FRC’s ‘Simple Interactions’ Garners Global Accolades

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College’s Simple Interactions collaboration has been recognized as a world class program benefiting individuals who serve children and youth. The practice-focused, strengths-based approach to professional development was chosen during a recent focus on Pittsburgh as a leader in education.


Pittsburgh is the first U.S. city to have been selected for an international spotlight on education innovation by renowned global non-profit HundrED, which seeks and shares inspiring ideas in K-12 education with the goal of scaling them worldwide.


The Fred Rogers Center’s Simple Interactions approach was one of 12 educational innovations chosen for the HundrED Spotlight on Pittsburgh, which identifies the most innovative, impactful and scalable programs invented by educators in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.


“To be considered an inspiring innovation is an honor,” shared Dr. Dana Winters, director of Simple Interactions and academic programs at the Fred Rogers Center and assistant professor of child and family studies. “Given the mission of Simple Interactions is to encourage, enrich and empower human interactions around children and their helpers, it is wonderful to see that human connection and relationships are valued in a global community of learners as well as the communities of practice that the approach has fostered.”


A total of 82 entries from across the region were submitted, and a rigorous decision-making process by an international research team and a local advisory committee led HundrED to finalize the 12 selections which represent the wide range of unique and proven approaches educators have adopted and invented to help youth flourish.


“HundrED Spotlights are designed to identify 10 of the most inspiring innovations that focus on a location or them, and then share those with the world to help spread what’s working in education,” said Lasse Leponiemi, executive director and co-founder of HundrED. “But, Pittsburgh broke the mold. The response was so robust that we chose to expand our selection to 12 innovations. These selected innovations have been proven locally, but they are also inspiring in global context.”


The selected innovations will be featured on HundrED’s global platform, highlighted in a comprehensive report of education innovation in the Pittsburgh region and featured in short case study videos. Winters will also be invited to HundrED’s annual three-day Innovation Summit in Helsinki, Finland, in November.


The HundrED Spotlight has brought global attention to the groundswell of education innovation emerging in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade.


“As a region known for its dedication to children, we should all be extraordinarily excited about the HundrED Spotlight and the story that it tells about the Pittsburgh region’s broader, decade-long effort to remake learning,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of the Grable Foundation, a local partner in the HundrED Spotlight, and founder of the Remake Learning Network, whose hands-on learning festival has spread to nine U.S. regions. “Not only will HundrED feature these 12 innovations, but we’re also going to put a spotlight on all 82 innovations as they all contribute great value to our incredible community that, together, is showing what’s possible when we put youth and their futures at the heart of everything we do.”


The Simple Interactions approach integrates Fred Rogers’ emphasis on building relationships and finding what ordinary people do extraordinarily well with children in simple, everyday moments on a day-to-day basis. Its initial creator is Dr. Junlei Li, formerly the co-director of the Fred Rogers Center and currently the Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In March, Winters and Li announced a collaboration of the two schools to focus on extending and deepening their work together.  


Established at Saint Vincent College in 2003, the Fred Rogers Center enriches the development of current and emerging leaders in the fields of early learning and children’s media by supporting the advancement of child-serving professionals; educational opportunities for undergraduate Fred Rogers Scholars; research and special collaborations by Rogers Center Fellows; and resources and information on the developmentally appropriate use of media to strengthen human relationships.



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