Special Series: Remake Learning

Remake Learning focuses on Pittsburgh’s leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times, the Pittsburgh region’s need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics and connecting students with hands-on learning experiences that develop relevant skills.

This series of reports was made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 10 miles south of Pittsburgh, a construction crew in Bridgeville is finishing the tech wing of the new Chartiers Valley High School.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The XPRIZE, known for its lunar program that aims to send private companies to the moon, is also funding an effort to develop educational software. The goal is to enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic in about a year. Semi-finalists for the $10 million  prize were announced last week, including a CMU project called Robo Tutor.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Last year, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School started noticing some negative race-based comments being made among students. Studies show safe environments are essential for learning, and being victim to identity-based harassment can be especially detrimental in school.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

By eighth grade, Christian Carter had been suspended from school a dozen times. The first time was in 3rd grade for what he described as questioning his teacher. Most were for one or two days.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Recently, the East Allegheny School District broke ground on its first charter school.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The tension between charter school advocates and those who support traditional schools often comes down to money. Charters are public and funded by tax dollars, but many argue the schools siphon scarce resources.

Last year, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for an overhaul of the state’s charter school law.

“I am not saying we have the worst charter schools in the United States, " he said. "I am saying we have the worst charter school law in the United States." 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Every day at Urban Academy Charter School in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood begins with students, teachers, support staff and administrators gathered in the cafeteria.

Mornings start with brief presentations on black history, followed by song: “I Believe I Can Fly,” the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and once in a while, a little Bruno Mars.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fourth grade students at Propel Hazelwood gathered in a circle around another student summarizing a class text. As she spoke, each student gave her a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Just a few months after Pennsylvania approved its charter school law, a trailblazing Pittsburgh Public educator stood in front of the school board on a November night in 1997.

Helen Faison urged board members to approve the charter for the Urban Academy, a school that would operate independently from the district. It would remain public with open enrollment and the public school district would pay for students to attend it.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

After school, many Hazelwood kids migrate to the library. Some stick to computers and scroll through the internet, some huddle in a corner to read books and a pair of 12-year-olds play chess.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Kenyale Cottingham has always wanted to help people. That’s why she’s training to become a paramedic.

“I feel like saving people’s lives will make everybody happy,” said the Westinghouse High School junior.

Cottingham is one of 15 students receiving paramedic training as part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Career and Technical Education, or CTE, Emergency Response Technology program.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fifth grader Jaylen Hocker popped up from his front row seat at the O’Reilly Theater. He walked onto the stage, held up a hand to block the bright theater lights from his eyes and waited for the OK from a panel of judges before he began. 

“He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies. And what’s his reason? I am a Jew," he said, reciting William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The city of Zumala sits on the Nile Delta. Edible mushrooms feed on plastic waste and plants filter the water for residents and businesses. Suspended tubular trains carry the city’s 300,000 people from place to place, high above the buildings.

The fictional city cost less than $100 to build and was designed by 10 middle-schoolers.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Brentwood Middle School geography teacher Casey Phillips was scared to take a step forward, lest he fall 64 stories from the top of the U.S. Steel Tower to the street below.

“That’s how realistic it is,” he said. “That is nuts.”

Phillips wasn’t really standing atop the building in downtown Pittsburgh, but it felt like he was because of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset he was wearing.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A small group of students at Propel Montour are eating their way around the world this year. It’s not a new cafeteria option, it’s a lesson in inclusion.

The idea for the Taste the World program, run by school integration specialist Robyn Doyle, started simply enough.

“It stemmed from students just sharing interests in what I was bringing for lunch,” Doyle said.

The group meets once a week during lunch hour. Each student had to submit a short essay as to why he or she should be chosen to be part of the group.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Emmaline Thompson, 9, danced around the dining room table with her 3-year-old sister and the family’s pitbull as her mom prepared dinner. Her mom, Rebecca Maclean, gathered the kids and made them sit at the table to watch as Emmaline opened a letter from the Pittsburgh Public School District.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A group of 75 teachers, parents and administrators have finished reviewing options for a new literacy curriculum for Pittsburgh Public School Kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Duquesne Elementary School kindergarten teacher Breanne Dolby thought she was bringing her students to the library for a “surprise guest reader” last Tuesday. Instead, she was awarded $1,500, a customized Steelers jersey and tickets to the New Year’s Day game.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Before heading to the practice field, Westinghouse High School football players met in a classroom, where Coach Monte Robinson read questions from a notecard about alcohol and sexual violence. He told them to be honest.

Homewood - Brushton YMCA Opens Creative Youth Center

Nov 14, 2016
Marcus Charleston / WESA

Giordan Dixon, 16, stuck to his script at the new Homewood – Brushton YMCA on Bennett Street in Homewood South.

“I want to be a singer and a music producer,” he said, guiding small tours.

Matt O'Brien / AP

Two Pittsburgh area school districts—one thought of as affluent, the other, not so much—are partnering to tackle a common problem for young children from poor families:  a huge disparity, not just in financial resources but also in vocabulary.

“We’re looking at how we can really reduce the 30 million word gap,” said Megan Cicconi, the director of instructional innovative leadership in the Fox Chapel School District.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

In a time of shrinking school budgets, arts education sometimes takes a back seat to academics. In order to introduce students to arts not often taught in schools, the Pittsburgh Promise hosted a series of immersive dance and music classes taught by local artists.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

An audience of about 50 people watched uncomfortably as a man named Jon confessed he raped a girl in high school.

The confession was actually part of a scene in the play, “Tape,” a story about sexual assault, performed at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The play follows the character Jon’s confession to his friend, Vince, that he raped a woman 10 years earlier. In the play, the two men both dated the woman, Amy, in high school.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

It took some wrangling to fit nearly 30 Catholic school eighth-graders into the basement space of Most Wanted Fine Art gallery in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood where St. Bede English teacher Becky Baverso took her comic book club to see artist Marcel Walker’s exhibit.

“So this show here, ‘To Tell The Troof,’ this is my first solo gallery show,” Walker told the class, pointing. “I’ve had work in gallery shows before, but this is the first time it’s all mine.”  

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A group of middle-schoolers sat quietly at their tables in South Fayette Intermediate School this past June, while getting some last minute programing and building instructions from teacher Michael Lincoln. He was all that stood between them and a pile of still-boxed, black drones.

Lincoln, who usually teaches at Avonworth Middle School, encouraged the kids: “Use everything you’ve learned,” he said. “Don’t just start doing things. Think before you do.”

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When students at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA are gone for the weekend, an app-controlled robot can now drop food pellets into their fish tank.

“We thought, what would you like to do?” said Russ White, vice president of technology strategy for Development Dimensions International. “Through talking to them we thought there’s probably a solution there.”   

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Preschooler Marleny Roasario sat cross-legged on a multi-colored carpet Wednesday, scrunching her face at a blue and purple snaggle-toothed troll. 

Performing artist Amber Ramsey Fantini laughed, bobbing her puppets at the class. "Turn around," she told the girl. "Show your teacher and all the other kids."

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

It may be summer, but on a recent sunny June day, a small group of teachers and students stayed indoors. They sat in classrooms at the South Fayette School District campus for a different take on traditional summer school.  

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The Fab Lab at the Carnegie Science Center is using its 3-D printer to make prosthetic hands. The “e-Nable the Future” program allowed visitors to take part in a workshop utilizing this technology. Essential Pittsburgh producer Marcus Charleston attended the workshop.

The Remake Learning series is a collaboration of 90.5 WESA, WQED, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council members and education activists say it’s time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to prioritize affordable early childhood education in the state’s budget.

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