Engaging Caregivers and Families is Focus of Eastern Kentucky’s Remake Learning Days

Eastern Kentucky’s Remake Learning Days runs from April 12 to 20, 2019, kicking off this year’s slate of Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA), a major expansion of the Pittsburgh-founded event (first established in 2016) to cities and regions throughout the United States.

KET team members Traci Tackett and Brian Spellman.

It’s also the first year the event will be held in this region. Kentucky Educational Television (KET) is organizing the events in cooperation with Remake Learning, PBS and Digital Promise. Public television stations across the participating regions are getting involved to help increase the visibility of these events and further expose teachers, parents and students to the many high-quality resources made available by local PBS stations.

Excitement for RLDAA is high, said KET coordinator and former teacher Traci Tackett, especially in the schools. The region is extremely large and spread out—Tackett said that some events may be a two- to three-hour drive apart—and schools have been instrumental in hosting events and getting kids excited.

It’s an excellent opportunity to show adults firsthand what connected learning looks like. Concepts like STEAM and makerspaces can seem abstract and distant when kids talk about them, but to see firsthand what and how students are learning, and even to encounter them in a hands-on fashion, engages parents and caregivers in new and meaningful ways.  Families can go online and search events by various filters like learning themes (arts, maker, outdoor learning, science and technology), age recommendations, dates, location and more.

Eastern Kentucky’s Remake Learning Days showcase presents unique opportunities to build connections among all community members.

“Eastern Kentucky is rich in culture,” Tackett said, citing deep traditions in the arts and in the region’s culinary practices. “And people in the community are eager to share.”

Some of the workshops and programs offered present rare and dying art forms, such as crafting corn husk dolls, cooking outside in a cast-iron skillet, folk dancing, and making arrowheads.

Technology and science will also be on full display during RLDAA. Students can see first-hand what 3-D printing looks like and how to program to create items. Scientific experiments will also be taking place. Eastern Kentucky’s eclectic mix of offerings reflects the region’s diversity and rich traditions.

That diversity, along with the region’s size, have presented challenges in terms of equity, which has consistently been at the center of the work of the Remake Learning Network and of Remake Learning Days. KET has strived to make sure all of the region’s counties are represented, while also seeking out solutions for those of low incomes and without access to transportation.

KET is hopeful about possibilities such as low-income housing units hosting events in communal spaces, allowing residents to attend while also bringing in community members, and churches that may be able to offer transportation. They’re also excited about events such as a series of workshops offered through The Arty Bus, a traveling arts classroom that will bring lessons and supplies to a number of sites throughout the region.

“Having as many of these events as we can is important so that everyone can participate,” KET’s Brian Spellman said. “We hope kids and families get excited to learn together in this inaugural festival.”

KET is pleased to partner with organizations for these Remake Learning Days Across America events to bring learning to life for families and educators in these rural communities.

This blog is part of series highlighting the work of each participating region of Remake Learning Days Across America, led by partners Remake Learning, PBS Kids and Digital Promise. Remake Learning wishes to thank the national sponsors of 2019’s Remake Learning Days Across America: Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Grable Foundation and Schmidt Futures.

 

Launch of Chattanooga Learning Days

When Chattanooga holds its first-ever CHA Learning Days, from May 11 to 19, 2019, as part of this year’s slate of Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA), it will present a kind of “show and tell” opportunity for the region’s educators.

RLDAA is a major expansion of the Pittsburgh-founded Remake Learning Days, first established in 2016 to showcase connected learning events that highlighted the future of learning throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This year, six new regions will host Remake Learning Days.

“Chattanooga is in a season of optimism and hope around education,” said Michael Stone, Director of Innovative Learning with the Public Education Foundation. “There’s a lot of positivity. There’s buy-in both from those in education and from the community at large. We’re working together to close the opportunity gaps, to make sure there’s an intentional focus on equity, and that every student in the greater Chattanooga community has access to excellent education opportunities.”

The great strides that stakeholders both in and out of the city’s school district have taken toward these goals will be on display during CHA Learning Days. One highlight, the STEM Jubilee on May 15 and 16, will see nearly 4,000 elementary-school students visiting STEM School Chattanooga, along with Chattanooga State Community College to engage in hands-on STEM activities. And Gig City Girls, which promotes coding and computer-science opportunities for girls and young women, anticipates more than 200 girls participating in a morning of coding on May 11.

