Blueprint for Learning

A Remake Learning Initiative

$50,000
to six different learning centers to reimagine classroom spaces

Where kids learn matters. This ideology fueled an unusual call for educators to raise their hands and lead their schools and learning centers through a dynamic design overhaul.

The invitation itself came from a powerful pair: Remake Learning, a Pittsburgh-based network devoted to transforming education to better serve today’s youth, and the National Design Alliance, a nonprofit that supports cities and schools through design.

Sixteen organizations—including six funded by the Hillman Foundation—answered the call and received a $50,000 grant to re-imagine their least functional square-footage into an innovative space that would benefit students, teachers, and the community. This investment, a welcome change in the underfunded world of education, stands as the largest of its kind in Remake Learning’s history.

“Everyone is working from the heart and working together.”

To pull off these transformations, the initiative has enlisted the likely experts. Architects and designers, who are both locally and nationally based, are partnering with participating sites to help visualize and then realize learning environments that inspire children to explore and grow.

Even though this work is still underway, the teams have already started to create remarkable change, according to Ani Martinez, who serves as Remake Learning’s field director. “Everyone is working from the heart and working together,” she says. “And that is producing fantastic projects.”

Meet the Grantees

Six local nonprofits received $50,000 Blueprint for Learning grants from the Hillman Foundation.

They are:

1.    Bible Center Church, a church in the city’s Homewood neighborhood that strives to create places of peace, safety and happiness in the midst of trouble and difficulty. The Blueprint for Learning site is part of a new early learning center, extending engagement and play to an outdoor classroom.

2.    Center that CARES, an organization based in the city’s Hill District that supports children and young adults in overcoming challenges and achieving their goals. The Blueprint for Learning site is a space for early and elementary learners and their parents and caregivers.

3.    Hope Academy of Music and Arts, an outreach program of East Liberty Presbyterian Church offering youth a safe environment to immerse themselves in the arts. The Blueprint for Learning site is a space for inter-generational and transition learning, where every moment in the building is spent making, reading, and learning.

 

 

4.    Brashear High School, a public school in the city’s Beechview neighborhood that serves the city’s largest population of students who are immigrants or refugees. The Blueprint for Learning site is a contemporary media center that supports the culture and vibrancy of the school’s diverse student population, while furthering next-generation learning objectives and teacher-student partnerships

5.    Providence Connections, an organization providing a variety of programming and support services for children and parents in order to strengthen families and communities. The Blueprint for Learning site is a rooftop deck for outdoor early childhood learning, care, and provider co-working space.

6.    Western PA School for the Deaf, a school serving the unique educational and developmental needs of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The Blueprint for Learning space is a deaf-friendly classroom environment that addresses the parameters of Deaf Space—less furniture, more communal space, room for collaboration, mobility of equipment, free movement, and visual access.

Funding in Focus:

With their $50,000 Blueprint for Learning grant, educators at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, which serves students who are deaf and hard of hearing, knew that they had a renovation challenge on their hands. The offending area? A divided, furniture-crowded computer lab, with rows of desks facing in one direction that created both visibility and mobility challenges. Architects and educators are working together to transform the single-purpose lab into a vibrant, versatile room that is specifically designed to suit the needs of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The plan calls for more communal space, convertible workstations, as well as visibility and mobility enhancements to create an engaging sensory landscape that can serve as a model classroom for schools serving deaf students across the country.