5-25 to nominate themselves (or to be nominated by others) and be honored for their service-project work. The entry deadline April 30. Local winners in nine categories (animal rights; community building and citizenship; education and literacy; elder care; environment and sustainability; health and wellness; hunger, homelessness and poverty; peace and justice; and service to youth) will compete in a national competition.
 
Farabaugh says the awards have encouraged further youth activism and success in the area. Alexis Werner, for instance, won first place in the Pittsburgh regional Youth Service Challenge in 2011. She was honored for creating Seeds of Hope, which planted "victory gardens" throughout the region to engage area youth and the local community about the difficulties of veterans transitioning back to civilian life, and to create baskets to deliver to local veterans and their families. She was inspired by the many deployments her mother and stepfather, both servicemembers, had undertaken, and the severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with which her stepfather was diagnosed.

With fellow Shaler Area High School students, Alexis delivered 75 baskets of produce to veterans, planted and cared for 10 victory gardens and raised $200. Since then, she has had a chance to work with Jefferson Awards founder Sam Beard and the Awards' GlobeChangers program to bring Seeds of Hope to 20 states, and has raised more than $15,000.
 
Another local winner, Bobby Catley, then a senior at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, saw the need for people to understand the new food pyramid nutrition guidelines, so he raised money to organize and host an event for 1,500, complete with cooking demonstrations, healthy food samples and other informational components. "He is the only local person who has won at the national level to date," says Farabaugh.
 
Jefferson also provides winners with some tools to grow their projects and gain them attention, from press-release templates and social-media strategy tips to hints for finding new funding and other ways to increase their impact.
 
"I'm really excited to hear a lot of the stories that are coming out of Pittsburgh," says Farabaugh about the many entries she receives. "This is all a really great opportunity for us to share those stories and get Pittsburgh on the national stage."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service

It's a beautiful blog in the neighborhood

The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media has started a blog "to expand the dialogue on the potential of digital media to support early learning and development," as the first entry notes.
 
"The blog is the next step in work that we've been doing for more than three years," says the Rogers Center's Executive Director Rita Catalano: trying to provide guidance to parents and media creators, educators and researchers, about what represents quality children's media and what is best for them.
 
The Rogers Center had already created a "Framework for Quality" to spur the dialog, but Catalano hopes the blog will "promote some new thinking" on the subject.
 
Among the regulars will be two Rogers Center Fellows Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who researches the effects of adult background television on infants and toddlers, and Alice Wilder, chief content officer at Speakaboos, a children's website that encourages reading and literacy.

Beginning next week, Wilder and Carla E. Fisher, the founder, game designer and researcher at No Crusts Interactive, will present videos showing kids and adults using media products to an expert panel for comment. "It's meant to model how people think about quality when people use an app or other digital media product," Catalano says.  
 
Guest bloggers will vary from week to week. One of the early entries was by Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, about their new report from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making, will write about the potential of media to help with child development.
 
Child is still hoping to get more public commentary, "but we've seen people sharing it on their social media, so I'm hopeful this means we will continue to build an audience for it."

Do Good:
Looking for an additional way to join the conversation about kids and learning? Join the conversation at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rita Catalano, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media

New teacher tech playground and idea generator: AIU's transformED

Teachers need a place to learn through playing and exploring, just like their students -- and a place to exchange ideas outside their classrooms and even their districts.
 
That's the theory behind a new space dubbed "transformED" at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's central office in Homestead. The AIU provides specialized education services to 42 districts and their 119,300 students, and its transformED is a new spot where "teachers will have the opportunity to come and play and utilize whatever form of technology will help them take ideas back to the classroom," says Jennifer Beagan, senior program director for teaching and learning.
 
TransformED, opening Feb. 6, is part of the AIU's Center for Creativity, which was designed "to create a go-to place for teachers, where they can really come and learn how you integrate creativity across disciplines," says Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director for teaching and learning.
 
For this kind of professional development, says Javorsky, "teachers wanted a physical space different from our traditional spaces in school. And they wanted some professional support that was really more hands-on discovery education" of the variety that works so well for their students. "We believe there is no space like this dedicated to teachers in the country" -- and certainly there is none like it in the region, she adds.
 
Inside its bright red walls, transformED is set up to allow multiple activities at the same time. Explains Javorsky: "The space is designed for interaction and for people to feel comfortable. It has a coffee-shop feel."
 
