Thoughts On Different Learning Environments

Sean Stewart

If there is one thing that has stood out to me during my time juggling the responsibilities of student teaching and working with ACH Clear Pathways, it is that the environment in which children are expected to learn is of the utmost importance. I get to work within two very unique and very different environments. Each of them is conducive to the type of learning that occurs there. 

For this post, I wanted to compare observations I have made about each different environment and reflect on how their differences work to aid the mission they have set out to accomplish. First up: Central Catholic High School.

Located on Fifth Avenue, near Carnegie Mellon’s campus, Central Catholic High School has been providing education to the young men of Pittsburgh since 1927. From 7:45 to 2:40, its halls are filled with the sounds of teenagers and educators alike. I have been student teaching at Central for a little over a month now and have made a few observations in regard to the learning environment that may contribute to the school’s success. First, the use of one to one technology in the classroom provides a multitude of opportunities for teachers to bring learning to new frontiers. Also, the collaboration between teachers demonstrates a commitment to students and a drive to improve in their field. Both of these observations, in addition to the relatively small class size, show me that Central is committed to providing an environment that supports and enriches its students throughout their high school career.

Moving two and a half miles further into the city, ACH Clear Pathways operates within their newly purchased building. It is important to note that Clear Pathways is an after-school program that runs until 6 pm. During this time period, kids of all ages are enriched with additional academic and artistic support. The very first observation one makes when walking in to the building is the welcoming atmosphere. The staff is all extremely friendly and their smaller size means the group is very tight-knit. The walls are almost entirely covered in student work, and the sections that aren’t are full of pictures from field trips and colorful affirmations. The main difference between Clear Pathways and Central is the age demographic. Central definitely skews older, which explains much of their learning environment. However, at Clear Pathways, everything is catered toward younger, more developing minds. The curriculum and support from the staff are all to make sure that the growing minds are supported artistic ways.

Overall, I believe that both learning institutions succeed with what they set out to accomplish. Central provides a comprehensive high school education, and ACH Clear Pathways provides the supplemental education and support of young students. I feel very lucky to be able to be involved in both because the service that they provide is indispensable.

Positivity in Affirmations

By: Nayelle Williams, Secondary English Education

With the chaos and complexities of this world, it is easy to lose focus and become somewhat pessimistic. However, it is essential to maintain a level of optimism and positivity. Daily affirmations enable one to do just that. According to Dr. Kathryn J. Lively, “Affirmations are used to reprogram the subconscious mind, to encourage us to believe certain things about ourselves or about the world and our place within it. They are also used to help us create the reality we want”. By restating affirmations, we are confidently vocalizing our aspirations, dreams and desires.

It may be beneficial to incorporate affirmations into your daily routine. If you are unsure of how to create one, follow these simple rules:

1. Begin the affirmation with “I” or “I am”—affirmations are typically in the first person.

2. Speak your affirmation in the positive rather than negative.

3. Incorporate strong, emotional language in your affirmation to emphasize the point you are making.

4. Write and speak your affirmations in the present tense, as if they are happening.

Example: “I am successful. The words can’t and impossible are not in my vocabulary. I am someone!”

Affirmations are a powerful tool to stimulate self-esteem and positivity. It is important to believe what you are boldly stating. Try reciting your affirmations in the morning to start your day off right.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-relationships/201403/affirmations-the-why-what-how-and-what-if

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International Women's Day

Claire Neiberg

March 8th is International Women’s Day.

With this special day only being a few weeks away. I wanted to produce a project this month that would honor women in STEM; a particularly male dominated field. 

One of my favorite aspects of being on The Quark is getting to work with amazing, passionate women; two of these people being Dr. K. (our advisor) and Meredith (our Editor-in-Chief). I have also interviewed many female students and am always in complete awe of the intricate and impactful work they are doing on campus. 

When promoting a holiday like International Women’s Day, I believe it is important to not discredit the work men do, however, women have faced oppression for centuries, especially in the STEM field (take Rosalind Franklin for example).

Women hold less than fifty percent of science and engineering jobs in the United States, and while we as a country are making significant progress promoting women in STEM, there is a lot more we could do to pay tribute to these women

I also fully admit that I am not the most educated person to speak on this topic because I have not seriously considered into going into the STEM field and will never face the controversies that I know some of these women will. However, I do see it as part of my responsibility to honor women in STEM through my work on The D.U. Quark.

After being in cohorts with Meredith, I am running a contest for my first big project of the semester. As the Promotions Manager, I believe contests are a really great way to spark student involvement, but this one is especially important because it is for International Women’s Day. Both of us had the goal to bring attention to this day, as it goes along with one of our other projects (The Big Read). 

