In an effort to provide more opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary, real-world learning experiences beyond campus, Shady Side Academy Senior School piloted two three-week immersive courses from June 12-30, 2023. Each course was team-taught by faculty members from different disciplines and composed of off-campus learning experiences that examined a single topic in great depth at an accelerated, rigorous pace.
In the course Pittsburgh – A City of Champions, students investigated the economics and culture of Pittsburgh sports teams and franchises, including the history of the teams and how our city and culture profit from them. The course was team-taught by two faculty sports enthusiasts, English teacher Jeff Miller and world languages teacher Karen Serdy, who connected students with experts from professional and college sports organizations and led field trips to numerous sports facilities and museums. Eleven students enrolled in the course: rising juniors Ryan Babeo and Gio Chieffa, rising sophomores Tatum Adams and Mateo Maiz, and rising freshmen PK Amos-Abanyie, Alex Bi, Luke Golden, Trevor Paglia, Ari Roth, Simon Roth and Charlie Wanless.
Highlights of the three-week course included:
- Tours of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center, Carnegie Science Center Sports Works and The Clemente Museum
- Two in-class guest speakers from Major League Baseball: SSA alum and parent Joyce Fu '99 (strategy and development) and alum Tim Giel '09 (director of consumer analytics)
- A tour and visit to the field of PNC Park and meetings with Pirates executives John Bray '11 (manager of corporate and premium partnership sales) Drew Singer '08 (associate general counsel)
- A tour of Acrisure Stadium and the Steelers Hall of Honor Museum with Jim Wexell, author of several Steelers books, and a Zoom meeting with Dan Rooney '08, Steelers director of business development strategy
- A visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio
- A tour of the University of Pittsburgh football facility at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex with E.J. Borghetti, executive associate AD for communications, and the Panthers' basketball facilities at the Petersen Events Center with SSA parent and head men's basketball coach Jeff Capel
- Watching the videos Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues, 50 Years of the Pittsburgh Penguins, The Terrible Towel, and videos about Roberto Clemente
- Reading two books, keeping a daily journal, making four group posters and creating four presentations each; presentation topics included franchise ownership, outreach programs, top players, playing venues, the Rooney Rule, other professional sports teams in Pittsburgh, and sayings and symbols
The summer pilot courses were developed as part of a longer-term effort to research and design immersive, interdisciplinary real-world learning experiences at the Senior School, which is being funded by a $200,000 innovation grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation. Senior School faculty and administration have spent the past two years investigating such learning opportunities, researching the teaching and learning foundations that inspire them and visiting schools across the country that have reshaped their curriculum and calendar to give students these opportunities. The summer pilot courses were offered at no cost to students for a general elective credit.
"We expect these pilot initiatives will help the school to learn and grow, and that they will inspire a new generation of integrated learning experiences empowering students to engage and connect with the world around them," said President Bart Griffith '93.