Life of Learning

Essential Pittsburgh
5:37 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Westminster College Launches STEM Program for High-Needs Schools

There are 2.4 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs available for every unemployed person in Pennsylvania with STEM skills, according to the national science education advocacy group Change the Equation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education reported that in 2013, low-income students in Pennsylvania scored about 9 percent lower on standardized math tests, and 20 percent lower on standardized science tests.

Westminster College in Lawrence County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, has just announced a new program that aims to address both of these issues.

IQ STEM includes an undergraduate scholarship component and a professional development component, both of which focus on four high needs school districts in the region surrounding Westminster: Sharon City School District and Farrell Area School District in Mercer County, and Union Area School District and New Castle Area School District in Lawrence County.

High needs schools are defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 and by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as schools with high teacher turnover rates, a high percentage of out-of-field or uncertified teachers, a high number of unfilled teaching positions and/or a large percentage of students whose families fall below the poverty line.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:52 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

'Ready Freddy' Brings Kindness to Kindergarten

The University of Pittsburgh-developed Ready Freddy campaign has already seen some success, with initial partner schools seeing a rise in first day attendance from 25% to as many as 100%.
Credit University of Pittsburgh

Today is the first day of kindergarten for many Pittsburgh area students. They will be welcomed this year by the “Ready Freddy” green frog mascot as part of the program developed by the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development to make the first day easier for the little ones.

Ken Smythe-Leistico is the assistant director of Pitt’s Office of Child Development. He says that many children have anxieties about transitioning into kindergarten.

“You leave that past life as you know it and all those comforts that you had...and you’re navigating all these elements at five years old,” he says.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:36 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

The Summer Before College Can Make or Break Students' Chances of Enrolling

Litchfield Towers are the main residence halls for University of Pittsburgh Freshmen
Credit Brian Donovan / Flickr

As the Pittsburgh region experiences its yearly rush of returning college students, a number of high school graduates who initially registered will not be moving into the freshmen dorms. 

According to University of Pittsburgh Education Professor Lindsay Page, 10 to 20 percent of the high school graduates who register for college in the spring fail to show up for enrollment in the fall. This is due in large part to unforeseen financial constraints, lack of resources and lack of guidance.

In researching this growing problem, Page looked at enrollment data, and she interviewed career counselors, advisors and students for her forthcoming book Summer Melt: Supporting Low-income Students through the Transition to College

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Life of Learning
3:41 am
Tue August 19, 2014

City of Learning: Recognizing Teens for the Learning They Do Outside of School

Artist and teacher James Gyre teaches kids geometry and design concepts during TechShop's Drum Makers workshop.
Credit Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Educators are increasingly concerned about kids losing knowledge during the summer. As part of our Life of Learning Initiative, we look at a program that not only helps middle and high schoolers learn during the summer, but also allows them to show off their new skills to colleges and future employers.

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Universal Pre-K
5:55 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Life Of Learning: Discussing Pre-K Education

Credit Kirsten Jennings / Flickr

From the time they are born to when they first attend school children can learn a lot. The skills of reading, writing and basic math are attained by some children who attend preschool.  This can provide preschoolers with a significant head start over children with no pre-kindergarten education.

Studies have shown the gap between the two groups  grows as their schooling progresses. The benefits of preschool are especially important for children deemed “at risk.”

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Life of Learning
3:30 am
Tue August 5, 2014

CMU, Google Team Up To Improve Online Education

Carnegie Mellon University and Google are teaming up to make Massive Open Online Courses more engaging.
Credit Mathieu Plourde / Flickr

There are more than 7 million students around the world enrolled in some 12,000 Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, with topics ranging from oil and acrylic painting techniques to developmental artificial intelligence.

But, MOOCs aren’t your typical online classes. They’re free; they don’t go towards earning a degree; and, rarely are there assignments, but therein lies the problem.

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Life of Learning
3:05 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

State Approves Pittsburgh Teacher Evaluation System to the Surprise of Teachers Union

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved the Pittsburgh Public Schools use of its rigorous and controversial teacher evaluation system for the next three years.

