A Year of Learning Remade in Pittsburgh

Cathy Lewis Long, Executive Director of The Sprout Fund, looks back at a year full of excitement and opportunity to remake learning in Pittsburgh and around the globe.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he past year has been a period of growth and development for Kids+Creativity as we continue our work to remake learning for children and youth in the greater Pittsburgh region. By the numbers, our network has continued to add new members at a rate that signals not only the growing demand to remake learning for our region’s children, but also a shared desire among a diverse group of people who are willing to commit their own time, energy, and skill to help make this a reality.

According to our annual survey of network members, more than 40% of respondents said they had just begun participating in Kids+Creativity within the past two years and 86% reported making new connections as a result of their participation Kids+Creativity. What all of these numbers tell me is that our network is becoming richer and more complex.

For example, five schools & the Carnegie Science Center, led by Teresa DeFlitch of Winchester Thurston, came together to host the Mobile App Jam where teams of students stretched their creative and technical muscles developing learning apps inspired by Science Center exhibits. Nikki Navta of Zulama Learning and Dr. Todd Kersukin from Elizabeth Forward who launched a series of gaming-focused Google hangouts bringing together innovative school leaders with education technology designers and developers.

[one_third][blockquote style=”large”]Whether large or small, physical or virtual, temporary or permanent, these projects can offer proof points of the positive impact Kids+Creativity is making on learning outcomes.[/blockquote][/one_third][two_third_last]This year also saw the emergence of several new programs that have become key network initiatives. On Digital Learning Day in February, the AIU launched transformED to provide teachers with a space to gather, share ideas, test out new tools and teaching methods, and take part in innovative professional development opportunities. In November, more than 400 people attended the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference this year, making it the largest TRETC yet. With a keynote from Richard Culatta, Director of the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, the Pittsburgh Technology Council and its partners continued an impressive run of attracting important national speakers to this premiere regional event.

On the flipside, Kids+Creativity members also hosted two very exciting un-conferences this year. Katie Bordner from City Charter High School and Lisa Abel-Palmieri from The Ellis School partnered to host Pittsburgh’s first-ever EdCamp where educators and community members set their own agenda and explored diverse topics like distance learning, alternative assessment, flipped classrooms, and more. At the PAEYC UnConference, more than 150 early childhood educators went on field trips to some of Pittsburgh’s most innovative labs and companies.[/two_third_last]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hrough Sprout’s Hive and Spark programs and STEAM Grants from the AIU’s Center for Creativity, we catalyzed more than 60 new and innovative learning projects this year, totaling more than $720,000 of investment. Each new grant represents a small triumph for our kids as another classroom, another afterschool program, or another childcare center chooses to embrace the possibilities of introducing innovation and creativity into their practice. Whether large or small, physical or virtual, temporary or permanent, these projects can offer proof points of the positive impact Kids+Creativity is making on learning outcomes.

At the same time that network members were cooking up home-grown initiatives like these, Pittsburgh also established some important connections to national partners. Common Sense Media, one of the most trusted sources for reviews and recommendations on media and technology for children, educators, and families, established a presence in Pittsburgh while New York’s Institute of Play brought their Mobile Quest Co-Lab to Pittsburgh, bringing educators and students together to work side-by-side practicing game-based learning strategies. Kids+Creativity members are also attracting national research dollars— including a grant from IMLS to study family learning in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MAKESHOP and major investment from the National Science Foundation in the CREATE Lab’s Creative Robotics program.

And at The Sprout Fund, 2013 was the year that we partnered with many dedicated organizations to establish a Hive Learning Network in Pittsburgh. Hive has enabled Sprout to provide new services to Kids+Creativity and catalyze new Connected Learning projects that provide tweens and teens in our region with learning opportunities that build on the basics and help them develop higher-order skills they’ll need to thrive in school, at work, and in life. But beyond new grant resources, Hive Pittsburgh connects our city to an ever expanding global network of communities working together to build a learning system designed for our times.

Of course, these are just a few highlights from a year filled with great news. For a more comprehensive look back, we’ve curated a selection of our best blog posts and most important event recaps from the past year into this the Kids+Creativity Year-in-Review magazine.

And looking ahead, 2014 is already on pace to be full of even more amazing opportunities Kids+Creativity as we continue our work together to provide all of Pittsburgh’s children and youth with the best opportunities to learn and be creative.

Published December 12, 2013