Written by Margaret J. Krauss, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

On Friday, November 21st the Sprout Fund hosted the Pittsburgh Learning Pathways Summit, a town hall meeting where teachers, students, mentors, and others gathered to explore ways to connect in-school and out-of-school learning experiences and create new pathways to opportunity for students in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Learning pathways are sort of like ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books, except that instead of deciding which chapter to jump to next, students move along a learning pathway choosing from a variety of educational experiences that appeal to their interests and enable them to acquire skills and competencies that lead to future academic and career opportunities.

The creation of such a system of learning pathways in Pittsburgh would allow school teachers and out-of-school educators to help students navigate an enriched educational landscape brimming with personalized learning opportunities, turning the city into a living campus for learning.

More than 400 teachers, artists, students and learning experts gathered at the Pittsburgh Learning Pathways Summit to exchange ideas and help design new pathways that make best use of the rich educational resources Pittsburgh has to offer, both in school and out. Below you can listen to attendees’ thoughts on learning pathways and what it could mean for the city.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Emmai Alaquiva, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Emmai Alaquiva is the founder and executive director of Hip Hop on L.O.C.K., an arts and mentoring organization that uses music to connect children to real-world learning. He says education has to be flexible and personal.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Maggie Negrete, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Maggie Negrete, a teaching artist for MGR Youth Empowerment, emphasizes the important role mentors play in students’ lives. She says establishing mentorship results too often from chance encounters. Instead of trusting in serendipity, she hopes learning pathways can more effectively connect students to community talent.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Jordan Lippman, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Jordan Lippman struggled with a learning disability throughout his education. Now a psychologist and learning expert, he attributes his academic success to a self-directed high school project that helped shift his education paradigm. He says it is crucial to help students tap into their own agency.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Jamillia Kamara, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Jamillia Kamara, the Training and Learning Manager for Public Allies Pittsburgh and a former classroom teacher, says learning pathways help validate intangible but crucial skills and strengths. In addition, an interconnected system of learning enables teachers to assist students in creating their own visions of success.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Dr. Michael Loughead, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Dr. Michael Loughead is the assistant superintendent for South Fayette School District. By challenging students to find solutions for real-world problems, he says a new educational ecosystem will dramatically increase engagement and has the potential to transform the city.

Kristi Jan Hoover

Taiji Nelson, Photography by Kristi Jan Hoover

Taiji Nelson is familiar with ecosystems. As an environmental educator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Nelson says he’s less concerned with the jobs that his students may choose to pursue and more interested in creating people who see themselves as part of a larger community.

Thanks again to everyone who participated at the Pittsburgh Learning Pathways Summit! We collected so many great stories and personal reflections on learning and life. Stay tuned as the story continues on remakelearning.org.

If you couldn’t make it to the Summit, catch up with the conversation via Storify!