These resilient Pittsburgh-area kids find ways to connect and spread joy during a time of COVID-19 turmoil

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Annalise, 7, and Carys Mehlo, 3, of Bellevue paint rainbows on their windows overlooking the Ohio River Valley. Mother Alisa notes that it is not window paint, but they can scrape it off later. "It's complete anarchy around here."

Annalise, 7, and Carys Mehlo, 3, of Bellevue paint rainbows on their windows overlooking the Ohio River Valley. Mother Alisa notes that it is not window paint, but they can scrape it off later. "It's complete anarchy around here."

Iconic Pittsburgher Fred Rogers encouraged people to “look for the helpers” in scary situations. As Pittsburgh, along with the rest of the world, pauses to practice social distancing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, kids across the metro region find themselves out of school. Playgrounds are surrounded in caution tape; libraries and museums are closed; and play dates are strongly discouraged.

Who, then, are the helpers? Obviously, there are our first responders, our medical workers and our other essential workers.

Kids, though, are helping in their unique way. No one is better at finding the joy in new situations than children, and Pittsburgh’s kids are banding together to show their love for each other. In my own Bellevue community, kids are hanging art in their windows so that families on solitary walks can feel connected to one another.

Children in both Mt. Lebanon and Brighton Heights participated in a shamrock hunt, looking for neighbors who had hung them in their windows. Now that the holiday has passed, some are planning to do Easter egg artwork in the windows next. Because most area egg hunts have been postponed, solitary walks to look for the egg art with family can fill the gap for those who observe the holiday.

Max, 7, and Lexi Frisco, 4, hung a shamrock on their Brighton Heights home for peers to find and went out to look for some themselves with mom, Kristy.

Max, 7, and Lexi Frisco, 4, hung a shamrock on their Brighton Heights home for peers to find and went out to look for some themselves with mom, Kristy.

Some teachers are encouraging kids to post their creations on school-based social media platforms. Students at the Pittsburgh Montessori School PreK-5 in Pittsburgh Public Schools were asked to create and post a color wheel they made from found objects in their house. Their teacher, Sarah Yazvac, has posted the artwork to her Instagram. Parent Katy Rank Lev is a mom of three boys. “My boys’ mood immediately shifted when I showed them the post, and their friends’ interpretation of the ask.”

Franco Johnson, 7, sent his color wheel creation to his teacher and peers.

Franco Johnson, 7, sent his color wheel creation to his teacher and peers.

Felix Lev, 7, shared his color wheel with his art teacher and classmates at Pittsburgh Montessori.

Felix Lev, 7, shared his color wheel with his art teacher and classmates at Pittsburgh Montessori.

And in the North Allegheny community that attends Peebles Elementary School, students have been encouraged by their principal Susie Bjalobok to submit pictures and videos with the message “You Matter.” The submissions have been shared on the school’s Facebook page. Several parents shared their videos with PublicSource.

Devyn Ubinger, 10, lets her classmates know that they matter to her and that she has been working on Perler beads and hoverboarding.

James Fogle, 9, wishes his classmates a Happy St. Patrick's day from afar. The video was posted to the school Facebook page.

As school districts across the region are considering even longer closures than initially proposed, children will continue to struggle with change and uncertainty, but I have no doubt they will also continue to demonstrate persistent joy and creativity.

Do you have more examples of local youth spreading joy? Email megstesprit@gmail.com.

Meg St-Esprit is a freelance journalist based in Bellevue. She can be reached at megstesprit@gmail.com or on Twitter @MegStEsprit.

PublicSource has a special page dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for the Pittsburgh region. See it here and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. We hope you are following the news and, if your situation allows, social distancing guidelines.  Have a tip or an idea? Please email mila@publicsource.org.

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