Podcast Episode 2: Place-Based Learning

Transcript for Podcast Episode 2: Place-Based Learning

Larry Berger: Welcome to the Readiness Institute at Penn State podcast. This is Larry Berger at the studios of SLB Radio Productions in Pittsburgh with Justin Aglio and Emma Hance. Justin is senior director of the Readiness Institute at Penn State, and Emma is the institute’s program manager. Welcome, and can you tell us more about the Readiness Institute?

Justin Aglio: Yes, thank you, Larry. The Readiness Institute at Penn State is a Penn State outreach initiative, and our mission is to enable education, industry, and community partners to coordinate, coordinate, collaborate, and create experiences for learners to achieve community and future readiness.

Larry Berger: In a few minutes, you’ll hear from teens reflecting on Readiness Institute programs and their goals and dreams for the future. First, let’s focus on one of the Readiness Institute’s core components, namely, place-based learning.

Emma Hance: Place-based learning is an approach to education that really focuses on student immersion, whether that’s immersion in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities or experiences. And then, using these experiences to drive student learning and exploration.

Larry Berger: And can you give some examples of what that might look like to help break it down?

Justin Aglio: Yeah, we came up with a great example in one of our programs when learners were able to attend a really futuristic company right here based in Pittsburgh, and they realize it’s not so much the technical skills they had to learn, but also all the other jobs that came along in that company, like public relations, marketing, even a lawyer through that company, so it takes a whole team to really function and to thrive in futuristic jobs based here in Pittsburgh.

Larry Berger: So, when you see the place as part of a Readiness Institute program, you actually see deeper than how the job might appear once you immerse yourself in that situation.

Emma Hance: Yeah, there’s a lot of companies in the area, a lot of organizations where you hear the name, you know what the name means. You have this idea of what the name means, and there’s so much more behind the scenes that, unless you’re actually there in person, you don’t really see all of those hidden components. It can be hard for students to figure out where they might fit in that organization, but when they’re actually able to be there and meet with people from the organization, they start to see how their skills could be suited to a future in that organization, that career, etc.

Larry Berger: So, this helps to solve the problem, how do you know what you don’t know until you actually start to learn it by going to a place, interacting with people and observing? Oh, this organization requires accountants, it requires lawyers, it requires people who are good with their hands, things you might never imagine based on the one job that might have gotten you interested in that particular company.

Justin Aglio: And one of the biggest takeaways from this are when the learners get to hear the people that work there and their personal and professional pathway to see how they got their job in an organization to know that it’s not an A through Z pathway. There’s many detours along the pathway. The learners take away that what I’m doing right now is part of my life, but there’s many different ways to get where I need to get to my own personal pathway as well.

Larry Berger: Now, as we talk about place-based learning, it’s a big subject. There’s a lot going on. Are there some tips that you can provide that will help people keep a place-based focus when they look at career opportunities or exploration?

Emma Hance: To just approach everything with an open mind, you never know where you might find a good fit. And then, when you’re there, really try to seek out those opportunities to connect with people, one on one. There may be something that an individual can express about their experience or their pathway that really resonates with you, because when you join a company or an organization, you’re really becoming part of a community, and so you’re trying to figure out where you would fit within that.

Justin Aglio: So, when you think about place-based learning, connect with the people in that organization, because the people are the ones that you’re going to learn from. And so, if you’re looking at a place, don’t be so caught up on the name on the wall, but the names inside the walls that count.

Larry Berger: It’s so important I would think that, with information so accessible via the Internet, especially, you can learn that way. But, if you’re actually visiting the place, that’s when you can talk to the people in real time and understand more of what the job, the industry, and customers, how it all comes together in ways that you can’t do in a vacuum. You need to do it in the presence of other people.

Emma Hance: I think another part that’s really important is you might go in with an idea of a career that you want to do, and if you talk to someone who’s in that career and you realize, “you know what, that’s probably not a good fit for me”, it’s good to know that ahead of time, as opposed to starting in that career, investing all of that time to get those certifications that you need. Place-based learning can be a great opportunity to not only help you figure out what you do want to do, but to help you figure out what you don’t want to do.

Larry Berger: Place-based learning ends up being a very core fundamental of finding your best future as you speak with people to learn about opportunities.

Emma Hance: Yeah, and at the Readiness Institute, we are big proponents of incorporating learner voice into every step of the equation. When learners are able to reflect on and clearly articulate the lessons that they’ve learned, you know that the experience was successful and impactful. On that note, let’s hear from a few of our Readiness Institute learners.

Labeena: My name is Labeena. The field trips I found interesting were a lot of the companies that we visited, like Inventionland and Argo AI. They really made me think about what type of environment I wanted to work in the future.

Christian: I am Christian. The best part for me was hearing adults talk about how they got to
where they are today. This lady at the science center who was our tour guide, she was telling us that she had, like, 30 different jobs and that she always thought that she was going to be a doctor. You just never know. My takeaway from that is you have to take life day by day. You don’t have to be set on one path.

Fatuma: My name is Fatuma. When I went to the Northwest Bank in Bellevue, I didn’t realize that there was a stigma against banks. When you saw the workers over there, different speakers come in, I noticed that they were just normal people. They didn’t seem like the cold-hearted people that I thought they were going to be.

Molly: I’m Molly. My favorite part of participating in this was seeing careers that I never thought I was capable of doing and meeting people in those fields. I’ve always liked space, but I’ve never been interested because it’s not something I’m good at. But there are a lot of things like space writing and space lawyers and just kind of being able to work for a space company but not having to be an astronaut.

Noah: My name is Noah. Our field trips to Argo AI and Astrobotic really left an impression on me because it shows that I don’t necessarily have to have a STEM background to enter into the world of tech. For instance, many had interest in business. Many had interest in design, and that really showed me that the world of tech is open to everybody.

Sam: My name is Sam. The Inventionland one, it was like this environment that just makes you really think freely and no ideas are bad ideas. It’s where you can come and take any ideas that you have and they help you build the product. You can get it out there, market yourself. I just think it’s really cool.

Tatiana: My name is Tatiana. The man from Pittsburgh Career Institute, I like what he shared with us and the different types of programs that they offer. As far as, like the respiratory nursing, I think that might be something that I’m interested in. I like how he explained it.

Zion: I’m Zion. My favorite part of the internship was going to Astrobotic. I know what I’m interested in now. I thought I wanted to be a vet, but space is actually a lot cooler.

Alex: Hello, my name is Alex. On one off site field trip, I went to Argo AI, a self driving car company, and that was the first really big company I had ever seen or ever, like, had been in the building of and it impressed me so much. Talking with the staff, you could tell they were just normal people, just like everybody else. I could be a part of a company like Argo AI. I could be working with a team that makes self driving cars in the city of Pittsburgh.

Isabella: I’m Isabella. I remember visiting the science center with everybody and just looking at the amazing view. And I really thought to myself, this is a really incredible experience. Everybody was telling us not very common stories. Everybody takes a different path, and there are so many stepping stones on that path and you change your mind, and you’re allowed to change your mind. And I don’t think that message really comes across when you’re in high school, it’s very much just stick to one thing, and that’s what you have to do, but I learned here that you can change your mind because you are a human being and you’re constantly changing.

Larry Berger: Justin Aglio and Emma Hance, thank you so much for being with us today for the Readiness Institute at Penn State Podcast. Emma, how can people learn more about program activities?

Emma Hance: Yeah, if you’re interested in learning more about the Readiness Institute programs, including our summer program and speaker series, among others, check out the Readiness Institute website at readinessinstitute.psu.edu. Or you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @riatpennstate.