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Buzzword Pittsburgh makes learning new words fun

Deanna Lee
April25/ 2015

From birth to age 5, children’s brains are developing rapidly. And during this time, every moment of talking, playing and interacting is an opportunity for learning and inspiration.

Buzzword Pittsburgh was born from this idea—created “to excite children and families as they discover the words that are all around them.” The mission is simple: Expand young children’s vocabularies and conversation skills through talk and play about math, science and art.

Buzzword is part of the PNC Foundation’s new language development initiative, a $1.5 million, two-year collaboration based in Homewood. But it’s not your typical vocabulary lesson (no flashcards here!). Instead, children will acquire new words during interactive activities led by Buzzword partners like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

“Our teachers are artists and problem solvers,” says Lisa Viscusi, Buzzword Pittsburgh program coordinator. “They’re all masters in their own area, so they work with us to teach vocabulary in a way that leverages their talents. The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, for example, focuses on live performance while the Carnegie Science Center may set up hands-on, interactive stations for the kids.”

Whatever the mode of teaching, Buzzword ensures greater success by involving the entire family. “Parents and families are a child’s first educators,” says Viscusi. “So we (as teachers) can train and practice and implement as many things as we want, but we also have to support the family, understand their role and celebrate it.”

With family members learning right alongside the children, Buzzword helps adults understand different ways of interacting with youngsters about the world around them—all the while developing routines and habits that support language building. “Vocabulary skills grow in real-life settings, not just in school,” Viscusi adds. “We help parents and loved ones elevate their conversations with children and understand how everything can be a learning opportunity.”

Pittsburgh is one of 10 cities selected by PNC for its $10 million pilot, and programming is based in Homewood—bringing cultural and educational opportunities to a community yearning for more. Buzzword, however, is not limited to Homewood residents. All the workshops and events are free and open to the public.

Buzzword workshops take place every first and third Saturday of the month from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Carnegie Library in Homewood. Partner organizations rotate at these workshops, so every lesson is new and engaging for kids. Buzzword also holds six-week sessions at the YMCA in Homewood. For a full schedule and other upcoming events, visit here.

Featured photo: Young child at Buzzword Pittsburgh event, Photo courtesy of Buzzword Pittsburgh

Deanna Lee

Deanna earnestly covers all the people and events that make Pittsburgh the best place to raise a kid. When she's not writing, you might find her running the streets of the East End. cooking big meals in her tiny kitchen, and spending time with her family.