The festival will also serve to highlight a number of local organizations that parents, caregivers, and community members may not be aware of, such as the ChattLab makerspace or Tech Goes Home, which offers tech courses to the public. Festival attendees will also get a new introduction to community fixtures they may think they know, such as the Chattanooga Public Library, which offers its 4th Floor space, a lab and educational facility focusing on technology, design, and applied arts.

At the heart of the story Chattanooga Learning Days will tell is the city’s deep commitment to hands-on, STEM-focused learning through maker-centered education and, in particular, the city’s many “fab labs”: spaces dedicated to small-scale digital fabrication, often including tools such as laser cutters and circuit-prototyping tools. The school district has 17 labs, open to students from grades 6 through 12, and including 16 Volkswagen eLabs.

Chattanooga has just one school district, comprising 80 schools that range from extremely rural to distinctly urban, with considerable demographic diversity across the district.

“The Volkswagen eLabs are showing signs of success across a wide-range of demographics,” said Stone. “That’s really exciting because it suggests that this type of STEM engagement is valuable to all students.”

In developing its labs, Chattanooga has swiftly moved from learning from other cities’ experiences in maker-based learning to serving as a mentor and national leader on the subject. That’s part of a broader trend in the city, which features a revitalized economy spurred on, in part, by citywide gigabit internet that’s the nation’s fastest. Tech start-ups have found Chattanooga to be an attractive destination, and so has Volkswagen, which located its only North American manufacturing facility in Chattanooga about a decade ago, and is now doubling down with a planned expansion of its facilities.

“All that growth on the employer side put a real spotlight on the need for workforce development for students,” said Stone. “Are our schools preparing students for these  jobs of the future?”

The why part of the city’s story is an important piece of what regional stakeholders hope to show during Chattanooga Learning Days, further accelerating community buy-in. Stone and others are especially looking forward to engaging with parents and caregivers during the festival’s planned events.

“School doesn’t look like it used to,” he said. “The goal with an event like this is to expose parents to the strategies, the techniques, the experiences that are actually happening in the classroom, so that it equips parents to be able to support their students.”

This blog is part of series highlighting the work of each participating region of Remake Learning Days Across America, led by partners Remake Learning, PBS Kids and Digital Promise. We would like to thank our national sponsors Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Grable Foundation and Schmidt Futures.

 

Regional Leaders Share Insights on Remake Learning Days Across America

Regional team members of Remake Learning Days Across America take a group selfie.

This spring, a new set of kids, parents, and caregivers will have the opportunity to experience Remake Learning Days, the showcase of hands-on learning activities first launched in Pittsburgh by the Remake Learning network in 2016.

With Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA), six new regions will host events for the first time, joining Southeastern Pennsylvania, holding its second annual learning festival originally called PA Seed Days. Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia will hold their fourth annual Remake Learning Days, bringing the total number of participating regions to nine.

Each region’s Remake Learning Days will feature a wide array of events catering to audiences of all ages. Offerings will vary across regions, reflecting the unique character and strengths of each geographical area, from robotics and filmmaking in Pittsburgh to cornhusk dolls in Eastern Kentucky.

Wherever they take place, Remake Learning Days don’t come together magically, or overnight—especially when a region is hosting its first-ever event. For the teams of dedicated educators and administrators working hard to line up events and spread the word, the lead-up to the big day is an exciting time, but also a nerve-wracking one.

On February 20, Remake Learning convened regional leaders from as far as North Carolina, Chicago, and Tennessee, along with representatives from national partners PBS Kids and Digital Promise, for a day-long meeting at the Heinz History Center in order to share resources, strategize, compare notes, and get pumped up for the final push toward Remake Learning Days Across America.

Remake Learning’s director, Sunanna Chand, kicked off the meeting by recounting the origins of Remake Learning Days.

“Remake Learning Days gives parents a chance to experience what this new type of learning looks and feels like on the ground,” said Chand.

The first year of the festival was a smashing success.

“Schools had more parents in the building than ever, you had people coming from more than 10 miles away,” Chand said. “After the event, we asked, ‘How do we keep this going?’”

After a strong track record of Remake Learning Days events, RLDAA aims to extend the experiences and networking opportunities to new audiences in a number of different regions.

Far from being clones of the Pittsburgh event, however, the aim of Remake Learning is to offer support as each region builds a meaningful event that is authentic to the people, features, and opportunities of each region.

Chand sought to foreground a few essential goals of Remake Learning Days in attendees’ minds. First, she said, is the aim to get parents and caregivers in young people’s lives involved in the future of learning. Second is to promote collaboration between educators. And third is to “change hearts and minds,” creating a broad-based mindset change around education.

