The Bridge 3.8

The Bridge 3.8

Hello,

I hope this issue of The Bridge finds you well during these challenging and unprecedented times. 

Virtual City of Bridges

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on schools, communities, and people across the country including here in the Pittsburgh region. It was clear to the COB community that school closures were inevitable, so we were largely prepared when the decision came from the Governor to close physical school buildings.  City of Bridges made the transition to Virtual City of Bridges and overall it has been a very successful shift. 

At City of Bridges, we believe that people learn best by doing, especially when they are able to do real work with real professionals. Even as our physical school is closed, we are staying true to our values. 

Our students are exploring food systems, learning about anatomy, holding virtual meetings with screenwriters, magazine editors, photojournalists, historians, animal rescue non-profits Executive Directors, and other practitioners. They are learning to make focaccia, playing chess, and writing business plans. They are giving each other feedback in Writer’s Workshops, moving every day in our Movement class and laughing every morning in our virtual Morning Meeting. 

City of Bridges believes in personalized and transformational learning. It is what we do when we are all together in physical school and when we are all together in virtual school. No matter where our students are, we collaborate to design learning opportunities that are personalized, creative, collaborative, and meaningful. 

It is an honor to be a part of this community, we will continue to reflect, refresh, and refine our Virtual City of Bridges model until we are back together in our physical space again.

Universal Hospitality and Inspiration

City of Bridges has always been committed to the Universal Hospitality model of community. This means that although we are a private school, income is never a barrier for any family or student who wants to be a member of the City of Bridges family. This commitment requires us to continually seek means to support the operation of this learning community.  This is especially true now, with the impacts of economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic that has put strains on the budgets of many of our families. 

Therefore, City of Bridges is excited to launch The Gene Ebert Bartlett Jr. and Jean Soule Kenyon Bartlett Memorial Scholarship Fund. The full announcement is attached to this issue of The Bridge and can be found on our webpage. This fund honors the legacy of Gene and Jeannie, in the best way that we can, by supporting scholarships to ensure that every young person can have access to an education that not only prepares them for the work of the world but also prepares them to make the world a better place. 

Caring for Our Selves and Our Community

These past weeks and the weeks to come are full of uncertainty, and will likely bring losses and changes to our communities, families, and lives. These realities inevitably bring stress and anxiety for people of all ages in our City of Bridges community. We may experience fear for ourselves and for our loved ones, fear for the impact of the virus, and fear for the impact of the changes to what we have come to expect for our lives. These challenges are only exacerbated by the fact that most of us are now confined to our homes, maybe with our families, but unable to see and be with our larger community. 

One of the most important things that we have done at Virtual City of Bridges is to hold our daily live Morning Meeting, where we are able to see everyone and hear how they are doing. We tell a few jokes, laugh, greet each other and tell a story or two.  

Take a look around your communities, and find someone to reach out to, tell a few jokes with, laugh, greet or tell a story or two. If you need someone to connect with, we are here and would be happy to talk to you.

Take Care and Stay Safe,

Randy

The Bridge Covid-19

Hello City of Bridges Community,
 
I am writing to let you know that City of Bridges will be closed for at least the next two weeks beginning Monday, March 16th per Governor Wolf’s order. As the 27th of March grows closer we will reevaluate the situation in consultation with the Allegheny County Health Department, members of the City of Bridges Board of Directors and the larger community. 

Community, Learning, and Continuity 

One of the most wonderful things about City of Bridges is the strength of the community among the students and their care for each other. As we discussed the likelihood of a school closure this past week, the students were genuinely saddened and expressed their hope that we would all be together in person on Monday morning. 

Unfortunately, we will not be together in person, but we will continue to be together as a learning community during this challenging time. As of Monday morning, City of Bridges will transition to Virtual City of Bridges. We have spent the past week preparing digital tools that we will use to continue to learn, explore, and most importantly, be together in these coming weeks. 

Physical City of Bridges always strives to be flexible, agile and personalized to meet the needs of each of our students and Virtual City of Bridges will share those same values. 

