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Athena Award nominations kickoff with panel on advancing women's leadership

"We're really excited about leveraging the Athena Awards to elevate the discussion of women and leadership in our region," says Beth Marcello, chair of the event's host committee and director of women’s business development at PNC.
 
The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award, to be given on Sept. 30 this year, recognizes not only established women who are leaders, but through the ATHENA Young Professional Award honors an emerging leader age 35 or younger. While it's true that more American CEOS are female than ever, just 18 women – less than four percent – head Fortune 500 companies. So instead of simply calling for nominations, as Athena has done in the past, organizers are holding a special April 25 panel discussion and breakfast to kick off the nominating process this year, which ends June 28.
 
"Women in Leadership: The Male Point of View" features Robert Krizner (managing partner at KPMG), Daniel Roderick (president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company) and John Barbour (CEO, managing director and chairman of the board of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney). Tickets may be purchased for $25 here before April 22. The panel will be moderated by Bill Flanagan, Allegheny Conference executive vice president for corporate relations and host of "Our Region's Business" on WPXI.
 
"We wanted a strong diversity in terms of age and experience and men who have opinions and a story to share," says Marcello of the panelists. "These are all companies that are advancing women's leadership. These men are leaders in our community. Other leaders in the community in general value what they say." Thus, participants will have the chance for "a real program that explores women's leadership in our region, to talk about their perspectives, what their companies are doing and what their challenges are for our region."

To those who question why a male perspective is needed -- don't men always chime in, even if no one asks them? -- "hopefully we're going to get the views of the progressive men," Marcello says. "From a corporate perspective, women are only going to advance when men and women work together.
 
"We're trying to reach as many people as possible to stimulate the discussion and to get people thinking about the women in leadership in their companies who should be nominated for an Athena Award," she adds. "Hopefully the pool of our Athena nominees will really reflect the quality of who we have here."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award

How do we reach fathers for greater school, home involvement?

What began for Anwan Wesley with the creation of Fatherhood magazine in Pittsburgh in 2006 for young and expecting urban fathers has evolved into a nonprofit called the Street Ministry Institute, reaching an increasing number of fathers and their kids in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.
 
"We're trying to find innovative ways to get these men involved and stay involved," says Wesley, of East Liberty. "There are stereotypes of how fathers should be, and some of the men shy away from them, thinking it will make them look weak. A lot of these guys were in need of encouragement. That's what the magazine was always for -- to open people up."
 
Many of Wesley's Institute efforts use sports as the both the draw and the model for the father/son relationship. "When the men see their kids excelling at athletics, they want to be a part of it," he says. "That's a bridge they can cross. Then we try to transfer that into the schools."
 
Fathers and sons can join in his Steel City Thunder basketball teams for 3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders and 7th and 8th graders, as well as NFL Youth Flag Football for 2nd-12th grades and a baseball program as well. The fathers and team coaches also get involved in their children's school at the same time -- as a school coach should, he says.
 
Club D.A.D. (Doing it All Day) in the schools uses sports to encourage academic achievement. "My big thing is being accountable for what you learn -- because when game day comes you're going to have to [use] it," Wesley says.

"The same accountability we transfer over to schools," with fathers visiting classrooms or participating in parent-teacher conferences. "The presence of the father in the classroom is going to make the difference," because he can act as a kind of classroom coach. "If I show up in school and expect you to be doing this and this and you're not doing it, there are going to be consequences. Kids respond like they do on the basketball court -- but at the end of the day, they see their value rise, because their teachers are sending home good reports."
 
The Institute is also working with Homewood Renaissance Association on a sports-themed STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, teaching sports-themed STEM academics at the African American Music Institute and the YMCA in Homewood. "We're trying to open our kids' eyes to other opportunities around sports," he explains, such as being a sports lawyer, doctor, trainer or agent.
 
The Institute also has an arts initiative and donates socks each December to a nursing home in Homewood. On Father's Day, June 16, it will hold its largest annual program, a Father's Day Cookout at Mellon for the seventh year.
 
