Transformative Innovations: Learning Pathways and Systems-Level Education Efforts 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 our final installment: how are educators in the Pittsburgh region building learning pathways to connect children to bright futures? What systems-level initiatives are transforming education in and out of school?
On the journey to adulthood, young people encounter many opportunities and challenges. And some young people, including learners in poor communities, learners of color, and girls, have fewer opportunities and more challenges. In order to help every child flourish, educators must help young people navigate what's before them and create opportunities that bridge the gaps of inequity. These innovations submitted to the Pittsburgh Spotlight are creating robust learning pathways for students:
- Ruth's Way offers alternatives to facility placement, suspension, and expulsion for teen girls by addressing negative behaviors and equipping girls with the tools to address their own barriers to success.
- Many newly-arrived young immigrants and refugees need extra support in order to flourish in their new surroundings. The Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education partners closely with schools and immigrant-led community organizations to provide out-of-school academic, emotional, and social support.
- Auberle's 412 Youth Zone provides a healing environment for youth transitioning out of foster care or experiencing homelessness, offering learning and creativity supports on their journey to adulthood.
- Through data-driven interventions, the Penn State Talent Search Program helps thousands of students from high-need districts enroll in post-secondary education.
- The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy helps young people find and follow their passions by building learning pathways made up of supportive adults, relevant programs, local organizations, and hands-on learning opportunities.
- Students at Northgate High School can earn college credit for all of their core academic courses and many electives. Some students can even earn a full associate degree just by taking classes at their high school.
- Through a partnership with a local manufacturing firm, students at Butler Area School District are learning 21st-century skills in a real-world career setting.
- The Emerging Leaders Program works directly in schools with high school seniors to help them prepare for college and career through one-on-one meetings, mock interviews, job shadows, college application help, and more.
- When you give young people a real-world challenge, they rise to meet the opportunity. This partnership between high school students and local businesses tasks students with solving real design challenges with the advice and guidance of local experts.
- Justice Scholars supports the educational potential of students at one of Pittsburgh's lowest-performing high schools by connecting them to the largest local University through a lens of social justice.
- Can maker learning put students on the path to a bright future? This program connects youth to industry professionals while equipping them with lessons in public speaking, resume writing, and planning for the future. And this program from the same neighborhood organization provides academic support and career exploration opportunities to at-risk youth.
- PHASE 4 Learning Center offers an alternative way to graduate high school for at-risk or disadvantaged students, setting them on a new path for personal and career growth.
- As Pittsburgh's population becomes more diverse, it becomes increasingly important to help children celebrate their cultural heritage while seeing themselves as the future of the city. This out-of-school time program helps bi-lingual preK-5th graders develop pride in their identity as Latinos and cement their confidence as the future of Pittsburgh.
- Student Powered Solutions connects students to local businesses and helps them use project-based learning and human-centered design principles to develop innovative solutions to the real-world problems faced by the businesses.
- Making music at the library? Teens at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh collaborate with local artists and librarians to explore photojournalism, filmmaking, beat making, personal branding, street art, and more as they follow pathways to their passions.
New products, programs, and initiatives can catalyze big changes in education. But for many aspects of the education system, a renovation is needed to address existing challenges and take learning into the present and the future. These submissions to the Pittsburgh Spotlight are efforts that seek to make change at the systems level to build lasting, sustainable innovation:
- Sometimes transformative change begins by updating what already exists. Duquesne Elementary School transformed its existing building to meet the needs of its students in grades PreK-6, even turning a storage room into a maker space.
- For students at Winchester Thurston School, the entire city is part of the campus—students work alongside community members to address pressing issues through real-world experiences.
- Collaboration Nation is a research project that seeks to change education by bridging silos through collective, coordinated studies.
- School leaders at Wheeling County Day School developed a culture of possibility in innovation that has empowered educators and students to reimagine what's possible together and unlock the potential of their teaching and learning.
- Inventionland Institute is a STEAM-based curriculum designed to encourage students to create real-world solutions to everyday problems.
- Teachers and staff at North Allegheny School District are creating calm, managing stress, and promoting teachable moments through their mindfulness in the classroom initiative.
- Every student at Nazareth Prep participates in a real-world, paid internship as part of their regular coursework. Students spend one day per week from September to May at local employers completing tasks and projects typical of entry-level employees.
- How do we encourage, enrich, and empower human relationships around children? Simple Interactions is a practice-based, strengths-focused, and community-driven approach to support helpers who serve children and youth.
- Pittsburgh Public Schools is fighting summer learning loss through the Summer Dreamers Academy, a no-cost premiere summer program that provides the academic benefits of summer camp alongside the fun of summer camp.
- The Mon Valley School has designed a model to inspire special educators to rethink, redesign, and re-envision what special education is in order to realize every student's potential.
- At Quaker Valley School District, academic specialists use a model of individualized learning in grades K to 12 to give each and every student access to rigorous, challenging, and rewarding learning experiences.
- The Pittsburgh Project is an integrated out-of-school program that empowers children to be change makers through hands-on, interdisciplinary maker education.
- Professional development is often lauded as a key part of helping teachers grow their practice, but often high-quality workshops are hard to come by. transformED is a community of educators taking risks and growing their practices together in a safe space that is filled with technology tools and other supports.
- This approach for teaching and learning focuses on noticing as the core of learning by supporting children’s practice with open-ended noticing and growth of intrinsic motivation for learning.