Care
 

This situation is unprecedented, stressful and scary.   We have had a number of conversations this week as a community about people’s fears and concerns. As part of the larger City of Bridges community please reach out to each other and to the City of Bridges staff and community if you need to talk to someone. 
 


This is an amazing community and these are amazing young people. We are grateful for your support during this challenging time and will continue to stay in frequent communication. Please take good care of yourselves.
 

 Be Well,


Randy

The Bridge 3.7

The Bridge 3.7

Hello,

Welcome to the February edition of The Bridge! We have reached the half-way point in our year as Block 4 has come to a glorious close and Block 5 is getting underway this week. We are in the middle of our winter internships and are thinking about and planning our final expedition week. 

As I reflect back on the first half of the year, I am so proud and excited by everything that we have accomplished as a learning community. I will always remember the very first day of this school, sitting outside to greet the students as they arrived, and sharing our excitement and, of course, some nervousness as well. 

City of Bridges is a living example that a high school can listen to young people, provide them with agency and voice, while also offering guidance, learning experiences and mentorship to help them bring to life their visions for their futures. On Monday, we reflected on our winter internships.  Students have learned a great deal, not only about the professional worlds where they are spending their Friday afternoons but also about themselves. 

They are discovering what type of attorney they would like to be and what aspects of practicing law are less appealing.

They are discovering the behind the scenes world of a major clothing company.

They are discovering the preparation, hustle, and excitement of work in a fine-dining kitchen.

They are discovering the efforts that a modern art museum puts into maintaining its community and educating the next generation of artists. 

They are discovering themselves and exploring the question: “How might I build a purposeful future for myself?”

We are learning and working hard, and we are also having a lot of fun…..as you can see here.

We are also looking towards the coming school year and the students who will join us for the 2020-2021 school year. As City of Bridges supporters, please reach out if you know a teen for whom City of Bridges would be a great fit, as the spaces in our incoming class will fill!

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.6

The Bridge 3.6

Hello,

Welcome to the first issue of the Bridge for this new decade. During our fall semester, we experienced young people building a community, learning with educators and professionals, experiencing possible futures through internships, exploring big questions and having a lot of fun in the process. 

Second Expedition Week

City of Bridges students continue to explore real issues in real communities. Our second expedition week was before our winter break, we explored representation and access in our region’s cultural institutions. We visited museums and cultural sites around Pittsburgh and in Cleveland, Ohio. The final expedition week of the school year will be in May and we will see what explorations the students plan, stay tuned.

Personal Learning Plans

The second semester brings some changes to the City of Bridges curriculum. The students will begin to work on their Personal Learning Plans (PLP). The PLP process is designed to support each student in identifying the futures that they hope to achieve and identifying their existing assets and areas for growth on the paths to those futures. Students will identify academic and experiential learning opportunities that will help to shape their high school experience. They all have dreams for the future and this step is to design plans to make those dreams a reality. 

Patreon

The City of Bridges Patreon page is up and running. Please consider becoming a patron of our work, you can join here and find our launch video here.

Below is the message that we are sharing as we launch our campaign, please feel free to share it with your friends, colleagues and neighbors. 

We have some progressive opinions about the way schools should be run. To give us the freedom to live out these progressive ideals, it’s necessary for us to be an independent school. So with a new way of running school comes a new way of funding school! 

We’re an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. State and federal funding supports public schools, but comes with many strings attached. Private schools are supported largely through tuition, but a fixed tuition rate is a barrier to access that goes against our principle of Universal Hospitality. 

Fortunately, City of Bridges doesn’t mind a challenge. We just have to find new ways to support schools, and Patreon is one of those ways!

We are building a community of learning, and we want you to be a part of it. With your support, we can continue to offer a cutting edge, personalized education to each of our students, but the best part is that once you are a part of our community, you are also one of our students! Our Patreon is going to be filled with content created by students and educators, and as a member of our community, you will be able to take part in all of it.

