More than 400 teachers, administrators, librarians, artists, out-of-school educators, mentors, parents and students crowded a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Friday to discuss how to create a more integrated learning environment in Pittsburgh.
“Students don’t stop learning at 3 o’clock,” said Cathy Lewis Long, executive director of the Sprout Fund, which is leading the remaking of learning in the region. “The school bell rings, but learning continues, and learning continues in out of school time; it continues while they’re on line, while they’re with their friends, at home. What we want to begin to think about is how we can create learning pathways to carry and extend that learning from the school building in and through the community.”
Patrick Dowd, a former history teacher and now executive director of Allies for Children, said Pittsburgh has the opportunity to connect all of the resources that already exist “to think about our city as a campus and our city as a classroom and to try and make sure we’re bringing together all the rich and unbelievably wonderful learning opportunities that are here in Pittsburgh, connecting all of those things back to the classroom, back to the students at home, making sure everybody has access to those opportunities.”
According to Long, through “connected learning” schools and community organizations compliment each other to engage students.
“Some youth learn very well in the classroom; others find that ‘aha’ moment maybe at the Boys and Girls Club or at the museum or at the library,” Long said, "and to begin to capture the skills, the competencies that young people are gaining through those experiences and to really begin to curate a path from one experience to the next is so important.”
Dowd, a former member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education and the Pittsburgh City Council, said those “learning pathways” can have a lot of “intersections” on the way to success.
“That’s what we’re trying to get to –make sure those formal learning experiences are robust and strong, but they’re really augmented significantly by the work that’s taking place in those more informal and exciting experiences as well,” he said.
Long said that the learning experience must be interesting to the students, supported by their peers and pertinent.
“It’s so important that learning is valued and seen as relevant to a young person, and that you’re able to translate that into more opportunities at school, at work and life,” she said.