Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Clairton CASTLE Update

Clairton CASTLE after school students are exploring zoology this year, with a special emphasis on Western Pa’s native wildlife. They are working with local artist, Brian McCall, to design a school mural depicting local birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. They also had a visit from the wonderful educators at the Animal Rescue League & Wildlife Center. They met Murphy, the Striped skunk, and learned about wildlife rehabilitation. For their service project, students made fleece blankets and healthy dog treats, just in time for a holiday delivery. To learn more about the Wildlife Center, visit: Animal Rescue League & Wildlife Center

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Upcoming Events

Family Arts Theater It’s Halloween Sing-Along

Bump in the Night 2015
Fridays & Saturdays
October 16, 17, 23 & 24

7:00 – 9:00pm
Lower Frick Park

Join Dr. Boo and Paula for this Halloween tradition! Limited seating and you must register beforehand! Visit: https://www.pittsburghparks.org/bump

Just Around the River’s Bend  

NAN Conference, California State University, Friday, September 25th, 2015, 3:00

The Northern Appalachian Network (NAN) is a network of scholars, artists, and residents of the region. NAN seeks to highlight the accomplishments, culture, and challenges facing this often neglected part of Appalachia. The Northern Appalachian region includes communities across Pennsylvania, Southern New York, Northern West Virginia, Northwestern Maryland, and Northeastern Ohio. For more information: http://www.calu.edu/business-community/appalachian-institute/files/NANRegistration2015DS.pdf

Everett Free Library

Commonwealth Speaker Program, Homemade Music in Pennsylvania

Thursday, September 30, 2015

Long before we learned how to download music from the Internet, people in Pennsylvania knew how to make music out of whatever raw materials were available. Nowadays, we can reduce, reuse and recycle to make beautiful music from throwaway items like soda pop bottles and toilet paper rolls. In this presentation, award-winning performer and educator Paula Purnell demonstrates a host of homemade musical instruments while sharing songs from Pennsylvania’s past.

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Bug Camp Curriculum

Summer 2012! Are your preschool and school age children excited for new summer programming?

Bug Camp Curriculum Includes Everything You Need to Introduce Children to the Wonderful World of Bugs:

  • Bug Camp Sing Along CD and Activities
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focus
  • Bug-related Creative Arts Projects
  • Foster Environmental Stewardship
  • Printable Bug Camp Materials including teacher reference pages and daily nature journals
  • PA Academic and PA Early Learning Standards Aligned Matrix
  • PQAS and Act 48 Training Available


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Making drums for the African folk tale, Spider the DrummerWe’ve been having a blast at Rachel Carson Homestead’s Bug Camp, 2010. We celebrated the end of our June camp with the Bug Camp Boogie Woogie Show, featuring songs about bugs, an original blues tune called “The Bad Bug Blues” and a performance of an African folk tale, Spider the Drummer. Here the campers are painting their drums — it got a little messy! We also explored the world of terrestrial, aquatic, and flying insects, learned about taxonomy and anatomy, and even met a bee keeper.

Look for an article about Bug Camp in the Post Gazette early Sunday July 18 edition,available in stores on Saturday July 17, and in the GET-out section online.

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SPL is very pleased to announce that we have been awarded Charm Bracelet Microgrant  to implement a program that will take place this fall, called Northside Songs. The Charm Bracelet Project “is a network of cultural, educational, and recreational organizations transforming traditional understandings of how institutions make community impact.”  CBP works collectively to foster a vibrant, attractive and accessible Northside that is unified by visible, lasting connections between organizations and amenities.

We’ll be posting updates as the project continues, sp please stay tuned.  Here’s our project description…

Folksongs, by definition, are the songs of the people. In this collaborative arts project, 75 to 150 Northside school children (Grades 2 through 4) will explore, research, write, record, and perform contemporary folksongs about Pittsburgh’s Northside, past and present. Working in small groups, under the direction of local professional musicians, sound engineers, and experts in regional history, culture, and ecology, children will discover and celebrate the Northside’s unique story. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the history, culture and ecology of their neighborhood while enhancing self-confidence, creativity, and important academic, performance, and social skills.

