• Today is: Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Little Learner Clubhouse sparks curiosity in Carnegie Science Center’s youngest visitors

Emily Stimmel
March06/ 2018

It’s hard to miss the newest space at Carnegie Science Center. When visitors walk into the Little Learner Clubhouse, they’re greeted by a 20-foot Gathering Tree where families can explore “backpacks” covering topics from building and transportation to insects and seasons. The tree is just one feature of the clubhouse, a nature-inspired STEM education center for kids age 6 and younger.

Kids explore the Little Learner Clubhouse. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

Kids will find plenty to explore in the clubhouse’s colorful, interactive exhibits. At the Tomato Stand, they can learn about simple machines by using conveyors, vacuum tubes and an Archimedes screw to sort and gather “tomatoes.” The multi-sensory Water Table teaches about water properties through play — from fishing in its pond and racing leaves in the stream to observing how water keeps a toy boat afloat in a claw-foot bathtub. And in the Baby Garden, babies and toddlers can crawl through farm-themed soft play structures.

Each exhibit has been designed to inspire and excite early learners while instilling critical developmental skills.

“Children are born scientists, brimming with natural curiosity, and their preschool years are critical for exploration and brain development,” says Ron Baillie, co-director of the Science Center. “In pre-kindergarten years, children who engage in STEM practices, such as asking questions and forming explanations, build a strong foundation for skills learned throughout their lives.”

Science Center staff called upon the expertise of an advisory board of early childhood specialists and exhibit designers from across the country to plan the clubhouse. The gallery’s range of activities encourages fine motor skills and an understanding of cause and effect through the manipulation of features. At the Button Wall, for example, youngsters can set off a variety of sounds and visual effects, including bubbles that emerge at — you guessed it — the push of a button.

A child tests the Little Learner Clubhouse Button Wall. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

“Once the bubble button was discovered we had kids pushing the button and playing in the bubbles non-stop,” says Jessica Lausch,  senior director of visitor engagement.

Lausch believes the new space will be even more popular than Exploration Station, Jr. The clubhouse exhibits are permanent, but activities will be refreshed periodically.

“When children are excited about STEM, all sorts of opportunities will open up for them as they advance through school and into a profession of their choice,” says Sally McCrady, chair and president of the PNC Foundation. “The Little Learner Clubhouse at Carnegie Science Center provides us an opportunity to invest further in pre-K science so young children have more STEM learning opportunities.”

A project of PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great bilingual, early childhood education initiative, Little Learner Clubhouse takes the place of CSC’s Exploration Station, Jr. The gallery is a project of the SPARK Campaign. The three-year fundraising effort that ended last year supports expanded STEM programming and the construction of the new PPG Science Pavilion, opening this June. The PNC Foundation’s $1 million gift to the SPARK! Campaign provided funding for the clubhouse, community-based programming and neighborhood outreach.

Maker Monday: String Eggs

maker monday
Sally Quinn
March05/ 2018

The art of String Eggs has been around since Grandma was in kindergarten. Back in the day, crafty kids would use liquid starch or sugar water to create these elegant globes built upon balloons. For this week’s Maker Monday project, our String Eggs use school glue, like Elmer’s, to attach embroidery thread in a web-like pattern around balloons.

We used tiny water balloons for our eggs, but you can be more ambitious with larger balloons or blow up balloons to different sizes to create a beautiful display. Smaller balloons might be best for little hands.

Kids can choose embroidery thread in a variety of colors, opting for pastels, brights or shimmering metallics, depending on your taste.

maker monday



Embroidery thread

Schools glue, white or transparent (the white will dry clear)


Parchment paper or waxed paper

maker monday

Blow up balloons to the desired size and tie off. Choose your embroidery thread color and unwind the skein. We found it best to cut the thread before starting into about yard lengths and lay each length separately within easy reach to prevent tangles. We learned the hard way that once your fingers are sticky with glue, it’s very difficult to untangle the thread!

