About 12 miles south of downtown Pittsburgh, young students examine insect larva among the remains of a decomposing log, wade through a creek as they search for salamanders, and test water percolation in forest soils. At The Outdoor Classroom, situated in a 475-acre park, students participate in outdoor field trips where they gain opportunities to connect with the natural world—a new experience for many of these preschoolers and third- to seventh-grade students. The field-trip curricula, such as introductions to ecosystems or examinations of relationships in natural communities, are designed to reinforce the national curricula modules followed by many school districts. In addition to field-trip opportunities, The Outdoor Classroom also sponsors summer day camps and community education programs about topics that reinforce the connection between people and southwestern Pennsylvania's environment, such as backyard gardening.
Nearly two decades ago, a group of 14 religious communities founded Sisters Place, Inc. to provide housing and support services to single-parent families. To ensure the families settled into a larger community, the organization purchased 16 apartments in the 450-unit Century Townhomes complex. Today, Sisters Place works to empower 32 families to escape the cycle of poverty by completing education and securing employment. After receiving a recommendation from a social-service agency, families who have been victims of abuse, lived with a mental illness, or struggled with addiction can move into housing and take part in support programs. Single parents with physical or mental disabilities or substance-abuse issues can live in permanent housing, whereas young parents between the ages of 18 and 35 can live in rent-assisted housing for up to two years. While in the housing, families benefit from support services including childcare, transportation, cultural opportunities, and case management to get them on the path to self-sufficiency.
CSCF’s Learn2Swim Program allows children and their families to wade into a heated pool in medically supervised swimming lessons that keep them active and provide a relaxed social outlet. CSCF ensures that the water stays a warm 84 degrees Fahrenheit during lessons with certified swim instructors, under the supervision of medical professionals. Warm towels, snacks, and drinking water await on dry land. Many families cannot afford swimsuits for their children to participate in the program, so CSCF hopes to provide free suits to remove this barrier to their children's participation.
ASSET draws science class out of textbooks and places it squarely into student hands in the form of educational experiments and a curriculum designed to motivate student interest in the subject. In addition to promoting a deeper interest, hands-on scientific learning employs critical-thinking skills that can foster lifelong learning. ASSET currently works with 150,000 students in 140 Pennsylvania school districts to increase their exposure to science education. However, ASSET is still in need of donations to fund a kit of mentally stimulating science materials for a class of 30 elementary and middle school students in the Pennsylvania school system. Kits contain enough science materials for children to conduct between 9 and 12 weeks of scientific experiments and investigations.
The 42nd annual Mexican War Streets Society House & Garden Tour guides patrons through Victorian-style homes and gardens, raising funds to preserve the historic north-side neighborhood. Paired patrons stroll through the federally designated historic district, taking in late-19th-century architecture, commenting on flowering and waterfalling gardens, and ducking their top hats beneath doorframes. Character-filled homes open up to show their modern renovations and restorations of chandeliers, hardwood floors, fireplaces, and carved trim and crown molding. Guests can direct questions to knowledgeable domicile docents, stop in at an array of refreshment areas and local-art exhibits, and get advice from restoration specialists on their own historic renovation projects, such as repairing the stained glass in an antique doghouse.