Sounds of Innovation: Catching up with the 2019 Ignite Grantees

In their own words, educators share how small-scale funding has helped them create and support more innovative learning opportunities for youth over the last year.

For a group of local educators, January 17 was a day filled with the sounds of storytelling. Classroom teachers, out-of-school time educators, teaching artists, and more filled the SLB Radio studios in Pittsburgh’s northside. They gathered to share their stories of small-but-mighty education innovation fueled by Remake Learning’s 2019 Ignite Grant program.

Ignite Grants embrace the idea that even a little support—given at the right time, in the right place—can spark opportunities for engaging, relevant, and equitable learning. The program’s 2019 awardees each received $1,000 to fund a new or ongoing learning project, and come January, they were eager to share their accomplishments during a lightning-round recording session.

Fast forward a few short months, and the world today feels starkly different than that day in January. The coronavirus pandemic has closed schools, ceased public gatherings, and necessitated a wholesale shift to remote learning, leaving an as-of-yet to be counted number of students without access to their teachers and school communities. It has impacted every educator, every student, and, arguably, every individual in our community and communities around the world.

However, this rapidly changing landscape has made these stories all the more relevant: They remind us that though isolated, we are not alone. We remain connected to a passionate and brilliant network of makers, scientists, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and scholars, who continue to support each other in building a better world for students. These stories remind us, too, that great inspiration can be borne from challenging times. And perhaps most importantly, they remind us that we still have the power to cultivate hope and share in a sense of joy.

We hope these stories spark some light, levity, and hope for you during this uncertain time. 

Robotics & Making

A cardboard competition in Westmoreland County supports place-based learning and problem solving, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania makes STEM as available as sports to day campers, and West Mifflin High School students visit US Steel, Covestro, Universal Stainless, and the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Hear these stories, plus more from East Allegheny High School and Burgettstown Area High School.

Environmental & Sustainability

An outdoor learning space comes to life at Duquesne City School District and students at Manchester Academic Charter School brainstorm “little green solutions.” Meanwhile, Oasis Farm & Fishery fire up homegrown pizza nights to support their urban agriculture and nutrition program. Hear these stories, plus more from Shaler Area Elementary School and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

disability, trauma & wellness

Life skills students at Peters Townships School District launch a school store, Attack Theatre brings the boundless power to dance to students of all abilities, and older students explore trauma-informed care with Elie’s Circle. Hear these stories, plus more from Crafton Elementary School and the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA.

community & social work

The Arts Education Collaborative overhauls their practice, B.F. Jones Memorial Library launches a new digital presence, and 100+ youth take a slow roll through the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh with Bike PGH’s Positive Spin program. Plus, Gwen’s Girls experiments with youth-led programming and Sarah Heinz House welcomes the president of the Toonseum for a comic book art class. Hear these stories and more from Assemble and Allegheny Valley Habitat for Humanity.

business leadership

Hill District teens build their resumes and personal brands with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, youth explore real-world work opportunities and consulting for small businesses with Youth Enrichment Services, while career paths take flight with drone training for women of color with M-PowerHouse of Greater Pittsburgh. Hear these stories and more from Theatre of the Oppressed Pittsburgh and Ujamaa Collective.