Teens visit startups that are part of the Pittsburgh innovation economy, hearing directly from technologists and designers about what’s involved in bringing an idea to the marketplace. In doing so, they begin to envision their future careers.

High school students get to work directly with staff at local museums—The Carnegie Museum of Art or the Mattress Factory—to design, create, curate, and manage exhibition spaces on their high school campus.

These are just a few of the new programs for teens in and around Pittsburgh. They’re part of the Pittsburgh Hive Learning Network, a coordinated effort to create a seamless set of learning opportunities for kids across the region.

This week, The Sprout Fund announced it had awarded Hive funding to these projects, the first such funding since launching the Hive Learning Network in Pittsburgh earlier this year. The network was made possible by the MacArthur Foundation, which recognized that the Pittsburgh region is primed to support a unique learning ecosystem for kids of all ages.

“The community really put its most creative ideas forward for this opportunity,” said Mac Howison, program officer for Catalytic Funding at The Sprout Fund. “We were impressed by how many organizations, large and small, took it upon themselves to reach out and collaborate with others to create new Connected Learning experiences.”

Like existing Hive Learning Networks in New York and Chicago, the Pittsburgh Hive Network aims to spur new connected learning projects and programs for tweens, teens, and young adults. For example:

  • STARTup SOMETHING, a project of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, will lead teens in a series of visits to local, technology-based start-up companies. The program is designed to teach teens about resilience and entrepreneurship and to expose them to emerging ideas and career paths in the technology sector. They’ll visit local companies and incubators like iTwixie, Thread International, and Idea Foundry, where they’ll meet with mentors.
  • At the Avonworth Pittsburgh Galleries Project students will manage exhibition spaces on the Avonworth High School campus. Partners from across the city’s cultural map, including the Pittsburgh Glass Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Toonseum, and the Mattress Factory, will serve as mentors for students throughout the school year, as they work to curate the spaces at Avonworth to reflect the characteristics and mediums of the partnering museums.
  • At Power Up Homewood, a project of The Andy Warhol Museum, 8th and 9th grade girls from Westinghouse High School will visit the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, a former skating rink and bus and trolley station that’s now an event space and important cultural center for the neighborhood. The students will use the visit as a jumping off point in Homewood to explore their neighborhood—its history, present-day condition, assets, and challenges—and to consider how this urban environment has changed over time. Students will respond using silk-screening, graphic design, GPS data collection, and GIS mapping. Their finished projects will be exhibited at partnering institutions, including the Trolley Station Oral History Center and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, as well as on the Warhol’s website.

Programs like these are part of a new vision to expand the boundaries of learning beyond a single institution—the school—to involve all sectors of the community, including museums, libraries, afterschool programs, and community centers.

The network also aims to prepare tweens, teens, and young adults for college, the workforce, and civic participation. More information on Hive opportunities is available here.