The opening coincides with national Digital Learning Day, and will offer demonstrations representing workshops and other sessions that teachers can enjoy at transformED. Educators will be able to gain experience with a 3D printer and the interactive-video software Scratch. Hummingbird Robots will help teachers assist their students in robot design and provide technical skills applicable to teaching multiple classroom subjects. A Gigapan camera, which takes 3,000 photos and stitches them together for panoramic views, will aid both science and art teachers.
 
Some of transformED's features will also be decidedly low tech, such as an area dedicated to design thinking -- a kind of strategic planning method that helps with idea generation.
 
Javorsky says the AIU has been concerned that, with the emphasis on test preparation in schools, "'drill and kill' is really taking the motivation out of learning." She hopes the new "TransformED is an opportunity for teachers to learn from each other."
 
TransformED was funded by a $218,000 grant from the Grable Foundation.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Jennifer Beagan, Rosanne Javorsky, Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Teens on the Eco Scene raises awareness on enviro risks, products

"Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day," everything from soap to body sprays, says Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, head of the local Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE). Each has a multitude of chemicals that go on and into the skin, including some that are harmful, such as mercury and formaldehyde.
 
On Feb. 10, WHE is launching a new program called Teens on the Eco Scene. Its aim is to make teens more aware of the environmental risks and reduce the amount of toxins in the materials they encounter everyday at school, home and work. The program, funded by the Grable Foundation, is also intended to motivate teens to take action to improve the health of their communities.
 
"There is an opportunity to increase knowledge that changes behaviors," says Naccarati-Chapkis, "and we are establishing healthy behaviors that will benefit them for life."
 
WHE has been working with youth for several years, both through the Food City Fellows summer work-study program that revitalizes vacant lots and plants gardens to teach about healthy, local food, and through their cosmetology curriculum for Pittsburgh Public Schools students.
 
Teens on the Eco Scene's opening event at Hard Rock Café at Station Square will offer interactive stations where participants can make their own natural lip gloss, cologne and deodorant, taste test organic versus processed foods and recycle their electronics while getting a sneak peek at the Scene's full program. Starting out as an after-school activity but eventually expanding into the school day, Scene will create eco-challenges and other contests that, for instance, may involve surveying the cleaning products and cafeteria lunches in students' schools to see how healthy and safe they are.
 
"This will be very interactive," she says. "There are a lot of opportunities. We'll be responding to [students'] ideas over the next few months."
 
Do Good:
Want an additional way to clean up the community? Volunteer with Allegheny CleanWays, which removes illegal dumping sites from our rivers.
 
Writer: Marty Levine (forgood@popcitymedia.com)
Source: Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Women for a Healthy Environment

ASSET brings statewide STEM expertise to free conference here

ASSET STEM Education, the South Side nonprofit that has helped school districts across the state implement hands-on curricula for science, technology, engineering and math learning, is holding its first, free STEM conference downtown on Feb. 18. Its aim, says ASSET Executive Director Cynthia Pulkowski, "is really to help people identify where their school districts are on the STEM continuum and decide where they want to go to. They'll be able to discover resources and practices to improve the STEM education at their schools."
 
With 75 school districts and universities already signed up -- not to mention representatives from nonprofit agencies, businesses, state government and elsewhere -- there's not much room left to register for spots, she says.
 
ASSET is teaming with the Norwin School District to bring the conference to the Convention Center, featuring keynote speakers David Burns, director of STEM innovation networks for the Columbus, Ohio R & D company Battelle and Dewayne Rideout, vice president of human resources for All-Clad Metalcrafters in Canonsburg. Burns will offer a national perspective on STEM education, while Rideoout will speak about teaming with several school districts' students to work on new products for the company.
 
Among the 22 breakout sessions are:
  • Charting Your Course to a Successful STEM School/Program, with four ASSET officials describing the best practices of a model STEM program using a national rubric;
  • Several sessions focusing on STEAM, which incorporates the arts into STEM, with representatives from Propel Schools and the Pine-Richland School District;
  • Next Generation Science Standards and STEM, led by representatives of the Math and Science Collaborative at Allegheny Intermediate Unit; and
  • Supporting STEM Education through Common Core, focusing on new, more rigorous state standards now being required of students.
"Teachers need to identify where the possibilities lie for their students in careers," says Pulkowski. To help, ASSET is also creating a STEM career database for schools to investigate possibilities for internships, mentoring programs and classroom visitors.
 
