Learning at the Intersections: Maker, Arts, and Interdisciplinary Education in Pittsburgh
While the HundrED research team and the local advisory committee are busy narrowing down to 10 innovations for our Spotlight on Pittsburgh USA, we're taking a tour of all 82 innovations submitted to the Spotlight in a three-part series. In this first installment: how are educators in the Pittsburgh region connecting the arts, history, civics, maker learning, and youth voice to help children flourish?
The arts have long been used to help learners develop their motor skills, express themselves, and understand the world around them. Can art also help students learn math? Graduate from high school? These programs submitted to the Spotlight are using the arts to unlock learners' potential:
- How often does a teacher tell their students to get out of their seats and dance around the classroom? That's what happens at Turner Intermediate School in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, where students are exploring topics from poetry to fractions through theater and dance.
- In Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood, The Future of Fashion is helping girls ages 8-16 rethink beauty, health, hair, and fashion by combining maker activities like sewing with panel discussions featuring local female African-American entrepreneurs.
- Through a partnership with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, ProjectArt brings local artists to public libraries, using visual art classes to facilitate young people's self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and community connections.
- Opera TOTS! helps pre-K to 1st-grade students learn vocabulary, melodies, rhythms, and story elements through the practice and performance of child-appropriate versions of real operas.
- Manchester Craftsmen's Guild started as a ceramics program in 1968 and has grown into a comprehensive after-school arts program with an impressive track record for helping students graduate.
Civics & History
For learners to thrive in our increasingly connected world, we must help them take active roles as global citizens. These innovations are transforming learners into leaders by connecting their lives to history, community, and the world:
- At Hampton Middle School, students are developing a global perspective by using the UN Sustainable Development Goals to design their own solutions to real-world problems.
- The Heinz History Center's Be the Change program helps students connect historical events to their own experiences by engaging them in the personal narratives of changemakers from the past.
- Young people in Pittsburgh imagined and designed the Global Minds Initiative, an after-school program where participants create inclusive spaces to combat intolerance and foster incultural friendships and understanding.
- Students at South Fayette High School can take two semesters of leadership courses and earn college credits through a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh.
Interdisciplinary learning helps students connect their knowledge and skills across subjects while solving problems, collaborating with peers, and engaging in hands-on activities. These innovations are using interdisciplinary learning to help learners make connections:
- ArtEd21 is reestablishing the art classroom as the creative epicenter of the educational experience, shifting art education curriculum into a schoolwide, interdisciplinary structure.
- Auberle is cultivating a love of learning with at-risk residential and homeless youth with STEAM and Maker activities, and a mobile component to the program helps make this learning happen anywhere.
- Born as a cross-curricular project between English and Social Studies in 2016, this student-built and -maintained a website from Kiski Area High School tells the real stories of veterans from the community.
- What began as a reading program has blossomed into an interactive, mentor-based program that brings reading to life through art-making and performance at the Deborah D. Booker Community Center.
- The Queen's Gambit Chess Institute helps young people tackle real-world issues through the lens of chess strategy.
From its industrial past to its fabrication-fueled present, the Pittsburgh region is a hub for creation and manufacturing. It's fitting that many of the innovations submitted to the Pittsburgh Spotlight are using maker learning to help students learn through making, design, and using real materials, tools, and processes:
- The Mpower Studio at Pittsburgh Obama Academy is a makerspace that gives students tools to express themselves, be themselves, and make their ideas come to life.
- At the Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab, mentorship is integral to making—Mentors in the Making pairs low-income high school students with STEM professionals to prototype a capstone project that solves a challenge in the community.
- Can making help students with mental health diagnoses learn? At Intermediate Unit 1's Fab Lab, students diagnosed with mental health conditions are designing, prototyping, building, and learning.
- Montour Elementary School built the Brick Makerspace, a makerspace dedicated to learning with LEGOs.
- When two first-grade girls expressed a desire to use their creative skills to raise money for local non-profits, JAM was born. This after-school making program has raised thousands of dollars for local charities by making and selling crafts and gifts right in their school's makerspace.
- The MAKESHOP is a research-based learning environment for maker learning permanently embedded in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh that provides materials and support for anyone ready to start their own makerspace.
- Students work in teams to design, prototype, build, brand, and market products of their own creation through Startable Pittsburgh, a teen-focused program of a local startup accelerator.
- Elizabeth Forward's FABLab includes an all-girls maker class, a student-run business, and a summer professional development program for teachers attended by educators from across the country.
Raising the voices of young people can be both empowering and educational. By teaching young people about the ways in which media messages affect perceptions of themselves and the world around them, and giving them the tools to make their own media, they can take control of their own stories. These innovations submitted to the Pittsburgh Spotlight are helping students raise their voices:
- PGH in 360 partners with community organizations to teach young people to create 360-degree videos about issues that matter to them.
- Through Youth Express students are using the tools of radio to create and distribute commentaries, discussions, documentaries, and other youth-generated content through a 24/7 radio station.
- Vlog University empowers youth from under-resourced communities to understand recent shifts in modern media to build their own online movements.
- Students at Cornell High School are responsible for live streaming their morning announcements, rotating roles and responsibilities.
Stay tuned for 2 more installments over the next few weeks as we explore all 82 innovations submitted to the Pittsburgh Spotlight.