Superintendent Linda Lane said it’s time to stop focusing on teacher evaluations and start focusing on teaching practice.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:13 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

College Students Still Struggling with Math and Writing

Studies show freshmen are still struggling with math and writing skills upon entering college.
Credit Scott Akerman / Flickr

A great deal of concern is given to young children being ready to learn once they begin attending elementary school. But what happens when those children grow up and are ready to attend college?

A study by the U.S. Department of Education finds one in four college freshmen lack reading and math skills for entry level-college work. This results in students needing to take at least one noncredit remedial class.

California University of Pennsylvania is working to reduce the amount of remedial help needed by students. Daniel Engstrom, associate provost in the Office of Academic Success at California University of Pennsylvania explains why more and more students are coming into college unprepared.

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STEAM Innovation
3:30 am
Fri July 25, 2014

From Building Solar-Powered Mini-Cars to Creating Apps in the Classroom

Teachers at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at South Fayette School District work with littleBits to bring engineering into their K-4 classrooms
Credit Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Summer camp — it’s not just for kids anymore. 

Teachers from around the Pittsburgh area and from as far away as Alabama this week attended the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at South Fayette Intermediate School to learn how to embed robotics, computational thinking and game design into their curricula.  

Amidst lights flashing  and lots of beeps, elementary school teachers are playing with, or rather experimenting with, littleBits — tiny circuit boards engineered to snap together with magnets.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

What Changing Views of Zero Tolerance Mean for Pittsburgh Public Schools

Pittsburgh Public Schools is looking at amending the Code of Student Conduct to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline.
Credit Gates Foundation / Flickr

Pittsburgh Public Schools might be modifying its Code of Student Conduct to reflect changing attitudes on zero tolerance. With input from parents, educators and students, the Board of Education will vote Wednesday on whether or not to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline, such as expulsion and suspension, among other changes.

Cheryl Kleiman, a staff attorney with the Education Law Center, was one of the collaborators in the new proposal.

“The Education Law Center has been looking at school discipline and zero tolerance policies in Pittsburgh, around the state and nationally for years...zero tolerance policy is a policy that assigns predetermined punishment to a specific violation of school rules regardless of the situation or the context."

Kleiman says while they've become the norm nationally, zero tolerance rules have come under scrutiny because they are viewed as too rigid.

"The changes that are being voted on tomorrow night reflect a lot of stakeholder input," said Kleiman. "Parents, students, educators, teachers, as well as recent federal guidance on this issue. And reiterates the concerns for zero tolerance policies and instead provides more support and resources for school districts to minimize exclusionary discipline while keeping the schools safe."

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Life of Learning
3:33 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

At Summer Seminar, Students Learn to Think Critically About Global Issues

For a small group of local teenagers, part of their summer has been spent learning to think critically about global issues. For the past two weeks the students have been learning Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, hearing speakers who work in the international community and learning from one another in the 2014 Summer Seminar of Global Issues.

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Summer Slide
4:23 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Parents Say Reading Not a Summer Priority for Children

Only 17 percent of parents believe reading is a top summer priority for their children.

That’s according to Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s, which released a survey regarding parents’ attitude’s towards reading Wednesday.

The survey also showed that children spend almost three times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading during the summer.

Kathryn Heffernan, Pittsburgh’s RIF assistant director of communications and development, said accessibility to books is one of the issues.

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Education Innovation
7:58 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Going Beyond the Girls' School: Ellis Innovation Institute to Pilot, Research, Share Best Practices

The Ellis School has launched the new Learning Innovation Institute to pilot, create and share innovative practices with the ultimate goal of improving learning outcomes for students and teaching outcomes for instructors.

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Summer Learning Loss
6:00 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Schools and Libraries Confront Summer Learning Loss

As the school year ends, summer learning loss, or "summer slide," might begin.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, the loss amounts to about two months in math for all students and two months in reading for low-income students, while unequal access to summer learning opportunities might  account for half the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:14 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Is Teacher Absenteeism An Issue For Pittsburgh Public Schools?