Conference-goers, she says, "will walk away with pieces they can go ahead and apply in their schools. I hope they can say, 'OK, I have a place to start.' I just want them to have some actual resources and some good planning."
 
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to help local education? Contribute to the work of The Education Partnership in supplying classrooms with needed materials.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cynthia Pulkowski, ASSET STEM Education

Girl Scouts pick eight 'Women of Distinction' and honor outstanding girls

The Girl Scouts have been growing women of distinction for 101 years, and the troops of Western Pennsylvania will continue to present their Women of Distinction Awards for the 17th year on March 13.
 
"Often they turned out to have been Girl Scouts in the past," notes Allison Burns, coordinator for the event, which also honors two outstanding current Scouts and a local corporation that has been teaming with the scouts to do good locally.
 
Past adult honorees have included philanthropists and political figures Elsie Hillman and Teresa Heinz Kerry. This year's awards in eight categories include:
  • In Arts: Sarah Tambucci of the Arts Education Collaborative
  • In Business: Karen Larrimer of PNC Bank
  • In the Community: Anne Lewis of Oxford Development
  • In Education: Phyllis Comer, State Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • In Government: Judge Donna Jo McDaniel of the Allegheny Country Court of Common Pleas
  • In Health Care: Tami Minnier of the UPMC Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation
  • In Law: Margaret Joy of McCarthy McDonald Schulberg & Joy
  • In Technology: Diane Watson of Bayer
The awards, says Burns, "show that we inspire girls to discover whatever they want to do and to find their voice."
 
The Girl Scout Humanitarian Award will go to Tiffany Trunk, a student at Peters Township High School, who is working toward her Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scout's Eagle rank. She does restoration work at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, is being trained as a voluntary first responder, does fundraising for veterans' causes locally and also volunteers at a local library.
 
The Girl Scout of Distinction awardee this year is Jocelyn Perry of West Allegheny High School, who created a summer day camp for kids of working mothers by partnering with a local parks department and gathering donated supplies. She also created a middle-school girls' workshop, teaching that self-esteem is not centered on a girl's looks.
 
"She' such a hard-working and compassionate girl," says Burns. "She's really a role model to younger girls in teaching them self-confidence."

The Corporation of Distinction this year is PPG Industries, which created the PPG Science of Color program and patch for the Scouts. It teaches color theory, design, chromatography and pH’s effect on color, as well as corporate accountability for the environment and ways to make companies greener. It also encourages participants to explore careers in color. "We want to close that gap for women in the sciences," says Burns, "where traditionally these are fields where positions are not held by women."
 
Eden Hall Foundation is the presenting sponsor for this fundraising event, and the honorary chair is Agnus Berenato, head coach of the University of Pittsburgh women’s basketball team.
 
Do Good:
Searching for more ways to help local girls? Strong Women, Strong Girls trains girls for leadership positions.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Allison Burns, Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania

Got a middle-school Mozart or junior-high Callas in the house? Enter the WQED contest

If you've ever sat in a half-empty school auditorium for your kid's band or choir concert, you know that kids playing classical music aren't getting the love their football-playing classmates are receiving.
 
"Kids who participate in sports get the adulation of their peers all the time," says Joanna Marie, managing director of classical-music radio's WQED-FM, "whereas kids who study instruments and vocal arts don't get that."
 
That's one of the reasons WQED-FM is reviving its Musical Kids contest to offer recognition and encouragement for young instrumentalists and vocalists. The station is now accepting performance recordings through Feb. 22 to pick a first round of finalists. The finalists will then be invited to make professional video recordings to be posted on the WQED website, where the public will vote for one winner from March 18 through April 10. A panel of judges among local classical music performers and teachers will pick five more winners, and all will perform live on the station's “Performance in Pittsburgh” on May 3 and receive a plaque and prizes at an event at their school.
 
Reduced school funding for the arts "is another reason we want to step in and help fill the void," Marie says. "It is something we really believe in." Presenting part of the award at each kid's school is a purposeful strategy "so they can show their peers how well they are doing," she adds. The station hopes, she says, to offer the winners "recognition and a great sense of accomplishment and fun."
 
The contest last ran in the 1990s, in a different form, and has received a grant from the Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation to be revived.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Joanna Marie, WQED-FM
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