• Today is: Monday, June 18, 2018

‘Our kids. Our commitment.’ needs your signature to empower the future of Pittsburgh kids

Stephanie Hacke
June04/ 2018

Allegheny County kids could soon have a better opportunity to excel in life.

All that’s needed is for taxpayers to agree to a countywide tax increase that would cost about $30 a year for the average homeowner.

A citizen-led group just launched ”Our kids. Our commitment.” The initiative would transform the way Allegheny County funds early learning, after-school and nutrition programs.

Utilizing the referendum process, the group will set out to gather more than 40,000 signatures between June 19 and Aug. 7. If successful, a question will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot asking county residents if they’re willing to support a .25 mill tax increase. That amounts to about $25 a year for a $100,000 assessed property.

A majority vote would establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, generating about $18 million a year.

“This is asking: Do we want to do well by the kids of today? They’re the future of our society,” says Dave Coplan, executive director of Human Services Center Corporation and a steering committee member for Our Kids. Our Commitment.

Local service providers and leaders have spent nearly two years looking for new and innovative ways to help youth in Allegheny County. It became clear that funding was an issue.

Most of the funding for early learning, after school and nutrition programs – all of which have a large impact in shaping a child’s life – comes from state and federal dollars, says Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children and a steering committee member for Our kids. Our commitment.

“Really, the whole goal of this has been to think about how can we make stronger investments in our kids?” Dowd says. “We all believe that by investing in our kids, we’re not just investing in them, but we’re investing in the future of our region. We’re providing kids better opportunities. We’re providing a brighter future for the region.”

In the end, it’s about providing more access, he says. While there are great programs in Allegheny County, there’s not enough supply.

The first step is to include the public in the process. Beginning with a kick-off event at the Children’s Museum on June 19, the group has 49 days to gather the needed signatures. Expect to see clipboards at community days, festivals, service centers and anywhere else that draws a crowd.

“This is an illustration of participatory democracy at its finest,” Coplan says.

“This is historic,” Dowd says. “We’re going to be having tens of thousands of conversations all summer long talking to people about this.”

If all goes as planned, they’ll get those signatures and a question will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot that will leave it up to the voters.

More than 30 counties across the country already have children’s funds in place. That includes several in Missouri, Florida, Texas, California and Ohio, including the Cleveland region.

“I do believe there’s not a Pittsburgher that wants to think Cleveland is doing something right that we’re not,” Coplan says with a laugh.

Maker Monday: Blow-up Balloon

maker monday
Sally Quinn
June04/ 2018

Playing outdoors is educational, too, when the play includes interactive STEM activities, like this week’s Maker Monday experiment, a Blow-up Balloon.

The science lesson comes from a mixture of baking soda and vinegar, which creates a bubbling chemical reaction that results in carbon dioxide. The gas expands and blows up the balloon all by itself.

Lucky that the main ingredients are so inexpensive because kids will want to repeat this experiment again and again.

For more fun, draw a silly face on the balloon before beginning and watch it grow!

maker monday


Empty water bottle

Baking soda

White vinegar



Measuring cup


maker monday

Pour 1/2 cup vinegar into the empty water bottle and set aside.

maker monday

Attach the empty balloon to the bottom of the funnel. Pour in 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Stretch the balloon onto the water bottle, keeping the baking soda away from the opening.

maker monday

Once you’re all set, lift the balloon up, allowing the baking soda to drop down into the vinegar.

maker monday

Watch the bubbling as the gas expands and blows up the balloon. Let the giggling begin!

maker monday

For more Maker Monday projects and other fun stuff for kids, visit the Kidsburgh Activities page.

Start your summer screen time rules now with these Common Sense tips

common sense
Common Sense Media
June01/ 2018

Above photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash.

