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The Children’s Innovation Project – Building Blocks of Learning

This month WQED Multimedia’s Learning Innovation initiative highlights the “Children’s Innovation Project.” This unique educational program began as collaboration between Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 kindergarten teacher Melissa Butler and Jeremy Boyle, a resident artist with CMU’s CREATE Lab. The two wanted to engage young children in broad critical learning with a focus on exploration, expression and innovation with technology.

The project began in Melissa’s kindergarten class in 2010. Melissa and Jeremy created simple components -- at first, elementary circuit blocks -- that these very young students could use to learn about electricity and circuitry. With these components the children learn to make connections to objects in their own world, by exploring the insides of their toys and common household items like radios, telephones and small computers. In taking both simple and complex technological devices apart and reconfiguring them into something new, they also develop their skills in vocabulary, writing, art, mathematics and social studies.

According to Jeremy, “We’re very interested in thinking about having an active relationship with technology, rather than just passive.” Adds Melissa: “As a project of the CREATE Lab, we’re interested in technological fluency much beyond technological literacy. We want active engagement, having children understand how technology works and how they can be creators of technology, not just users of it.”

Pilot funding for the project came from SPARK, a program of The Sprout Fund. But the project has really taken off: partners now include Carlow University School of Education, whose graduate students regularly observe and participate; ASSET STEM Education, The Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and others. Children’s Innovation Project is part of the Kids+Creativity network.

“We work with children to think about their habits of learning, and we work with teachers to think about their practices of teaching and learning, and so the project has become a partnership with many people in Pittsburgh who are thinking about what technology means and what learning means,” Melissa explains.

“Children will be likely to become engineers from the work here, but they’re just as likely to become a philosopher, a writer, an artist, anything,” Jeremy adds.

To learn more about the Children’s Innovation Project: info@CIPPGH.org

Other Resources:
Remake Learning
CREATE Lab
POP City Feature

Local Educator Helping Us Compete For Federal Dollars

Early Childhood programs in Pennsylvania – and Pittsburgh -- may be getting a big boost if Michelle Figlar has a say. Michelle, executive director of the Pittsburgh Association on the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), is sitting on a 20-member blue-ribbon panel tasked by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto with submitting a proposal for a Preschool Development Grant from the Federal Government.

In August, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Pittsburgh; while here Duncan announced that $250 million in federal dollars would be up for grabs among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Pennsylvania can qualify for up to $20 million, but has to get an application in by mid-October. Michelle is helping to write the grant that may ultimately bring a chunk of that $20 million here.

This Pre-School Expansion Grant will be used to create a strategy to serve more four-year-olds in Pennsylvania, explains Michelle. “It’s a great idea, and then Pennsylvania can choose two or more communities” to receive the grant money. Pittsburgh could be one of those beneficiaries, using some of that $20 million “to best meet the needs of children.” If we get some monies, it will be used to increase professional development for teachers, help families gain access to programs that are targeted to four-year-olds, help provide transportation to institutions and achieve high quality programs.

The grants are aimed at helping low to moderate income families, those 200% under the poverty line and giving those families and children access to quality pre-school programs. But it would also free up monies to be used to improve existing early childhood programs – and create new ones.

“It would help four-year-olds in the city of Pittsburgh – that’s a big piece of the puzzle,” Michelle says, who will be heading up the Policy Committee on the Mayor’s panel. “And it will help us with the overall strategic plan for children.”

Arne Duncan’s recent visit made an impression on local teachers and educators. It showed that “our city and new mayor are really committed to young children and families who live in the city,” Michelle says.

Media Partnership Focuses on Learning Innovation

WQED Multimedia and our media partners, 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh have been focusing on Learning Innovation for the past months, and have put the media spotlight on everything from innovations in Early Childhood learning to computer science, STEAM and robotics.

The four media outlets, TV, radio, magazine and online magazine, are working together to focus on Pittsburgh leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, Learning Innovation focuses on 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.

Look for new stories, videos and content every month, on WQED-TV, iQ Kids Radio, and on WQED Interactive, and visit our partners at WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Photos



Celebrating the end of another Summer of Learning were visitors to The Sprout Fund’s Pittsburgh Maker Party, held at the Society of Contemporary Craft. (Photo by Ben Filio, courtesy, The Sprout Fund.)



Educators at the South Fayette Summer Learning Institute joined South Fayette Township School District teachers to learn about computational thinking, game design and more. (Photo by Norton Gusky.)



In July, 32 recent high school graduates created “Green Compass” radio features while serving as Heinz Endowments summer interns. The features focused on community issues. SLB Radio provided training and coaching. (Photo courtesy SLB Radio.)



Learning new digital skills with help from mentors from the Remake Learning Digital Corps was this teen.



Getting creative at the recent Second Annual Maker Party, thrown by The Sprout Fund. (Photo by Ben Filio, courtesy, Sprout Fund.)



Heinz Endowments summer interns created radio features on issues ranging from life in public housing to the plight of the honey bee. Training for the “Green Compass” program was provided by SLB Radio. (Photo courtesy, SLB Radio.)



High school students in Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Youth Media Program summer camps experienced an “immersion” into filmmaking.



Exploring the heavens were these kids at the Outerspace Maker Party at Assemble.



Propel Schools are the first schools in the Pittsburgh area to use Playworks, an organization dedicated to revamping the concept of recess in schools. Here some teachers learn to “play.”

Spread The News

Do you have a story of learning innovation? A program, teacher or parent who is making a difference? Tell us about it and we’ll share it on our Learning Innovation webpage. Submit stories and videos to learning@wqed.org!

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