We are an academic home for informal learning. Our works ranges from basic learning research, to research/practice partnerships, to field-building and professional development for the informal learning world. UPCLOSE is a project of the Learning Research and Development Center and School of Education.

Prospective Students: We offer a part-time Ed.D. degree in Out-of-School Learning for those who want to be transformational leaders, or full time Ph.D. training in Learning Sciences and Policy for those who want to be researchers.




Kevin Crowley, Director, is a professor of Learning Sciences and Policy in the School of Education and a Research Scientist at LRDC. His research focuses on all things informal. He holds a Ph.D. and MS in Developmental Psychology from Carnegie Mellon, and a BA in Psychology and Education from Swarthmore College.

Rachel Nicole Bonnette, Ph.D. candidate in the Learning Sciences and Policy Program, is interested in researching informal learning experiences and their relationship to problem solving, creativity, and related skills, and is focused on improving outcomes and equity in education for disadvantaged children.  She has an MPP and JD with certification in Child and Public Interest law from Loyola University Chicago.

Marti Louw, visiting scholar, is Director of the Learning Media Design Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Marti is a design researcher, with a background in science communication, exhibition design, and film-making. She holds an MDes from Carnegie Mellon and a BS in Biology from Carleton College. 


Karen Knutson, Associate Director, is a Research Associate at LRDC. Her research interests are in museum learning, art education, and organizational change. She holds a Ph.D. in Art Education from the University of British Columbia and an MA  in Art History from Queens University. 

Marijke Hecht, Ph.D. candidate in the Learning Sciences and Policy Program, focuses on environmental education, youth development, and nature. Marijke worked for nearly 20 years in a variety of educational settings, including teaching middle school math and science in NYC public schools, teaching adults English in Bolivia, and educating community members about local environmental health and stewardship of Pittsburgh's greenspaces. Most recently she was the Director of Education for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. She received her Master of Science in Botany from the University of Vermont and her Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College.

Peter Wardrip, visiting scholar, is a researcher at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh focusing on informal learning, formal/informal collaborations, and making as learning. Peter has a Ph.D. from Pitt, an MSc from the Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a BS in Latin Education from the University of Wisconsin. [more]


Alison Bank, research specialist, has worked at UPCLOSE since 2010, when she was an undergraduate intern. She received her BA in 2012 from Pitt and is now a full time at UPCLOSE.

Mary Ann Steiner

Mary Ann Steiner, focuses on informal learning and community engagement. She has a background in youth developoment, and has worked at the Science Musuem of Minnesota, the National Science Foundation, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. She has a Ph.D. from Pitt, an MEd from the University of Minnesota and a BFA from Bard College. 

Lisa Brahms

Lisa Brahms, visiting scholar, is Director of Research and Learning at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. She focuses on making and tinkering in informal settings, and leads national initiatives on creating making spaces in museums and libraries. She has a Ph.D. from Pitt, and an MSEd in Childhood and Museum Education from Bank Street College and a BA in Jewish Studies from Vassar. 


Kevin Crowley, LRDC 822, Unviersity of Pittsburgh, 3939 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh PA 15101

Interested in informal learning? You should also check out informalscience.org