South Fayette School District News Article

SFTSD Recognized Nationally for Innovation and Invention

On June 20, 2024, Siegel Family Endowment and the Walton Family Foundation announced the 40 Phase 1 winners of the Learning Landscapes Challenge, including South Fayette Township School District! SFTSD was one of only two winners in the state of Pennsylvania. Each winner receives $5,000 and an exclusive invitation to join the 14-week Phase 2 virtual accelerator.

The challenge received 272 Phase 1 submissions from teams across 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Entrants represented a broad array of organizations, including schools and other educational institutions, nonprofits and community-based organizations, edtech startups, and architecture and design firms.

“The range and creativity of the submitted concepts showcase powerful examples of what the learner ecosystem needs to support enduring innovation and invention,” said Joshua Elder, Vice President and Head of Grantmaking at Siegel Family Endowment. “We are energized to continue into Phase 2, giving innovators the tools they need to thrive and learning how we can better support a culture of community-driven innovation as a whole.”

“Now more than ever, students need learning experiences that have a measurable impact on their success today and into the future,” said Jamie Jutila, Senior Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “The winning concepts hold enormous potential to deliver on that need by cohesively integrating and expanding the scope of educational experiences. We’re excited about the next development phase of these innovative proposals.”

The concepts submitted by the Phase 1 winners represent a variety of approaches, but several themes emerged across the winning submissions, including Strengthening STEM/STEAM and career pathways, Rethinking where learning takes place and how it’s measured, and The potential of AI. These themes are certainly reflected in the Future-Focused, Student-Centered, Innovation-Driven direction of SFTSD. The winning teams will now have an opportunity to articulate what makes their approaches distinct and rooted in innovative infrastructure investments as they progress through the Phase 2 accelerator.

The project proposed by SFTSD is The Hope Accelerator: grounded in the science of hope and designed to create inclusive infrastructure that fosters hope, belonging, and personalized learning for high school students. The initiative cultivates authentic, real-world experiences tailored to students’ strengths, interests, and career preferences while leveraging community partnerships and transforming teacher-student relationships.

SFTSD, under the leadership of Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Dr. Matt Callison, along with the other Phase 1 winners, will now enter a 14-week virtual accelerator, during which participating teams will receive mentorship and technical support. Teams will be expected to validate the core elements or assumptions underpinning their concepts, refine their proposed solutions, and make tangible progress in establishing additional partnerships.

At the end of Phase 2, a judging panel will recommend up to five winners. Each Phase 2 winner will receive $200,000 and advance to Phase 3.

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