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Winchester Thurston creating a national model for urban learning

A unique educational initiative that turns urban communities into creative classroom laboratories, grades K-12, is being pioneered by Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside.

City as Our Campus, a community-based learning initiative, advances student learning while encouraging creative, entrepreneurial thinking and engaged citizenry beyond high school. The program, developed by Winchester Thurston, partners with many of the region's world-class cultural, academic, research and civic organizations and hopes to be a future model for primary and secondary schools nationwide, says Teresa DeFlitch, director of the WT initiative.

DeFlitch moved to Pittsburgh this summer from Washington, D.C., where she was project manager for the National History Education Clearinghouse of George Mason University's Center for History and New Media in Fairfax, Virginia, a major national history project funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. A native of Westmoreland County, she was eager to return to her hometown and take on the City as Our Campus initiative.

More than a field trip, the program is based on "community-based learning," taking students beyond the classroom to enrich their understanding of real world issues like poverty, crime and urban renewal. This week a group of seniors will meet with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman to develop a community project. Pittsburgh is also a lab for first graders studying sustainable architecture.

The program is an ongoing part of the K-12 curriculum and learning progress is tracked to create 21st Century thinkers, says DeFlitch.

"We're designing a framework that we can scale up nationally (and in public city schools)," explains DeFlitch. "It's about making Pittsburgh the center of the conversation. How can schools become the new town square for their communities, bringing in pertinent issues and allowing students to lead these conversations."

City as Our Campus was made possible through a prestigious, three-year, $250,000 Edward E. Ford Foundation Leadership Grant.

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Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Teresa DeFlitch, Winchester Thurston

Image courtesy of Teresa DeFlitch Winchester Thurston

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