Pour an inch or so of glue into a bowl. Begin dipping fingers in the glue and coat the thread as you go, winding the thread around a balloon. As you add new lengths of thread, dab the end to another string to prevent the end from showing. Continue to dip fingers to add more glue as you go. You want to be sure all of the thread is coated with glue.

maker monday

As the balloons are covered with thread webbing, set aside on parchment paper or waxed paper to dry overnight.

maker monday

Once the string is dry completely, it’s time for kids to pierce each balloon with a tack, pin or needle. Rather than a “pop,” the balloon slowly begins a crackling noise like cracking ice or Rice Krispies as it gradually pulls away from the string and shrinks. Remove the shriveled balloon from inside the egg, using tweezers if necessary. You might be left with a bit of dried glue between the webbing, which can be picked out with little fingers or tweezers.

maker monday

Your delicate String Eggs are ready to display. They will look pretty arranged in a bowl or hung on ribbons as a reminder of the arrival of spring.

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

10 best bets for Pittsburgh family fun in March

top March
Kidsburgh Staff
February28/ 2018

March roars into Pittsburgh with all the noisy fun that kids love.

Teens make their annual Youth Invasion at the Andy Warhol Museum with live performances mixed in with the visual art. Kids can try their hand at the Eastern European art of pysanky egg decoration. Smaller kids will enjoy breakfast with the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts. Autism-friendly Jumping Jack Theater will present an interactive premiere of “Cityscape.”

Find details on these events — and so many more — at NEXTPittsburgh.

Going to the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show? Don’t miss Kidsburgh at the Children’s Village!

home & garden
Sally Quinn
February28/ 2018

Mom might head to the home robot display and Dad might get lost in the two acres of gardening innovations at the Duquesne Light Home & Garden Show.

But kids in the know will head to Level 2 at David Lawrence Convention Center where they’ll find all sorts of cool activities.

The Children’s Village gives kids a chance to burn off energy while Mom and Dad relax at the Shady Lane Family Activity Center. Kids can watch turtle Races return for a slow-speed chase to the finish line and get a turn at running the toy trains set up by the TCA Kids Club.

As expected, the Kidsburgh’s booth will offer fun and engaging hands-on creativity. Kids can make a flower from recycled magazine paper, turn on a light bulb with kid-friendly circuitry blocks or color a Kidsburgh postcard to mail to someone special.

This year, Kidsburgh partnered with Remake Learning and local organizations who know how to keep kids entertained while learning. Some highlights:

Carnegie Science Center will offer “What’s that Sound?” for early learners, which explores the Animal Kingdom by identifying sounds of various animals. Younger kids will receive stickers, and older kids will get shark teeth.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will help kids plant seed starter pots.

Florida Recycled will offer kids the chance to participate in a collaborative coloring project similar to the “Why Art” billboard project seen last year on Port Authority buses.

Fans of Play will supply kids with EverBlock Jr. sheets, which can be made into blocks and decorated.

Jumpstart Pittsburgh, inspired by the book “Ugly Vegetables” by Grace Lin, will lead kids in making garden markers.

IU1 Fab Lab offers laser-cut cardboard butterflies to create a 3-D butterfly garden.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offers a reading of “The Rainbow Fish” and a chance to win tickets to a performance at the EQT Children’s Theater Festival.

Allegheny County Parks leads kids in an exploration of native animal specimens and local wildlife with Allegheny County Park Rangers.

The Home & Garden Show runs March 2-11. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sally Quinn
February27/ 2018

Kids can flex their muscles, build endurance and find hidden strength this summer.

These fun and physically challenging camps are sure to excite active kids:

summer camps
Obstacle courses are part of the challenge at American Warrior Ninja camp.

American Ninja Warrior

The name itself is a draw with its promise of daring obstacles and course exploits. Based on the growing sport of strength and endurance, this new JCC day camp for kids in grades 3-6 guarantees non-stop fun. The action includes climbing challenges, progressive relays, and team-based competitions. The ninja craze that’s sweeping the country lands in Monroeville’s Family Park July 30-Aug. 3.

summer camps
Kids reach new heights at Ascend.

Ascend Summer Camp

Kids will reach the heights of their power physically and literally at Ascend Summer Camp. Their strength and dexterity will be tested through activities like rope climbing and bouldering. Balance is another skill to encounter when walking a slackline. Weeklong half-day and full-day sessions are scheduled throughout the summer for ages 6-16. Instruction, rental equipment, and Ascend merchandise are included.

summer camps
Speed and skill are put to the test at The Wheelmill.

