Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly News Roundup July 29th

Check out these interesting articles on kids and technology!

--- Slideshow presents the evolution of kid's computers (

--- 5 reasons why the iPad was made to keep parents sane (

--- 10-year-old releases iPhone game with help from Make-a-Wish (

--- The Netflix of baby clothes (

--- Survey proves kids would rather be outside (

--- Justin Bieber says, 'Don't text and drive' (

Read more news on kids and technology on the Spark blog...


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brentwood Officials Are Still Covering Up Police Crimes

Brentwood cops are out of control. Borough council lets them get away with it. Terroristic threats, harassment, intimidation, and conspiracy when they think there are no witnesses. Brentwood needs to control its cops before someone gets killed.  AGAIN.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to School Shopping - Putting Last Year's Backpacks to Good Use

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project has an interesting idea as your family launches into back-to-school shopping this month and next.

They are collecting gently used backpacks, both for children and adults, which will be distributed to food pantries so families can more easily carry their groceries home. These along with the tote bags also distributed also provide the family with reusable bags for other purposes (including school if that's appropriate).

The project collaborates with a dozen local organizations including Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, East End Food Co-Op, Construction Junction and more to collect excess new and gently used tote bags for redistribution to the region's food pantries. The project has nearly a dozen permanent drop-off spots and partners with varius groups and companies to organize tote bag drives.

So why kids' backpacks?

I remember being a child and walking with my mum to the grocery store to pick up items. She didn't drive, so we walked. My Dad drove us for the big shopping on payday, but he worked. A lot. So it was often my young brother and I helping for those "in-between" trips.

We hated it. The walk was about a mile each way. My mother kept a brisk pace, a tight list and was typically not given to buying us a treat (this was the 70s and 80s and we were a steelworking family on a budget). And we had to carry stuff. This was in the era of paper bags so you couldn't drape it from your wrist. It was a bag in each arm and keep up the pace. The worst was our ongoing battle over who had to carry the gallon jug of 2% milk. It was cold, uncomfortable and usually wet from condensation. Ugggg.

Equally ugggg would have been letting my Mum carry everything herself. Not that she gave us that option, but still I knew it wasn't fun for her to do this. Now I do want to mention that my parents did utilize food pantries when my Dad was laid off. But they never took us. I am sure it was a matter of pride.

Then there was the unload from the "big" grocery shopping trips on payday. Usually, we had to go along to help (again, ugggg). But we definitely needed to be front and center to unload and put away 18 thousand bags of groceries (at least it seemed that way). I would have gladly abdicated that job, but my Mum's theory was that if wanted to eat, we had to participate.

No one used reusable bags in those days. At least, not in the Mon Valley.

I digress to my lifelong aversion to the gallon jug of 2% milk to put our next request into context ...

You can see where an adult sized backpack can help an adult sized family member transport grocery items very efficiently. We want to have bags on hand to help the kid sized family members be able to help should that be necessary/desired.

And, frankly, it is a very practical use for the leftover bags. I don't like the idea of anyone, much less a child, having to struggle with a thin plastic bag filled with whatever item they are responsible to transport.

Make it more impactful for your kids. Explain the reason you are donating the bags and offer them a chance to donate grocery items that might fit into the backpack. For example, if a PTA filled bags with 18 ounce jars of peanut butter, canned fruit and any type of juice ... perfect! You can take your children along to the drop-off spot to contribute the items directly. Or we can work with you to set up an informal drive and make arrangements for the kids to see the Food Bank if you prefer.

We anticipate collecting our 1500th reusable bag by Saturday. That translates into 750 households served, 4500 disposable bags kept out of use and an unknown amount of pantry money freed up to spend on food instead of bags.

You can help us push onward. For more information about the project, including a complete list of drop-off spots please visit

Monday, July 25, 2011

Girls Take Top Prize at Google Science Fair

Although women make up nearly half of the world population, their presence in the sciences constitutes a vastly smaller percentage. Today, only twelve percent of engineers are female. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM for short) are all fields in which women are under-represented. This is precisely why this year’s Google Science Fair results are so exciting–all three top prizes were awarded to women.

The winning projects put the classic baking soda volcano to shame. Lauren Hodge, winner of the 13-14 age group, tested a variety of marinades and their effects on the carcinogens typically found in grilled chicken. Her findings showed that lemon juice and brown sugar sharply decreased carcinogen levels, while soy sauce actually increased them.

Naomi Shah, winner of the 15-16 age group, performed a study of 103 adult subjects where she was able to link the increase in two environmental pollutants to decreased lung function and asthma symptoms.

The grand prize was awarded to the winner of the 17-18 age group,Shree Bose of Fort Worth, Texas. Bose’s project focused on the chemotherapy drug cisplatin that is commonly taken by women with ovarian cancer. Bose discovered a protein known as AMPK that, when paired with the drug, stops cancer cells from becoming resistant to its effects. Bose shared her feelings in an interview with ABC:

“That perception that women can’t compete in science has been ingrained in this field for so long. It just shows that our world is changing and women are stepping forward in science, and I’m excited to be a small part of that.”

Read more on the Spark blog...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekly News Roundup July 22

Check out these interesting articles on kids and technology!

Parents will enjoy these iPhone and iPad apps (

Mom’s Facebook Community Helps Diagnose Her Ailing Son (

New regulations for food, beverage advertising toward children (

Using touch screens and apps to treat autism (

The Internet Is Making Your Kids Think Differently, Not Less (

Teaching Angry Birds In School (

Infographic Shows Top and Bottom States for Science Education (

For the latest on kids and technology, visit the Spark blog!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Milk Truck

Pennsylvania may have passed a law back in 2007 which allows women to breastfeed in public, but there are still those who would try to shame or bully them to stop. Enter The Milk Truck:

The Milk Truck is the creation of Jill Miller - artist and faculty member in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Milk Truck will be included in the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial at the Andy Warhol Museum from September 26 - December 10.

