Tag Archives: Remake Learning Days

Remake Learning Days Neighborhood Preview: Hill District

Like many Pittsburgh communities, the Hill District knows both trouble and triumph. From the 1930s to the 1950s, “Little Harlem” boasted a thriving middle class and an unparalleled jazz scene — one that drew acts like Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie, putting Pittsburgh on America’s cultural map. A collection of historically Black neighborhoods dubbed “the crossroads of the world” by poet Claude McKay, the Hill District’s residents have produced some of Pittsburgh’s most enduring art and institutions (think the photos of Teenie Harris, the voice of the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the plays of August Wilson).

August Wilson HomeIn the 1950s, however, the city demolished the Lower Hill District to make way for a new arena, displacing thousands of residents and separating the community from Downtown. The latter half of the 20th century saw a steady slide toward blight, compounded by Pittsburgh’s job losses and shrinking population. For decades, the Hill District’s remaining neighborhoods — Crawford-Roberts, Upper Hill, Middle Hill, Bedford Dwellings, and Terrace Village — made do made do without so much as a grocery store, despite the community’s central location, panoramic views, and vital contributions to Pittsburgh’s heritage.

But thanks to the vision, hard work, and commitment of the community’s residents, the Hill District is changing once again. Centre Avenue alone now boasts a grocery store, the world-class Thelma Lovette YMCA, and a Carnegie Library branch that’s definitely worth a visit. A few blocks away, August Wilson’s childhood home is being transformed into an artist community — one that hopes to rekindle the community’s cultural flair.

Kathryn VargasFittingly, Remake Learning Days is coming here in a big way. With events focused on everything from youth-led activism to soldering and “Mad Science,” the Hill District is remaking learning as it remakes itself. We sat down with Kathryn Vargas, director of Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST), to learn more about what’s happening in this storied Pittsburgh community.

Can you tell us a bit about APOST and its work in the Hill District?

APOST is focused on building capacity, advancing quality, and advocating for the importance of out-of-school time in Allegheny County. Our partners are remaking learning all the time! We’ve been working with out-of-school time providers in the Hill District for a few years, and I’m really excited to bring more people into spaces there so they can see what out-of-school time learning looks like and why it’s important for kids.


What Remake Learning Days events are you most excited about?

Thelma Lovette YMCAI’m super excited about the Thelma Lovette YMCA’s event — they’re bringing the weatherman! Ron Smiley from KDKA is coming in to teach kids about weather forecasting. I think it’s so cool. Kids see that on TV every day, and during Remake Learning Days, it’s going to be right there in front of them. It’s a fun concept that really gets at the idea of remaking learning: bringing awesome resources to spaces where kids are going to be really excited about it. If I can be there myself, I will be!


What makes the Hill District special?

The Hill District is a very tight-knit community. It’s also in a really great location that more people could come out and experience, and I think Remake Learning Days will allow that to happen. I’m hopeful that we’ll see people who haven’t hung out in the Hill District before come out and see these events.

The neighborhood has these great community anchors that are centered around children, which is really cool. I mentioned The Thelma Lovette YMCA. The Carnegie Library there is one of my favorites, too. If you go in, it has the degree that the library gave August Wilson, the bench he sat in, and a map of his plays and where they take place. It’s an amazing room. There’s also the Jeron X. Grayson Center — that’s another anchor, and both of these places are hosting a Remake Learning Days event. The Grayson Center has a lovely rooftop space with one of the best views of Pittsburgh’s downtown. If the weather’s nice [on May 16], the “Mad Science” event will be held up there. People should definitely take a look!


What do you hope attendees get from Remake Learning Days?

Kids and families are going to be exposed to so many great events and learning opportunities, and my hope is that the idea of remaking learning persists beyond Remake Learning Days itself. And I think it will. I think parents and out-of-school time providers are going to say, “Hey, look at how engaged our students are!”

You know, we’re constantly thinking about what it means to advance quality in out-of-school time spaces. And often, it means providing multiple kinds of opportunities for kids. So I’m hopeful that Remake Learning Days will spark something — that someone will say, “You know what? We should do this kind of thing more often.” I also hope that kids and parents will discover places that maybe they didn’t know they could go. Maybe they’ll find a new, helpful resource, or a new program that they hadn’t considered. That, to me, would make Remake Learning Days a success.


