Pittsburgh Students Targeting Social Ills

Article excerpt

As Winchester Thurston students constructed the skeleton of a tunnel greenhouse, they were connecting the dots of how sustainable food sources can combat urban poverty.

"You learn a lot from experience that you don't really learn in the classroom or from what someone tells you or from statistics," said Rogan Grant, 18, a senior who helped build the greenhouse on Winchester Thurston's campus in Hampton. "You learn a lot more about the world this way."

The project is connected to the urban research and design social studies course introduced this year as part of the Shadyside private school's City as Our Campus program. The curriculum incorporates the region's neighborhoods and cultural and academic communities with educational trips to local venues.

Other local schools have incorporated applied learning to social studies courses to help students make the connection between the past and present and abstract concepts such as good citizenship. It's part of a national trend of developing hands-on or problem- based learning opportunities in all subjects, said Dave Peloff, program director for emerging technology at Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology and Education.

"Rather than reading about laws and public policy, you can take a fictional natural disaster and say 'what is the role of government economically and in terms of helping their citizens? …