Traci Tackett still remembers the moment in 2019 when a young girl arrived for a Remake Learning Days event at a local sewing shop.
As the shop owner patiently taught some basic stitches, a whole world began opening up: The student discovered that she could be a maker and create through sewing.
This event ignited a new passion and inspired this young girl to deepen her learning as a designer. Today, she saves her snack money to buy fabric.
For Tackett, this is the mission of Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA) — to showcase local learning and cultural programs that bring new experiences to families in eastern Kentucky. The festival, which includes hundreds of virtual events this year, also exposes families in central Appalachia to innovative education happening throughout the 16 regions participating in this national learning festival.
This is the second year eastern Kentucky is hosting events for RLDAA. In 2019, the festival had nearly 11,000 attendees participate in these creative moments. In the spring of 2020, they had more than 100 events lined up before the COVID-19 pandemic made public, hands-on learning events impossible.
This year, eastern Kentucky will host dozens of events, both virtual and in-person. Events will be planned around the themes of Science, Technology, Making, Arts, Outdoor Learning, Youth Voice and Professional Development, says Tackett, lead organizer for Remake Learning Days in eastern Kentucky and director of digital literacy at Bit Source, a Pikeville-based software development company.
The small businesses that host events add such a unique flavor to the RLDAA festival, Tackett says, because they teach things like sewing and quilting that “really embrace Appalachian culture.”
Three quilt shops are participating this year and will teach children how to make pillow cases, drawstring bags and more. “Quilting is very much a part of Appalachian culture,” she says, so these events can help kids “learn a skill that is part of our heritage.”
RLDAA events can also point young learners toward potential careers.
“We are really trying to get families involved in a variety of learning opportunities, so that our youth, parents and caregivers can see the potential jobs throughout the region,” Tackett says. “As they interact in Remake Learning Days events, they will get a glimpse behind the doors of businesses such as Bit Source.”
Tackett’s company Bit Source has partnered with the nonprofit SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) to help improve the economy and job opportunities in eastern Kentucky. They see education as a vital piece of that process.
“Bit Source is helping schools and community members embrace digital learning, and Remake Learning is a great partner to help us push that effort,” she says. This year’s event at Bit Source is an “Office Hour” where students will learn what program developers do. For some students, learning how this business was created to train former miners to coders could spark a career interest in programming.
It’s important for high-school students to know that these developers were not trained through formal education, but are self-taught and developed their skills at Bit Source.
“We can expose kids to the work of a web designer, app developer or even a three-dimensional designer,” Tackett says. “Exposure to various careers is one small piece of a huge puzzle that Remake Learning Days is helping put together.”
Schools and public libraries are also offering events. Many have created kits for families to pick up from designated locations, so they can do hands-on projects at home while connecting virtually to the event. Topics include making Earth Day seed bombs and robot pull toys. A virtual talent show and scavenger hunt are also on the calendar.
Along with helping families, some RLDAA events offer learning opportunities for teachers.
Tackett is particularly excited about an online professional development lecture by Clarence Tan, CEO of Missouri-based Boddle Learning Inc., creator of Boddle, a 3-D math game that uses AI to tailor learning content to the correct level for each child.
Tan is an expert in the field in computer science “who has a passion for using games and the gaming industry to show teachers they can make minor modifications in their classroom to keep students highly engaged,” Tackett says.
“We would never have been able to offer an event like that in person,” she says. “Now, because of our openness to virtual learning, we find people are willing to support our festival even though they are in a different part of the United States.”
Other events the Eastern Kentucky region will host April 22-May 2 include:
- April 22: Earth Day QR Code scavenger hunt at the Corbin Public Library, where participants can follow clues to find QR codes and collect images hidden around the City of Corbin. Once all the images are collected, they can return to the library to collect a reward.
- April 22: Coding, creating apps, and 3-D printing, in which computer science students at the Floyd County School of Innovation will teach the basics of coding, designing and creating apps, and 3-D printing.
- April 22: Earth Operation: Leatherwood, hosted by the staff at Leatherwood Elementary School, this event includes a discussion of the plants and animals around Leatherwood and Leatherwood Creek, plus art and nature stations, a native tree walk and information about the aquatics of Leatherwood Creek.
- April 22, 26, May 3: Farming Now: Creating America’s AgTech Capital in Appalachia. Breathitt High School in Jackson is offering a hands-on educational experience that includes seeding, transplanting and harvesting leafy greens from a vertical hydroponic system while learning about controlled environment agriculture.
- April 26: A virtual tour of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, which features more than 75 species from copperheads to king cobras. The zoo provides venom for medical research, helps researchers and educators study reptiles and their conservation, and teaches about the importance of reptiles to their ecosystems and to humans.
- April 28: SEL & Mindfulness in the Classroom: Creating an Engaging and Safe Virtual Learning Environment, which will discuss strategies based on research that teachers can use not only in their own professional lives, but also with students.
With hundreds of virtual Remake Learning Days events happening here and around the country, Tackett sees an opportunity to share what’s happening in eastern Kentucky with families elsewhere and to allow people in our region to participate in events in places like San Diego or Washington, D.C.
As more people “see the technology that is being showcased through Remake Learning Days, it bridges the gaps,” she says. And it opens up a world of possibilities for families throughout our region.
Remake Learning Days Across America runs April 22 – May 23 in 17 regions in the United States. More information on the Eastern Kentucky region’s events, which run April 22-May 2, can be found at https://remakelearningdays.org/eastky/