"There are other programs we will unveil in the coming months to rebuild the relationship between the child and the father," Wesley says. "We can't be everything to the kids if the parents are acting [badly]. There's a lot of broken homes. The only way to fix that is to get to the common ground -- the kid and his best interest."
 
He also hopes the cookout will be the beginning of his own push against violence in the community. "There's been too much gun violence," he says. "The violence [prevention], it starts with us. If we're not there, that's when violence and chaos consume the family. If you're quiet, it's like you're being held hostage by your own people."
 
In the end, it's Wesley's three sons who keep him dedicated to this cause, he says. "I see a lot of potential in them. I know their potential won't be realized if I don't do what I've got to do and make a path for them. Knowing that they don't know how great they are makes me go harder.
 
"I've got a daughter on the way," he adds, "and I believe the Lord is going to take me to another level."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anwan Wesley, Street Ministry Institute

Paddle Without Pollution: Combining water fun and water cleanup

David Rohm was kayaking with his wife Melissa on the Monongahela River two years ago, as they'd done for a dozen years, when they finished their trip at the South Side boat launch at the end of 18th Street. David glanced at the water.
 
"Oh my God, this is like a third-world country," he recalls saying as he noticed all the debris in the river there.
 
"We should do a cleanup here," Melissa replied.
 
Several weeks later, David says, he simply announced to Melissa: "'We're a new volunteer organization called Paddle Without Pollution and we're going to have a bunch of volunteers.' And that's how we were born. I just wanted to do more and give back."
 
Now Paddle Without Pollution -- he's director of special operations, she's the executive director -- targets rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, wetlands, even oceans, from here to the Atlantic Coast and up to Erie for cleanup days. From April through September, they have events scheduled that involve water excursions and cleanup projects everywhere from Chartiers Creek and Pittsburgh's three rivers to Slippery Rock Creek, the Kiski River in Leechburg, Ten Mile Creek in Marianna and the Erie Bluffs and Presque Isle State Parks.
 
"We have these quality, quality people who work all day and have fun doing it," David says. "Our vision is to combine a fun activity" with their central mission of aiding the environment. The group's specialty is using their watercraft to gain access to the shallows and haul the debris ashore -- from 80- to 90-pound truck tires to small material that accumulates around trees -- causing very little environmental impact of their own in the process.
 
"Most of the stuff is coming from cars" with access to remote waterside areas, he notes. "It's not all urban areas or all remote rural areas. It's pretty much across the board."
 
The group tries to recycle almost everything it removes; local municipalities seem happy to haul away the debris, he says, while several tire companies and scrap yards pitch in as well. Sometimes the group even leaves part of their volunteer crew on land to do the sorting.
 
"I find a lot of clothing, underwear and bras," he says. "I don't know where they come from." Perhaps the group's most interesting find was a three-foot alligator on Chartiers Creek. The creature was a bit out of its element in the chilly waters and somewhat dormant when picked up, but not so dormant after David warmed him in a boat. The Fish and Boat Commission removed the gator to a safer place.
 
The group also undertakes summer and after-school youth paddling education as well as pollution prevention and education programs. Next year, they plan to branch west to the Sandusky and Cleveland areas in Ohio for cleanups. Eventually, he says, they hope to go national.
 
"We're inspired by what happens afterwards, when the water channel is clear," he says. "If you have the skills, why wouldn't you do something to help?"
 
Do Good:
Looking for even more ways to clean area waters? Find other resources here at Pittsburgh Green Story.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: David Rohm, Paddle Without Pollution

Cooking School heats up as healthy school cafeteria effort

When famed chef Jamie Oliver came to Pittsburgh last fall to start his 10,000 Tables program, aimed at getting more families to enjoy the benefits of home-cooked, television-free meals, Bobby Fry, one of the creators of Bar Marco in the Strip, asked him what local business owners and chefs could do.
 
"Your role is to inspire and empower people," Oliver answered, as Fry recalls.
 
"I likened it to the analogy of young musicians inspired by rock stars and taught by their music teachers," Fry says. So he decided: "Somebody in the community had to be supporting schools and school cafeterias."
 
