Summer Dreamer's Academy- Peace Rally

One of our favorite organizations in Pittsburgh, the Marilyn G. Rabb Foundation, is preparing for the Peace Rally!  This is the culminating event for their Summer Dreamer's Academy students.  Make sure to stop by Market Square on Tuesday, August 9th to see the amazing performances by these students!!

Testimonials in Traffic

Have you been driving around the ever-congested streets of Pittsburgh and noticed something new?  Hear Me billboards are up! 


Our billboard campaign consists of 50 billboards, spread through a 6 county region in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Over half of these billboards showcase the voices of kids from all over the region, speaking up about issues that are important to them.  In addition to excerpts from their stories, you can find the web address to hear the complete story and find out where other billboards are located. 

The kids represented on these billboards have participated in a Hear Me event during the pilot year (June 2010 to June 2011).  Their testimonias are incredibly powerful.  Hopefully, seeing these stories will give you something to look out when you're stuck in the summer construction and something to think about all day long!

Hear Me Happenings

It's been a while since we've posted on this blog, so we wanted to update you on some of the exciting things that have been happening at Hear Me. We are working on improving our Tell-Port so stay tuned for exciting new features! We will be giving our site a new look, in addition to adding new functions. So make sure to keep checking to see what's new!

The Students Engaged in Leadership's Art Exhibit and Year End Celebration was a big success. Students shared their favorite memories of working together and talked about their accomplishments. Their artwork is no longer in the Carlyle Building, but it is making its way around town. It recently relocated to the Pittsburgh Public Schools school board offices and will continue to move throughout the summer.

The previous art exhibit, The Month of the Young Child Art Exhibition, has also moved. It is currently in two locations at Century III Mall. These pieces have also been to a conference at the Penn Stater on early childhood education, the Opal Awards at the New Hazlett Theater and Art All Night. Below is a picture of the display at Century III Mall.

We had our last field trip of the year to the CREATE Lab. 27 elementary students from Wilkinsburg School District came on May 24 to participate in Can Pals and other Hear Me activities. These kids talked about changes they want to see in their community and many of them commented on the amount of garbage and violence in their neighborhoods. One student, when asked how he thinks the violence can be stopped in his neighborhood, spoke about the gun shop located on the main street and how removing this store might decease the violence. These stories are coming soon to Tell-Port; another reason to keep checking our site!

Remember, this blog is for all our Hear Me friends. Please feel free to blog about your Hear Me events or other Hear Me issues. We love hearing from all of you!

SEL and Hear Me

The Carlyle Building gallery is open for one-night only on Monday, May 23 to celebrate the work of MGR's Students Engaged in Leadership. These high school students have come together to work for change in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Come down on Monday from 6:00pm to 8:00pm to see their self-portraits, murals and hear their voices as they speak out about their experiences as students in PPS. All ages are invited to this free event.

Hear Me Haiti, with Love from Bentworth Elementary

In a small Washington County rural school district, with one red light, it is very unusual for anyone to leave the country.  Our Bentworth Elementary Center was excited to find out Mrs. Karen Martin, our special education teacher, would volunteer to teach in Haiti for one week.

Brian Barca meeting with our teachers to introduce HEAR ME project

Mrs. Martin announced her trip the same morning our elementary center met with Brian Barca from, The Consortium for Public Education, to explore and discuss a theme for the HEAR ME project.   Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab launched HEAR ME to engage students in documenting, collecting, sharing and showcasing thoughts and experiences that will be heard in the Pittsburgh region.


Our principal, Susanne Macik, focused the conversation on how we as a building always comes together to aid and assist our students, families and community when problems arise.  Mrs. Macik with first grade students enjoying children's pictures from Haiti.