The Milk Truck is a combination of guerilla theater, activism and a little slapstick humor. Yes, we will buy a truck and put a giant boob on the roof. Yes, we plan to drive it around Pittsburgh for the duration of the biennial exhibition. And yes, there’s a reason for making The Milk Truck - to create a mobile breastfeeding unit that allows mothers to feed their babies in places where they have been discouraged - restaurants, shopping malls, public spaces, etc. Babies should be able to eat anywhere. And everywhere.


Thought the nursing mother created a spectacle? Meet The Milk Truck.

Glad someone remembers the real reason we have ain't Hooters.

They can use some $ to make this a reality. You can contribute at the link above.

(h/t to Ms. Mon)

New Member

Welcome to Alayna blogging for The Spark Blog sponsored by the Sprout Fund! She's already jumped in feet first so enjoy her contributions!

9 Year Old Designs App for iPhone

When asked to create something, most nine year olds will grab crayons and construction paper. Ding Wen Lim of Singapore is much more likely to sit down at his computer. The fourth grader started using the computer at age two and has since learned six programming languages. At age nine, he has already completed 20 programming projects. His latest, Doodle Kids, is a free drawing program for use on Apple's iPhone. Lim says, “I wrote the program for my younger sisters, who like to draw but I am happy that other people like it.”

It seems this propensity for programming runs in the family, as Lim's father, Lim Thye Chean, also writes iPhone applications. He says, “He told me it was his wish to learn programming so I decided to teach him the basics. Every evening we check the statistics emailed to us (by iTunes) to see who has more downloads.”

Read more on the Spark blog...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Get your message to your legislators

Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don't want you to know it.

How many of those irritating “Make Congress do what we want. Sign our petition today” emails did you get today? They’re a popular community organizing tool, but they’re the least effective way to get your representatives’ attention. Find out the best way.

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Billboards Give Pittsburgh Youth a Voice

Hear Me, a project of CMU's CREATE Lab, strives to make the voices of children heard. This summer, they have chosen a larger-than-life medium that they hope will give children one more way to communicate: billboards.

So far, 50 billboards have been erected in Allegheny County and the surrounding region. The topics discussed cover everything from cyber-bullying and neighborhood violence to concerns over the environment. One billboard reads, "I still get called names... --- Crystal, 16." Another reads, "I was scared when I first heard the gunshot... -- Sherdina, 12." The billboards include links that viewers can follow to the Hear Me website where they'll find audio stories from more than 3,000 students in 25 school districts.
"We assume that children today have plenty of opportunities to make their dreams, fears and hopes known, whether it's by a mobile phone, computer or just talking," said Heide Waldbaum, director of Hear Me, "But learning how to express themselves about things that they really care about -- and getting adults and people in authority to really listen to them -- is difficult for many young people."

Read more on the Spark blog...

Spark Project Spotlight: Story Box

Story Boxes are popping up all over town--in museums, libraries, and schools. To date, about 130 Story Box units have been produced, and that's just the beginning. So what exactly are Story Boxes, and what do they mean for children in Pittsburgh?

A Story Box is a 21” x 12” x 4” portable device containing images with "hot spots" that, when pressed, play related audio clips. For example, the "My Favorite Animal" Story Box features photographs of young children with illustrated embellishments to make them look like different animals. By pressing on a child's photo, the listener can hear audio clips of that child roaring like a tiger, describing a zebra's fur, or remembering the time they met a unicorn on the beach.

Each Story Box focuses on a specific theme. Story Boxes produced to date have included topics such as:

What I Am Thankful For
Unique Things I Know How To Do
My Favorite Animal
Martin Luther King
Personal Narratives
Impact Of The Arts
Hope For The Coming Year
Environmental Documentaries
Career Profiles

Learn more about Story Boxes on the Spark blog...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Children Predict the Future of Technology

Can children predict the future of computer technology? Recent research says yes.

Last year, Latitude, an international research and consulting firm asked 201 children from across the globe a simple question: “What would you like your computer or the Internet to do that it can’t do right now?” The children were asked to draw a picture in response. The study was aimed at targeting the first generation of “digital natives” and discovering their desires and expectations when it comes to technology. Despite the fact that the children ranged in age (from 5-12) and location (from South Africa to Chile and many countries in between) many of them echoed similar desires.

Read more on the Spark blog...

As the Budget Gets Smaller, Class Time Gets Shorter

It's no secret that state and local budget cuts have been putting pressure on education. A recently published New York Times article discusses one of the many outcomes of this pressure-- decreased class time. It seems many institutions are dealing with a smaller budget by creating a shorter school day. "Thousands of school districts across the nation are gutting summer-school programs, cramming classes into four-day weeks or lopping days off the school year."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reimagining Capitalism: From the Ground Up

Capitalists are bullies. Pure capitalism is a massive failure. Most Americans can’t define capitalism, but think that our Constitution requires it because our schools yield politically and economically illiterate citizens. We can create a new capitalism.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Read the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was more a process than a moment in history. This act of treason against an empire sparked the Revolutionary War and, eventually, the United States of America. It is not, and has never been, a law, but it is worth reading.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Infrastructure Spending Stimulates the Entire Economy

Every business that has ever sold anything to a construction company or a construction worker has benefitted from stimulus spending. The stimulus bill could have worked better if Republicans hadn’t hijacked one third of it for their own tax cuts.

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