Fry gathered other local organizations and teamed with Kelsey Weisgerber, food service director at the Environmental Charter School, to start the Cooking School movement. Their goals: "Find a group of kids, give them the tools, knowledge and experience and let them have higher standards for food, and that will change the system" toward healthier school lunches.
 
The group first approached Pittsburgh Obama 6-12. Fry knew the school had its own kitchen, but he found a dormant home-economics classroom. The group cleaned it, bought each student his or her own carving knife, sharpener and cutting board and brought in 120 cookbooks from Bar Marco's kitchen for them to choose among.
 
Lots of kids picked breakfast cookbooks, Fry says. "We realized breakfast is a problem for lots of these kids," who have to leave home too early to get it and pass nowhere along the way even worth shopping for breakfast foods.
 
Fry has been inspired by the level of interest in healthy eating that he found at the school. "I thought I'd have to go in and get the kids excited about cooking. Same with the administration. They were already really on board. Everybody is ready to change school lunches."
 
"We've got to get them skills here that will get them a job," he adds about the Cooking School effort. "For working in a professional kitchen, all you need to start are the proper cutting skills" -- but those are the hardest skills to master, too.
 
Now the Cooking School teaches at the Obama school every Tuesday afternoon and brings a new chef every week. The program is being aided by Andrew T. Stephen, assistant professor of business administration and Katz Fellow in Marketing in Pitt's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, whose MBA students are preparing a video promoting it. Their early work is viewable here. Kids from other schools can submit proposals for the Cooking School to teach elsewhere. If applicant schools don't have a kitchen, perhaps the program will try to raise money to install one, Fry says.
 
You can help the Cooking School raise funds for cooking utensils and local produce through crowdrise and a current Facebook fundraiser.
 
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to find out about local, healthier eating and bring the movement to your community. Check out the programs of Farm to Table Pittsburgh.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bobby Fry, The Cooking School

Six poets, one van, many miles, perhaps even some rhyming

You could think of Line Assembly as a band without roadies, amps or indeed music -- just lyrics. Or lyricism.
 
Member Zachary Harris, for one, hopes the group won't have to sleep in the van.
 
Line Assembly is six former Carnegie Mellon University classmates who are about to spent July touring the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and New England, offering poetry readings and poetry programs to libraries, reading series and other spots that will have them. Harris's fellow student Ben Pelhan started the group.
 
"We had all attended Carnegie Mellon together and started writing together," from 2005-2007, says Harris, who now teaches poetry at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts 6-12 (CAPA) downtown. "We all sort of scattered everywhere, and Ben wanted to bring us all back together because it seemed to work well when we were undergraduates."
 
So the poetry tour evolved, with the goal of "supporting poetry and wanting people to engage with poetry."
 
They called themselves the "Pittsburghists" at first but, Harris says, "we were looking for a name that would signify not only what we were trying to do, but … with many of our bookings through the rust belt area, we were casting about for names that reflected Pittsburgh." So they decided on a reversal of "assembly line":  "something that would reflect where we're going and where we came from."
 
"We're just going to be this roving poetry vehicle, going from town to town, taking engagements," he muses. "Between the six of us, we have experience with everyone from little kids to old people. The idea is to be responsive to what the libraries need." Concurrently, the group will book venues to read from their own works, "trying to move some books and build an audience."
 
Besides conducting workshops with a variety of writing exercises, they will try to publicize the need for public arts education funding and the formation of arts communities by performing “People Against Poetry,” acting out the roles of anti-poetry advocates.??
 
So what's the demand for poetry out there? "One of the things we're trying to illustrate is that there is a desire for poetry programming, and that people have a desire for poetry in their lives," he says. "We're confident that this exists, and we're also counting on the project to reveal it."
 
Since their Kickstarter campaign began, they've gotten "pretty overwhelming and kind of surprising" responses from people and organizations who want to book them, he adds, from Lancaster, Penn., to New York City.
 
The other members of the group are Adam Atkinson, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Anne Marie Rooney and S.E. Smith.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Zacchary Harris, Line Assembly

Family House Gifting Gala supports Family Assistance Fund's expanding needs

Lisa Kahle, development coordinator for Family House, hopes April 13's Gifting Gala "ensures that we never have to turn any guests away due to their inability to pay."
 