Draft of promotional poster I designed

Over the next week or so, I am planning to work on this contest in more detail alongside Meredith, but overall, this is an exciting start to this internship!

A Liberal Arts Education and Personal Voice

“If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

-Sir Isaac Newton

 “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

-T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Anyone seeking a post-secondary education can tell you of the frustration of being caught in a particularly maddening contradiction of academic culture.

Despite receiving support and encouragement from professional mentors to establish themselves as free-thinking individuals in the world, students are surrounded by constant reminders of infamous figures who have achieved success and titanic status within their fields. I chose to begin this post with some well-remembered words from Sir Isaac Netwon and T.S. Eliot because their ideas about education and legacy seem to complicate this phenomenon even further. Newton’s quotation (from a letter to a contemporary, Robert Hooke) evokes humility and reverence, while Eliot dismisses the equivalent of Newton’s “giants,” arguing that a new era demands new thought. Next to each other, these ideas seem completely opposite. To forge ahead, as Eliot charges, is our only option if we are to truly learn or achieve anything of value, but to do so without the knowledge and wisdom gleaned from history seems unthinkably narcissistic. A liberal arts education, then, is one way of bridging earnest innovation with past brilliance.

In the past few weeks, my work as the Gumberg Library Intern has allowed me to learn more about certain significant cultural figures who either were born or lived in Pittsburgh. Spending time researching some of the roots of Pittsburgh culture has been enlightening, educational, and enriching!

I helped Mr. Bergfelt prepare the temporary Teenie Harris exhibit on the fourth floor of the library in preparation for the February 6th event. Charlene Foggie-Barnett, Teenie Harris Archive Specialist at the Carnegie Museum of Art, was the guest speaker. She spoke about the life and work of Teenie Harris, as well as her relationship with him as a subject of his photography. Another of my projects this week involved updating the “Pittsburgh Poets” research guide. I added profiles to the guide for three additional poets: Cameron Barnett, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Jason Irwin.

This common theme of Pittsburgh culture was unintentional, yet it caused me to think more deeply about the people and topics that I have been drawn to throughout my undergrad education. In many ways, my courses have laid the groundwork for my career path. Already, I am noticing how great authors, thinkers, and leaders that I have studied are beginning to inform my work with the Gumberg Library. I am excited for all there is left to learn as I continue my work and develop my voice as a creative individual in the professional world.


Eliot, T.S. T.S. Eliot: The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Print.

Newton, Isaac, and Robert Hooke. Isaac Newton Letter to Robert Hooke, 1675. Historical Society of Pennsylvania Digital Library. Web. (https://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/objects/9792)

A Cultured Classroom

By: Nayelle Williams, Secondary English Education Major

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Teachers are world-changers who influence the lives of students daily. As an aspiring educator, I am cognizant that I hold the future in my classroom. Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would play school with stuffed animals or imaginary friends, teaching them the lessons I learned in school that day. Fortunately, I had some excellent teachers who inspired me to follow my passion.

I wanted to become an educator because of the lack of diversity in the profession. Throughout my scholastic career, I noticed there were not many teachers who looked like me, who could identify with my experience as a Black, female in this society. The classroom and student population is becoming more diverse; however, the teaching demographic is not representative of this trend. Essentially, I went into the profession to be the change I want to see in education. I want to be the Black teacher that was absent in my educational journey.

Throughout my time at Duquesne, I have retained a plethora of information that is beneficial to my career and overall wellbeing. I have been afforded the opportunity to observe different types of schools and teachers. Most recently, I started an internship through ACH Clear Pathways, which is an after-school program that offers classes pertaining to the arts. Some examples of their programming initiatives are dance, theater, painting, fashion design, poetry, and music. The mission of ACH Clear Pathways is to “nurture the hearts of the arts”. Throughout my time there, I have seen some concepts and ideas from my education courses—like culturally relevant pedagogy—in practice. The teaching-artists at ACH ensure that their projects are culturally responsive. For instance, one of the teaching artists did a unit on African culture. She had students design and make clothes that resemble African garments and accessories. In this case, students were learning about different cultures and participating in a hands-on, interactive activity. This exposure has taught me the importance of teaching beyond the curriculum. Culture must be integrated into the classroom.

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The Work Behind the Research Guide

Throughout the course of just a few short weeks at my internship, I have learned invaluable lessons about the research that informs not only my work for Gumberg Library, but also my education as a Liberal Arts student.

