Capturing the real life of students

PublicSource is at work on a number of enterprising projects to keep you informed about what’s going on in Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region.

One of them is an audio slideshow by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Martha Rial entitled “Single-Sex Classrooms: The Westinghouse Experiment.”

Rial spent many hours in two ninth-grade classrooms at the Academies at Westinghouse, an experiment in single-sex education that started this fall in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood. The Academies are teaching boys and girls in separate schools with more hours in the school day and more days in the academic year.

"Despite the new-school confusion and hallway scuffles, I met several students who were able to focus in the classroom and were committed to learning,” Rial said of her experience at the Academies.

Rial is a Pittsburgh-based freelance photographer who previously worked as a staff photographer for The St. Petersburg Times, and her hometown newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

She tells the story of the young men and women at the Academies through thoughtfully composed and empathetic  portraits of the students, their mentors and teachers.

Later in the school year, freelance writer Emily DeMarco will return to the Academies to talk with teachers, mentors and students about how the experiment has changed the dynamic in the school and how the learning experience is different.

“On the afternoon of my second visit to the Academy, the historic building was teeming with emotion and energy,” DeMarco said. “As for the hotly debated single gender classes, the vote will most likely remain out for quite some time.

“But, as some faculty and support staff told me, each day is better than the last.”