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Family House, which houses patients and their families receiving local medical treatment when they need, but can't afford, to pay for hotels during a planned medical treatment or emergency. The Gifting Gala will benefit the organization's Family Assistance Fund, which aids families with the cost of stays.
 
"With the recession, the need more than tripled over the past four years, and this is our only fundraiser dedicated to the Family Assistance Fund," Kahle says. "We hope to raise $120,000."
 
About 5,000 of the 14,000 families using Family House's four locations each year require help from the Family Assistance Fund. The fund also provides a meal program at Family Houses, through which families can receive staple items or gift cards for grocery shopping or eating in restaurants. In addition, Family House offers transportation to and from hospitals and connections to local medical providers who offer their services to guests, including Pitt's School of Dental Medicine clinic.
 
"A lot of our guests arrive unexpectedly in the middle of the night, coming from the hospitals," Kahle explains. "Increasingly, we're seeing a lot more trauma patients coming from Ohio and West Virginia. They're showing up without any more clothing. Some of them didn't get a chance to get their glasses from home."
 
The black-tie Gala -- with 320 people expected for cocktails, dinner and entertainment by the Studio-E Band and WTAE's Michelle Wright emceeing -- is the kickoff event for anniversary programming that runs all year.
 
"As long as the gala seems to keep growing, hopefully that will help the Family House to be prepared," concludes Kahle.
 
Sponsored by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, the Gifting Gala is co-chaired by Laura and D.J. Miller and Holly and Jared Hoff. Reservations are available here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Lisa Kahle, Family House and Laura Miller, UPMC Health Plan
 

NYC cancer-prevention program relocates HQ to Pittsburgh

As a medical student in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1997, Miriam Cremer traveled to Madison's sister city, a small town in El Salvador, as part of her education. There, Cremer met a woman in her late 20s who soon died of cervical cancer. Not only was there no cervical-cancer treatment available for this woman in El Salvador, there were no PAP smears to test any other women and no HPV vaccinations to prevent the disease.
 
"They didn't have anything available," she recalls. "It's the leading cancer killer of women in El Salvador. I was appalled that women could die of this very treatable disease."
 
In fact, it's the fourth leading cause of mortality for women aged 15-64 in El Salvador; worldwide, a woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes and it's the top cause of cancer deaths in the developing world.
 
In the U.S., doctors can detect the disease up to two decades early by spotting pre-cancerous lesions, and it has an effective treatment. The HPV vaccine is also preventing new cases here.
 
Even if PAP smears were available in El Salvador, their effectiveness would depend on the ability of the women to be seen multiple times by caregivers to take the test, receive the results and follow up with needed treatments. And HPV vaccines are too costly.
 
So when Miriam Cremer began practicing medicine in New York City, she founded Basic Health International (BHI), which has been working with the Ministry of Health in El Salvador since 2003 to create a countrywide cervical-cancer program that will screen and treat 30,000 women in three years. In the past seven years, BHI has trained more than 100 clinicians in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti, providing free screenings to almost 8,000 women.
 
After becoming an assistant professor in the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's department of obstetrics/gynecology, Cremer moved BHI here. "I was very young and naïve in my career when I started all this," she says. "It's been my life's cause."
 
At first, BHI trained El Salvadoran health-care providers to administer a low-cost cervical cancer test involving vinegar to detect symptoms internally, then to provide an inexpensive treatment. But that PAP alternative was creating too many false positive test results and causing overtreatment.
 
Now a new low-cost HPV screening method is available, so for the last year and a half BHI has focused on implementing this screening method.
 
Cremer also takes medical students on her trips to El Salvador. Hiking out to villages to screen women, the students found that "they're doing their exams on people's beds and on tables in schools." So they designed and constructed a portable exam bed that can be folded and worn as a backpack. At first, they used bicycle tires, but now they have created a sturdier model and plan to mass produce them.
 
Cremer, of Pt. Breeze, says her organization is always looking for volunteers and fundraising help (email here.) Look for a new documentary about BHI in May on Al Jazeera-English.
 
