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Volume IV: Pittsburgh Bridges

Pittsburgh Bridges
Vivienne Bartman
Pittsburgh Vann K-5


The Unit Pittsburgh Bridges connects the Pittsburgh of the Past with the Pittsburgh of the Future. It is designed for a third grade Social Studies unit. Within the unit the children will use interactive material to learn why, at first, Pittsburgh needed the protection of the river. This was to make it difficult to enter the fort, later becoming the city. As the city grows transportation is needed to get from shore to shore. The unit has reenactments of ferries carrying people and the difficulty keeping up with the demand. A discussion of the first bridges and all subsequent bridges in the downtown area is the next lesson. The final assessment is using flashcards of the bridges to learn the names and style of each of the bridges. This unit is a great supplement to the Pittsburgh Board of Education’s Third Grade Social Studies curriculum.


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Pittsburgh Bridges, Our History
Eileen Butler 2009
Gifted Resource Teacher


My unit, Pittsburgh Bridges, Our History, will explore and discuss the magnificent view of the city of Pittsburgh with an emphasis on the rivers and their bridges. Pittsburgh and its many neighborhoods and communities would be isolated and less accessible without bridges. This unit will focus on the history of bridges from the 1700’s to 2009. One goal is to make students aware of Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio and their impact on the region. A second goal is to have students research a specific bridge. The third goal is to have the students present their research and incorporate an art form.


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Inca Suspension Bridges
Isabel Espino de Valdivia
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School


When high school students are questioned about Peru they are familiar with Machu Picchu but they know very little about the Inca builders of Machu Picchu and the technology behind this architectural marvel of the ancient world. The purpose of this unit is to introduce high school students to the Inca civilization through its technology, especially fiber and stone technology the Incas used to build suspension bridges in the gorges of the high Andean rivers and mountains.

This unit is designed to reach Intermediate low and Intermediate mid (according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines) students of Spanish and it involves not only reading and writing in Spanish but also a research project including new presentational technology tools such as prezi, and collaborative online technologies, such as microblogging with Twitter.


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The Fascination of Bridges and How They Relate to a First Grader
Melissa Horgan
Grandview Elementary School


I have created a creative curriculum unit for my project relating to the fascination of bridges and how they relate to a first grader. Pittsburgh Public Schools are required to complete an Everyday Math, Macmillan Reading, Foss Science, and social studies curriculum. Each subject needs to be covered thoroughly with specific information needed to be taught. The unit I have created will intertwine throughout the curriculums. Each subject of reading, math, science, social studies, and art will involve not only the subject matter needed to be taught but, why Pittsburgh has so many bridges, how they were built, who built them, why we need them, and the different structures of the bridges. The curriculum unit will begin at the start of the school year.

I have written this particular curriculum unit because I believe that exposing children to the different aspects of their city will make them better persons. I believe that if the children are shown what their city is about and how it pertains to them, they will have a better appreciation for what they have. I believe in exposing the children to everything and anything that is possible. This unit will open the children to new aspects of their city that they may never have been exposed to. This unit will also expose the children to other parts of the world and how it compares to their city.


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Pittsburgh, A City of Bridges
Elizabeth M. Juhas, M.Ed., NBCT
Pittsburgh Colfax ALA


This unit on Pittsburgh Bridges is meant to be taught as a part of the third grade Social Studies curriculum which covers the history of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this unit is to increase student’s awareness of their surroundings, their own neighborhood, their neighborhood’s proximity to and connection with other city neighborhood and to increase their knowledge of their city.

This unit provides supplemental information to the Pittsburgh third grade social studies curriculum by providing additional historical facts and a focus on the bridges that connect the neighborhoods. It offers hands-on activities such as the construction of model bridges, and it provides the students with opportunities to write creatively about their city. It both poses questions and answers questions in order to stimulate discussion and to make the study of Pittsburgh relevant, significant, memorable and enjoyable for the students.

This unit explores Pittsburgh’s history through a look at its neighborhoods and the bridges that connect the neighborhoods to one another. It provides the students with an opportunity to look at Pittsburgh’s bridges in terms of their history; purpose, design, and construction.


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Building Bridges: Understanding Forces and Materials
Eric Laurenson
Allderdice High School


Living in Pittsburgh we are surrounded by a veritable cornucopia of bridges. There are 446 catalogued bridges in Pittsburgh. They vary dramatically in size, function, design, materials and age. The wealth of bridges we have makes them a subject that is ripe for studying because they are pervasive, accessible, indispensable and diverse. As they say, "form follows function," but in terms of bridges the function is often similar, although varied in scale, while the forms are extremely variable. As a physicist it is my contention that the diversity of solutions for solving similar problems is invaluable for student interest, learning and development of creativity. In my unit, I want to address the problem solving aspects of building bridges and I want this study to culminate in the actual hands-on building and testing of a model bridge.

