Takeaways from the HundrED Innovation Summit and Spotlight on Pittsburgh

A contingency of 18 Pittsburghers representing a dozen education programs traveled to Finland to share their inventive ideas at the annual HundrED Innovation Summit.

Pittsburgh is the first US city invited to introduce education innovation by the global non-profit HundrEDwhich seeks out inspiring ideas in K-12 education to present to an international audience.

HundrED Spotlights are designed to identify 10 of the most inspiring innovations that focus on a location or theme, and then share those with the world to help spread what’s working in education. Pittsburgh programs broke the mold this year, forcing the count to go to 12 out of the 82 innovations that were submitted.

One of those Pittsburgh representatives is Maureen Frew, who developed the JAM program at Avonworth Primary Center that has already grown to include 10 Pittsburgh school districts. We asked Maureen to give us her impressions of the HundrED Innovation Summit. Here’s what she had to say:

“My first trip out of the United States was a life-changing experience for me,” she says. “I was honored and humbled to be in the presence of so many people who have committed their lives to support the lives of children in so many different and unique ways.

“I left Finland knowing that there are people – adults and children – who work each day to do the right thing so that all children can thrive no matter where they were born. So, every day, I will wake up and go to bat in my small part of the world knowing that each small part is causing a ripple effect in the world!”

Four organizations that stood out for Maureen include:

Project FUEL

Deepak Ramola realized that everyone has something to learn from their life. Every life is important, and so is what each person’s life teaches them. A life lesson that comes to us from another human being can shine a light on the understanding of our own life. Hence, the name Project FUEL, which stands for Forward the Understanding of Every Life Lesson. For example, a five-year old’s life lesson: “Before you ride a bike, know where the brakes are.”

Those individual life lessons are collected, documented, thought about deeply, and then turned into performance activities and interactive mediums, such as theater, storytelling, creative writing and spoken word poetry. This practice ensures that kids don’t just hear someone’s lesson in words, but experience it tangibly and apply it practically in their own life.


Developed in the UK, Chatta is described as the halfway house between thinking and writing. The program was designed to help young children develop “oral narrative competence,” the biggest indicator of future reading and writing competence. About a third of children at age 5 are behind those expected levels. Chatta uses technology to present content in a way that mirrors the way people think and how it embeds in their memory.

Chatta helps to increase the quality and quantity of parent/child interaction, which leads to more opportunities for sharing stories and family conversations. Parents are central to support learning and can use the Chatta app to make Chatta stories at home. The program is used in schools with students ages 3 to 18.

Green School Bio Bus

Bio Bus addresses transportation and waste problems in Bali through education and community mobilization. Its mission is to provide sustainable transport services to Green School and local communities. The bus runs on 100-percent biodiesel.

Students collect used cooking oil throughout their community while exchanging knowledge and information about biofuel. Bio Bus incorporates education into its program by offering classes at the Green School in math, science, environmental studies, and enterprise courses. It’s a fascinating approach to spreading the word about sustainability and caring about the environment.

Global Minds Initiative

Started right in our own backyard in Pittsburgh, Global Minds Initiative students meet after school all across the United States and Canada to combat intolerance and foster intercultural friendships. “When founder Peyton Kline spoke, there was not a sound in the room,” Maureen says. “I felt like a proud mother hearing the words of kindness and compassion that she was sharing. This young woman is a world game-changer.”

Intrigued enough to learn more?

Arielle Evans of Root & All is on the communications team for Pittsburgh-based Remake Learning, which presented its vision and success at the conference.

“It was affirming and inspirational to come together with HundrED’s international community of innovators,” she writes. “We learned so much from the people we met, the places we visited, and the summit activities.”

Arielle spoke with many of the Pittsburgh participants about their experiences. Among their conclusions:

  • Putting students at the center is not just possible, it is necessary: it will revolutionize our education system.
  • We are far more alike than we are different.
  • Accessible public transportation makes the entire city your classroom.
  • We should be striving to have the best worst schools.

Read her complete report here.

With the growth of Remake Learning over the past 10 years and Pittsburgh’s representation at the HundrED Innovation Summit, our city’s reputation as a hub for education vision continues to grow.