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

The Labs @ CLP Summer Skills Intensives

location_on Pittsburgh, United States
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.
I have created something I feel good about.

Teen participant at 2018 Beat Making Intensive led by 1HOOD Media


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Pittsburgh, USA

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Innovation Overview

11 - 18
Age Group
1 386
Updated on September 17th, 2021
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. 


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See this innovation in action

The Labs Beatmaking Intensive @ CLP - Knoxville and Main, July 2018 out our Soundcloud and listen to awesome jams created during The Labs Summer Skills Intensive by teen artists.
Year round learning innovation with teens @ The Labs!
Teenspace: A Space to Be  by Kelly Rottmund and Kristin MorganDiscover more about The Labs Summer Skills Intensives in our YALS Journal feature on page 25 linked above (Yes those are teens making cool stuff at CLP on the cover!) Learn more about how we provide innovative and impactful learning opportunities year round. Innovation starts with relationship building. In Labs programs, and especially Summer Skills Intensive we use these relationships and connections as the foundation for interest driven learning experiences inspired by teen ideas. 
CLP Teenspace (@clpteenspace) • Instagram photos and videos Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Teenspace Instagram to see how learning happens during Summer Skills Intensives and what teens create during 2019's workshops and get some ideas to host your own Intensive. 
Making Noise At The Library
A brief history of The Labs @ CLP's eighteen Teenspaces across the city of Pittsburgh
Celebrate and Promote Youth Media - Knoxville Open Mic Night and reciprocity are keys to strengthening relationships between caring adults and youth. The Labs Summer Skills Intensives not only give teens the opportunity to learn and explore creative technology, but also the privilege for educators facilitating these workshops to elevate teen created media.If you plan on offering a Summer Skills Intensive it's important to incorporate a culminating project or event to showcase the hard work and share teen voice in your community. At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh one of the ways we promote and celebrate teen media from Labs programs in our Teenspaces is through our Open Mic Nights. Open Mic Nights are a platform to speak up in a safe and supportive environment hosted after hours in our Teenspaces and prioritizing teen audiences and participants. This is just one way the Labs offers teens the chance to network and share the work that happens during a Summer Skills Intensive. 
Celebrate and Promote Youth Media - Teen Media Awards Labs @ CLP elevate youth voice and provide a platform to share and collaborate year round! Through Labs Workshops, badging pathways and the Summer Skills Intensives the opportunity to create, promote and share their work is available across our 18 locations. Each year the Library hosts our Teen Media Awards, a celebration of teen created art, media and writing. Submissions to the contests within the categories that reflect learning pathways provided in the Teenspaces which include: Photography; Film; 2D Art; 3D Art; Fashion Design; Invention and Music. All original content from rising 5th graders to graduating 12th graders is accepted and reviewed by a professional panel of judges. Past contest submissions have been reviewed by staff from: The Warhol Museum; Schell Games; Society for Contemporary Craft and a host of other high profile artists in the respective fields. Teens can submit their work created anywhere, and that includes art made using the resources available in our Teenspaces through The Labs. You can record your track in a professional recording studio in two of our spaces, film your movie using a camera borrowed from the Library or practicing on a guitar in the Teenspace.The Intensives are a great opportunity for teens to perfect their Teen Media Awards submissions with consultation from peers and working artists. Winning entries receive monetary compensation and the opportunity to grace the cover of our yearly anthology of teen writing through the Ralph Munn awards. Promotional materials for the next year's contest use winner's art and the teen creator receives professional pieces to include in their portfolio. The Teen Media Awards happen annually at the Library and are just one way we are sharing and promoting the amazing work from teen participants in the Labs Summer Skills Intensives. 
The Labs Civic Data Zine Intensive @ CLP - Squirrel Hill, July 2017
All Hands on Tech: What’s a Data Zine?by Tess Wilson Outreach Librarian  - Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Office of Programs and PartnershipsOne of the initiatives of the Civic Information Services team is to promote data literacy through external outreach, special events and internal programming. If you’ve kept up with our progress so far, you know that our contributions to the Super Science Kits have explored data literacy skills like map-making, data visualization and many more. We loved seeing our elementary school friends engage with some of the tools and techniques of data science, and are excited to continue our work with that age group. However, we are always on the lookout for ways to reach new audiences, and teens were the target of our latest endeavor.With the knowledge that The Labs@CLP would be the perfect place to implement a data workshop for teens, we designed a curriculum for a Labs Summer Intensive. CLP – Squirrel Hill is one of the newest Labs locations in our system, and they were gracious enough to host our week-long workshop in their Teen Space! Finally, PublicSource was brought on as a partner organization and together we created a schedule for a week packed with data-driven activities, which culminated in