• Today is: Friday, December 14, 2018

How to help your kids develop resilience

Kristine Sorensen
November27/ 2018

We’re building super strong superheroes in this week’s Kidcast!  Nationally renowned parenting expert, Dr. G, gives specific ideas on how to help your kids become resilient, no matter what they face in life.


11 best events in December for Pittsburgh kids

best december
Kidsburgh Staff
November27/ 2018

Is it possible to overdose on Santa-themed events? The December lineup of family-friendly fun will give you a chance to find out! Along with activities starring the Jolly Old Elf, kids will celebrate Chanukah, get their groove on with a Hip Hop Nutcracker, or watch a screening of “Home Alone” along with the John Williams score being played live by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Catch the details on these December happenings for kids, plus more, at NEXTPittsburgh.

Biggest-ever Handmade Arcade showcases first class of Youth Maker Scholarship winners

handmade arcade
Candy Williams
November27/ 2018

Above photo: Teen Corde Davis wears her opinions on her shirts. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Teen designer Corde Davis uses her fashion line to draw awareness to social injustice.

“Growing up in Homewood exposed me to a lot of stuff that no kid my age should have seen,” says the 17-year-old, a senior at Propel Braddock Hills. “As I grew up, I noticed nothing had changed. And that’s what motivated me.”

She points to gun violence, gentrification of African-American neighborhoods and poor treatment of women as issues close to her heart.

“I used my paintings to express that,” she says, “and decided to wear my opinion on T-shirts so everyone I crossed paths with would know.” Her “My Canvas” line also includes hoodies, fanny packs and keychains.

As one of the winners of the new Youth Maker Scholarship Program, Corde will be among those to be featured at this year’s Handmade Arcade.

In its largest event ever, more than 200 artists, crafters, designers and makers – including that group of talented kids – will be selling their creations at the free curated marketplace on Dec. 8 in the David Lawrence Convention Center.

The works of 12 up-and-coming entrepreneur teens were selected this past summer to participate in the scholarship program, which was supported by Remake Learning, The Grable Foundation and Google.

Winners were awarded free vendor space at Handmade Arcade and a stipend to assist with the production of their goods, along with mentoring and workshop opportunities to learn business skills – from merchandising, packaging and pricing to workflow, marketing and finances.

handmade arcade
Justine Szurley will sell embroidered apparel that focuses on female empowerment. Photo by Lindsay Goranson.

Another Youth Maker, Justine Szurley of Cranberry, brings her Hear Me Roar Apparel line that features her embroidered T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pins and tote bags.

“While I love learning, I also enjoy creative outlets,” Justine says. “I’m always looking to try new things and develop different skills.”

She participated in Handmade Arcade last year and says it was an incredible experience.

“I hope this year to solidify HMR Apparel as a serious brand, rather than ‘just a youth project.’ ” she says. “I want to network with others in Pittsburgh and expand my opportunities for the upcoming year.”

Hannah Jones, a senior at Mount Lebanon High School, will sell her fine-art prints, cards and T-shirts. Her work is inspired by her passion for researching and observing nature.

“In the summer of 2017, I visited Wyoming and was captivated by its wildlife. Many of my art pieces used reference photos from this trip,” says Hannah, who aspires to be an illustrator. “Part of the reason I signed up for a Youth Maker Scholarship is because of the positive experiences I’ve had there with my family.”

handmade arcade
Danielle Engstrom with her handcrafted wooden pens. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Another scholarship winner, Danielle Engstrom, a Belle Vernon Area High School student, learned from her father about the craft of creating wooden pens.

“I became intrigued with turning wood and wanted to do more of my own. Now I make much more than pens and my projects include fountain pens, seam rippers, letter openers, pencils and more,” she says. “I love to change a piece of nature that is somewhat dull and common into something people will cherish and appreciate in their daily lives.”

Danielle has gone on two mission trips to El Salvador, paid for in part by selling her pens, and said she is looking forward to heading back there in June for her third trip.

“This year’s youth makers consist of a really great group of young people,” says Tricia Brancolini-Foley, executive director of Handmade Arcade. “They are motivated, creative, talented, hard-working and dedicated to their craft.”

She views the annual event as a bridge between creators and consumers, providing a platform for youth makers that doesn’t exist in everyday life.”

Future makers can get involved with the Hands-On Handmade Activity Area led by 16 Pittsburgh-based artists and arts organizations. You’ll find free drop-in art and craft projects, workshops, games and demonstrations.

What’s the state of Pittsburgh Public Schools? James Fogarty discusses the latest progress report

2018 progress report
Rege Behe
November27/ 2018

A+ Schools’ annual Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh offers a mixed bag of results.