Do Good:
Looking for an additional way to help women's health? Let them know about Be Well Pittsburgh, a resource for women without insurance.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Miriam Cremer, Basic Health International

Don't debate -- see the mayoral candidates do it and decide for yourself

Spent the last few weeks hearing about "Lamb" and "Wheatley" and figured people were talking about food? Believe "Peduto" is just a sound that makes "Boy Mayor" Luke Ravenstahl laugh in Post-Gazette editorial cartoons?

Then at least one of these Democratic mayoral candidate debates and forums is designed just for you. Here's a handy guide to events involving Jake Wheatley, Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson and Jack Wagner:
 
  • April 6: A debate for mayoral and Pittsburgh School Board District 1 candidates will take place at Pittsburgh Obama school (515 North Highland Avenue, East Liberty) at 1 p.m. The event is presented by the African American Leadership Association and seven other groups. The AALA is inviting people to "like" them on Facebook or follow their Twitter account (@AALApgh, #race4pgh) and post questions to either source for use during the free debate.

  • April 10: The Executive Women's Council of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a mayoral forum on "political issues relating to women business owners and executives, as well as issues affecting the economic stability of our region." Rebecca Harris, director of Chatham University's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship, is moderating the event, which will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the River's Club, One Oxford Center, downtown. The cost is $40 for Council members and $65 for others. See their website for details. 

  • April 17: South Side Community Council will hold their free "Mayoral Q&A" beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah Street.
 
  • April 18: Billed as "an in-depth conversation … about the status of women in Pittsburgh and [candidates'] plans to support and improve issues that affect women in our community," this free event is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates & PAC. It will be held 7-9 p.m. in the Welker Room of James Laughlin Music Hall at Chatham University.
 
  • April 30: Pittsburgh Social Exchange will host their debate 6-9 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, downtown, moderated by Bill Flanagan, executive vice president and chief public affairs officer for The Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The evening includes a reception afterwards. Tickets are $10 for members and $40 for non-members (click here). 
 
  • May 8: The Design Center is hosting a free mayoral candidates' forum on design, planning and public policy 6-7:30 pm, followed by a reception, at Point Park University's GRW Auditorium (414 Wood Street, downtown). It will be moderated by Diana A. Bucco, vice president of the Buhl Foundation. RSVP to 412-281-0995 or email here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine

Assemble for a party (and learn about biodiversity while you're at it)

Just as with any party, you're invited to drop by or stay for the entire Biodiversity Learning Party at Assemble in Garfield on April 10, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
 
Unlike most parties, however, you'll likely come away with less gossip but more brain cells, and it's an evening for all ages.
 
"It's almost like a science fair," says Assemble founder Nina Marie Barbuto, "where we have different experts presenting their expertise and offering hands-on activities."
 
These experts include everyone from college students talking about their academic concentrations to representatives of local companies and "straight-up geeks whose expertise has nothing to do with their jobs," Barbuto says. The biodiversity party will feature presenters from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh biology department. Also manning and womanning tables at the event will be reps from Digital Dream Labs, which teaches computer programming to children by using play to link physical and digital spaces, and Tara Rockaway and Heather Mallak, whose Digital Salad mixes art, tech, and education about farming to create educational experiences that are both interactive and edible.
 
Learning party themes this year have been mapping and music/sound, and future ones will be centered on robots and energy.
 
"It's our goal to provide access to knowledge" -- and to make it "attainable and digestible," Barbuto says. "It should be real fun, and we always have free healthy snacks."
 
Her hopes for the party, she says, "start with just having the word 'biodiversity' as part of your vocabulary and seeing how this affects the world around you." Ideally, she adds, the younger attendees will emerge thinking, "I'm interested in nutrition but I never knew this had to do with biodiversity," or "Maybe I can be a scientist."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nina Marie Barbuto, Assemble

"Small Talks," big substance for public at children's museum conference

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is hosting 1,000 international visitors for a kids' museum conference April 30-May 2, but their program presents a great opportunity for educators and other Pittsburghers to hear what museum officials are calling "a day of inspiration and innovation, peppered with artists, musicians and big thinkers."
 