"It's amazing that how kids come together and make a big difference".  Savannah  Fourth Grade

We decided as a group that being a close knit community is unique to our building.  Together we decided to examine Karen’s experience and make it a “unique” one for our students. The only problem was Karen would be leaving in a few short weeks.  Because of the language barrier, we decided to use Art as the universal language to share with the Haitian children.  Our plan was to involve and educate all of our K-4 students on the crisis and culture of Haiti.  The theme for the students would be, “What is so unique and special about you or your family."  Karen would then take our drawings and share them with the Haitian children.  In thinking we were sharing our artwork with the Haitians we thought we would provide them the opportunity to draw about their lives as well.  As an elementary school we decided to have an art supply drive to collect colored pencils and paper to send to Haiti.  Mrs. Macik had a larger global awareness vision for our students and constructed a letter to send home about the Hear Me project and the art supply drive.  The building focused on the Haitian culture for the next two weeks.

Link to Letter:  MacikHaitiParentLetter

Mark a first grader, making his donation of art supplies.

Mrs. Martin and Bentworth students excited about the donations.

Mrs. Martin's students working with the iPad.

Nicolette's portrait she created in the CrazyBooth app

Due to the various learning styles Mrs. Gazi and Mrs. Martin  had to differentiate the instruction to help all of her students have a pride in the final product.  We used the Apple iPad to differentiate the instruction.  Using the Crazy Booth app the students who had fine motor limitations had the opportunity to transform their portraits into  the contemporary  style that had been studied in the art room.

The students came to Mrs. Gazi's art room to complete drawings to be sent to Haiti during their recess and lunch.

Mrs. Detts-Dranzo a classroom reduction grant teacher, who teaches first grade, used this experience for her classroom in writing.  The first graders were excited to bring their stories and illustrations.  Much to the surprise to all of us the focus was on the writing and we had to change it to the visual representation.  Art being the universal language we had to redirect we had the first graders transform their stories to a pictorial fashion.

Olivia, a first grade student using the iPad to translate.

Kaylie and Jenna using the iTranslator on the iPad.

We then discovered three Apps (iTranslate, myLanguage, Free Translator) for the kids to use to translate from English to Creole within their artwork.  Using the apps the kids found it was difficult to get a direct translation between English and Creole and found IGoogle on the internet to receive the exact phrases.

Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Pauley using the school's only color printer.

The school counselor and nurse also assisted with printing and making copies.  They were a great help because the main copier was out of service at the time and there was only one color printer at the time.  The also organized and monitored  the art supply donations in the office.   The PTA was also an incredible help with laminating the drawings and making copies.

Michele Griffith, a PTA member laminating 350 of the drawings our students created.

Mrs. Vasko showing Haiti earthquake damage on GoogleEarth.

During this time Mrs. Vasko, a fourth grade teacher used google earth to visually show the students the before and after affects of the earthquake damage in Haiti.  The students were able to see Haiti's terrain and culture via satellite imagery and maps. 

Fourth grade students watching the Haiti earthquake on GoogleEarth.

Mrs. Martin’s students showed a passion and excitement for the kids in Haiti and the Haitian culture, and it was shown through their daily journals.  Since they received the first hand experience from being in Mrs. Martin’s classroom they were able to shine like" stars" in the inclusion setting with the knowledge and stories.  We noticed at this point in time, that the conversation about Haiti spread like wildfire and the community came together and art supplies came in, and there was an excitement about the artwork.  Our students finally understand the American spirit of helping the world.

A second grade student's journal about his experience with the iPad.

The students’ drawings did not reflect the American media driven culture that is exposed to them everyday, but the drawings did reflect the simple things that families do together. 

As Mrs. Martin was packing to go, and getting last minute things together she was also teaching in the classroom.  Mrs. Macik’s global awareness for our students suggested that we use a video camera to record our students and their various classroom settings to share with the Haitian children.  In the midst of instruction, eight hours before departure, Mrs. Martin used her Flip Video camera to record greetings from the students to the Haitian children.  The students used a simple English/Haitian message to share with Haiti, because of the iGoogle translator.


