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

The Bridge 2.18

The Bridge 2.18

Hello,

Workshops, design sessions and development of City of Bridges have been rolling along and we wanted to share exciting news and thoughts on the power of project-based learning.

First, the City of Pittsburgh zoning board has approved the use of our space as a school, so now the fourth floor of 1212 East Carson Street is not just a school, it is our school!

Second, we are excited to welcome Dr. Adam Lobel to City of Bridges on the 27th of March from 7:00 to 9:00pm. He will be giving a talk entitled “Secular Education, Spirituality, and Living Philosophy.” Adam has a PhD from Harvard University and a M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, is a Buddhist minister and a scholar of philosophy and religion, and has served as a senior meditation teacher (Acharya) in the Shambhala tradition for many years. Adam is also one of the experts who will be working with our students in the next school year. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP by following this link

Third, check out and share our article in NextPittsburgh and our spot on KDKA.

Fourth, we are actively enrolling students for City of Bridges and look forward to filling our trailblazing group for the fall. The most effective way to find those students is through word of mouth, so please share City of Bridges with your friends and neighbors.

We held Open Planning days in February and early March, and will be holding more in the future. This past Saturday we had a group of enrolled and potential students working with educators on the project-based curriculum design process. The students collaborated to design projects around Norse Mythology, Pigeon Breeding, and a Feral Cat Neuter and Spay program. Although these projects were just examples to work with the process, it illuminated the power of this type of learning. 

This type of project-based learning requires people to work not only with individual content, but also with the impact that various areas of content have on each other.  A Pigeon Breeding program requires an understanding of genetics, engineering, zoology, city code, writing, data base management, economics, and carpentry. In addition, a project such as this will also require, independence, collaboration, problem solving, community engagement, time management, and careful attention to detail.

I can’t promise that we will breed pigeons at City of Bridges, but I can promise that we will work through real projects that are engaging, meaningful, and require us to build knowledge, understanding, and skills that we can and will transfer into life after school. I suspect we will have a fair amount of fun as well.

Be Well-Randy

The Bridge 2.17

The Bridge 2.17

Hello!

City of Bridges continues to move forward as we prepare to open our doors in the fall. Students have begun to enroll, our space is coming together and we have had a great time at our first events. 

Open Planning Days

Our next Open Planning Day is this Saturday February 9th. We will be here from 8:00-12:00 and will have a collaborative planning meeting from 9:30-11:00. We will continue to explore our design question from our first session, “How might we Design our Best Day of Learning?” and think about the use of the physical space too. If you want to be a part of the planning, please RSVP here.

We will also be here on Thursdays from 2:00-7:00 if you want to stop in, see the space and learn more about City of Bridges. 

Wish List and Donations

City of Bridges is a community school and requires a community effort. I shared our January wish list, but it has been updated for February, you can find it here. Let us know if you have items you want to donate or would like to purchase some of the items on our list. 

In addition, we are grateful for financial donations to support our work and help to create this learning community. Please reach out, or follow this linkto our donation page. 

Enrollment

City of Bridges needs those special young people who are committed to taking charge of their learning and who want to make the world a more just and equitable place. We need your help in spreading the word so those young people can find us. Please reach out to friends and neighbors, let them know about the school and invite them to come to an event or to join you for a visit to the school. 

Learning should always have a purpose and we are excited to bring Purpose Driven Learning to Pittsburgh!

Thank you and Be Well,

Randy

The Bridge 2.16

The Bridge 2.16

Happy New Year!

City of Bridges is a learning community, and its mission is to work for justice and against oppression in all forms. The new year offers us an opportunity to build our community, after a challenging year for our country, region and city. We will work to turn our values and beliefs into actions. City of Bridges is an example of a group of people who talked about doing something for a long time, and then realized that talk without action would not bring a school and learning community to life, and decided to take actions.

I want to share a couple of though provoking resources, that have reminded us that not only do human being learn best by doing, but that real change comes when people take action.

1.    This past week, On The Media re-broadcast a powerful episode of their podcast that originally aired on June 1st, 2018. It is entitled, The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done. It explores lynching and racism in the United States through a visit to The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama.

2.    On another podcast, Without Fail, Alex Blumberg interviews people who have both failed and succeeded, and often both, at a variety of ventures throughout their careers. The final episode of the season was an interview with Ira Glass, which can be found here. In addition to being entertaining, their conversation also illuminates some important lessons about taking action to make things happen and to bring ideas to life. 