Not only will our students be producing demonstrations of learning (poems, stories, podcasts, videos, art, and anything else we can think of), but our practitioner educators will be sharing video lectures, masterclasses, workshops, even private tutoring and homework help. Plus, we’re all about giving our students agency (that includes you!); do you want to see something on our Patreon? Let us know and we’ll work on it!

Support progressive schools. Help us give students the education they deserve. Join our community. Learn something new and share it with the rest of us.

You belong at City of Bridges.

The Patreon already has some great content, like an audio recording of this short fiction piece being read by its author (one of our students):

*

You are not who you say you are.

 This should be obvious.

 It isn’t. 

You use a different name everywhere you go, and you never stay in one place for long. You slip from city to city, country to country, and if someone were to ask about you, they would be met with blank stares and shrugs. People don’t remember you for long. Their minds and attention slide away from you, avoid you, and that’s how you like it. 

Because if someone were to remember you, if They found out that you had escaped, They would come after you.

 How long has it been since you were last at peace? You don’t know.

But it doesn’t matter, not really. You just have to keep running, keep hiding. You don’t even know why you bother. Wouldn’t it just be easier to let yourself be found, be caught, be destroyed?

But you are the Last. You run out of some misguided sense of duty, you think. If They catch you, humanity’s last shred of hope would be gone. Humanity. It rushes by you, a river of faces and wails and grasping hands. A river of tiny, fleeting lives. You try to stay away from the river, because you know that if you get too close, one of those hands will catch you, and that only leads to grief and loss.

Human lives are like sparks against the bonfire of your existence. They move so fast, die so fast.

And the centuries pass by. 

It will happen, someday, you know. As humanity weakens, so do you. As the sparks die out, your bonfire shrinks. Someday, someday soon, They will catch you, and it’ll all go up in flames.

But humanity will struggle on for a few more centuries, and you’ll be there, overseeing them without getting too close, just as you always have. 

Because They haven’t caught you yet.

Today is not the day you die.

And maybe that counts as peace, after all.

*

Thank you for reading this issue of The Bridge, I am excited to share our work and some of our exciting plans for the future. 

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.5

Hello!

The school year continues to move forward at City of Bridges High School! Our first round of internships has ended and we are planning for the next round that will begin in January. Most importantly, our community continues to grow! We had our first annual Community Gratitude Pot-Luck last week. We had parents, students, teachers, practitioners, internship mentors, and family members share a meal and get to know each other. Our students are learning and our community is genuine and dedicated to making a difference in the region.

Past issues of The Bridge have shared our successes, adventures, and laughter. We are active on social media and would love for you to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get real-time experiences of City of Bridges. We are looking forward to students taking over our social media accounts in the coming months. 

There are several ways that you can continue to support City of Bridges, and we hope you will.

Giving Tuesday

This Tuesday, December 3rd, is Giving Tuesday, a global movement to support non-profits and organizations making a difference in the world. We know that City of Bridges is making a difference and would greatly appreciate your support. Please consider donating here and sharing our work with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Patreon

We are committed to ensuring access for any student who wants to be a part of this high school experience. To ensure that we can continue to extend Universal Hospitality, we participate in alternative economic systems, including our Patreon account. Please consider joining as Patrons of our work and be ready for some amazing art, content and live access to our community. 

Enrollment

We are so excited to begin to build the next entering class of students. Social media posts, print ads, and podcasts help us find our students, but the most powerful enrollment tool is word of mouth, so if you know someone with an 8th grader or a high school student who is looking for a place where they can shape their future, be cared for as an individual, and have a high school experience that is focused on them, please tell them about us and direct them to our applications

We have students who used to count down the days to the weekend, who now count down the days to the school week, and who are seeing possible futures for themselves that they hadn’t ever envisioned. We can’t wait to meet the students who will join our community for the 2020-2021 school year.

It has been such an honor to see the reality of City of Bridges exceed the vision. As 2019 comes to an end, please consider supporting us in any ways that work for you.

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.4

The Bridge 3.4

Hello!