The Heart of Haiti-Mrs. Martin's Reflection

"While landing in Port au Prince, Haiti, I looked out my small airplane window from my seat and immediately became moved by the small huts, millions of blue tents, dirt roads, the dry hot terrain and the filth rising into the air.  Knowing that I had an 85 mile drive ahead of me, a rush of panic overcame me because I saw the dryness and dusty air and thirst overwhelmed me.  I rushed to the flight attendant and got a bottle of water, which would be so rare to a person living in Haiti.  Driving the 85 miles to the La Croix school I saw a culture just wanting to survive the day.  Women were walking along the road with large baskets of rice on their heads, kids were sitting along the street looking into the unknown and people were scrambling through the streets through the dusty, rocky roads.  Though there were a lot of people walking, as I was driving by the many villages and huts there were also a lot of people just sitting outside their homes.

As I drove through miles of tent cities, I was overwhelmed with not only with sadness, but with the smells as well.  There are over 1 million people still living in the tent cities from last years earthquake. 

After arrival at the school, I settled and got to know the teachers and the students.  The school has about 1000 students and each student is financially supported to go to school, school is not free in Haiti, it is a privilege.  All of the students wore the same uniform and were very excited to be at school.  Though there were no text books, few pencils, few notebooks and no paper in the classrooms, the kids and teachers where content and learning occurred through the chalkboards, singing and lecturing.  The brick walls were bare, but the students were all filled with an inner joy and took great interest in what the teachers were teaching.  When I passed out the laminated drawings from the Bentworth students, the expressions on the Haitian children's faces were in awe.  The Haitian's were amazed by the texture of the lamination and all of the colors.  They were so thankful for the pictures.

When I passed out colored pencils and blank white paper and asked the kids to draw a picture about them, they were very hesitant at first.  After talking with them and encouraging them to draw, many of them had never even seen a picture of themselves or new how to draw a simple self portrait, but they did it, and the drawings really portrayed their lifestyles and culture.  I was able to use my FlipVideo Camera to capture many of the classrooms and students in session along with the cafeteria.

The Haitian children thanking Bentworth for the pictures: 

The Haitian children singing:


Every student is fed rice and beans everyday in the school cafeteria, usually their only meal for the day.  I was able to use Pierre's (head of the school) internet to upload and send videos to Bentworth while in Haiti.  Throughout the week I had the opportunity to go into the villages after school and hang out with the kids and their families.  While in the villages many of the kids were playing and holding onto the laminated pictures that were given to them from Bentworth.  One boy had a string tied to his picture and he was dragging it around.  It was amazing to see such a simple gift mean so much.

Though the Haitian families and kids didn't have TV's, places to go, couches to lounge on or computers to sit at, they were overall quite happy.  It was eye-opening to see people interacting with one another in simple ways, like sitting outside their huts talking, singing and kids playing soccer with an empty soda bottles.  When I asked some of the older students what they wanted to do after school, many of them hadn't thought about it, or they really didn't know.  They said getting into a university is nearly impossible and they really don't look too much into the future, but live for each day.  I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to Haiti and to share the experience with Bentworth Elementary!  Mrs. Gazi and Mrs. Macik along with all the teachers were a tremendous help in exciting and engaging our student body in this whole experience." 


Mrs. Robynne Moessner, a third grade teacher, explained to her students throughout the experience that they were fortunate and privileged  to live in the United States and to being going to school.  She also discussed with her classes that as Americans we have to be thankful for what we have and the opportunities that we have in our country.  Her church will be the next in our area to volunteer their time and hopefully enable our school to continue to communicate with the Haitian people. 

Third grade classes have read the story, "Beatrice's Goat," by Page McBrier, which tells of a little girl from Uganda who is able unable to attend school beause she cannot afford the tuitotin.  Milk from a goat that her family receives from Heifer Project International, helps to feed them and also provides the tuition needed for her to finally go to school.  Using the Haiti experience, this story, students' interest and excitement as a basis, we decided to take this a step further for the students.  We are looking to have a school-wide penny drive to raise funds to purchase a goat or a flock of chicks through the organization Heifer Project International, in hope that we can provide an animal that would help sustain a family in Haiti. 

