Monthly Archives: November 2017

Wyldwood Stories: We have liftoff!

More than 100 guests joined us for the Nov. 20th launch of Wyldwood Stories: BB Speaks Up, the first in the series of free video games we’re developing in partnership with Simcoach Games to help kids learn soft skills.

“It was a wonderful turnout and we couldn’t be happier with the community response,” said Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak. “It’s tremendously important for us to give kids opportunities and practice to build soft skills and everyone who who attended the launch understands that.”

Attendees represented the spectrum of education stakeholders, including teachers and administrators from K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, employers from business and industry, intermediate units, trade unions, community organizations and government.

Students were our stars at the launch. Kids from Clairton and South Allegheny school districts demonstrated BB Speaks Up and another game called Future Road Builders that the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP) launched to help kids explore careers in highway construction.

CAWP and Simcoach Games, our partner in creating the Wyldwood series, co-hosted the event with us.

Students said they loved BB Speaks Up, not just because they like games, but also because the story presents situations they might really encounter in school. As the story progresses, players make choices about what characters should say or do in different situations. As they play more rounds, they see how their choices affect the outcomes and their social standing. One 7th grader beamed that it took him only a couple to climb from a four to a seven.

BB Speaks Up is designed to teach the interpersonal and intra-personal skills needed for advocacy, including communications and problem solving. Research shows these social and emotional skills are as important to future success as academic proficiency and surveys suggest employers place them on par with technical competencies.

Educators in attendance said video games can be a powerful tool for teaching them. “They get immediate feedback,” said one. “There’s lots of motivation built in.”

Teachers saw the game as a great springboard for activities—from writing to role-playing—to help kids further explore and reinforce the skills.

For kids who want to play the game  or adults who want to use it with kids, BB Speaks Up can be downloaded from iTunes and the Google Play Store. Those who want to play online will find the game under the Resources tab on our website.




CCK’s apprenticeship training center explorations open possible post-secondary paths

Before visiting two trade apprenticeship training centers in November, a young woman from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School told one of her teachers she didn’t know anything about the trades. But by the time she left, she was convinced that she might just have found a career path.

“Hearing this is what makes these trips so worthwhile,” said Nikki Schmidlein, the teacher who accompanied the Allderdice students on visits that our College & Career Knowledge (CCK) program organized in partnership with Sheet Metal Workers Local 12 in Harmarville and Boilermakers Local 154 in Pittsburgh.

“In a society where going to college is made to be so important, it is crucial to understand that not all students will go to college,” Schmidlein added. “These visits open our students’ eyes to the different possibilities around them.”

Hosts told students that they needn’t take out loans for apprenticeship training. The programs cost nothing and pay apprentice-level wages, which increase throughout training. Most programs take five years and some offer college credits or the chance to earn associate’s degrees. All lead to middle and upper-middle income jobs.