The conference, InterActivity 2013: Reimagining Children's Museums, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel downtown, starts with a day of "Small Talks," 18-minute presentations from performers and pioneers in the education and electronic media fields that "is going to be a really fast-paced day … to spark ideas and make meaningful conversations about what these artists and thought leaders are doing," says Jessica Bowser, lead liaison for the Museum's host committee.
 
Among the day's speakers will be Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, which posits that most of the big ideas are already out there, and it's how you combine them that matters, plus The Click Moment, about taking advantage of opportunities in the business world. On the list of local presenters is Luis von Ahn, the crowdsourcing expert who invented the CAPTCHA, which prevents a lot of spam today. "He also is trying to help figure out how big groups of people can narrow down their ideas," says Bowser.
 
Also appearing will be Vanessa German of Homewood's Love Front Porch neighborhood art project; Rory Cooper, Distinguished Professor and scientist at the University of Pittsburgh and co-director of the Quality of Life Technology Center Testbed Systems, who works to improve assistive technologies for those with disabilities; Maria Rosario Jackson, senior advisor to the Arts and Culture Program at The Kresge Foundation; Shane J. Lopez, the world’s leading researcher on hope and author of Making Hope Happen; and more.
 
Through April 10, local educators can purchase a ticket to the day of "Small Talks" for nearly half price, or purchase the day of more traditional conference sessions on May 1 at a discount as well, and receive credit hours for that latter date. Those purchasing one-day tickets can also add a ticket to hear keynote speaker Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other books.
           
The day of "Small Talks" may also be purchased individually by other members of the public.
 
"It will be very fun to host our peers from across the country and the world," says Bowser of the conference. Children's Museum of Pittsburgh officials will be particularly interested to see how other museums have adapted their innovative MakeShop space, which has increased museum visitor numbers and how long they stay.
 
"One of the questions we're trying to answer is, what will it be like to experience a children's museum in the [rest of] the 21st century?" Bowser says. "Is there going to be more virtual experiences wth technology? We need to make sure we're building an environment that is fun and educational and culturally stimulating."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jessica Bowser, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

If your kid is sick of (or at) school, it may just be the building

"Asthma hospitalizations triple when schools start up again in the fall," reports Andrew Ellsworth of the new Healthy Schools Collaboration; that's partly due to paints, sealants, duct work and other maintenance performed over the summer and still leaking fumes and other materials into the air.
 
"If we can do something to minimize that impact and not see that bump in the fall," says Ellsworth, the Collaboration will be doing its job.
 
The program, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will help school districts institute new cleaning and maintenance practices, teaming and training teachers, staff, kids and the community to become educated on the issue and providing some materials and expert advice.
 
The pilot effort targets the McKeesport Area and Allegheny Valley school districts. "We wanted to serve districts that had fewer resources," Ellsworth explains. "They are the ones who tend to have more challenges with environmental health issues," thanks to a shrinking student population and tax base that does not allow for some of the needed building renovation and maintenance to avoid health risks like moisture and mold.
 
McKeesport, for instance, as a former mill town was a "booming metropolis, in a sense, prior to the collapse of the steel industry," he says, so the city has to manage lots of infrastructure. Allegheny Valley encompasses Springdale and Cheswick, which still have major manufacturing. "They are home to a number of facilities, including a coal-fired power plant that is literally next to the high school … and another power plant up the river," Ellsworth point out. "And those are a factor for student health issues."
 
Healthy Schools Collaboration will help each district identify what can be done with a low investment, such as:
  • Substituting green housekeeping products for the myriad chemical floor cleaners, hand soaps and disinfectants schools employ. "They can have a large impact, because there is such a large quantity of them applied daily," he says.
  • Creating better chemical maintenance to prevent potential spills and to keep students from getting access to the supplies.
  • Reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides in the building and substituting less toxic substances.
  • Preventing vehicle exhaust from coming into school buildings and reducing the idling of diesel buses outside the school as children exit schools at the end of the day.
All of this may have a negligible increase in initial costs for a district but will reduce the amount of supplies they need to buy, those shrinking their costs overall.
 