Wheelmill Bike Camp

Sure, there are beginner camps at The Wheelmill for kids who have mastered riding on two wheels and need a bit more confidence. But once those skills are mastered, lookout! Moving up to the Intermediate and Advanced Camps will have your little shredder flying over the course. Kids will be thrilled to experience the 80,000-square foot park filled with all kinds of trails and ramps. Kids start out in the fundamentals room before advancing to the seven other rooms of varying terrain and levels of difficulty. Weeklong sessions run from June 18-Aug. 24.

summer camps
Ultimate Frisbee has its time in the sun at Spirit of the Game summer camp.

Ultimate Frisbee Camp

Pittsburgh Ultimate – Spirit of the Game gathers kids from ages 7-14 in a fast-paced, high-energy summer camp that runs in weeklong sessions in North Park. New this year are Flash Camps, allowing kids to try it out for one day before signing on more longer sessions. Through Ultimate Frisbee team play, kids will learn sportsmanship, dedication and have a terrific daily workout. And just imagine how cool these skills will make them look when they hit their college campus!

summer camps
At Survival Camp, students learn basic wilderness survival skills, like building a temporary shelter.

Survival Camp

This Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy summer camp sparks the imagination with skills required for wilderness survival. We’re sure kids can dream up crazy scenarios in which these skills are in demand – a zombie apocalypse or mountainside plane crash, for example. But familiarity with the great outdoors could come in handy when camping with mom and dad, too. Learn how to build a fire, construct a shelter, and scavenge for food and water.

Other Conservancy camps are less ambitiously titled, but nonetheless fun, such as Outdoor Expeditions Camp and Kindi Nature Camp for the youngest wilderness enthusiast.

summer camps
Can a serious workshop be fun, too? The answer is yes for those with a passion for dance.

Pittsburgh Ballet Junior Intensive

Kids who take their dancing seriously will want to sign up for this Pittsburgh Ballet summer session. The three-week workshop for ages 10-13 covers intermediate to advanced skills in pointe, pas de deux, jazz,  and repertoire. While rigorous and disciplined, kids can expect to find plenty of joy in their movements and training. Less intense, weeklong summer workshops are also available, such as Move With Mozart.

summer camps
Kids can run away to join the circus but make it back home for dinner.

Circus Camps

Kids can fly through the air with the greatest of ease at one of Iron City Circus Arts summer camp. Kids who like flipping upside down on monkey bars will transition easily to trapeze skills. But even those new to aerial arts will soon be swinging from aerial silks, swaying on the hoops, and hanging from the static trapeze. Two weeklong camps are offered according to age, with a sibling discount for a family affair.

summer camps
A new summer camp explores the ancient sport of fencing.

Fencing Camp

Fencing never goes out of style, whether it’s performed with steel swords, flat blades or light sabers.  At the JCC’s weeklong Fencing summer camp, potential pirates, Musketeers and Jedi Knights will learn how strategy and teamwork play into this centuries-old discipline. The fast-paced training helps develop quick decision-making while under pressure. Kids in grades 1-8 are invited to call out “en garde” at the Aug. 13-17 session.

summer camps
Teamwork, strength and endurance combine for rowing success.

Rowing Camp

Kids can skim over the river and develop new levels of fitness at Steel City Rowing camps. Beginners ages 12-18 will learn techniques for sweep rowing (one oar per person pulled in tandem with other rowers in a four- or eight-person boat) and advance to sculling (rowing with two oars in a single, two- or four-person boat). USRowing certified coaches cover water safety, too, in the full-day, weeklong sessions running June 18-July 30.

summer camps
Little girls just naturally fall in love with ponies.

Pony Camp

Kids who are giddy with pony love will be positively smitten with Pony Camp at Horses Unlimited Stables. Beginners receive an introduction to Western and English style riding in the weeklong sessions. Kids will learn horse care, including a hands-on pony bath to safely clean off the mud. Horse-themed crafts and games are part of the fun.

Coming up: STEM summer camps. And check out our arts-focused summer camp guide.