Yesterday, The Sprout Fund convened local leaders and national partners to launch Pittsburgh City of Learning, a new initiative to keep children and youth active and engaged in learning when school lets out this summer.

With Sprout support, 20 organizations will offer academic and hands-on learning opportunities to 3,000 young people this summer including interactive activities happening in parks, libraries, schools, museums, community centers, as well as two no-cost summer enrichment programs offered through Pittsburgh Public Schools Summer Dreamers Academy. Partners in the initiative include the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Neighborhood Learning Alliance, the Consortium for Public Education, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the World Affairs Council, and other youth-serving organizations.

Participating programs will offer youth the opportunity to earn digital badges, a new way for students to display the skills and competencies they develop through activities and achievements to teachers, college admissions officers or future employers. Like a badge earned in scouting, a digital badge recognizes and celebrates mastery of a new skill — but with a 21st century twist. Digital badges contain layers of in-depth information about the badge holder’s skills and competencies. A few clicks of the mouse can show where the learning took place, what skills and knowledge were acquired, examples of creative work, and more.

Pittsburgh City of Learning kicked off on Tuesday, June 10th with a public launch event on the campus of Carlow University. The event convened local leaders including Dr. Curtiss Porter, Chief Education & Neighborhood Reinvestment Officer for Mayor Bill Peduto, along with national partners, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Badge Alliance.

“By initiating “badging” as an effective learning tool, Pittsburgh will be at the forefront of learning among all American cities, and in all sectors of skills development. Badging permits learning that is personalized to individual, academic and corporate interests. These methods are clearly relevant to 21st century demands in learning, entrepreneurialism and employment. We will illustrate the tools to meet those demands,” said Dr. Porter. “In Pittsburgh, youth will have exciting opportunities to discover and develop creative, intellectual, and practical skills to meet the marketplace. These processes will place us in front as a city and region, in our nation.” he concluded.

Pittsburgh City of Learning is part of the nationwide Cities of Learning movement to leverage community and government resources to create new links between in-school and out-of-school learning throughout the summer and beyond.

Chicago launched the Cities of Learning movement in 2013 with a successful summer program that networked more than 100 organizations and served more the 100,000 students. The Chicago City of Learning now continues year-round. This year, in addition to Pittsburgh, the Cities of Learning movement will expand to Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. More cities plan to join in 2015.

Pittsburgh City of Learning will offer many new and creative learning opportunities for youth, including several free and open enrollment programs. Programming begins the week of June 16th. Visit pghcityoflearning.org to start exploring Pittsburgh City of Learning!