Project-based learning (PBL) + Sustainability + Community Partnerships. That’s the formula for the Consortium’s new Student Sustainability Design Challenge (SSDC) that launched in October with 120 students from 15 schools across Western PA gathering at the Energy Innovation Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
The SSDC was developed with this driving question in mind: How might we inspire and empower a new generation of students to take action in their own communities?
So when students arrived at the EIC, they didn’t just sit and listen to lectures about sustainability. Instead, they networked with sustainability professionals from across industries; they used design thinking strategies to explore challenges and opportunities in their own neighborhoods and schools; and they learned about real training pathways that could lead to careers in a wide variety of sustainability fields.
“This is an opportunity for us to provide real-world learning–critical thinking–to our students in ways that they might not necessarily have inside the regular classroom,” said Ashley Biega, an art teacher at Blackhawk School District. “They’re having this very dynamic experience today and, through this partnership, throughout the year.”
Indeed, October 25th marked only the beginning. Students are now back in their classrooms working through the key elements of PBL to research and develop solutions to challenges where they live. As their ideas develop, students will have the opportunity to visit many of the more than 20 businesses, universities, and community organizations that are partnering and supporting the SSDC. Through site visits and expert interactions, students will be able to refine and grow their sustainability solutions, and ultimately present their work when they return to the EIC on March 7th, 2024.
“A lot of the work that I do is project-based learning,” said Courtney Barbiaux, Makerspace Facilitator at Burrell School District. “So to be able for them to participate in some of these activities, and to just give them many opportunities to explore other options that are not in their classrooms–it’s amazing.”