As the Gumberg Library Intern, my main job is to build research guides to be published on the Gumberg Library website. For the creation of each research guide (which is essentially a web page), there is a general process to be followed. My supervisor, Theodore Bergfelt, humanities librarian, first provides me with a topic of potential interest to students and faculty of the university. So far, I have worked with the great thinkers Benedict de Spinoza and Martin Heidegger, though the research guides I complete will cover more than just philosophy-related topics and people. After selecting a topic, Mr. Bergfelt provides me with a list of introductory articles, reference works, primary sources, selected books, databases, catalog searches, and maybe a couple of media elements (a list that I will eventually be able to generate on my own) to include in the research guide.

It takes me a long time to integrate the factual materials, links, and resources into the research guide, because I must maintain the style that marks all of Gumberg’s other research guides. I take care with the design of the page, paying attention to things like font, color, size, continuity, order, readability, framing, and mobile view, to name just some elements. LibGuides, the platform that Gumberg Library uses, is a digital content management service that allows me to have detailed control over the layout without needing extensive knowledge of coding.

One of the more time-consuming aspects of building a research guide involves setting up lists of links that connect students to specific searches within the library’s catalog of print materials. Mr. Bergfelt has developed such shortcuts on many of his research guides, a strategy that works towards his goal of making resources optimally available and accessible to those who are not experts at academic research. By making a list of topics that a student studying Spinoza might need, for example, we are at best linking them directly to sources that they need, and at least giving them a nice shove in the right direction (as well as hinting at how they might proceed). When I create these lists, I do all of the search engine manipulation necessary to get an appropriate set of results. When the student clicks the link, the catalog runs the search and the student simply has to browse the now manageable amount of potential resources.

Though it has been only two weeks, I am already learning the strategies of academic research, the shortcuts and tricks of effective searching, and most importantly, how to successfully navigate complex platforms such as LibGuides and the Gumberg Library catalog.

A Scientific Discovery!

Although writing can be the most powerful tool for means of expression, I have always struggled with trying to find my voice as writer. As much as I enjoy literature and reading novels, I struggled with cultivating my own text. When I decided I wanted to pursue a career in science I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to take as many English writing courses. To my dismay, Duquesne implements UCOR writing classes that serve as prerequisites regardless of your major. I learned quickly that it would be inevitable that I write monstrous 10-page papers on certain subjects for final projects. Now as a senior, I have had the pleasure of doing this not only once but 3 times. The pivotal point in which my perspective of writing changed was when I took Scientific Writing with Dr. Klucevsek. That class changed my entire outlook on contextual writing as a scientist. I established a sense of appreciation for the research I conducted in that class to write my most proud piece of writing. I wrote a paper on the topic of epigenetics. Epigenetics, the study of gene expression rather than genetic coding, was a topic I learned about in Environmental Chemistry. I learned how the environment can alter how your genes can be expressed and ultimately change the mechanistic function of your genes. I was so proud of this written piece that I wanted to get it published in the DUQuark shortly after our final project was due. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete this task but I plan on finishing where I left off.

Dr. Klucevsek’s writing class triggered my ability to want to write more in the area of science. My perspective of writing in general changed, I actively took initiative to continue to make more articles pertaining to science. In retrospect, the UCOR classes undoubtedly prepared me for more advanced writing. The lab reports that I have completed through my courses has also prepared me to write more technical. These aspects of writing brought me here, to this scientific communications internship. This opportunity through the English department will allow me to continue to build on the areas in which I struggle. As a biochemistry major, I look forward to doing more research through this internship. I plan on expanding my reach into the area of public health. Currently, I am in Intro to Public Health to complete the rest of my credits for my public health minor. I know hot topics concerning public health will be infused in some of the text I plan on producing. All in all, my appreciation for writing has blossomed into an abundance of will power to produce more pieces that hold substance. I will continue to strive to create scientific works that make me proud. Through this internship I plan on my final project being something that speaks to my vocation and my new found passion for scientific writing.        

The Significance of Arts Programs In Our Schools

Sean Stewart

In an era where arts programs are being underfunded, under-appreciated, and sometimes cut altogether, it is important to highlight the programs that provide opportunities focused on nurturing the next generation of artists. Through my work at ACH Clear Pathways this semester, I hope to foster a love and enthusiasm for the arts and create an environment that recognizes how art affects the learning experience.

In a study from 2006 conducted by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, data was found that supports the theory that involvement in the arts improves student learning in the fields of literacy and critical thinking. According to Randy Kennedy, of the New York Times:

The study found that students in the program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills — including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning — than did students who were not in the program.

