Photo: Gregg and Yu-Ling Behr
This story first appeared in NEXTpittsburgh, which publishes Kidsburgh.
Few were surprised when President Obama recognized Gregg Behr as a Champion of Change in 2016 for his work to advance making and learning in childhood education. Now in his 14th year as executive director of The Grable Foundation, Behr sparked a revolution 12 years ago when he helped to form a network of people in Pittsburgh focused on changing the way our kids learn. Now he co-chairs Remake Learning, which is being emulated throughout the country and beyond. A Pittsburgh native, Gregg lives with his family in Ohio Township.
1. What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
Western Pennsylvania is on the verge of making education history. All across our region, thousands of administrators, teachers and youth in our schools — as well as in our libraries, museums, early learning centers and after-school programs — are genuinely remaking learning.
Think STEM, STEAM, maker-centered learning, project-based learning and technology-enhanced learning. Together, they’re demonstrating what’s possible when we look to the learning sciences, neuroscience, and ethnographic research to remake curricula, spaces, instruction, and experiences for our youth, mindful about their futures. And, they’re doing it with increasingly honest and serious attention to equity — for our young people of color, rural youth, girls in STEM, learners with exceptionalities, and youth in poverty.
There’s hard work yet to be done, to be sure; but, increasingly, the nation and the world are looking to this corner of the world to see how we might remake learning for what’s next.
2. What is the best part of your job?
Every day I have an opportunity to witness amazingly good people doing incredibly important work in service to others. And I have the joy of working with remarkably talented colleagues, as we try to figure out ways to support them. If everyone could witness the goodness that we have the privilege of seeing daily, there would be no doubt about great possibilities ahead for our region’s children, educators, and families.
3. Write three hashtags to describe Pittsburgh:
#FredRogers, #Kidsburgh, #BeTheKindKid — this person, this place, and this project speak to why I am so glad and grateful to be raising my family here.
4. What’s been bugging you lately?
People who deny science. There’s little that’s unsettled about, say, climate change, and yet we’re limiting our future health and prosperity by debating matters that future generations will think we were mad, even selfish, to dispute.
5. What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
The list is long as the holidays approach, and in our household there are three big highlights: the November release of two movies — “Frozen 2” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” both of which will undoubtedly add to our repertoire for father-daughter karaoke and dance parties; the STEAM Carnival at the Children’s Museum; and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s production of “The Nutcracker,” starring (at least in my eyes) my daughter as perhaps the most elegant tin soldier ever.
And, as October comes to a close, we’re looking forward to celebrating mentors and mentoring at the Mentoring Partnership’s biennial Magic of Mentoring gala. I’m deeply honored and humbled to be part of this year’s celebration.
6. It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?
Bedford Springs. My wife and I were engaged there, we got married there and we escape to that magical place whenever possible, in any season. It’s the place where I relax within hours.
7. What’s one thing you would love to change about Pittsburgh?
By late winter, I dream that the sun might peek through the clouds, just once. If I could remove the permacloud that settles over us after the holidays, I would. People just seem to turn grouchy by early March, which is seemingly so unPittsburgh-y.
8. Where will we find you this Saturday night?
On any Saturday in autumn, I’m most likely to be found cheering on my Fightin’ Irish. Go Irish!
9. Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the past year?
Do wooden roller coasters count as a place?! My family and I trucked around western Pennsylvania this past summer, discovering and rediscovering all sorts of places — especially amusement parks and their rickety coasters: Thunderbolt (Kennywood), Rollo Coaster (Idlewild), Blue Streak (Conneaut Lake) and the Skyliner (Lakemont Park). Each and every dip made us giggle and scream. It was a very summery summer.