Mrs. Moessner and Mrs. Vasko, teachers working on the penny drive.

Mrs. Martin emailed the videos to Mrs. Macik and she paniced at first because the videos wouldn't open, but with some technical help the videos finally opened.  One could tell that she truly wanted to share this with all of the students.  Mrs. Macik emailed the videos to the teachers and teachers with Promethean Boards invited other classrooms without Promethean Boards to view the videos.

The music, art, library, and physical education teachers who have a common planning time decided to come together and use the video clips for a presentation.  Mrs. O'Grady the music teacher suggested to use SchoolTube and YouTube to find related videos to supplement Mrs. Martin’s first hand experiences so the children could understand more about the earthquake crisis in Haiti.   Mrs. O'Grady,Mrs. Gazi, Miss Wilhere and Mr. Scorza  prepared six presentations for the building.  The video presentations were grade level appropriate.  The students were inspired by the "We are the World," music video and were also moved by the video that showed the Haitian wanting to help Japan. 

"We are the World" music video that really moved Bentworth students and teachers: 

The one video clip showed art work hanging along the demolished streets in Port au Prince Haiti.  The students at Bentworth Elementary were captured by the forty-five minute presentation.  Many of the students and teachers began asking and wanting to know how else they could help the country.

In closing our students are presently analyzing the Haitian art work that Mrs. Martin brought back and concluding about their thoughts and experiences with the Hear Me Haiti project.  Hopefully this experience provided a glimpse of what it is like to live in Haiti, will provide a longing memory for the students and they will remember that they are blessed to be living in a great country, but will remember that as Americans and humans, we can change the world by helping, giving and loving.

Can Pals in Kindergarten

Over the past two weeks, The Saturday Light Brigade and CREATE Lab have been working with teacher Melissa Butler's kindergarten class at Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 on a Can Pals project. On March 30th, students recorded stories in the SLB studios at the Children's Museum.  After returning to school, they listened and responded to cans containing school success tips as recorded by teens from Elizabeth Forward High School.  After listening to the stories and creating responses to the teens, each kindergartener began to “recycle” a can by creating a new wrapper illustrating the new story he or she recorded on March 30th. 

Then, on April 13th, SLB and CREATE Lab visited the school with the kindergarteners stories – each on its own computer chip – and we worked together to install the stories in each child’s can.  Ms. Butler organized her class such that each student approached a work table where they learned to install the chips in their cans.  Students then went to another work station to assemble the batteries, speaker and ear-piece.  Upon completion, students proudly listened to their cans, sharing the epiphany of having created something truly unique.  Finally, students celebrated as a group by sitting in a circle and passing their cans from child to child.  This process went through twenty cycles (one per student), with each child listening to each other's cans, conveying their enjoyment and appreciation to others across the room, all the while following the journey of their can as it made it around the circle. 

For more pictures and to hear the stories, visit

-- The Saturday Light Brigade

Ionna Makes Her Way to Harrisburg

Three weeks ago, a little girl named Ionna sat down with a purple piece of paper, some tape, pipe cleaners, and her imagination.  She created a picture that, to anyone but Ionna, looked like a mess of craft supplies stuck haphazardly on purple paper. 


Instead of simply telling Ionna that her work was “very nice” and putting her picture in a pile of artwork or into a folder of other work for her to take home, Ionna’s teacher asked her to share the story of her picture.  Ionna’s teacher took the time to let to listen to Ionna explain why she created this picture and how it was not a bunch of tape and popsicle sticks, but a story about a baby and her mom.


