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“It’s amazing what the spark of curiosity can mean to a child, and we ignite those sparks every day at our museums and in our educational outreach programs.”

– David Hillenbrand, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh































“It takes a community to educate a city’s youth, and we’re so lucky to have vibrant cultural organizations that truly care about our kids. From the arts and history to science and technology, we have it all in Pittsburgh.”

- Lynn Spampinato, deputy superintendent for Pittsburgh Public Schools


















Crafting the Community

Start with a public school system eager to find new ways to engage kids in learning; add unique programming from the city’s largest cultural organization; mix; let develop; then see what happens.

Artists Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein spent Saturdays at Carnegie Museum of Art. Writers John Edgar Wideman and David McCollough frequented the halls of the Museum of Natural History. And more recently, Kristopher Smith—a comic book artist with a burgeoning list of publications—spent his after-school hours at The Andy Warhol Museum. All graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS), these notorieties came of age at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh—famous, but hardly rare, examples of how Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh inspires curiosity, and more compelling learning, among the city’s public school kids.

According to Lynn Spampinato, the new deputy superintendent for Pittsburgh Public Schools who came to the city after stints in Philadelphia, Denver, and St. Louis, it’s not every city that can claim such educational partners in its cultural community. “It takes a community to educate a city’s youth, and we’re so lucky to have vibrant cultural organizations that truly care about our kids. From the arts and history to science and technology, we have it all in Pittsburgh.”

Educators at Carnegie Museums believe that programs like theirs really do make a difference, and they point to a number of recent studies for support. For one, a 2006 study by the National Assembly of State Art Agencies (NASAA) found that students who participate in the arts improve their academic achievement, stay in school longer, participate in more hours of community service and report less boredom in schools. And a 2001 study at the University of Rochester revealed that children who participate in culturally based after-school programs experience an increase in self-esteem, relationship skills and leadership competencies—all necessary ingredients for social and academic achievement.

“It’s amazing what the spark of curiosity can mean to a child, and we ignite those sparks every day at our museums and in our educational outreach programs,” says David Hillenbrand, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. “Given our tremendous resources—our collections, scientists, curators, and educators—we have an absolute responsibility to assist the public schools in the important job of educating and inspiring our young people. We take that responsibility quite seriously, and our educators have created some exciting programs in collaboration with our public schools.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt says the old way of simply asking cultural organizations for access once or twice a year is just that: the old way. “We have to continue to develop new ways of integrating the arts into schools in creative ways…and develop some really innovative offerings to excite kids around what [cultural organizations] have to offer.” (See page 11 for Carnegie magazine’s full interview with Mark Roosevelt.)

Artful Learning

Carnegie Museums can site a number of examples of the kinds of integration Mark Roosevelt speaks about.

Over the past five years, Tresa Varner, assistant curator of education for The Andy Warhol Museum, has collaborated with Schenley High School history teacher Walt Moser to inspire out-of-the-box thinking among Moser’s students. A recent project—motivated by the 2005 exhibition Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules—investigated Andy Warhol’s quarky practice of collecting items from his daily existence and packaging them into more than 600 cardboard boxes. The Warhol had showcased more than 3,000 objects—newspaper clippings, greeting cards, albums and more—as part of the exhibition.

Inspired by The Warhol’s show, Moser’s students took to the Schenley High School archives, pouring through 90 years of report cards, yearbooks, open reel tapes, and more. They used what they found to construct an exhibit on the history of Schenley: old beakers from science labs, film strips from health class, funny sayings from yearbooks, even a picture of Schenley alumnus Andy Warhol.

“This project taught students that history is constructed by individuals,” Moser explains. “They experienced history-in-the-making, and the lessons learned were invaluable.”

Varner and her cohorts at The Warhol also work closely with Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), located agreeably close to the museum—across the Andy Warhol Bridge. “The Warhol is an approachable place for my kids,” says Mara Creegan, head of CAPA’s literary arts program. “It embraces popular culture and provides opportunities that don’t exist inside school walls.” The relationship is so strong that Tresa Varner serves as an adjunct CAPA faculty member.

One priceless exchange with CAPA students happened as part of Youth Invasion, an annual week-long event at The Warhol that gives teenagers rule over the museum. Students got the chance to rewrite “wall labels” for the art on display at the time, with no rules restricting what those labels could be. Reveling in the freedom, they took full creative license—writing poetry, prose, short stories, and dialogues.

“My students walked away understanding that art is great fodder for creative writing,” Creegan explains. “It’s always difficult coming up with authentic writing topics, and this project did exactly that.”

Kids at Dilworth Traditional Academy, a magnet elementary school on Pittsburgh’s east side, have had similar learning breakthroughs through art, thanks to Carnegie Museum of Art. But in this instance, it isn’t what students write that school principal Bob O’Keefe is hoping to influence; it’s how his students give voice to what matters most to them. “Many students struggle to express themselves verbally,” O’Keefe says, “and the museum’s programs provide a less intimidating way for them to form and articulate their own ideas.”

Dilworth students now take part in three-day programs known as School/ Museum Projects that focus on speaking, listening, observing, and creative thinking. The programs combine classroom and gallery learning with hands-on art projects.

