Seeing Pittsburgh

About Seeing Pittsburgh

In 2008, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area challenged everyday people in neighborhoods throughout the Pittsburgh area to document the things that define their communities.  The concept of the project was to visually show the unique aspects of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods through the eyes of their residents both in adults and children.  The documentation was primarily in the form of photographs taken by community members, though some photographers were also asked to be interviewed about life in their community.  The end result was an exhibit of photographs and stories from each community, held at the Bost Building in Homestead from July 1, 2008 to January 31, 2009.  A book and a video podcast series were also published to supplement the exhibit.

The goals of this project are:

  • To document and preserve the self-imposed identities of distinct neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area.
  • To recognize and record consistencies and differences in these identities between generations.
  • To encourage individuals who are not typically involved in the arts to view photography and museums as accessible to all.
  • The final long-term component of the project was the development of elementary and middle school lesson plans that build upon the exhibit, catalog, and podcasts.  The lesson plans meet Social Studies, Language Arts, and Visual Arts Pennsylvania standards and will allow students to replicate the process undertaken in the original project.  These lesson plans are available as a free download at the bottom of this page.

Curriculum and Activities

The following pages of lesson plans are designed to assist teachers and educators in the continuation of the Seeing Pittsburgh project in their classrooms.

All activities have been designed to be adapted for classroom use.  The activities can be altered, as needed, for age, ability level, curriculum area, or for any other reason necessary to make them useful within the classroom.  The curriculum web encourages students to think critically about their neighborhood and their city.  Working side-by-side with adults on the same mission will teach students that their opinions and viewpoints might differ from those of adults, but they are equally valuable.  Students will have the opportunity to create their own original work, take their own photos, add to the existing project, and publish their own books.

Teachers may be eligible for a complimentary classroom copy of the Seeing Pittsburgh book and/or digital versions of the project photographs for use with the lesson plans.  Please contact Ron Baraff at 412-464-4020 ext. 21 for more information.

The activities are in pdf format.  Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view these documents.  Teachers and community group leaders have permission to print out the information and activities they wish to use, and all lessons may be adapted to meet your needs.

Lesson 1 - My Community (Social Studies, Language Arts)

Lesson 2 - How Communities are Different (Social Studies, Language Arts) and the Diamante Poem Worksheet

Lesson 3 - Four Maps of My Community (Social Studies, Math, Computer Technology)


Our Rivers: Yesterday and Today

Our Rivers
The story of the Monongahela River is one of our nation’s history, our industrial revolutions and one of the men and women whose labors, previously and presently, earned the Monongahela River the title of “Ruhr” – The River of Sweat.

The Monogahela: River of Dreams, River of Sweat

The history of the hardest working river in America.