Is there anything else you’d like to say about Remake Learning Days?

Go out to the events! In the Hill District and in Pittsburgh in general, there’s so much going on for children. And Remake Learning Days really highlights that — not just for kids, but also for the adults in their lives.

To learn more about Remake Learning Days events in the Hill District, visit http://remakelearningdays.org/hill-district.


This blog is part of “Neighborhood Navigators: Remaking Learning in Your Neighborhood,” a special initiative to connect children and youth in six Pittsburgh neighborhoods and parts of West Virginia to Remake Learning Days (May 15-26). Each week, we’ll spotlight a new community. In Pittsburgh, we’ll visit neighborhoods in the Northside, the Hilltop, the Hill District, the Mon Valley, the East End, and Hazelwood; in West Virginia, we’ll visit Morgantown, Charleston, and Wheeling.

Follow writer Ryan Rydzewski on Twitter @RyanRydzewski.

Remake Learning thanks APOST for coordinating the Hill District’s events and outreach, and McAuley Ministries Foundation for supporting the neighborhood as a Good Neighbor Sponsor.

Preparing For the Future Together

One week last May, more than 30,000 people gathered throughout Pittsburgh to celebrate learning. Participants in the first annual Remake Learning Days could choose from hundreds of events hosted by our diverse Network members—who also marked the occasion by committing more than $25 million to learning innovation.

Apparently word got out.

Remake Learning Days got a shout-out in January in a World Economic Forum white paper on the future of education and work. The paper highlights the event as a model of an educational system that loops in families and other community members.

“An effective multistakeholder approach to education ecosystem governance should look beyond government, education providers and businesses, to include teachers, parents and students,” the paper says.

That “all aboard” approach to learning is the only way to develop an education system that allows all kids to meet their own potential and the demands of a changing workforce, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Networks like Remake Learning can overcome obstacles like parental skepticism or misalignment between the school system and the workforce by bringing everyone into the conversation and fostering unlikely partnerships.

“What are the key features of a future-ready education ecosystem?”

This “multistakeholder consultation and leadership” is just one of the items on the agenda laid out by WEF in the white paper, “Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Twice a year, WEF convenes members of the business, public, and academic sectors to develop a global agenda for the future of education, gender, and work. In fall 2016, the group focused in part on answering the question, “What are the key features of a future-ready education ecosystem?”

Around the world, education systems and educator training models have “remained largely static and under-invested in for decades,” says the paper. The same is not true for the economic landscape. Most kids starting school today are likely to end up with jobs that don’t even exist yet, and might not get adequate preparation even for those that do, notes WEF.

Despite the tremendous diversity that exists among education systems, the forum aims to establish a general shared agenda for curricula, programming, and pedagogy. All curricula should focus on linguistic, mathematical, and technological literacy, WEF says, to better prepare students for the workforce. So too should educators promote interdisciplinary learning, “global citizenship” values like empathy, and the kind of noncognitive skills like collaboration and project management that will help students in future employment.

Many kids starting school today will end up with jobs that don’t yet exist.

The most effective pedagogies are those that do not focus heavily on content, but also teach students “how to learn,” the paper notes. Hands-on lessons with reflection exercises built in allow students to engage in self-directed learning through adulthood, and to better weather whatever changes and obstacles they encounter.

WEF also encourages more access to—and less stigma around—technical vocational training, which can prepare those who are not necessarily college-bound for success in growing fields. All students’ experiences with education should include direct exposure to the workplace, whether through technical training, internships, or site visits, says the paper.

The next time WEF members gather, they could have an even clearer sense of the kinds of employment training students might benefit from. Those in education and business will continue to keep tabs on exactly which fields are growing and what technology is expanding. In 10 years, the activities at Remake Learning Days could look a lot different from this year’s, which include documenting biodiversity using a smartphone app and coding a robot with LEGO software.

“Skills such as coding may themselves soon become redundant due to advances in machine learning,” says the WEF paper.

But that’s precisely why networks and other education ecosystems are so critical to preparing children for the future. Networks like Remake’s help build the important foundations and skills that can survive economic and technological change by keeping everyone in the conversation and continually adapting.