individual Data Zines.So, you might be asking, what’s a Data Zine?Every day, we contribute to civic datasets, whether we realize it or not. By reporting a pothole to Allegheny County’s 311 Service, registering my dog with the county, riding the bus to work or paying my water bill, I help to build a number of different datasets, many of which are available to anyone who wants to dig into them. To convey this to our teens—and to encourage them to engage with this data in a personal way—we asked each participant to research a topic of their choice through the lens of open data. As a way to creatively document their research process, present their findings and show off their hard work, each teen created a zine. Historically, zines have been a popular medium for underground activists and grassroots investigators because they offer a unique, unrestricted platform for free speech. Zines make it possible to distribute information widely, cheaply and efficiently, which can be an essential aspect of data journalism and citizen science. We thought the zine would make a great tool for the exploration of civic data because it allows for such an intimate interaction and engagement with data, in ways that other mediums might not. Dale Shoemaker, a PublicSource reporter, spoke to the merits of the format:“At first I was skeptical how data journalism and zines could go together, but they do. And it solved a problem I have when I teach this stuff, which is that once people have the skills…what can they do with them? It is a lot to ask of someone to do a full blown data journalism piece that we can publish on our website, but they can do this.”Using local repositories like the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC), national resources from the National Geographic to The Economist and an assortment of others, our teens delved into the topic they chose to research over the week. Library staff and PublicSource data journalists presented tools and techniques over lunch at the beginning of each day, and our teens had the opportunity to learn about data journalism during daily presentations from our PublicSource experts. Examining biases, creating effective visualizations and finding stories in data were just some of the topics covered, and these lessons were reflected in our final products. If you’d like to take a closer look at our zines, they can be found in the Zine Library at CLP – Oakland.Eventually, the Data Zine curriculum will be developed into a deliverable plan, with the intention that it be flexible enough for different age groups, interests and timeframes. Keep an eye out for future iterations of the workshop that several of our teens “loved every part” of, or use the guide below to create your own!
The Labs Digital Game Design Intensive @ CLP - Squirrel Hill, August 2018 created by Heather Mallak-PUBLIC STUD/O)In 2018 The Labs @ CLP's staff partnered with coder, game enthusiast and graphic designer Heather Mallak-PUBLIC STUD/O to provide a Digital Game Design for ten teens looking to level up, learning that game design is more than it seems. From storyboarding to research the teens worked together to design and code their own game. Heather even invited game sound designer Frank Lubsey to meet with participants. At the end of the week teens showcased their games at a wrap up event attending by friends, family, Alice Challenge winners and representatives from Schell Games brought in by Heather. 
The Labs Beat Making Intensive @ CLP - East Liberty, July 2018
2018 Labs Summer Skills Intensive - The Beat Making ExperienceIn 2018 CLP - East Liberty, whose Teenspace boasts a professional recording studio hosted a beat making and recording Intensive. Teaching Artist James Brown from Lighthouse Project provided a comprehensive experiences including introducing participants to producer, musician and DJ BusCrates. Labs Summer Skills Intensive teen employee Anthony created this short film to document the learning process and collaboration that happened during the five day workshop. CLP - East Liberty's Teen Employee Anthony is a member of the hip hop collaborative Impala Blvd, and past winner of teen library advocate of the year. Teen Specialist Simon Rafferty shared that he owes the success of this workshop to Anthony and his support and encouragement of his peers. 


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May 2019
Pittsburgh, USA
May 2019
February 2019
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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Connect with teens!
The first step to planning a Summer Skills Intensive is listening and collaborating with teens to identify what they want to learn!
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Leverage your connections and partnerships.
After listening and collaborating with teens to decide on the focus area for the Summer Skills Intensive, connect with local organizations or artists who can provide an engaging five-day workshop in the selected learning pathway.
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Collaborate to create a curriculum.
Select a partner you have creative chemistry with to design a five-day curriculum that will hold your teens' interests.
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Provide peer-to-peer learning with a teen leader.
Teens learn best from each other in a safe and supportive environment. Enlist one of your teen leaders to act as a co-teacher for the Intensive.
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Support your teens, empowering them to create and learn.
It's happening! You are all set to provide a Summer Skills Intensive. Dedicated youth? Knowledgeable partner? Engaging curriculum? If it's all a check, it's your time to support and motivate youth to achieve their goals.
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Showcase and promote original teen work!
Teens just put in 20 hours of work during their summer! Celebrate them by showcasing and sharing their art.
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