Later this month, kindergarten through high school students in communities across Pennsylvania will spend time learning first-hand how video games are made, or learn a chef’s tools for making a recipe, among many live learning activities.
Chances are they won’t notice that they’re building essential employability skills for future careers. They’ll be too busy discovering the art and science behind anything from virtual reality, environmental applications, and imagining the stories they might tell with these tools.
As these students and thousands more build their creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills during the Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA) festival, they will move another step closer to career and workforce readiness for the future.
The festival’s organizers have partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Career Ready PA initiative to highlight the valuable connection between hands-on learning, employability skills, and career readiness.
The Remake Learning Days festival began in 2016 in the Pittsburgh region and has grown to include events held annually in 17 regions of the country. These learning opportunities happen at schools, museums, libraries, parks, community hubs, tech startups — even in laundromats. The festival essentially turns the nation into a pop-up theme park filled with learning opportunities, where parents and caregivers can learn and play alongside their kids.
From May 6-16, more than 600 events are scheduled to take place throughout the southwestern, northwestern, central, and southeastern regions of the state. And because many of the events are virtual, Pennsylvania students can participate at school or at home.
Pennsylvania’s PBS stations are also involved, not only as media sponsors but also hosting events of their own like Family Night: Engineering and Cartoon Academy with Joe Wos.
The festival will kick off on May 4 with discoverED, an event pairing hundreds of second-grade classrooms from around the state. During an afternoon of STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts and math) learning, more than 3,000 students will build marble mazes and get to know students in other classrooms and communities.
Once the festival’s calendar of public events begins on May 6, students statewide will be able to participate in events affiliated with Career Ready PA’s Backpack Challenge, where they can earn a badge and submit an artifact for their career portfolio. Pennsylvania’s students are required to build a career portfolio from grades K-11, which includes evidence of meaningful student engagement in career readiness activities as a measure of future post-secondary success. The Backpack Challenge incorporates PA Career Ready employability soft skills, such as collaboration and critical thinking, with the Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Standards in a variety of educational, hands-on sessions. Along the way, the students collect “artifacts” related to these skills and they reflect on the particular skills they learned and how that skill-building can prepare them for a future career.
“The pursuit of artifacts is student-driven, very active and inquiry-based,” says Remake Learning director Tyler Samstag. And that “deeper reflection on the skill sets needed in today’s workforce” helps students understand how their academic learning is preparing them for adult life.
The RLDAA festival, he says, is a perfect opportunity to collect artifacts because so many of the events have some type of career component or connection to the PA Career Education and Work standards. Many events take place within professional workplaces such as tech companies and science labs.
“Remake Learning Days allows organizations to open their doors,” Samstag says, “so that young people can go into that environment and engage with people who use STEM skills and practice hands-on creating for a living.”
As students attend these events with their classmates or individually, they earn badges for their effort and they collect them in a digital “backpack.” Thus far, 100 of the state’s 500 school districts have registered for the Backpack Challenge. PDE will track participation in these events and when a school earned 100 badges, they’ll receive a banner celebrating this accomplishment.
With the RLDAA festival expanding statewide, participating students “are not only getting an educational experience, but they’re also making connections between those experiences and their futures,” says Pennsylvania Department of Education Career Readiness Advisor Laura Fridirici.
Some districts have struggled to support students in acquiring these artifacts during the pandemic, Samstag says. So the partnership with Career Ready PA will hopefully “lead to students from schools across Pennsylvania using Remake Learning Days as an opportunity to reflect on their career readiness components and add artifacts to their portfolios.”
This has been especially valuable in rural areas of the state, including the northwestern region, which is participating for the first time this year.
Kelsi Wilcox Boyles, an education programs specialist at Intermediate Unit 6, is the regional lead for the festival in the northwest. She had been following the growth of Remake Learning Days in the Pittsburgh region for several years and was excited for her part of the state to get involved this year.
“I saw the great things that they’re doing in the Pittsburgh area and beyond,” Wilcox Boyles says. “When I saw that they were opening up to be Remake Learning Days Across America, it was just something that I was really excited to be a part of.”
Like so many of the festival’s regional leaders, “we’re always looking for ways to elevate our community partners,” she says. Libraries, community centers, schools, and the state universities in her region “are doing great things. They’re doing hands-on learning. And they’re trying to get parents and children in the door to find their interests and find out what can spark learning in an informal, fun, relaxing setting.”
She looks forward to having families from around the state and the nation participate in virtual events happening in Northwest Pennsylvania during this year’s festival.
Wilcox Boyles credits Fridirici with recognizing that the RLDAA festival could bring hundreds of learning opportunities to Pennsylvania’s students, all closely aligned with the Pennsylvania Education’s goals for career readiness for postsecondary success When Fridirici reached out to the festival’s regional organizers around the state and introduced the idea of collaborating, Wilcox Boyles thought the idea was brilliant.
Students in her region are excited to gather artifacts for their career portfolios — and hopefully find experiences that excite them along the way.
These are just two among nearly 200 events where students can pursue artifacts:
- May 7, Ask A Chemist!: Join PPG in a collaborative session where students can interview scientists in different roles within the company, including chemists, engineers, data scientists, programmers, managers and more.
- May 8, Stream Study with a Park Ranger: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers host an event where students learn about local and regional watersheds. Students will conduct a stream investigation, gain hands-on experience with scientific instruments and data collection, and analyze data and cite evidence to answer questions like, “How healthy is this local stream?” This in-person event is recommended for students in grades 6-8.
- May 13, Schell Games: Schell Games is the largest full-service education and entertainment game development company in the United States. Get a peek behind-the-scenes and learn about the different roles needed in designing video games, from coding to human resources. Students of all ages are welcome to this virtual event.
Looking through the growing roster of Remake Learning Days events happening nationwide, “it’s hard to find the one that’s not related to finding your passion and finding your interests,” says Wilcox Boyles. “That’s what it’s all about, right? Joyful learning and learning in a more informal way.”