There are many aspects of bridges that I find compelling and that I believe will translate to my students. This unit is intended for physics students who have been introduced to Newton’s Laws and Forces. An understanding of equilibrium and force diagrams would be extremely helpful. However, this unit is intended to be able to be used at a variety of mathematical and conceptual levels. I teach three levels of mathematically advanced physics. One class is a Pittsburgh Scholars Program physics I (PSP) that is slightly more mathematically advanced than a typical main stream physics I course, but which is equally as applicable. I also teach Gifted Physics I, which utilizes a college textbook and is more mathematically advanced. In addition, I will utilize the unit with my second year AP (Advanced Placement) B Physics II students. These students vary in mathematical ability but they are taking physics for a second year and have already completed one of the previously listed classes. Although this unit is written specifically for physics students, it is my intention to present the concepts required and to provide scaffolding for the mathematics so that the unit could also be utilized by pre-engineering courses, technology classes with an emphasis on construction or any class, such as math, that follows the eighth grade physical science unit and wishes to provide a hands-on, constructivist learning opportunity on bridge building in a conducive learning environment.


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Bridge Boom in the Burgh
Kathy McHugh
Pittsburgh Gifted Center


This unit on the Bridges in Pittsburgh will be used within a cross-curriculum unit, to expand and enhance the history of Pittsburgh for students in third and fourth grades. It will also tie in with learning and understanding the influence the engineers and urban developers used to bring their visions to reality. This unit can be used within a social studies unit on Pittsburgh, a writing unit on nonfiction, and/or a geometry unit.

The activities that are outlined are to engage the students in interactive experiences to learn about shapes and designs, problem solving in math, urban planners, and the bridges that make Pittsburgh the place it is today. The students will be using their research skills to find data on the bridges, and then their creative skills in presenting their findings to the rest of their class.


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Bridge Design and Construction
Michael A. Miller
Brashear High School, Pittsburgh Public Schools


The bridges of Pittsburgh have become a part of the city’s heritage and have shaped the communities as much if not more than the three rivers themselves. Most people take them for granted and either aren’t concerned with or fail to realize the amount of knowledge necessary to properly design and construct these bridges. This knowledge, at least its rudimentary concepts, can be taught through this curriculum in any technology education course since the majority of the principles are related to the corresponding fields of study in mathematics and science.

The objective of this curriculum is for students to gain an appreciation of what goes into the conception, design, planning, construction, and completion of a bridge. This is achieved by dividing the lessons into four major sections: measurement and scale; bridge types, materials, and components; planning and communication (technical drawing); and construction and modeling. Complementing these lessons are hands-on activities that strengthen the lectures. As a culminating activity, the students design, build, and present a bridge that will hopefully generate a new awareness for the bridges of Pittsburgh.


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Finding a Story in a Bridge (Preferably a Fallen Bridge)
Janelle A. Price
Pittsburgh Rogers CAPA


Since Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is often cited as the “City of Bridges,” students will first examine the basic architecture styles of the city’s bridges and bridge basics through websites. Their investigation will lead them to present a PowerPoint assisted speech concerning the fallen bridge. Their fallen bridge site will become their culminating project’s short story’s setting. After becoming familiar with the basics and history of bridges and their city’s bridges, they will read Plato’s “Allegory of the Caves” from book seven of The Republic. The purpose of their reading and analysis of this excerpt will be to utilize the reality distortion exemplified through the captive’s view and ultimately apply such a lens in their story writing. But before they begin writing, students will read the unit’s anchor work, Wilder’s novella, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and investigate bridge disasters and failures for their story’s background. Many supports are included in this unit including all applicable Pennsylvania standards; forms for student use such as character charts, story starter, and gallery walk; links to applicable websites; and background and analysis of the works.


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Pittsburgh Bridges: Building for the Future
Tammy Rullo
Pittsburgh Gifted Center


Currently, I am a third grade math teacher at the Pittsburgh Gifted Center. Each year our team designs curricular units around a particular theme. Our theme this year is the celebration of Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday. We strive at our school to try and incorporate as many cross- curricular activities within our content area as possible. It is important for my students to understand that no matter what profession they choose later in life, they will have to have a broad base of skills for the job. Although the students are young, because they are gifted learners we focus on the strengths of the students rather than the weaknesses. Most of the students have a grasp of math knowledge well beyond grade level. Therefore, I design lessons so that there is real world applicability. As with each unit, the lessons are chosen with higher level thinking skills in mind. I compiled this unit to introduce bridge design and engineering because it was an excellent reinforcement of design, function, and strength of geometric forms. This unit provides a mix of team work, technology, and hands-on lessons to allow the students a broad variety of ways to explore the bridges in our city.


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Building Bridges Across Curriculums
Alexis Tuckfelt
Fort Pitt Accelerated Learning Academy


Bridges are amazing, interesting and beautiful things. The focus of this interdisciplinary curriculum unit is bridges, specifically Pittsburgh bridges. After having just celebrated its 250th birthday, this is a great opportunity to explain to students the relevance of bridges to the development of Pittsburgh. This multidisciplinary unit was originally geared for first grade students, but could be adapted for other grades as well. Bridges affect our daily lives in Pittsburgh and throughout the world, making this an age appropriate topic for my students. In this unit, history of bridges, types of bridges and their significance is fused into the existing Social Studies, Science, Math, Art and Writing curriculums of Pittsburgh Public Schools The definition of the physical object of a bridge will be explored along with viewing the word bridge as a concept or communications tool to “build bridges” across curriculums. The lessons and activities in this unit compliment the lessons that I’m required to teach. The purpose of this unit is to advance students’ insight into the history of something truly special that plays a huge part of the make- up of the city they live in.


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Chatham University
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Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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