Mellon Park Podcast Project Underway in Ellis Upper School

Have you ever wondered, "Are the trees of Mellon Park native to Pittsburgh? If not, how did this selection come to be?” Or, "What’s the history of performing arts in Mellon Park? And whatever happened to the bagpiper who used to play there?” or "What happened to the various mansions on the property?” If so, you are in great company, because the Class of 2025 has been grappling with these same types of questions and more.
Upper School students take an Integrated Studies course each year of their high school experience at The Ellis School. These classes are co-taught by teachers so that students have an opportunity to learn from multiple disciplines to enhance their learning experience. Grade 10 students take Culture in Context, which our catalog describes as a course that "builds inquiry and response skills in a collaborative setting. Through a long-term, client-based project, students learn the specifics of the design thinking process as well as connect their experience to Ellis culture and history. Working in incremental steps, the course develops important collaborative skills, the use of prototyping solutions, and frequent structured reiteration." This year’s class has been creating podcasts to tell the story of Mellon Park since it can be said that it’s Ellis’ backyard. Ellis has had a longstanding relationship with the park, but the students wanted to understand its history—why are there two parks that make up Mellon Park?

This project started with a visit from Brandon Riley, the Capital Projects Manager for Pittsburgh Park Conservancy. He gave an overview describing the action plan and goals for the project. He also informed the class how he was able to include stakeholders in the upgrade of Mellon Park by identifying stakeholder groups, engaging with them, and then analyzing the feedback that was heard during such meetings. Finally, Mr. Riley gave students the opportunity to ask him any questions to provide them with tips for their podcasts. Needless to say, this meeting was extremely productive and left students excited to start researching their topic.

Students have worked in groups to explore a question about Mellon Park, and the first task of this project was to do historical research. Thankfully, Mr. Riley provided the class with a historical document on the history of Mellon Park! Students then identified potential stakeholders that they were interested in interviewing for their podcast. These interviews were essential in determining the story that our students wanted to tell. The Friends of Mellon Park, Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, and many others have generously shared their knowledge and interest of the park. The class has explored the park on several occasions, and our students haven’t been shy about asking questions to the people they see. We have been amazed by all of the individuals who have shared their knowledge because they are excited about our students' interest in the park. 

Culture in Context is a course that allows our students to understand the design process, which means that each project has many iterations. They are able to hear feedback from their teachers as well as peers to improve their podcast. We will be focusing on finalizing their project after spring break with the hope of having QR codes around the park so that the community can understand the story of Mellon Park. Stay tuned for information about the unveiling of their podcasts in the park—I promise that we will be amazed at what our students have produced.

So, if you are wondering, "How do people contribute to the art and architecture of Mellon Park?,” or "Why are there so many fences around the park?,” or "How do the seasons affect the activities that happen in Mellon Park? How do the seasons change who uses the park?,” you will have answers from the Class of 2025.