Monthly Archives: March 2017

CCK hosted college and apprenticeship visits in March

Our College & Career Knowledge (CCK) program has had a busy month in March, with visits to Penn State Greater Allegheny and two apprenticeship training centers.

Groups of students from Clairton, McKeesport Area and Steel Valley High Schools spent a half at Penn State Greater Allegheny touring the campus and peppering staff and college students with questions about everything from what to expect on tests to how to get help when you’re finding courses or tests too difficult.

On visits to apprenticeship training centers run by the Bricklayers & Allied Crafts and the Operating Engineers of Western Pennsylvania, students from Lawrence County Career & Technical Center and McKeesport Area, Monessen and Steel Valley high schools tried their hands at laying bricks and running heavy equipment.

At the training centers, students and media learned that a construction boom in southwestern Pennsylvania is expected to dramatically increase demand for apprentices, opening more opportunities for interested students.

Stories in the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review and on WESA discussed a confluence of factors, including Baby Boom retirements, that is causing many of the region’s 16 apprenticeship programs to double or triple the size of their classes over the coming decade.

Photos below capture some scenes from the Operating Engineers and Bricklayers training centers and Penn State Greater Allegheny.

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Students recommend remedies for stormwater runoff 

Teams from Penn Hills and South Fayette school districts presented findings and recommendations last week after ALCOSAN  (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority) tasked them with identifying ways to reduce storm water runoff on the campuses of their respective schools.

They took up the challenge as part of our Student Powered Solutions program, which pairs classrooms with companies or community organizations to create Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences. ALCOSAN’s Scholastic Outreach program provided the consulting assignment when ALCOSAN engineer Julia Spicher backgrounded the students on the reasons the authority needs to promote better storm water management.

The teams devised numerous approaches to the problem after researching options and reviewing them with Nancy Lonnett Roman, a landscape architect with Pashek Associates and David Esposito, an architect with Eckles Architecture & Engineering, who volunteered professional guidance.

Among others, the Penn Hills team came up with the idea of putting a drainage and recovery system at the base of a hillside from which water flows onto their athletic field during storms. They proposed channeling the water to a pump that would recycle it to a school garden.

Among ideas South Fayette’s team recommended was a cap for the residential roof plumbing stack vents that prevent sewer gases from entering homes. They designed and made a cylindrical prototype with open sides for gases to escape and a conical top to keep rainwater from entering the sewage system during storms.

Both district teams also determined that roof gardens would help reduce runoff and conserve energy. They noted that roof gardens can absorb as much as 60% of the water that normally flows off roofs during storms and reduce air conditioning needs when the water evaporates from the planting medium.

Project Based Learning has been gaining advocates in education because it provides opportunities for students to apply classroom lessons. Projects can make abstract concepts more tangible and help motivate kids because they demonstrate the relevance of their academic learning.

Because Project-Based Learning  usually is conducted in teams, the students also have opportunities to build soft skills that they’ll need in the workplace—from communications, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, to organization, planning and presentation. Research shows these skills can be as important to future success as academic achievement.

One Penn Hills student said the ALCOSAN project was an opportunity to “change how we’re learning.” Two teachers involved also said they found the experience changed the way they normally teach and helped them grow as educators.

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Human-centered design principles lay foundation for partnership discussions

Districts involved in the Consortium’s Career Ready initiative convened this week with representatives from business and higher education to develop models for partnerships.

Using human-centered design principles at a March 15 meeting, they worked in groups to flesh out “personas” of students in several age groups and as well as companies and colleges that could partner with schools. The discussions focused on addressing needs that might make partnerships beneficial to each persona.

Career Ready was designed to help schools expand career awareness and preparation opportunities for students. In doing so, it’s also expected to contribute to workforce development, a critical concern for employers facing Baby Boom retirements or skill gaps among applicants.

Community partnerships can support career awareness and preparation in various ways. For example, some might help kids get exposure to different careers, through job-shadowing, site visits, internships or other means. Additionally, they can offer opportunities for hands-on learning or development of soft skills needed in the workplace. Partnerships also can help educators become more familiar with regional employment needs and employer expectations.

The Consortium already has begun creating some models for partnerships through its own programs, including Student Powered Solutions, College & Career Knowledge and The Future Is Mine (TFIM).

Under Career Ready, the goal is to expand partnerships among schools, businesses and post-secondary schools.