The initial phase of the Collaboration will last through the end of this school year. "We're really excited that these schools have stepped forward to tackle these issues," concludes Ellsworth. "We want them to be able to implement policies for how they're going to create a safer and healthier environment."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Andrew Ellsworth of the new Healthy Schools Collaboration

Hey kids: 'It's an Antiques Roadshow for your own ideas and inventions'

If your kids want to know what their invention (or just their idea) could become, or want to know how to invent something, get ideas how to proceed or what materials to try -- the April 6 Invention Convention from WQED is their ticket. And it's free.
 
WQED is teaming with Inventionland in Blawnox and WGBH in Boston's Design Squad Nation program to create what QED Executive Director of Educational Partnerships Jennifer Stancil calls "a new gem in Pittsburgh.
 
"Kids in fifth through eighth grades will have a day where they will be able to bring in an invention for one of Inventionland's team to comment on and coach them on what that could become," she adds. "It's an Antiques Roadshow for their own ideas and inventions. If they don't bring inventions there will be all kinds of fun things to play with and do." Held at Inventionland, the day will feature invention stations, invention challenges and displays that demonstrate to kids how the world has been changed by inventions.
 
Whether kids want to invent a new game, sport, toy or helpful object, the Invention Convention website contains resources to help them along, including a questionnaire ("What is it that I really want to make?") and a challenges to help them use found objects for inventions.
 
Sign up now, Stancil urges, in the morning or afternoon time slot, because the spaces are filling up fast.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Stancil, WQED

Kids' environmental ideas compete for $2,500 prizes via New Voices of Youth/Breathe Project

For the past two years, New Voices of Youth has helped local young people get their ideas heard on issues important to them. Now this Pittsburgh Foundation program is teaming with the Heinz Endowment's Breathe Project to encourage young people to create new clean air-related science, art, performance or service projects that will encourage their peers to make a change in this area. They may also submit ideas for projects that raise awareness about Pittsburgh's air-quality problems or that improve the air quality. They can even submit projects that they have already begun at school.
 
The Web-based contest is open to students in grades 7-12. Submissions become eligible to receive grant funds of up to $2,500.
 
"Our air quality is among the worst for cities in the United States," says Marily Nixon, Breathe Project coordinator, "especially for particulate matter," as well as ozone levels and levels of toxics. "People who have been living in Pittsburgh for a long time remember when Pittsburgh was the Smoky City. Unfortunately, we still aren't at a level where the air is healthy to breath for all of us all the time." And these remaining forms of troubling pollution are relatively invisible to the naked eye, so unlike the sooty air of mid-century, "it is out of sight and out of mind," she says. "We believe healthy air goes along with a healthy economy where people want to be raising their kids."
 
What sorts of projects might be funded? Nixon points to youth-led efforts to give informational "tickets" to idling trucks about the pollution they create, and a flash mob last summer in Market Square whose participatns suddenly pretended to have breathing difficulties, then delivered a clean-air message to the lunch-time crowd.
 
"We do want to convey that the sky is really the limit," she adds. "Students could submit a song they wrote relating to air quality. They could submit a photo essay that captures an aspect of air quality or its effect on people. They could come up with a clean-air walking tour of Pittsburgh or a clean-air program to implement in their school. They could propose a science project that would help develop information about air pollution in their neighborhood. We really hope students will use their limitless creativity to propose projects that will speak to other students, and the community at large, about what clean air means to them."
 
Breathe and New Voices will work to partner students with adult mentors, which might include representaties of a nonprofit focused on clean air issues, to help them undertake their project. A Student Advisory Council will judge the contest and suggest their own ideas for projects.
 
"We hope to see fresh ideas, excitement, creativity and imagination coming from the students, because they are affected by this pollution and they are going to be living with the air for a long time," Nixon concludes. "They can take a new leadership role, advocating for change and creating change in this area."
           
The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 8.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Marily Nixon, The Breath Project

Form a band, write songs, perform in one week: Girls Rock! hits Burgh kids this summer

"I don't think young girls are encouraged to form a rock band as boys are," says Angela Stich. "Even when I wanted to play an instrument, my mom bought me a flute!"
 
Thanks to Stich, local girls starting this summer will have Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a weeklong day camp to help them form bands, write songs and learn to play an instrument -- maybe even in that order.
 