Last week the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a roadmap to enhance teacher effectiveness in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Credit Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

 

Last week, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a roadmap to enhance teacher effectiveness in Pittsburgh Public Schools. The report was commissioned by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and A+ Schools. Kate Walsh, CEO of the National Council on Teacher Quality explains some of the good that has come along with the roadmap and Pennsylvania’s teachers.

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education and environment
12:48 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Students Learn from Trout in the Classroom, And Outdoors

8th graders scooped the Brook trout they raised from eggs into plastic cups to release them into a local stream.
Credit Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

A 55-gallon fish tank sits to the side of Frank Todd’s 8th grade classroom at Moon Area Middle School, west of Pittsburgh. The water inside is so cold you can’t even see into the tank because of the water collecting on the outside.

Todd’s using the condensation to teach about how gases and liquids behave.  It’s 52 degrees in the tank because that’s the temperature needed to sustain Brook trout. The tank is home to about 100 brook trout fingerlings—juvenile fish about the length of a finger.

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Life of Learning
1:04 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

High Schoolers Build Drones To Detect Gas Leaks, Measure Air Quality

For the last two months, more than 20 students at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside have been building drones.

Part of a cross-curricular project led by science department chair Graig Marx and computer science department chair David Nassar, students were divided into seven teams and tasked with building a “quadcopter” with the ability to measure, report and analyze natural gas levels.

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Cultural Exchange
9:29 am
Thu May 8, 2014

For Pittsburgh and Ecuadorian Students, Food Serves as a Cultural Bridge

Ecuadorian students and adults lounge outside of Phipps Conservatory
Credit 90.5 WESA's Michael Lynch

When Erick Rivas arrived in Pittsburgh last week, he had one thing on his mind: “la comida.”

“I really enjoyed trying different types of food,” he said through a translator. “Being friends with the teens here was a great experience.”

The 15-year-old is one of six students visiting the U.S. from Quito, Ecuador as part of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Scaling the Walls/Escalanda Paredas cultural exchange program.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:43 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Life of Learning: A Deeper Look In Innovative Education

Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy teacher Matt Ferrante works with sixth grader Hunter Bash during a recent school day. Ferrante, who teaches music technology, said unlike some other schools where he’s taught, he never feels peripheral at SciTech.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

From flipped classrooms to blending the arts and sciences, what does it take to bring innovative approaches to the classroom?

Technology and innovation are being utilized as teaching methods by several school districts in the greater Pittsburgh area. This innovation has been recognized as the Pittsburgh area recently received the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards in New York and was the only city to get the award.

The Flipped Classroom Approach

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Food and Schools
3:30 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Getting Students to Grow, Eat Local Foods

Food service directors, district officials and farmers are gathering at a conference in Pittsburgh today to talk about getting more locally grown produce into cafeterias. Schools around the country are now required to offer fruits and vegetables.


But it can be a challenge to get kids to actually eat the healthier items.  Schools that are having success in the cafeteria say they’re making food part of the regular curriculum. 

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Life of Learning
3:30 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Why This Struggling School District Is Reviving Creative Electives

Sto-Rox High School students such as senior Damon Baylor use power tools during their construction technology class.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Daniel Funk’s construction technology classroom at Sto-Rox High School is literally buzzing with activity.

Students are confidently working with heavy duty power tools as they finish building small hanging display cases.

“Right now we’re working on the drawers,” said senior Asa Powell. “The drawer fronts are probably the hardest, because they have the knobs and whatnot."

Powell said he regularly looks forward to Funk’s class.

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Innovation
7:48 am
Wed April 30, 2014

How These Pittsburgh-Area Students Are Turning Poetry Into Robotic Theater

Students work on their robotic poetry theater for "She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms" by Emily Dickinson. Robotic components make snow and leaves fall at programmed times.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

“A diorama on steroids.”

That's how Susan Mellon describes what she’s doing in her Springdale Junior and Senior High classroom, where students are combining poetry with computer technology and engineering.

“Kids tend to be a little intimidated by poetry, so I thought this would take something they’re intimidated by and don’t like and make it fun,” said Mellon, a gifted support coordinator at the school.