The transition into summer can mean a change in routines. This article shares helpful tips on how to navigate media and screens so kids can keep learning, even when school is out. I especially like the Family Media Agreements. It is a great resource to help families create a plan everyone can agree on. – Jennifer Ehehalt, Pittsburgh Regional Manager at Common Sense Media. You can find her on Twitter @Jehehalt.

By Caroline Knorr

Common Sense Media

For some kids, summer means getting on the computer and not getting off ’til September. And even though a lot of parents relax their screen limits over the break, allowing a full-on hibernation is just not gonna happen. And it shouldn’t. Kids need to get outside, of course. But they also need to stretch themselves in ways that they can’t during the school year — and that no app, game, or streaming TV show, no matter how educational and meaningful, can give them.

The slide into the summer-screen abyss often happens innocently, before parents even catch on. Your kid starts streaming Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix — and then won’t leave the house until he’s binge-watched every episode. Or maybe they’re hooked on MinecraftRoblox, or another play-as-you-go game that provides endless learning opportunities — but turns out to be just … endless.

As you’re mapping out your summer, don’t ban screen devices entirely. Not only do they offer entertainment, but they also offer learning opportunities and a chance to stay in touch with friends. Set reasonable limits that allow for family time and other important activities, and incorporate media and tech in ways that bring the family together. Try these ideas:

Create a family media plan. Sit down with your kids and work out a weekly plan that includes activities such as camps, trips, and events as well as media and tech time. If you’re traveling, talk about whether to bring devices and when and how much they can be used. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan Tool and Media Time Calculator to create a customized schedule.

Want Wi-Fi? This requires a little effort but it’s worth it. Every night before bed, change your home Wi-Fi password. In the morning, leave a note for your kids that lists their chores and responsibilities for the day. When they’re finished with the stuff they need to do, they can have the day’s password.

Tell ghost stories every night. Combine the summer tradition of ghost stories around the campfire with the proven benefits of summer reading, and you have a win-win. We guarantee your kids will be happy to ditch the devices for their nightly spooky-story fix. Check out our Best Ghost Stories books, or feel free to make up your own. You’ll have to improvise on the campfire.

Nix devices at meals. During the school year, it makes sense that kids would occasionally need devices at the table to finish homework. But summer’s different. Use device-free-dinners to bond in a way that you don’t always have time for when you’re rushing to get schoolwork done and put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour.

Get outside … with apps. These apps let you have your cake and eat it, too. From nature adventures to stargazing to geocaching to physical fitness, the app-outdoor combo provides inspiration for family fun.

June is jumping with these Top 10 kids events

Kidsburgh Staff
June01/ 2018

June is jumping with thrills and spills like the world’s biggest bounce house and Nitro Circus mania. LEGO fantasies will be realized at Carnegie Science Center’s cool new exhibit. Superheroes will power Kidsfest at Kennywood. And Dad gets a special day out at Heinz History Center.

Get all the details on these and many more June happenings at NEXTPittsburgh.


Director Morgan Neville tells the behind-the-scenes story of ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’

Mister Rogers
Kidsburgh Staff
June01/ 2018

Imagine the biggest summer blockbuster, jam-packed with the most explosions, gunplay and violence possible. Then replace all that with radical displays of kindness, empathy and tolerance, and you have “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, opening nationally on June 8, might affect us a little more here in Pittsburgh, long-time home to the world’s greatest neighbor, Fred Rogers. But the documentary aims unerringly at the heart, even if you grew up elsewhere watching “Captain Kangaroo” or “Pokemon.”

Be prepared for a compelling look at a Pittsburgher who impacted the young lives of generations of Americans.

Filmmaker Morgan Neville — an Oscar winner for Best Documentary (“20 Feet from Stardom”) — started the process by watching video and film of Fred Rogers.

“As a filmmaker, it was as rich a subject as you could hope for,” says Neville. “Sometimes, you have to make do with very little. Here, the biggest problem was digesting mountains of material. We watched every episode, every outtake, speeches, home movies.”

Click over to NEXTPittsburgh to read the complete story.