3.    This year a number of City of Bridges community members read The Overstory by Richard Powers. The New York Times wrote a review that describes the power and beauty of the book, which you can find here. I would suggest reading the book first, as the review might be a bit of a spoiler. The Overstory is a profound reminder of our place in the natural world and our responsibility to care for it with intention.

There are many opportunities for our community to take actions to help in bringing City of Bridges to life as this new year begins. This year City of Bridges will grow from the seeds that all of you have helped us to sow. Keep an eye out later this week for ways that you can lend a hand to help those seeds germinate and break though the soil.

Be Well,

COBHS

The Bridge 2.15

The Bridge 2.15

Hello,

I hope this message finds you well. As 2018 draws to a close I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the passage of time. City of Bridges has come so far in a short amount of time. What began as an idea and a need for our community has quickly become a reality. As we continue to prepare to open our doors in the fall, I want to personally thank everyone who has helped make this dream a reality.

Time

Michelle King, Vice-Chairperson of the City of Bridges Board of Directors, and I had the opportunity to sit down with two longtime friends, Dr. Peter Wardrip and Dr. Tyra Good, to talk about education, learning and life. COBHS friend and audio wizard Russ Lloyd recorded our conversation.  We will share it here in the Bridge in the coming weeks.

One of the recurring thoughts that arose was the necessity of taking time and slowing down. Michelle, an eternal fountain of wisdom, said that we are “Learning at the speed of trust.” This phrase captures something that is vitally important about City of Bridges. We are a school and a community that recognizes that we have to take the time to engage with other people in order to understand ourselves, the roles we play in the lives of others, and the roles that others play in our lives. 

Learning takes place when we are able to take the time to explore new ideas and skills, be in community with others around those new ideas and skills, and then reflect on how we can use those ideas and skills to apply to purposeful outcomes. All too often that time is missing, not only in schools but in our society in general.  At City of Bridges we will create, analyze, reflect, do, make, explore, and we will also take the time to be in dialogue with each other and our communities. Learning at the speed of trust.

In these darkest days of the year, I hope you can spend time in dialogue with your friends and neighbors, with your families and your community, and with new friends planting the seeds of ideas and hopes. Soon the days will grow longer and our work at City of Bridges will, like the spring, be a time of new growth.  

Happy Holidays,

Randy

The Bridge 2.14

Bridge 2.14

Hello!

I hope this issue of The Bridge finds you well! As you know, there has been a lot of exciting news around City of Bridges!

We have a space at 1212 East Carson Street! We have begun accepting applications for the fall of 2019 and have joyfully received our first pioneer applications! 

The City of Bridges team is working away on the space and on planning events, workshops, and experiences for the new year to prepare for our opening. We are often asked how to help support City of Bridges and I wanted to share a couple of ways that we would deeply appreciate.

First, we are always honored to accept financial donations, which can happen here: https://cityofbridgeshighschool.org/donate/or feel free to reach out directly to randy@cityofbridgeshighschool.org. City of Bridges is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, so all donations are tax-deductible. 

Second, one of the many wonderful aspects of our space are the substantial book shelves (see below)

We believe in the power of books and the written word and we would love to fill these shelves with engaging fiction, illuminating non-fiction, inspiring poetry, mesmerizing art and every other type of book that belongs in a high school that believes in learning with compassion and purpose. If you have some books to donate and are here in Pittsburgh, we are happy to arrange to pick them up. If you are elsewhere, let us know and we can figure out the best way to get them to from your shelves to ours.

Third, a school should be a welcoming and comfortable place. We are looking for some couches or other flexible seating for our common area and gathering space. If you have any furniture pieces to donate that would help City of Bridges feel like a home, please let us know.

Stay tuned for dates for upcoming design meetings, open houses, and workshops in the new year!

Thank you for your support and belief in City of Bridges.

Be Well,

COBHS

The Bridge 2.13

The Bridge 2.13-The Application Issue

 

Hello!

 

Today is the day that we open application for the pioneering group of young people who will be bringing City of Bridges to life. The application is a way for us to get to learn more about you, and after the application is received, we will schedule a time to talk so that we can get to know each other better.

 

We will also have exciting news about our location soon and will be scheduling open houses and events in the space in the coming months!

 

City of Bridges is a school built on the recognition that if we want a more personalized, just and joyful future our institutions, especially our schools, need to embody that future. We look forward to working with the young people and their families who will help to build this school to create that future.

 

Thank you and Be Well,

 

Randy