Stich is co-directing the effort with Hannah Shaw, who has run a rock and roll camp for girls in North Carolina for the past several years that attracted more than 200 participants and now includes a school-year program. The first Pittsburgh camp for girls ages 8-16 will take place Aug. 5-9 at Shadyside's The Ellis School, with a performance showcase Aug. 9 at The Roboto Project in Friendship.
 
"I'm eager to see what kind of material 8-year-old girls will come up with," Stich says of the music-writing efforts, which will be one of the camp's main emphases. "I'm pretty excited about that. Some of them might not have the inhibitions others have to write whatever they want."
 
As for learning to play an instrument in one week: "It's something some of the parents have trouble grasping," she admits. "Some [girls] might just learn a few chords and write music that way." Others may learn to play a single song confidently after their camp experience. For those who already play a rock-band-worthy instrument, the week may offer them new licks and riffs. "We're trying to get away from an emphasis on expertise, or having to have formal, conservatory-type lessons. Maybe they'll leave camp wanting to learn that way, but that's not what our emphasis is on."
 
Girls Rock! is partnering with the youth staff of the Andy Warhol Museum on some art projects -- perhaps band t-shirt and button designs, Stich says. The week also includes workshops on zine making, deejaying and self-defense. The camp is seeking local volunteer musicians, artists, activists and mentors to participate.
 
The idea is apparently popular; the original group of 20 campers is already expanding to 30, due to demand, Stich reports.
 
Seeing girls in a band, "can be a very empowering experience for girls in the audience alone," not to mention the campers, she concludes. The girls in their new bands stand to gain self-confidence, and learn how to work on a team. Increasing the visibility of girls in the arts is another goal, she says, along with "creating an increased community for girls in music. There's always room for making those spaces safe for girls."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Angela Stich, Girls Rock! Pittsburgh

Formula One racing for high schoolers -- locals have chance at world championship

"They call this the pinewood derby on steroids," says Ken Francis: miniature Formula One racing cars designed by local high-school and middle-school students to speed down quarter-mile tracks. The regional leg of this annual contest was held here earlier this month, and now several local school teams are headed to the world championship later this year: South Park High School and Pine Richland High School.
 
Sponsored by the engineering society SAE International, where Francis is the program developer of this F1 in Schools Challenge and other educational competitions, the contest gives kids the chance to design, make, test and race these specialty vehicles, not to mention creating a business plan, manufacturing the car and marketing it.
 
Each team receives a balsa wood blank -- less than 9 inches long -- four wheels and steel axles, sandpaper, screw eyes and washers (so the car can be guided down the track by a filament). The wood is pre-drilled to receive a single CO2 cartridge, but designing the car itself, complete with wings in front and back, puts kids through the full engineering process. They use 3D Computer-Assisted Design software, test their design's aerodynamics in a Virtual Reality Wind Tunnel using Computational Fluid Dynamics software, then use 3D Computer-Aided Manufacture software to find the best machining strategy to make the car with a Computer Numerical Controlled router. The cars are also tested using real wind and smoke tunnels.
 
The teams then compile 20-page portfolios of their research and testing and must turn this into five-minute presentations, complete an engineering innovation interview and create a pit display about their marketing plans. Each team is judged on their car's safety, aerodynamics, engineering, aesthetics, quality and manufacturing, plus the team's race times, pit display, portfolio and verbal presentation.
 
The world championship event is tied to a real Formula One race. In past years, it has been in held Abu Dhabi, Malaysia and Singapore; this year it's planned for Austin, Texas.
 
"We just think it's the perfect symbiotic relationship going down the road for SAE," says Francis of their association with F1 in Schools. He also oversees two other programs for SAE: The World in Motion, a K-8 engineering program, and their collegiate design program.
 
"What you find" in students who participate in the F1 races, he adds, "is that this ignites their passions … When you hear their verbal presentations, you hear kids say, 'I was going to be an accountant, but after I got done with this I wanted to be an engineer.' We just want them to keep pursuing their dreams and realize that science, technology, engineering and math are good ways to do it."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ken Francis, SAE International
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