Following icebreaker activities designed to get the attendees moving and talking through their hopes and expectations for the day, Dorie Taylor, national producer for Remake Learning Days led a tutorial on the software organizers are using to post events for each region, offering tips and fielding questions.

PBS Kids team members Maggie Stevenson, Jennifer English and Lauren Cummings.

Then Jennifer English of PBS Kids described the organization’s goals in supporting these events. While PBS’s television programming are its most visible activity, its broader mission is to provide supplemental educational resources to those children most in need. Working toward that goal includes presenting learning events and hands-on resources, including educator and caregiver training and development. That makes an event like RLDAA a natural fit.

“Remake Learning Days is an opportunity to elevate local organizations and allow parents and caregivers to see the deep resources in their communities, especially those that may be accessible but that people don’t know about,” English said.

With Chand as time-keeper, each regional lead shared a quick three-minute update on their progress, sharing both triumphs and challenges as the big day loomed ever closer. Michael Stone of Public Education Foundation, representing Chattanooga Learning Days, described the STEM Jubilee event planned for his city, assembling more than 4,000 elementary students for a design challenge. Traci Tackett of Bit Source Kentucky, organizer of Eastern Kentucky Remake Learning Days, mentioned an event being hosted in a homeless shelter, directly addressing the events’ key themes of equity and inclusion. Chicago’s representative, Sana Jafri of the Chicago Learning Exchange, shared plans to host a wide range of Spanish-language events in underprivileged neighborhoods across the city. And in Southwestern Pennsylvania, there are plans to convene students representing Allegheny County’s 43 school districts—potentially more than 1,000 students—for a kick-off event co-hosted by DiscoverED.

Digital Promise team members Malliron Hodge and Cricket Fuller.

The sheer amount of activity and the range of planned activities the regional leaders shared was incredible. But for Cricket Fuller, project director with Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization that seeks to close the digital learning gap by fostering educational clusters, the sharing of ideas and tips between regional leads during this time was among the most powerful moments of the day.

“Ecosystem building doesn’t always lend itself to quick or easy achievements,” she said. “When you hear about all the hard work that is going on, that really gave me a sense of positivity and momentum.”

Fuller’s colleague, Malliron Hodge, education fellow with Digital Promise, offered a presentation on the use of metrics to track not only how many people attend a particular event but to gauge how likely they are to participate again, to connect with the host organization, etc.

CorCom, a research and consulting firm that will be conducting surveys for Remake Learning Days Across America, followed Hodge’s presentation by sharing the survey packet that event attendees will receive. The regional leads had the opportunity to raise questions about accessibility in language, including the possibility of creating surveys in Spanish or tweaking the language of the surveys to be more readily understood by children. That conversation connected to a broader theme, evident throughout the day, of centering equity—not only in terms of gender and race but of economic status and access to host sites—in the work that RLDAA organizers are doing.

Following a working lunch during which participants explored the Heinz History Center, attendees split up into two groups. One worked with Chand and Taylor on community building while the other met with communications strategists to fine-tune their messaging as they seek to get the word out about their events.

“The work that has been done in Pittsburgh to build a network has been a model for a lot of the other regions we work with,” Fuller said, reflecting on the day. “There’s been a lot of excitement about this network tool of a showcase because it galvanizes people in a region, bringing them together and making them aware of partnerships that are there.”

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing each of the nine regions offering a Remake Learning Days event this spring.

The full slate of Remake Learning Days includes:

Eastern Kentucky, April 12–20 (led by KET Education);

Knoxville, Tennessee, April 15–20 (led by TCAT-Knoxville);

Southwestern Pennsylvania, May 9–19 (led by Remake Learning Network);

West Virginia, May 9–19 (led by Remake Learning Network);

Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 11–18 (led by Public Education Foundation);

Southeastern Pennsylvania, May 15–24 (led by PA SEED Ecosystem);

Chicago, Illinois, May 16–19 (led by The Chicago Learning Exchange);

North Carolina, May 17–18 (led by Triangle Learning Network); and

Northeast Ohio, May 17–29 (led by NeoStem Ecosystem)

This blog is part of series highlighting the work of each participating region of Remake Learning Days Across America, led by partners Remake Learning, PBS Kids and Digital Promise. Remake Learning wishes to thank the national sponsors of 2019’s Remake Learning Days Across America: Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Grable Foundation and Schmidt Futures.