Marti Rae Louw is on the research faculty at University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE).
It’s been said that Pittsburgh has everything larger cities do – only more accessible. This goes for more than our hilly ethnic neighborhoods, diverse shopping districts and hubs for nightlife – it describes the rich set of learning experiences the city has to offer as well. There are plenty of unique learning experiences to be had but these opportunities could definitely benefit from being more strongly connected for youth in our area. Marti Louw hopes to do just that.
Marti first made a splash in the Pittsburgh learning scene with “How People Make Things” Based on the Fred Rogers series of videos with the same name, the traveling exhibit for The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh gives children a hands-on understanding of manufacturing and how everyday objects are made. Although the exhibition has traveled the nation, its home in Pittsburgh makes perfect sense given our city’s history.
Marti explains, “One really rewarding aspect of that project was that it celebrated manufacturing, and Pittsburgh’s long-standing making tradition. We saw lots of grandparents come to the museum and find ways to talk about the trades, products and the factory work they or their families had been involved with. So that locally-rooted aspect of the exhibition that celebrates manufacturing I think was a really appealing and important feature of that project.”
Marti continues to work in partnerships to conceptualize and develop media-rich learning engagements and create community connections through her work at UPCLOSE – the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments.
With a recent grant from the NSF’s Informal Science Education program, she’s leading an effort with CMU’s Create Lab and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to develop three demonstration projects that use gigapixel image technology to create participatory kinds of science learning experiences with children and people of all ages in galleries, public spaces and online. “Our approach,” says Marti, “centers on social design framework where the design of learning experience focuses not on the child as an individual, but rather as an active participant in a socio-cultural context – be that a family or friend group or some other kind of affinity connection.”
Through her work, Marti hopes to capture and connect the diverse resources of the Pittsburgh region, to building a stronger and more inclusive learning ecology which encourages youth to find new interests and develop passions. “My hope,” says Marti, “is that we help kids find pathways to become more intentional actors in their lives and their communities.” With so many dedicated adults like Marti working hard toward the same goal, there’s no doubt that each day brings us closer to turning this hope into a reality.