For example:

  • More third graders are reading at grade level than three years ago, but too few kids are doing math at grade level.
  • Graduation rates are improving, but absenteeism remains a problem.
  • Student suspensions are down, but a disproportionate number of black students are among those being suspended.
  • Enrollment increased by 234 students for the 2017-18 school year, but enrollment is still down by 862 kids from 2014-15.

These key points can be found in the 2018 report, culled from information gathered from local schools and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The report is designed to paint an accurate and unbiased picture of local educational trends and issues.

“We’re trying to find trends and pull together high-level talking points,” says James Fogarty, executive director of A+ Schools, an advocate for the educational interests of children in Pittsburgh.

He encourages community members to act on report details to advocate for change, work as tutors or mentors, or to volunteer at local schools.

“We recognize that our vision of a school system where 100 percent of students graduate college and career-ready, and at least 80 percent go on to complete college or trade school, is still not a reality,” says Fogarty. “We also know that achieving this vision is not something that we at A+ Schools can do alone.”

Fogarty discussed some of the findings from the report with Kidsburgh.

What does last year’s enrollment increase signify?

It’s positive. It signals that either more kids are being born and families are staying in Pittsburgh, or there’s greater confidence in some schools or some combination of both.

The survey indicates 60 percent of teachers attained a “Distinguished” level based on observation of teaching practices, student perceptions, student learning and growth data, and/or student learning objectives set by teachers and principals. Is this level satisfactory?

I think the whole point of the evaluations here was not so much that you would separate people out, but to be able to differentiate where people’s strengths and weaknesses are, and then be able to help them improve.

To the extent that the current system does that, we think that you keep using those portions of it. To the extent that it doesn’t, if we’re just saying you’re distinguished but there’s not a lot of feedback for the teacher, not “here’s where you can grow and here are the resources.”

I think we really have to look into that and say there’s a disconnect between where our teachers’ teaching core is and where are students in terms of the outcomes that we see. We need to think about it less in terms of punitive evaluative terms.

If you are doing all you can do to teach kids, which I believe the vast majority of teachers are – and plenty of evaluations reflect that most teachers are meeting that bar – and everyone’s working hard, it’s just, are you working well? That’s the part we’d like to figure out more. What can we do to get teachers the support they need to improve the outcomes that we see.

Chronic absenteeism (defined as missing 10-percent or more of school days, or 2 days per month) is a problem in almost every high school. Chronic absenteeism was reported at 16 percent of students by the US Department of Education for the 2015-16 school year, but at Carrrick that figure was 72 percent, and 50 percent at Westinghouse.

How should absenteeism be addressed?

One of the things we’re trying to highlight for families is that you may not think you’re chronically absent because it’s an excused absence or a doctor’s appointment. Many of our kids are working at night to help support their families, so they think, `I’ll take a day off at school tomorrow because I had a late night at work.’ And that adds up over time.

This is one issue that our entire community needs to be engaged in. And I’m really proud of the work that Shauna Kennedy at the Be There campaign is doing to try to make attendance a focal point, not just for school communities, but for entire communities.

It is troubling. And we know from students that it’s multi-faceted. One of the things we’re looking at is what are the community factors that impact it.

Black students make up 53 percent of the district but account for 76 percent of all students suspended at least once. Are you troubled by these statistics?

The district has reduced overall suspensions by about 35 percent over the last three years, a very positive trend. But the disproportionality hasn’t moved at all. You’ve got a problem where you’re reducing suspensions, and African-American students are being suspended over five times the rate of white students.

It sends a message. It reflects both institutional implicit and unintentional biases that we all have and a need for larger conversations around those biases, around teenagers, and what kind of training supports we need to ensure kids are staying in school.

To help parents and other community members understand the findings, A+ Schools is offering tailored presentations to schools and groups interested in learning more about the report and how to use it.  To arrange a presentation at your school, organization or church, click here to find the form.

Maker Monday: Balloon Tennis

maker monday
Sally Quinn
November26/ 2018

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s time to bring sports indoors. Maker Monday’s Balloon Tennis is just the cure kids need to get active and have fun.

Paper plates, paint stirring sticks (ask for them at local hardware or paint stores) and a glue gun are all you need to make your tennis rackets. But you can take the play beyond “keep-it-up” games and simple volleys. Use masking tape to mark the “net” and make point rules for off-the-wall shots or a double bounce. Experiment with different size balloons Skilled players might even opt to put multiple balloons in play!

maker monday


Paper plates

Paint stirring sticks


Markers (optional)

maker monday

If you wish, use markers to personalize your paper plate by adding a design, your team name, logo and colors.

maker monday

Use the glue gun to attach the paint stick to the back of the plate.

maker monday

Your Balloon Tennis equipment is ready for a competitive match!

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