Millions more pledged to promoting education innovation |

Millions more pledged to promoting education innovation

Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Finley Wardrip, 8, of Edgewood works with circuits as his dad, Peter looks on on Monday, May 9, 2016, at a table for the Children's Museum's makers space at Google in Bakery Square.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Finley Wardrip, 8 and Luso Wardrip, 10, both of Edgewood, work with circuits at a table for the Children's Museum's makers space on Monday, May 9, 2016, at Google in Bakery Square.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Attendees gather at Remake Learning on Monday, May 9, 2016, at Google in Bakery Square.

A foundation-backed education network of Western Pennsylvania schools, companies and nonprofits said Monday it is pumping $25 million into innovative learning projects across the region.

The hefty cash infusion — hailed by White House officials during the announcement inside Google’s offices in East Liberty — signals the rapidly growing momentum of the Remake Learning network, a local blueprint for cross-sector collaboration that is drawing national recognition.

“You really are a model for the country,” Thomas Kalil, deputy director of policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told a private audience of local dignitaries, philanthropists and educators kicking off the start of Remake Learning Days, a week-long celebration showcasing projects throughout the region.

Mayor Bill Peduto credited the regional coalition with fueling Pittsburgh’s transition from “the City of Steel to the City of Learning.” He cited the need to plug an 80,000-job shortage anticipated here by 2025.

The combined pledge of $25 million comes from more than 100 organizations among the network’s 250 members.

The Remake Learning network includes Pittsburgh area schools, libraries, museums, businesses, foundations, preschools, after-school providers and nonprofit groups. They seek to develop and share innovative methods for digital-age teaching and project-based learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math — the so-called STEAM approach to rethinking education.

“This can happen in any city in America, big or small,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation, among the network’s largest funders, and co-founder of the Remake Learning network. He cited similar efforts cropping up in San Diego and Redding, Calif.; Huntsville, Ala.; Charlottesville, Va.; Orlando, Fla.; and Seattle.

Kalil said Pittsburgh’s network stands out for its breadth and strength of membership and sheer number of participants and projects and the amount of funding mobilized over a decade.

“They trust each other and they’re willing to work together,” Kalil said, “and it shows in the results.”

About 86 percent of members report making “new and productive collaborations” because of their participation, the network says. They expect to reach more than 400,000 children and 20,000 educators in Western Pennsylvania in the next year.

Projects range from teaching high-demand skills such as computer coding starting as early as first grade, to crowdfunding partnerships between Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and schools that need money for programs and technology they can’t afford.

“I like it because I don’t get to do just one subject; I get to do two in one,” said Jacey Tschannen, 10, a third-grader at Woolslair Elementary School in Bloomfield, where her teacher blends math with art projects and plans cross-subject lessons around trips to Arsenal Park. “You’re not just doing one thing where you’re sitting at your desk the whole time. You get to do more, like hands-on things. It’s fun and you can get creative with it sometimes.”

In this latest Remake Learning funding round, The Grable Foundation committed $10 million; The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, $3.14 million; EQT Corp., $2.9 million; an anonymous donor, $2.5 million; Chevron Appalachia LLC, $2 million; The Heinz Endowments, $1.2 million; the Buhl Foundation, $500,000; Allegheny Intermediate Unit, $500,000; and The Sprout Fund, $300,000. The remainder came from other charitable donors and The Pittsburgh and Hillman Family foundations.

It follows $30 million in Remake Learning investment since the network’s inception.

Last fall, the network unveiled its latest “playbook” for those seeking to replicate or learn about its members’ efforts and results.

“Remake Learning network provides me with colleagues from around the region, and really around the country, to lean on and to learn from,” said Shaun Tomaszewski, STEAM coordinator for Pittsburgh Public Schools. “It allows me to ensure that students at Pittsburgh Public are receiving the same quality innovation learning as the kids in some of the more affluent communities are.”

The network provides an added layer of accountability, Tomaszewksi said, “because if you put yourself out there as somebody who’s participating in this professional network, you better deliver.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.