By Kristine Sorensen

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Did you ever think about the way high school is taught? It hasn’t changed in a century, while so much is changing all around us. Why is algebra always taught in ninth grade, or world history in 10th grade?

And why are science, English and history separate subjects anyway?

Ted Dintersmith explores this in his documentary and book titled, “Most Likely to Succeed,” and his new book, “What School Could Be.” The nationally-renowned education visionary was in Pittsburgh to talk with parents and educators about re-thinking how we teach our kids. The schools he envisions are so different from what we’re used to that you may not even recognize them, the changes are already happening at some schools in our region.

ted dintersmith teacher students Kidsburgh: How The Pittsburgh Region Is Remaking Learning

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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Some schools are getting rid of the seven periods and trying new ways of learning, like project-based learning, culminating in a final project for parents and professionals to see.

Dintersmith explains why the traditional model doesn’t work for the 21st century.

“They’re spending a lot of time trying to memorize stuff they don’t care about, probably won’t retain, and when they ask the question, ‘Will I ever use it in real life?’, if we’re honest, ‘no.'”

Dintersmith toured Avonworth Middle and High Schools, where they’re going away from the traditional school model. They’re taking down walls and building bigger classrooms with several teachers, incorporating several subjects together.

Tom Ralston, superintendent at Avonworth School District, said, “Instead of having classes segmented – math, English, social studies separate — we are integrating them together.”

Students created art in the hallways in a project with local museums. They’re making videos to be used for school announcements and for Memorial Day, interviewing veterans and using drones. In fact, seventh grade is primarily project-based learning with integetrated classes.

But the creativity and student initiative starts in elementary school. A group of girls in an after-school club created a business selling t-shirts. The girls are also inventing ways to improve their productivity and are giving the proceeds to a charity they chose. It’s real-life learning.

“You collaborate with someone else, communicate with other people, advocate for things and have problems to solve,” Ralston says of these real-life learning experiences.

Older students run a business in the school — a coffee shop they designed.

Pittsburgh’s “Remake Learning” non-profit supports these non-traditional schools as they forge the way for more schools to try new things.

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Dintersmith says, “You’ve got people coming from all over the world to see what you’re doing. You’re leading the way.”

You can see and learn more about ways Pittsburgh is “remaking learning” at Remake Learning Days, May 17-25, happening at hundreds of events all over our region.