Urban Planning & Building Resiliency at Sewickley Academy

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On May 6, Sewickley Academy’s Grade 9 social studies classes took place in the city of Pittsburgh. Lesson plans included Pittsburgh’s Comprehensive Five-Year Plan at PlanPGH, sustainable technology at Phipps Conservatory’s new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, second-hand interviews with Afghan refugees recorded by Conflict Kitchen, and a Tesla Coil.

Thanks to the support of Sewickley Academy’s parent association, Grade 9 Human Geography students participated in an “Amazing Race” experience, where teams of students travelled to four different places in Pittsburgh that connect to their study of urban environments. Accompanied by faculty chaperones, the student groups completed challenges at their various stops, vying for the title of top Human Geography class of the day.

Students were faced with the challenge of using public transportation to travel among three Pittsburgh urban neighborhoods - downtown, Oakland, and East Liberty. SA students demonstrated resiliency and adaptability as busses were sometimes overcrowded, missed, or even passed by stops where students waited.

At Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, students learned about Plan Pittsburgh, the city’s comprehensive plan to develop a framework for decision-making about Pittsburgh’s future and enhancing quality of life through cultural and historic preservation, transportation, public art, and city infrastructure. Students learned about passive-energy design at Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a building which generates more electricity than it uses and recycles all of the conservatory’s water. At Conflict Kitchen, which only serves food from countries that the United States is in conflict with, students enjoyed Afghan cuisine and discussed the impact of war and political instability on Afghan refugees, some of whom are still in Afghanistan and others who are displaced in other nations. During their visit to TechShop, students experimented with low current electricity using a Tesla Coil and got a sense of the local entrepreneurial spirit in Pittsburgh, as Tech Shop is a space where many local entrepreneurs operating their small businesses.

In the remaining weeks of school, students will apply what they learned as they research, create, and present city design plans for a future, sustainable version of Istanbul, Turkey; Karachi, Pakistan; Cape Town, South Africa; Mexico City, Mexico; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This post was written by Michael-Ann Cerniglia, History Teacher at Sewickley Academy.

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