Sunday, October 11, 2015

Remaking Learning at Perry High School's Library

My ex-brother in law works at Google Pittsburgh. Let's call him BIL. BIL gets to work each morning and is greeted by a hearty breakfast cooked for him by a gourment chef. The meals are healthy, locally sourced and delicious, with Google's own egg-laying chickens and honey-bearing bees on the roof. If BIL doesn't want what the chef cooked that day, he can go to one of a few stocked mini-food bars, where there are cold drinks, coffee and tea, piles of fresh fruit and islands which hold tall glass containers of candy and snacks.

If BIL needs a break, he can go to the music room, sit down at the keyboard or pick up an instrument and jam with his friends. He can go to the video game room and relax, shoot some bad guys in a bean bag chair, and let his mind go in a differnent way for awhile. He can untangle the problem he was working on while playing, or chat with a coworker. If that doesn't work-- he can go to the massage room for a nice massage. At Google Pittsburgh, there is a net that hangs over part of the work space. It has large pillows in it. You can take a book and lie in the net, spider-like, dangling 30 feet above everybody else, and rest. There is a beautiful gourmet dinner for you waiting-- and you don't have go home until you want to. What a great way to work! What a great way for a company to treat valued employees! What a terrific way to encourage mind-body connection-and help good thinkers continue to think, collaborate, engage, create!

Wouldn't it be nice for school children to be treated like the computer software engineers at Google Pittsburgh? Our world certainly needs kids' brain power at least as much as it needs BIL's. It's not just the beautiful food and massages I'm talking about. What I find most important about Google's approach is their willingness to create an environment in which people can back up, rest, relax, and engage with others at work. I believe relationships and engaging with others is the way to truly be productive in the 21st century.

So let's do that! Let's remake what learning looks like at our schools! And guess what? It seems we may have some catching up to do.

A group of folks in Pittsburgh have been thinking about project-based, hands-on, creative, engaging, collaborative type education for a long time. Almost a decade ago, a group of smart folks got together to think about how the internet age had changed the way kids thought and learned. They wanted a new way to engage kids. They began to meet at Pamela's for pancakes (proving as always that where there is food, there is good thinking) and brain storming about how to better meet the needs of a different type of learner-- one who didn't want to be lectured to-- who wanted to make, create, do, be something-- who demanded to be heard, listened to, who wanted to move around, build stuff, learn from other kids, find their own ways. A kid who needed new pathways to excel. This group became Kids+Creativity--thought leaders who wanted to improve how kids learned in and around Pittsburgh.

Almost 10 years later, the group has become Remake Learning. Their mission statement reads:

Representing more than 200 organizations, Remake Learning is a professional network of schools, museums, libraries, afterschool programs, community centers, higher education institutions, education technology companies, philanthropies, and civic leaders working together to inspire a generation of lifelong learners in Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and beyond.
Pretty damn cool, and pretty impressive. Like I said--Pamela's pancakes will take you a long way. But-- all kidding aside-- when the right, creative people are in the room-- awesome things happen. 

And that's what the video you watched at the beginning of this blog post showed, too-- awesome things happening in Perry's Library, because great people came together. Daniel Brown, one of the Teen Librarians from the Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, brought music technology from The Labs, a technology and arts Maker Space they have at their branch. Five volunteer/therapy dog owners from Animal Friends brought their dogs. And our kids-- our kids. Some of our music students prepared instrumental and vocal pieces to perform. And they were brilliant.

That gorgeous stew of folks remade learning for Friday, October 8th. We had a veritable salon in the Library of kids, mixing and experimenting with sound and music technology. We had others listening to peers perform, gaining new knowlege and respect for North Side kids across social groups, academic abilities, races. There were the dogs, which brought sparkle, calm, joy and interest to the whole room. The best thing? The creative, artistic, safe, engaging and positive place this group of people (and beasts) made the Library into. And guess what?! WPXI's Courtney Brennan came to film our event!! We were so pleased that they cared about sharing good news out of a pubic school!

Dogs and music combine for touching moments for students at...

Here are ways my learning community and I are working to remake learning in Perry's Library: my Journalism class is working with Steeltown Entertainment to teach our kids film making skills. The kids wrote essays about their lives on the North Side, some excerpts of which I published here. Based on the power of their published work, the kids have been invited to perform at the City of Asylum on October 23rd, at 813 Sampsonia Way on the North Side from 7-9PM.

We begin work on framing our essays into spoken word performances with the music and instrumental teachers and their students this week. We are taking our kids and following their interest and then chaperoning them and their work out into the wider world. What a great way to learn! What a great way to teach!! Our kids might be getting ready for you, Google Pittsburgh! Watch out! Make room in that hanging net! We have collaborative meetings to schedule with you!


No comments:

Post a Comment