This week we will reach the end of our second block, a good time to reflect on our first quarter and to share some upcoming dates and events with you.

These first months at City of Bridges have been remarkable in all that we have done and accomplished. Our block courses have explored utopias in literature and history, the scientific method, local civics, game design, botany, contemporary United States history, and physics and engineering. In our long term courses we have dug into mathematics, human centered design, literature, movement, and project design. Our first expedition week explored food systems, we have seen multiple performances at City Theater, and spent time out in the city in our internships and independent projects.

These accomplishments are exciting, and we have learned and done a great deal, but when I stop to look back on this first quarter, it is the community that we have built that is our greatest accomplishment. We have demonstrated that a group of teenagers can come together and genuinely enjoy high school, and learn new knowledge and skills in ways that have meaning and purpose. 

There are a lot of exciting events on the horizon as well. Our next block will include blocks on legal rights and justice, journalism, and the arts. In addition, we will add Spanish to our other long term courses. We will reflect on our first round of internships and plan for the next round to start in the new year. 

The message of this issue of The Bridge is that amazing things are happening at City of Bridges. We have brought to life a school where young people have voice and agency, build positive and joyful community, and explore their possible futures while building the knowledge, skills and understanding that they need to make those futures a reality.

We have a few spaces available for this school year and are begun enrollment for next year. Please come to one of our open houses and let your friends, neighbors and colleagues know about them: 

Wednesday November 13th 6:00-7:30-An Open House for parents and students to learn about the City of Bridges High School experience. 

Monday December 9th 1:30-3:30– A Collaborative Open House to give prospective students the opportunity to participate in our curriculum alongside City of Bridges students.

Please continue to support us!

City of Bridges is a small non-profit independent school committed to making meaningful education available to any young person who desires it. As you think about your year-end giving, please consider supporting our work. You can donate here or reach out to me for more information.

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.3

The Bridge 3.3

Hello!

Time flies when you are having fun. City of Bridges is now a month and a half into the school year. We have completed our first block, our first expedition week and now are moving rapidly through our first round of job shadowing, independent projects and internships. 

City of Bridges Expedition Weeks are opportunities for us to dig deeply into a topic, question or experience. There are three each school year, driven by student interest and goals.  Our first expedition week was an extension of our ongoing human centered design project exploring our local food systems.

We spent the week at various components of the regional food system, Blackberry Meadows FarmPenn’s Corner412 Food RescueThe East End Coop, The Braddock Urban Farm, Jimmy and Nino Sunseri’s and on a walking tour of the Strip District. Along the way we gathered important information, reflections and impressions and now have begun the process of examining our data, creating categories and developing new questions to ask!

Block 2

If you have been reading about or involved with City of Bridges, you know that one of our central beliefs is that human beings learn best by doing. One of the ways we manifest that belief is by giving our students the opportunity to have professionals outside the field of education as their teachers. This month we are excited to be joined by Dr. Patrick Cooper and Sabrina Haskell.  Sabrina is a game designer and is working with the students to understand the principles of game design through the development of a board game. Patrick is a physics professor at Duquesne University, he is working with the students to explore the engineering and physics of our school building. 

Internships, Job Shadowing and Independent Projects

Another way that City of Bridges students learn by doing is through internships, job shadowing and independent projects. This month we have begun our first round, our students are spending time with politicians, veterinarians, musicians, theater directors, teachers, bakers, business owners, chefs, and non-profit environmental educators. Some students are working on independent projects: preparing to write a novel or learning music production. All students are exploring their possible futures the best way they can, but actually experiencing those futures. 

Looking Forward!

The 2019-2020 school year is well underway and although it seems far away, it is time to begin to plan for the 2020-2021 school year!  Our applications have opened for next school year and you can find them here.

City of Bridges open houses are an opportunity for students and parents to see what it is like to be a member of this learning community. They will be held on:

Thursday October 31st 11:00-1:30-A Collaborative Open House will give students the opportunity to participate in our curriculum alongside our students. 