SPL will teach children about folk music, including its place in our culture as a way of celebrating and remembering the world around us. After these basics, children will then be mentored in the process of writing folk songs about places, history, culture, ecology and people of the Northside. SPL will nurture students throughout the process and also work with school staff  and the Carnegie Library Allegheny Regional Branch to help provide ideas and historic information. Following completion of songwriting, SLB will come to the school with multi-track recording equipment to record the newly created songs, after which recordings will be digitally mastered and published to CD and the Internet.

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Man did not weave the web of life,

He is mealy a strand in it.

Whatever he does to the web,

He does to himself.

Chief Seattle, 1854

The first builders start at the center of the mandala

This year, Sense of Place Learning was invited to create an interactive art installation, in partnership with the Children’s Museum, at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The designated site was a lovely corner of State Point Park — a circular, grassy area, surrounded by a small stand of trees, overlooking the Allegheny River. We proposed a concept that we hoped would take advantage of the site’s natural qualities; build a sense of community among festival-goers; draw attention to the fragility of the natural world and our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth; and be sustainable, interactive, colorful, creative and fun.

Mandala designs

The word mandala is from the classical Indian language,  Sanskrit, and loosely translated means “circle”. The mandala design, radiating from a center point, is well-known as a symbol of whoness and unity. The mandala design is also reflected all around us in the natural world.

For two weekends, children, adults, and families brought their creativity and imagination to the project. Each day using an array of recycled and/or reused items to create a beautiful, original, temporary piece of community artwork.

Jeff Berman, Rhythm of Life Experience

We were especially lucky to have Jeff Berman, a wonderful Pittsburgh musician and percussionist, on hand to lead visitors in a Rhythm of Life Experience — filling the air with joyful rhythms, made on paint can drums and bottle shakers.

We had a great time (despite a lot of rain and hurricane warnings!) and want to thank all the families, kids, and adults who stopped by to add their part to the community mandala project. We also want to thank Jeff Berman for the great music, and the Children’s Museum staff for rounding up so many colorful and interesting reused/recycled arts materials.

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Queen Flora demonstrates an eco-slide

Queen Flora demonstrates permeable and non-permeable surfaces


Join Sense of Place Learning for a “Wet and Wild” eco-adventure at the Children’s Museum! What causes mudslides? What happens to rainwater when it falls on a parking lot?  Find out when you meet Queen Flora and help her protect the environment and save the Kingdom by making good eco-decisions.  Make the right choices and you’ll become an honorary “Good Steward of the Earth”.

Then decorate your own flowerpot and start planting the seeds of a bright and beautiful eco-future.

Check the Children’s Museum website for show dates and times http://www.pittsburghkids.org

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Paula, Deb, Margaret and our new SPL desk

Our friend, educator, math guru, and obviously very talented artist, Deb Williamson, told us that she’d like to make a Sense of Place Learning desk for our new office.  We said that would be great, but had no idea what to expect … and are we ever amazed! Deb says she found this old desk by the roadside (what a find!) and let her creativity fly. Our SPL logo is tastefully emblazoned on the front, and the sides and back are adorned with photographs that Deb took all around Pittsburgh (how “sense of place” can you get?).  Open the lid and you’re in for a real surprise — Deb created a piano keyboard desktop, complete with the Sense of Place “maker’s mark” and gold scroll.

We imagine that this desk is going to inspire us to do some really great things.  Thanks a million, Deb!

Deb Williamson's one of a kind design

Move over, Steinway!

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When we heard that the 2010 PAEE conference was titled, A Sense of Place: Our Outdoor Heritage we knew we had to submit a proposal. Our topic is the disappearance of the passenger pigeon, which is an issue that is directly connected to the history and ecology of the conference site, Blue Bell, PA. We are looking forward to meeting and working with environmental educators from across the state, and hope to see you there.

Pigeontown to Blue Bell: Exploring Local History, Heritage, Ecology and Art through the Disappearance of the Passenger Pigeon

WHEN March 12, 2010 9:40-10:40 PM


The Iroquois celebrated the passenger pigeon in dance. Early explorers described “infinite multitudes” of the migrating birds that blackened the sky with their sheer numbers. Estimates of passenger pigeon population in North America at one time reached 5 billion. Through deforestation and overharvesting, however, the population began to decline in the late 1800s, complete devastation quickly followed and finally, extinction in 1914. What does it mean to lose a population of billions of birds in a span of 100 years? The Sense of Place Learning model invites participants to explore the social and ecological implications of the loss of the passenger pigeon through folk song, photography, local stories, environmental investigation, and  hands-on activities in math and science.

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