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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

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.

The Labs @ CLP Summer Skills Intensives

“I have created something I feel good about.”

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

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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Innovation Overview
11 - 18
Age Group
1 057
Tips for implementation
The most important components required for successful Summer Skills Intensives are teens excited to work together with caring adults. Access to a welcoming and supportive space should be available, with the ability to feed hungry teens to give them the energy needed to be creative. The capacity to provide introductions to creative technology should be considered. Equipment such as Wifi connected computers; Adobe Creative Cloud; Ableton; and Logic provides access to professional software for the program to encourage career connections.
Contact information

See this innovation in action

The Labs Beatmaking Intensive @ CLP - Knoxville and Main, July 2018
Year round learning innovation with teens @ The Labs!
CLP Teenspace (@clpteenspace) • Instagram photos and videos
Making Noise At The Library
Celebrate and Promote Youth Media - Knoxville Open Mic Night
Celebrate and Promote Youth Media - Teen Media Awards
The Labs Civic Data Zine Intensive @ CLP - Squirrel Hill, July 2017
The Labs Digital Game Design Intensive @ CLP - Squirrel Hill, August 2018


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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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