Wednesday November 13th 6:00-7:30-An Open house for parents and students to learn about the City of Bridges High School experience. 

Monday December 9th 1:30-3:30– A Collaborative Open House will give students the opportunity to participate in our curriculum alongside our students.

Stay tuned for winter and spring dates for Collaborative Open Houses and Open Houses.

Support

City of Bridges is a small non-profit independent school committed to making meaningful education available to any young person who desires it. Please consider supporting our work. You can donate here or reach out to me for more information.

Thank you and Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.2

The first issue of The Bridge came out on September 24th 2017 and began:

“Welcome to The Bridge! If you are wondering to yourself, “what is The Bridge?”

The Bridge is the newsletter of City of Bridges High School. As this high school gets off the ground, The Bridge is a way to share our progress, share our passions and share information about groups and people who exemplify our views about schooling, society and Western Pennsylvania. We hope you will read The Bridge, share the Bridge and share City of Bridges High School.”

And now, two years later, City of Bridges is officially off the ground and our adventure is underway. This issue will share some of what we have been doing in our first weeks and some thoughts on education and the work of re-envisioning what school should be. 

What We Have Been Up to…..

The school year began with students and adults building our community and getting to know each other, our neighborhood, and our city. We spent time visiting local organizations, including WESA (our local public radio station), City Theater, The South Side Chamber of Commerce, and the South Side Branch of the Carnegie Library system. We traveled to Frick Park and journeyed around the city by bus and on foot. 

We delved into our first block of classes: a humanities block on Utopia in Literature and History, where we explored different ideas of a better society and now are creating our own models (although some are really dystopias…), a science block on Inquiry and Analysis, setting the stage for the scientific method and scientific questioning, and a civics block on the political systems of Pittsburgh to support our work in the community. We have also begun our math classes, human centered design projects, and movement (including some thrilling kickball games). We have spent time with Dr. Adam Lobel identifying learning styles, with Michelle King de-mechanizing our thinking, and with Fitzhugh Shaw learning about the food systems of the city. We participated in the Youth Climate Strike at the City County Building, we designed new games, we set up our community norms, we worked to develop rhythms to our days, we listened to some records, and we laughed a lot. 

We have packed countless experiences and learning into these first weeks of school and we have some amazing experiences on the horizon. Our first expedition week is coming up, we will focus on learning more about the food systems of the region by spending time at local farms, food justice organizations, retailers and restaurants. Then our second block will begin with blocks on Botany, contemporary US history, Game Design, Physics and Engineering, and Community Internships. The list of exciting learning experiences keeps growing.

…And Why it Matters

High School needs to be able to prepare young people for life, not to jump through the hoops of school, but to use school experiences to build the knowledge, skills, and understanding necessary to chart their paths in life. 

One of our visits to a community resource this week illustrates the importance of providing our students opportunities to experience paths that might become futures. We were welcomed to City Theater, a neighbor and partner here in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. They graciously shared their processes, their facility, and their time with us. As they discussed the playwriting program, playwriting became a possible future, when we visited the costume design and fabrication shop, that too became a possible future, when we visited the scenery design shop with both carpentry and metal fabrication, that also became a possible future. I don’t know that any City of Bridges students will go on to have any of these careers, but now these doors exist. By the time our students graduate they will have the academic skills and knowledge and the 21st century skills necessary to open that door if they so choose.

One vision for high school is a long hallway with a door at the far end. As students journey along that singular path, they are given pieces of information, some relevant to their future, but much of it only relevant to measurement and evaluation. Hopefully those student’s buckets will be full enough by the time that they reach that door that they are able to pass through it and step out into the world.  

Our vision for high school is not a long hall way with a single door, but a flexible space that allows young people to discover new doors, open doors before the end of high school to see what is beyond, and to construct their own doors to open. They still need to learn the knowledge and skills they will need for what lies beyond those doors, but they will do so in service of their future, not in service of political goals or standardized tests. 

High School can be different and City of Bridges is striving to prove that here in Pittsburgh. We are only a month old, but the excitement and energy in what these young people are doing is building and it is inspiring.

