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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
POP City Feature

Maker Corps allows artist to share passion for making

By Seth Gamson, Assemble Intern

Fabienne Hudson was one year out of CMU’s School of Art when she joined Maker Corps. With a background in photography, painting, and printmaking, she had the qualifications and passion of a maker. As she looked for a path as an artist she came across Maker Corps, and her involvement would soon become her avenue “to express my love for creating with others, while simultaneously learning from others as well.”

Fabienne has had trouble reconciling that her art can seem like a “self serving or lonely process” with her desire to participate and truly give to something greater than herself. Luckily for Fabienne, she was able to find a way to put into practice her trade and her desire to give back.

Through Maker Corps, Fabienne has been working at Assemble, the community space for Art and Technology in Garfield. She is a core member, running summer camp programs for ages 6 to 13. With Assemble, she has also worked at various events, promoting Assemble’s STEAM learning principles and working with children to give them creations of their own from innovative media. She has found her work to be “rewarding and enlightening” as she has taught and learned from young makers.


Having fun making things out of found objects -- like this sunflower -- is a young student at Assemble, the Maker space in Garfield.

At the opening of “The Wonder of Learning, the Hundred Languages of Children,” the Reggio Emilia, Italy exhibit on display now at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center through November 15, are Steering Committee Members Allison Stevens, intern, left, and Cindy Popovich, University of Pittsburgh faculty member.

Environmental Charter School encourages talented “thinkers” in the school’s innovative Thinking Lab. Leading the way are educators Rose Papa, left, and Stephanie DeLuca.

Makers from all over the region attended a recent Maker Ed Meet Up session organized by the Sprout Fund at CMU’s Hunt Library.

Saturday Light Brigade encourages even the youngest children to explore their creative sides by recording audio cards. (Photo courtesy Saturday Light Brigade.)

Assemble’s recent Rainbow Party was a big success.

WQED Cameraman “extraordinaire” Paul Ruggieri hard at work at a recent shoot for WQED’s Remake Learning segments.

Learning about color, light and especially rainbows were these Makers at the recent assemble Rainbow Party.

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