90.5 WESA Features and Special Reports

U.S. Department of Education

Researchers believe negative racial identities in black students might be contributing to the racial achievement gap, which in Pennsylvania amounts to more than 20 points in 4th grade and gets worse by 8th grade, according to state test data.

A new early childhood collaborative group between the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools will be working this year with parents and teachers to learn how to better foster positive racial identities.

Pittsburgh Psychiatrist Starts Telemedicine Company

Oct 13, 2015
Submited

A Pittsburgh-area doctor is going digital as part of a growing trend of psychiatrists offering their services online.

“Just log in on your phone, get a face-to-face video assessment on a HIPAA- compliant secure platform,” said Dr. Matthew Keener, who created Blackbird Health. “You don’t have to drive all the way across town, you don’t have to wait in a waiting room.”

The American Telemedicine Association says more than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.

Francis Southwick

Frances Southwick wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember.

As a kid, she collected old popsicle sticks to use as tongue depressors, volunteered in medical facilities and eventually ended up in medical school in West Virginia. Southwick did her residency at UPMC Shadyside including stints at a number of Pittsburgh hospitals.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

Chris Williams, 34, tilts a delicately etched wooden cube from side to side. His body shifts as it sends out electronic tones. It’s poplar. It’s organic. It’s electronic. It’s… a game.

The box, dubbed Coral, is Williams’ first foray into audio memory entertainment for the visually impaired. With wires and electronics hidden in a laser-engraved, wooden enclosure, the toy produces tonal sequences its players identify and match by rotating in four directions, similar to the children’s game Simon. Players can also use the custom carvings as tactile cues, he said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

One school of thought in adapting to a new generation of learners is to take students out of traditional classrooms where desks point toward an instructor.

To do that, educators create a maker space where students can explore and question content.

Libraries use maker spaces, the Carnegie Science Center has a new digital fabrication lab, and Mayor Bill Peduto held a roundtable discussion on the importance of them. Entrepreneurs use them to collaborate and have access to materials they otherwise couldn’t afford on their own.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Twenty bushels of apples get dumped onto a conveyor belt at Soergel’s Orchards in Wexford. After a quick wash, they’re ground into a pulp and squeezed under 55 tons of pressure to make 110 gallons of cider.

Larry Voll, one of the owners of Soergel’s Orchards, said the cider is going to Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville. The juice that he sells to Arsenal to make into hard cider will one day end up back at the Wexford farm, at the Arsenal tap room, which just opened this summer.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

All 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods will see an influx of bike riders this week as Bike Pittsburgh celebrates the 11th annual BikeFest.

The 10 days of events began Friday with a breakfast for bike commuters and wraps up Sunday with the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Pedal Pittsburgh.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In two years, Pittsburgh’s Woolslair Elementary has gone from the verge of closure to one of the cornerstones of the district’s new STEAM initiative. Woolslair will become a partial magnet school focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

The struggle between Israelis and Palestinians continues to make daily headlines. But in one of Israel’s oldest cities, Arabs and Jews are coming together to start a project that has its origin in Pittsburgh — Manchester Bidwell Corporation arts and jobs training model.

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Kate is 25 and began drinking, smoking and experimenting with prescription drugs when she was a teenager in Washington County.

“I started doing pills in high school, 15, I think. Something just happened in high school and I just was, you know, curious and then it just turned into doing it too much."

Larkin Page-Jacobs

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dining critic Melissa McCart took a roundabout path on her way to Pittsburgh. She’s worked in restaurants since she was a teenager and first started writing about the dining scene in Washington D.C. in the early 2000s. She moved to south Florida to become a critic in the Ft. Lauderdale area and made the leap to the Post-Gazette three years ago. In this segment of On The House, Larkin Page­-Jacobs asks McCart about her role as a critic and what makes Pittsburgh's dining scene unique.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

This week, game designers, developers and educators gathered at Carnegie Mellon University for the Serious Play Conference, where the focus was on "serious” gaming, or games used for training and teaching.

Pittsburgh-based game designer Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games, demonstrated his company’s award-winning game "Water Bears."

Silk Screen Film Fest

With 30 films from 18 countries, the 10th annual Silk Screen Film festival opens in Pittsburgh Thursday with an opening night gala followed by 10 days of screenings and discussions. All of the films have Asian roots.

“Asia is defined like it used to be defined when you were in high school, which is starting with Turkey all the way to Japan,” said Silk Screen Executive Director Harish Saluja. “That includes Israel and India and Afghanistan and Pakistan … In fact our opening film this year is called Theeb which is from Jordan and UAE (United Arab Emirates).”

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Infrastructure decisions affect the public every day — which sewer should be repaired first, which pothole should be filled next—but it’s rare to be asked to weigh in on those decisions. However, an online poll will help decide the future color of the "Three Sisters" bridges, as well as a question of regional identity.

Courtesy Arcade Comedy Theater

The art of making people laugh and teaching people how to make others laugh come together at downtown’s Arcade Comedy Theater. This is a venue for performance that also includes “comedy education.”