Ionna’s teacher recorded Ionna talking about this picture and sent it to Hear Me.  Her story is now on the Tell-Port where thousands of people can hear her.  Ionna’s story is also part of the Month of the Young Child Art Exhibit in the Carlyle Building where hundreds of people saw her art and heard her tell her story.  Her art and recording were also taken to Harrisburg to represent the work from young children in Southwestern Pennsylvania as part of PAEYC’s Action Day.  In Harrisburg, hundreds more people heard Ionna’s story, including the guest relations staff at the Sheraton, the Head of PennAEYC, lobbyists, educators, and Lieutenant Governor Jim Crawley.  Ionna is creating awareness for the importance of early childhood education and being the voice of children everywhere as she shares her story and adults stop to listen. 


Be sure to hear Ionna’s story on tell-port at , and hear the many stories of other children all over Southwestern Pennsylvania also on Tell-Port.   

Month of the Young Child Art Exhibit

  Come hear her story!  

April Fools’ Day kicked off the PAEYC and Hear Me Month of the Young Child Art Exhibit.  This exhibit showcases the art of young children, ages 3-6, from 8 different early learning centers and elementary schools.  Many of the pieces are accompanied by audio recordings of the children describing their art, which you can hear by listening to the can-box hanging next to the drawings. 

Children and teachers came to the gallery on the morning of April 1st to break in the space.  Kids created new Hear Me stories in the kids’ space and listened to the audio cans.  One of the young artists came that morning and beamed with pride as she showed off her art to her dad and grandfather, who were also in attendance. 

The Month of the Young Child Art Exhibit will be open through April, with specific dates open to the public.  All events are free and children are encouraged to attend.  Come check out the beautiful art from some of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s youngest artists!

Reflections on Kadir Nelson, artist and writer

Reflections on Kadir Nelson, artist and writer
by Michael Worthy, 11th grade, Perry Traditional Academy and Hear Me intern

Kadir - he’s calm.  He’s funny.  People that are comfortable in front of groups – he’s one of those people – he’s really good at communicating with anybody.  Just the way he was on stage, he was talking as though it was just me and him.  He was relaxed, he didn’t stutter, not even once, didn’t choke on his words when a kid asked him questions.  He was really professional. 

His presentation was key – it was unique, point-by-point. Basically, he started off talking about how he was a kid who liked to draw, just like any other kid, and as he progressed, he showed how his pictures got better - as he grew older, his pictures started to develop with more detail and texture.  He told how he came to draw a particular story the way he did, like he had a real nice picture of Mickey Mouse and Michael Jordan, replacing Michael Jordan’s head with Mickey Mouse’s head while Michael was dunking the basketball.  Kadir wrote a book about Michael Jordan, as a matter of fact.  He combined his favorite cartoon character with his favorite athlete!

What inspired me about him is that he didn’t have to be the best at everything to do what he wanted to do – he is most famous for his writings, but he is a really awesome painter and has skills.  He had dreams and he followed them, basically –he was able to use both of his skills to create something that we love reading – the book was called Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream. If he can do it, I can do it – he basically showed me that no matter what race you are, strive for what you want.

I am reading WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson, now – I got it at my school library.  Today, Miss Jen distinctively told me to get a Carnegie Library card at the Downtown Carnegie Library on Smithfield, so therefore I am able to access books at any library.

Michael Worthy and Devontay Eberhardt, Hear Me high school interns, heard Kadir Nelson speak with Hear Me Education and Outreach Coordinator Jessica Kaminsky – together, the three of them enjoyed Kadir Nelson’s lecture and afterward recorded audience member’s audio reflections. Kadir Nelson spoke for Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures, which will present author Cornelia Funke on April 10 at 2 p.m.

March is National Nutrition Month

March is finally here and so are all the wonderful things that March brings… finally some warmer weather, Mardi Gras, more fantastic Hear Me stories, and National Nutrition Month!  March is the month to become more informed about making healthy choices.   In an effort to support Nation Nutrition Month, Hear Me is encouraging youth to share their stories about nutrition.  What healthy choices do you make every day?  What do you think about your school lunches?  What kinds of physical activities do you do to keep in shape?  Share your stories and make sure to check out some of the great nutrition stories that are already on Tell-Port!