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Life of Learning
7:49 am
Tue April 29, 2014

From Biology To Music, Bringing Science And Technology To Every Classroom

Connor Cain, a sixth grader at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, uses the Mac-based GarageBand app to make a melody in a music class.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Dream. Discover. Design.

That’s the motto of Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy in Oakland, a public magnet school focused on the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Essentially, the entire middle and high school shines a spotlight on innovation.

“The whole idea is tinkering, so we play, we tinker, we fail, we figure out what we did wrong, and we work again,” said Ann Gollapudi, who teaches physics and computer science at SciTech.

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Life of Learning
3:00 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Flipping The Classroom Turns Classwork, Homework Model On Its Head

Students in Susan Marino's junior physics class at Chartiers Valley High School learn in a "flipped classroom." They get their lessons at home and do the work in class.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When you think back to your school days, or even if you’re still in school, you likely sat through numerous lectures, then went home and worked on math or science problems on your own.  

Now, some teachers, such as Sue Marino at Chartiers Valley High School, are turning the traditional notion of schoolwork and homework on its head by “flipping the classroom.”

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Life of Learning
3:30 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Pittsburgh-Area Students Tackle World Water Crisis

According to the United Nations, nearly 800 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water — a daunting challenge for political leaders, humanitarians and scientists, but it hasn’t stopped a group of Pittsburgh area students from working on a solution. 

”We actually didn’t realize how extensive it was until we did all of our research,” said Kambree Love, a junior at South Fayette High School.  

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:22 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Is MyPath 101 a New Path to Success?

MyPath101 was created in part because less than 32% of college students graduate within four year.
Credit Jessie Jacobson / Flickr

According to the Princeton Review fifty percent of college students change their major at least once. A Pittsburgh company has developed an app called MyPath101 to help students graduate on time.

Rachel Gogos, CEO of MyPath101, described the app in 3 parts.

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Community Schools
3:30 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Could 'Community Schools' Work in Pittsburgh?

Educators, administrators and parents from across the country are gathering in Cincinnati for the next three days to discover how to best coordinate support services for students and parents beyond the classroom.

About 30 Pittsburghers, including Board of Education members Carolyn Klug and Sylvia Wilson, the city’s chief education officer Curtiss Porter, teachers and representatives of Great Public Schools Pittsburgh are attending the Coalition for Community Schools' annual forum to “learn how they help the children succeed” according to Klug.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:38 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

How North Allegheny Schools Are Getting Kids Excited About Exercise

Students at North Allegheny Intermediate School run on treadmills as a part of their aerobic fitness training.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

  

In an effort to combat the rising obesity rates in Allegheny County, physical education instructors in the North Allegheny School District have taken steps to ensure students coming out their system are devoted to lifelong fitness.

Dave Schmidt, the district's Health and Physical Education Department chair, said that over time his department has shifted from a team sports-based curriculum to one that focuses on lifetime exercise activities.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:50 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Allegheny County Live Well Project Shows Students How to Bring Healthy Habits Home

Dr. Karen Hacker
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Nearly 1 in 3 school age children in the Pittsburgh region is overweight or obese. Last January Allegheny County launched the Live Well project to improve the health of county residents, particularly students, through health and fitness. It’s one of the leading health initiatives undertaken by Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County’s Health Department Director.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:25 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

A Conversation on Food and Physical Education for Allegheny County Students

(L-R) Curtistine Walker and Erika Lavelle are two of the many workers trying to help students in Allegheny County become fit and active.
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 FM WESA

The major components of living a healthy life are learning about and eating healthy food and the importance of physical fitness. 

With 54 schools in the Pittsburgh Public School System and nearly 26 thousand students, getting them fed requires planning and adherence to government guidelines for nutrition.

In some cases, the food for Pittsburgh public schools is prepared offsite, at a facility in the South Side. 

Curtistine Walker, director of food service for Pittsburgh Public Schools explained “the only schools that receive meals from the satellite site, or I guess you could call it our plant, are those schools that don’t have full service kitchens and right now, there’s probably about 20 that don’t.”

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