Kennedy, Randy. “Guggenheim Study Suggests Arts Education Benefits Literacy Skills.” New York Times. 27 Jul. 2006: Web. 30 Jan. 2020.

With this study in mind, it is no wonder that art-specific after school programs such as ACH Clear Pathways are becoming so popular. When schools refuse to support their own programs, these supplemental curriculums provide students with the opportunity to continue to grow in an environment more conducive to artistic growth.

I have many goals and ideas that I am looking forward to implementing throughout the semester. From projects surrounding representation and discrimination to bringing in an outside speaker to talk to the students about the benefits of art education, I hope to expose the students to provoking questions through the lens of multiple artistic mediums. I look forward to updating this blog, and sharing all of the amazing projects that ACH Clear Pathways will be undertaking this spring. 

Building Blocks

Author: Emily DeGenova – Health Management Systems, Senior

Ahh the start of a new spring semester! The campus air is filled with rekindling friendships from winter break, overflowing coffee shops of students trying to get back to a daily routine, and surge of excitement because it is only syllabus week. However, this brief frenzy is quickly met with the all too familiar sense of feeling overwhelmed by the looming workload the next 15 weeks are bound to bring. As you carefully pencil-in all of your due-dates for exams, presentations, research papers, group projects, mid-terms, and finals, you begin to wonder where you will squeeze in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As a lifelong student, I wish I could tell my younger self the tip I am about to share for dealing with, and ultimately conquering, the stresses of a busy life. 

About a year ago, during my nightly routine heedless internet surfing, I came across a YouTube video about “block-scheduling”. For many, this term brings back memories of high school – where the bell finally rings and releases you from one dreadful class and onto the next. However, when you truly consider this method of organization, it produces impressive results. Within an 8 hour period, students have sat through 6 or 7 different class periods of various subjects, eaten lunch, and maybe even a study-hall. As a result, students are able to complete a vast amount work by simply “chipping away” at the course material class period by class period (Page 1).

In this, the question is raised, what if I implement block-scheduling into my personal life?What if, instead of letting your laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning build up, why not build them into blocks? What if, instead of cramming for exams and squeezing in last minute homework before the deadline, you slowly chipped away at them?

What if you actually PLANNED OUT blocks of time per-day devoted to cleaning, cooking, homework, and, I dare say it, relaxing?????

For those of you students that don’t know what this term means:

“Relaxing” adjective. The act of releasing or bringing relief from the effects of tension, anxiety, etc. (“Relaxing” 5).

Since coming across this video, I experienced a major lifestyle change. From once being the master of procrastination to finally feeling like I might “have it together”. Although I can’t say everyday goes as planned, it is a step in the right direction and I think it is worth sharing and celebrating!

Is this what they mean by a “Block Party”?

(Page 1).

References:

  1. “Relaxing.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/relaxing.
  2. Page, Jordan F. “The Block Schedule System And What It Is.” Fun Cheap or Free, 27 Dec. 2019, funcheaporfree.com/the-block-schedule-system-what-it-is-how-it-works-and-how-it-will-change-your-life/.

A Quick Reflection on Social Media

By Mikayla Gilmer

You have waited a full day to post a picture that took about 50 different tries and 1 hour to edit. You wait until around lunch time on a Wednesday or Friday because you know that is when you will have the most Instagram engagement. Once the dopamine from all the notifications wears off, you slump back into your couch and wonder what you are going to watch next since they took Friends off Netflix.

Calls and texts messages are not enough if you are living in the Digital Age. If you’re like me you use Facebook to keep in touch with family members while also staying updated with clubs and activities on campus, Instagram for posting pictures and higher quality stories, Snapchat for lower quality stories and quick photo communication, and VSCO for editing photos you deem “edgy” or “artsy”. College students tend to spend so much time on social media, it should be considered a marketing internship for the self.

There are hundreds of different types of social media apps out there in the world, and there are more and more applications being created even as I write this blog. When using social media, you have to ask yourself—Why am I using it? Since there are so many different types of social medias for so many different uses, this question is a hard one to generalize. However, I believe that the purpose for social media can fall into one overarching category: Information Provider. Facebook will inform you about a friend from high school getting engaged. Instagram can let you know that a new burger place opened up down the street from you (and didn’t think to invite you along). Snapchat can show you videos of your friends new dog. VSCO can show you the latest filters for photo editing.

So next time you post, snap, or tik tok, ask yourself “What information am I releasing to the world?