It’s not every day that you get to pull up in your car, roll down your windows, see someone holding a raptor … and then learn about those creatures.
But that’s exactly what people in North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle — the region comprising Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh — can experience during Remake Learning Days Across America.
The Durham-based Piedmont Wildlife Center’s unique Fly-Thru Raptor Meet and Greet allows participants a close, yet socially distanced, look at birds of prey.
“You drive through and learn about birds and conservation,” says Carly Apple, one of the regional organizers of Triangle Learning Days and director of STEM learning at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.
The Piedmont Wildlife Center started this drive-through learning experience to give people isolated in their homes during the pandemic something to do. Clearly, people were interested. When the program began, “the line was wrapped around the street,” Apple says. “People are looking for fun, safe things like that to do.”
This is just one of nearly 30 events that will be held during the Triangle Learning Days festival, April 22-May 2.
This is this region’s second go-around with Remake Learning Days Across America, but a first for Apple and Trish Lemm, curriculum manager at the Museum of Life and Science.
Apple likes the variety of events Remake Learning Days promotes and how they manage to incorporate STEM teaching in fun and innovative ways. Just one example is the Watercolors of the World event aimed at students in grades 6-12.
“It’s a youth event, it’s about art and expression, but it’s also about climate change and they bring it all together in a wonderful way,” she says. “It incorporates STEM.”
That event on April 24 will be held online, like many other offerings during Remake Learning Days. With the pandemic making some in-person events impossible, both Apple and Lemm see advantages to virtual programming.
“It widens the availability,” Lemm says. “Our community is able to tune into events that are happening all over the country. And it’ll be great if we have some people who join us from around the country.”
Virtual events in the Triangle region and 16 other participating regions in the nation (happening April 22-May 23) also help people who might be wary about participating in events with other people during the pandemic.
“We have learners around the Triangle with different comfort levels around Covid precautions,” Lemm says. “So it’s nice that there are in-person events for those ready to get out safely, and virtual events for those remaining at home.”
In addition to events for students, Remake Learning Days also offers several professional development sessions for educators. One Apple and Lemm look forward to is Boddle Learning Inc. CEO Clarence Tan’s virtual lecture on April 26 about how educators can learn from video games to better engage students in the classroom.
The Triangle region, too, will hold its own professional development session for Durham Public Schools (DPS) educators and staff — a wellness day at the working farm run by DPS, where they can also learn how to make a macramé plant holder or paint a pot.
Other events during hosted by the Triangle region include:
- April 19 (pre-festival event): Magnetic Fields: a hands-on, play-based activity with a Marbles Kids Museum STEM expert about the Earth and sun’s magnetic fields.
- April 22: Durham Spring Bioblitz, where participants help catalog animal and plant life by taking a photo with their phones and uploading it to the iNaturalist app. Experts will be available to help identify the finds. “You’re out and you’re doing stuff, but there’s no interaction with people holding the event. You can do it from your back yard,” Apple says.
- April 22: How Does Your Garden Grow: A Facebook Live session with a STEM and garden coordinator from the Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill that allows participants to learn about plant life in their own yards.
- April 29: City Nature Challenge: A worldwide event aimed at discovering and documenting the nature all around you. Participants photograph wild, living things they see April 30 – May 3 and upload them to the iNaturalist app or website to support environmental efforts in their local areas.
“The part I love about Triangle Learning Days is they try to get families to learn together,” Apple says. “It’s great to teach a child how to identify birds, but it’s extra fun if they get to do it with their parents. They might be learning alongside their children. It opens up this relationship, and it also opens up curiosity. I love that focus on a family unit.”
Triangle Learning Days offers a “neat opportunity to highlight a lot of the innovative work our partners have done around the community, to rethink and remake learning in response to the pandemic,” Lemm says. After the pandemic, “a lot of things will go back to how they were, but I think some of these innovations will stay with us for a long time.”
More information about Triangle Learning Days in the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham region can be found at: https://remakelearningdays.org/nc/