Jethro and Kristy Nolen are two of the organizations founders, and they explained that ”comedy is a set of tools, but you can always increase that.”

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

General Manager DeAnne Hamilton announced her resignation from 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, on Monday.

WESA Board Chair Marco Cardamone will act as interim general manager until a successor is appointed. He steps in July 17.

Hamilton took on the station's early branding challenges when she became WESA’s first general manager in October 2011, about a month after the sale of the station by Duquesne University to Essential Public Media was officially completed.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Gov. Tom Wolf argued last week that taxing Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry could help compensate for an anticipated $1 billion structural budget deficit in 2016.

His budget includes a state severance tax of 5 percent on extractions based on the value of gas at the well head and a charge of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet extracted. The commonwealth produced 3.23 trillion cubic feet in 2013.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

It took just 500 write-in votes for lifelong Democrats Chelsa Wagner and John Weinstein to get their names on the November ballots as Republicans, but it will take 2,328 signatures if a third-party candidate wants to have the same opportunity.

Baby Theater: Pacifiers And Teething Toys Welcome

May 22, 2015
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

These aren’t your typical theater-goers. They call out during the play. They try to join into the performance.

And some are sucking on pacifiers.

This is entertainment for the very young — baby theater.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

Teens from around the world were in Pittsburgh this week presenting projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair hosted Downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Forget electromagnets and mouse trap cars. Many of these high-level high-schoolers are published authors and hold patents. Last year’s winner created a test for pancreatic cancer now headed toward clinical trial. 

ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions and territories compete to attend the fair. Showcases of independent research result in nearly $4 million in prizes.

Indiana freshman Noor Abdullah examined how a sweet-smelling shrub affects nearby soil.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The students in Zack Hull’s 8th grade English class are eager to share their “This I Believe” essays. For several years, he has had his students dig within themselves and write about something they believe in, and he said the end of their 8th grade year is the perfect time to do that.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Eleven-year-old gymnast Danielle Norris is practicing a roundoff back tuck dismount for her balance beam routine. She has a meet coming up soon, and later this month she's competing in the state championship. Danielle’s mom, Karen Norris, says she practices about 22 hours a week.

“When Danielle was first invited to join the team and they told us the amount of hours that were involved, we were a little taken aback by that,” Norris said. “That was fourth grade.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Every Wednesday, at a former Catholic school building in Brookline, more than 100 children gather for “People are Always Learning Something” or PALS, enrichment – a weekly co-op. The families there homeschool their children, and pretty much everyone said they’d been asked by one or more people how their children socialize if they are homeschooled.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

For many, the mention of "homeschooling" conjures negative stereotypes about the people who practice it: Homeschool families are religious fundamentalists who shun secular society, or libertarian ideologues who reject the whole idea of public education on principle.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Lynn Lightfoot’s kids have an easy commute to class.

It's down a flight of stairs and onto couches in a room crammed with everything from books to DVD’s to board games. Her teenagers, Aleeshyah and Noah, aren’t just her children — they’re her students. They are two of about 21,000 children who are homeschooled in Pennsylvania.

Alexis Gideon is a multimedia artist who has recently relocated to Pittsburgh. The New Hazlett Theater is a center for collaboration as well as an incubator for new ideas. Together they recently provided Pittsburgh with a unique world premiere event.

"The Crumbling" is a 21-minute stop-motion animation video opera set in a surreal dream-like town following the trials of a librarian as she tries to save her city from crumbling down around her. Much of the music is performed live by Gideon.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In Jim Seagriff’s classroom at Taylor Allderdice High School, there are a half dozen furnaces and boilers. A small closet area is set up the way a basement would be. Goggle-clad teenagers adjust knobs on mock refrigerators.

These are HVAC students in the Career and Technical Education program.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

It’s a conversation heard around countless dinner tables or on the way home. What did you do at school today? The answer most often is nothing or "I don’t know" or "I played."

That one-sided conversation is common in early education students. Parents can try to talk to teachers during the shuffle of picking up their child, but that’s usually only slightly more productive.

Charter schools in the commonwealth have grown rapidly. Over a five year period beginning in 2006, enrollment in the state increased by 54 percent, and according to the most recent data, 6 percent of Pennsylvania students now attend a charter school.

But a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Penn State has found that charter schools are more racially segregated than their public school counterparts. 

dansheadel / flickr

In school we were all taught about the number represented by the symbol π. Our understanding of the number might be a bit foggy, but most of us remember it has something to do with a circle and that it is 3.14.  In reality, the irrational number (by definition) goes on forever, but it starts with 3.141592653. 

For the last several years, the popularity of so-called “Pi Day,” or March 14 (3/14), has been growing in the U.S., and Saturday will mark what many are calling “Super Pi Day,” where we can add the next two digits of the mathematical super number (3/14/15). And if you really want to geek out you can make sure you are near a clock at 9:26:53 a.m. (3/14/15 9:26:53).

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