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 3.1

Hello!

Welcome to Volume 3 of The Bridge. This transitional volume ushers in the opening of our inaugural school year, which begins on Tuesday, September 3rd! The Bridge will change and grow to include new voices, especially those of the students, in the coming weeks and months as this learning community leaps into action. 

This journey began in earnest two years ago, when a group of people came together and recognized that Pittsburgh needed a high school that believed two key ideas. One, that human beings learn best by doing. Two, that to create a more just, equitable and joyful future we have to live these values in the present. Once we came to this conclusion, the only choice was to make City of Bridges High School a reality. 

Creating this school has been possible because of the support, hard work, and passion of the community that has grown up around us and for that I am so grateful.

We held our first annual Envisioning Retreat this past Sunday with board members, faculty, and practitioner-educators. Our time together began by placing ourselves in the lineage of innovative and progressive schools, a reminder that City of Bridges is part of a large and growing family of schools and learning organizations that are striving and succeeding in creating the learning of and for the future. We then dove into an experience facilitated by Dr. Stuart Candy, COB board member. We explored questions central to our work at City of Bridges, like:

How do we know we are doing a good job?

How do we connect to both the local and global community?

How might we activate community genius?

What are the courses and classes that need to be taught in light of the realities of the future?

How might we build a self-reflective institution?

After spending four hours digging deeply into these and other topics, we went our separate ways. I spent a few minutes alone at City of Bridges reflecting on the conversations. I am so honored to be a part of a community that is thinking deeply about and fostering a learning community that genuinely prepares young people to chart paths in their lives to make the world a better place. Yes, City of Bridges is a High School, but is also much more than that. It is a community of people who recognize that if we want a more fruitful future, we need to foster a more fruitful present.

Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 2.19

Hello!

We have been sharing news though a number of formats, but there is nothing like the good old Bridge to keep you up to date. City of Bridges is moving along well: students are enrolling, learning experiences are being planned, and ideas are being hatched. We have added an online version of our application which can be found here.

City of Bridges High School is a community based around the values of learning by doing and learning for joy and justice. We have held a number of events for youth and some for the broader community.  This past month, board members Fitzhugh Shaw and Michelle King facilitated two workshops titled “Meditation and Messy Utopia”, Michelle and Fitzhugh, who are both City of Bridges Board members, exploredvisionary non-fiction, collaboration, and writing about the beloved community with an intergenerational group of participants.

We have a number of other events and community gatherings in the works which we will announce soon!

In early May, we held a “Homecoming” event for COB supporters. They got a preview of some of the types of real work learning that students will be experiencing in the fall. We explored the future of schooling with Stuart Candy, visualized school district data with Gabriel O’Donnell, examined traditional and alternative schooling through poetry with Alice Lee and created community art with Lauren Hinish. We look forward to next year when the students can share their projects and work at quarterly City of Bridges showcases.

Michelle King, Randy and Adam Lobel will be running a workshop at this year’s Progressive Education Network national conferenceon October 4-5 at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis.  The theme for the conference is “Education for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education.” Our workshop will be a three-hour experience, Imagining Progressive Educational Practice into the Future: A Collaborative Co-Creation. We will send more details later, we will have some students join us and welcome any families and COBHS community members to attend as well.

We also want to share the two newest members of our Board of Directors.

Chamya Reed is an associate attorney at Burns White. She practices insurance defense and commercial litigation. In her free time, she is an active alumni mentor at Pitt Law and a member of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund Outreach Committee.

Stuart Candy, is an award-winning foresight practitioner, designer, artist and educator. His work aims to augment our capacity for navigating alternative futures by any means necessary. At CMU he is responsible for integrating foresight / futures practice throughout the design curriculum. You can learn more about his work here.

City of Bridges strives to support young people in envisioning their possible futures and in building the skills, knowledge, understanding, and networks to bring those futures to fruition. We are incredibly grateful for people like Chamya and Stuart who have joined us to support this work.

Be Well,

COBHS