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The Labs @ CLP Summer Skills Intensives

The Labs @ CLP was created in 2012 as part of the Library's commitment to providing teen-driven programs and access to creative technology.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 18 locations have dedicated space where teens can hang out, mess around, and geek out. Each summer, Intensives offer teens a chance to spend five days exploring a creative field under the mentorship of teaching artists.



HundrED has selected this innovation to

Pittsburgh, USA

Web presence






February 2019
I have created something I feel good about.

About the innovation

The Labs @ CLP Summer Skills Intensives

Connect With & Empower Teens

What does it mean to be a Library? For Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), being a Library serving a high number of youth in grades 6-12 means offering teens space to explore. Space to learn. Space to game. Space to discover their interests. Space to grow. Space to inspire and empower their peers. Space to be. Especially during the summer months, when The Labs Summer Skills Intensives get underway.

The Labs @ CLP is year-round programming, promoting access to tech and enriching out of school learning opportunities that encourage teens to hang out, mess around, and maybe geek out with this tech. Staff in our 18 Teenspaces are devoted to empowering teens to be builders of their own futures, so this means you may enter one of our locations and hear speakers bumping awesome teen-created beats using Garageband, retro Korg synthesizers, and an 808. You may see a group of teens creating a collaborative piece of street art with spray paint. Or you may see teens designing vinyl stickers in PhotoShop and producing them on the Cricut® cutting machine.

The Labs programs focus on the featured Badge Pathways (image below) and when the school year ends, The Labs takes a deeper dive into these teen-driven pathways by offering The Labs Summer Skills Intensives.

The Labs Summer Skills Intensives in Action

The Labs Summer Skills Intensives are week-long workshops that focus on our Badge Pathways and run Monday through Friday from 12-4pm. Over the course of 20 hours, teen engagement levels up from messing around to geeking out through collaboration with their peers and local experts. Intensives are a great way for Libraries and informal educators to dig deep into the teen-driven programs they offer year-round in the featured Badge Pathways.

Since 2016, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has offered Summer Skills Intensives free of charge to interested teens going into grades 6-12. Each Intensive includes:

  • 10 Teen participants, who are compensated for the time and effort they put into the Intensive with a $100 Visa gift card

  • An artist or subject expert who works in the city and leads the week-long workshop, helping teens deepen their knowledge base

  • The chance to develop both creative projects and a resume to reflect this experience

  • A Teen Mentor, a teen who is hired and paid by the Library to support their peers through the Intensive

Let Teens & Their Interests Lead

Each year teens’ interests serve as the inspiration for the Intensives’ subjects and curriculum. Past workshops have included: photography; oil painting; music video creation; game design; civic data zines; lyric writing; audio recording; beat making; event planning and more.

Not only do teens get the opportunity to learn and grow alongside musicians, street artists, filmmakers and graphic designers, so do our staff. At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, you’re very likely to meet a Teen Specialist apt at creating beats with found sound; screen printing custom designs; or coding a robot to clear a teen-engineered stunt ramp, and much of that development is owed to the co-learning of Library staff and the artists supporting The Labs Summer Skills Intensives.


The Labs Summer Skills Intensives are an opportunity for library staff and informal educators to leverage community connections to empower the teens they serve, while supporting local artists. The relationships formed during these summer programs can result in opportunities for teens to continue working with these artists in other community spaces and for your organization and the artists to collaborate on additional programs during the school year.

The Intensives also provide educators working with teens the opportunity to introduce young people to new opportunities in 21st century careers in a fun and supportive environment beyond the structure of a formal classroom. Not having to commit to an entire nine weeks of classes allows teens to learn a little bit, tinker, and then decide whether they want to take a deeper dive into the topic in another setting.

The Intensives are replicable in all types of community organizations and informal learning environments, not just public libraries. This model serves as an infrastructure to build a network of caring adults invested in serving teens while providing that space to be: an inclusive and creative environment for teens to encourage and connect with each other using creative technology and artistic expression. This network of caring adults and a space to explore without judgement or grades are crucial, as teen outcomes improve when caring adults beyond their caregivers are involved in their lives challenging their growth. Organizations who can support this, even if they can’t replicate all the other elements of the Intensive, will be supporting teens’ success in a tangible way.

Impact & scalability

Academy review results
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Implementation steps

Connect with teens!
Summer Skills Intensives are teen-driven learning opportunities with youth voice integral in every level of planning from design to implementation. Teens are consulted with to identify the area of interest they want to focus on during the summer. Teen Specialists, the Library staff designing the program, work to connect with a local organization or artists who can support this interest.
Leverage your connections and partnerships.
Time to flex your youth advocate muscles! After collaborating with teens to decide on a learning pathway for your Summer Skills Intensive, it's your job to pursue a partnership with a local organization or artist who can facilitate this opportunity. Artists and organizations who can provide an engaging five-day curriculum in an informal learning space, and the opportunity to connect with teens when the program is complete through networking advice to studio space should be prioritized. The goal is to take the learning gained in the Intensive and continue to provide life-long learning opportunities for participants through leveraging connections and partnerships in your community.
Collaborate to create a curriculum.
After confirming the partnership with the artist or organization you will be working with to provide a Summer Skills Intensive, a meeting should be scheduled to plan how you can meet the goals teens expressed in the learning pathway. At CLP, we use our Badge Pathways (see attached document) to guide our collaborations during the Intensives. An amazing partner may have the curriculum available, so where can your team fill in? Will you be providing the resume writing workshop? Research for artistic inspirations? Editing the teens' videos in an afternoon program? Work to break up your days into highly engaging sessions with activities to support the learning outcomes you developed. Don't forget to build in time to stretch and some snack breaks!
Provide peer-to-peer learning with a teen leader.
A desired outcome for the Summer Skills Intensives is peer-to-peer learning. At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, we do this by identifying teen leaders and giving them the opportunity to be hired and paid by the Library as a peer mentor to support Intensive participants. Identify teens who are respected and responsible leaders in your space. Give them the opportunity to grow and share their skills while gaining work experience as a co-teacher for the Intensive workshops.
Support your teens, empowering them to create and learn.
Implementation of a Summer Skills Intensive is a balance of leveraging relationships with youth and the expertise of the artist or organization you've partnered with. As the connection teens interact with most, you are there to provide support and guidance during the workshop. While the partner leads the learning through their knowledge and professional experience you should be pushing teens through any barriers. That may mean providing snacks to get some energy for the day, or talking a teen through a complicated process in Photoshop. You are there as a caring adult guiding and mentoring youth to create work they are proud of.
Showcase and promote original teen work!
Empower teen participants and honor their work with a culminating project or event to celebrate youth media creators. Open the event to other teens, and caring adults in their lives. At CLP, many Summer Skills Intensives wrap up with an Open Mic Night, a small showcase, artwork displayed in the Teenspaces or a submission to our Teen Media Awards contest. The event can even be providing digital space on social media to highlight accomplishments. At the completion of the Intensive you should provide a platform for the teens' work, and show that you are proud of their achievements.

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