“Our collection supports Dilworth’s truly arts-integrated curriculum,” says Carnegie Museum of Art Curator of Education Marilyn Russell. “Students love debating and interpreting what they see in works of art in the galleries. It makes classroom topics tangible—from social studies to math—and helps students formulate and express their own ideas." Not surprisingly, a recent RAND Corp. study of academic achievement in Pittsburgh schools ranked Dilworth among the top, alongside CAPA and a notch above Schenley.

“These rankings are consistent with a large body of research that demonstrates the relationship between participation in the arts and high academic achievement,” says Russell. “Dilworth is a great example of how the creative thinking and problem solving involved in analyzing and making art strengthens learning across the curriculum, and we’ve designed our programs to support that type of interdisciplinary learning.”

Pittsburgh Public School’s Spampinato says it’s no surprise that some of the school district’s top performing schools have special collaborations with Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The challenge, she notes, is to successfully infuse such programs into many more city schools. “We want to learn how to replicate what works well,” she notes. “And our goal is to provide these kinds of quality educational experiences for every student in the district.”

The Spice of Life

A collaboration between Carnegie Science Center educator Mayada Mansour and teachers from Milliones Middle School is giving kids who need extra emotional and behavioral support a chance to get out of the classroom and maybe even get inspired by science. Mansour manages Mission Discovery, a successful after-school program that the Science Center established with The Hill House Association in 2003. Because Mission Discovery’s space at Hill House goes unused during normal school hours, Mansour saw an opportunity to offer hands-on science education to kids who otherwise would never experience it. The Science Center’s enrichment program for the therapeutic learning classes in nine middle schools is now doing exactly that.

“These students spend the entire day in the same classroom with the same learning support teacher,” Mansour explains. “We wanted to lend our expertise to help teachers and students with the science part of their curriculum.” So, once a week, these students leave school to attend Mansour’s class at Hill House—to learn the principles of physics by constructing their own roller-coasters and the components of electronics by building circuit boards with lights and buzzers.

“These projects,” says Mansour, “make students realize that science is more than just words in a textbook. It’s really the spice behind so much of life.”

Carnegie Museum of Natural History also collaborates with teachers in the public schools to enliven school subjects for students. The museum offers a wide range of custom-made tours aligned with the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for science, while also supporting Standards for subjects like civics and citizenship. One program, Native Americans of North America, appeals to social studies teachers and is currently a part of nearly every fifth grader’s course work in the district. It combines classroom activities with a tour of the Museum’s Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians.

“When teachers sign up for the tour, they receive an extensive set of lesson plans to use before and after their visit,” explains museum educator Cathy Audrecheck. “This comprehensive package helps students draw connections between what they learn during the tour and in the classroom.”

Fun Stuff

Outside the normal school day, Carnegie Museums offers after-school and weekend experiences for city school kids eager to stretch their creative wings. The most longstanding—even famous—is Carnegie Museum of Art’s Saturday art classes for kids in grades 5 through 9. Known as Art Connection, these classes have engaged thousands of kids from many schools—most from Pittsburgh Public Schools—for more than 77 years. Students learn techniques in logo design, traditional and experimental drawing, printmaking, architecture, mixed media, and even video animation. And each year culminates in an exhibition of student art in the museum—no minor thing.

“The chance to display something in a top museum was a dream,” says 10th-grader Garrett Sandidge, who used the sculpted chair he created for Art Connections as part of his application for CAPA. “I love telling people I’ve exhibited in Carnegie Museums!”

The Warhol’s Urban Interview gives teenagers the chance to walk in the footsteps of the master multimedia artist himself, Andy Warhol. Every year, a team of high school kids writes, designs, and produces their own magazine. Developed in 1998 and inspired by Andy Warhol’s Interview, the New York City-based magazine started by Andy Warhol in 1969,Urban Interview features student interviews, photography, poetry, fiction, and opinions.

On the other end of the learning spectrum, Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie Museum of Natural History are busy grooming the next generation of scientists—or at least encouraging young minds to ask questions about the world around them. Teenagers at the Museum of Natural History train to become docents, engaging the public with “exploration carts” set up throughout the museum and equipped with “touchables”—animal pelts, imitation skulls, African drums, and even a live Madagascar hissing cockroach. At the Science Center, teenagers get paid to boost their science knowledge and help other kids. The program, known as Science in Your Neighborhood (SIYN), kicks off with an intensive training period in which close to 30 students develop expertise in science topics and garner confidence working with kids. Then, they venture out in the community to lead hands-on science activities with children in after-school and summer programs in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“Before I started SIYN, science was just another boring subject in school,” says Simone Davis, a recent graduate of Perry Traditional Academy. “Now I see science in everything—ice cream, pop, television—it’s in all the fun stuff in life.”

No doubt, the children in these after-school programs are learning to see science in everything, too. With high school students as their teachers (and role models), they learn that science might be hip after all.

“SIYN does wonders for the urban children and teenagers involved in the program,” says Carnegie Science Center Director of Education Jessica Stricker. “Many participants rarely leave the city, and this program offers a chance to connect with plants, animals, and other marvelous parts of nature.”

This past summer, Stricker encountered a scene she’ll never forget. A teenage boy from the program was sitting alone outside the Science Center: in one hand he held a plastic bucket, in the other a book on bugs.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I found this moth by the dumpster,” he explained, scooping it up from the bucket and urging her to take a look. “I’m trying to identify its species.”

If learning outcomes can be measured in small moments, this one convinced Stricker of all she needed to know.

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