At its basis, learning is a process of change. The learner experiences an internal change: a growth of skill, knowledge, or disposition (often a combination of these). But truly engaging learning often comes with another kind of change, and that’s an external change. By writing a story or completing a circuit or creating a sculpture, a learner is developing themselves by changing the order of the material world. In that process, not only are they becoming a better writer or engineer or sculptor, they’re also learning about their own agency.
As I reviewed the remarkable collection of innovations submitted to the HundrED Spotlight on Pittsburgh, the ones that most caught my eye were those that helped learners develop themselves by empowering them as creators of their worlds. These innovations are helping young people in the Pittsburgh region use history, technology, art, media, and music to transform themselves and their communities simultaneously.
If you’re looking for examples of education programs that put young people’s experiences and agency at the center of their learning, I would highly recommend checking these out:
The Heinz History Center’s Be the Change program helps students connect historical events to their own experiences by engaging them in the personal narratives of changemakers from the past.
Vlog University empowers youth from under-resourced communities to understand recent shifts in modern media to build their own online movements.
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild started as a ceramics program in 1968 and has grown into a comprehensive after-school arts program with an impressive track record for helping students graduate.
The Mpower Studio at Pittsburgh Obama Academy is a makerspace that gives students tools to express themselves, be themselves, and make their ideas come to life.
Opera TOTS! helps pre-K to 1st grade students learn vocabulary, melodies, rhythms, and story elements through the practice and performance of child-appropriate versions of real operas.
The Pittsburgh Project is an integrated out-of-school program that empowers children to be change makers through hands-on, interdisciplinary maker education.
PGH in 360 partners with community organizations to teach young people to create 360-degree videos about issues that matter to them.
Through a partnership with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, ProjectArt brings local artists to public libraries, using visual art classes to facilitate young people’s self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and community connections.
What began as a reading program has blossomed into Stories Alive, an interactive, mentor-based program that brings reading to life through art-making and performance at the Deborah D. Booker Community Center.
Making music at the library? Teens at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh collaborate with local artists and librarians during Summer Skills Intensives that explore photojournalism, filmmaking, beat making, personal branding, street art, and more.
The MAKESHOP is a research-based learning environment for maker learning permanently embedded in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh that provides materials and support for anyone ready to start their own makerspace.
Montour Elementary School built the Brick Makerspace, a makerspace dedicated to learning with LEGOs.
Elizabeth Forward’s FABLab includes an all-girls maker class, a student-run business, and a summer professional development program for teachers attended by educators from across the country.
Through Youth Express, students are using the tools of radio to create and distribute commentaries, discussions, documentaries, and other youth-generated content through a 24/7 radio station.
Remake Learning seeks to ignite learning that is engaging, relevant, and equitable, and this list demonstrates how members are doing that in a big way. Each of the innovation pages linked here is written by an educator who is empowering learners as creators. If you want even more inspiration, you can explore all 82 submissions here.