From May 16 to 19, Chicago will host its first-ever Remake Learning Days Chi, a showcase of more than 100 events and activities highlighting the future of learning and work.
Spearheaded by a coalition of partners dedicated to equitable, hands-on learning, the festival will showcase dozens of educational organizations, offering kids, parents, and caregivers from across the region free and low-cost events held at locations all over the city.
The event is part of this year’s slate of Remake Learning Days Across America, an 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, seven new regions, including Chicago, will host Remake Learning Days festivals.
“We hope to showcase the learning that’s happening, and increase awareness and access to families that wouldn’t otherwise have that,” Jafri said.
Numerous events will be held in historically disinvested neighborhoods like Austin and Pilsen, along with neighboring Evanston. One of the highlights of Remake Learning Days Chi Jafri is most excited about is the first-ever visit by PBS cartoon character Nature Cat to Chicago’s West Side. Remake Learning Days Chi will also feature inclusive events hosted by the city’s museums, universities, and a number of its 80 public-library branch locations.
This emphasis on equitable access is at the heart of RLDAA, and of Remake Learning in general. Jafri and her colleagues are sensitive to a broad array of obstacles to access facing some community members, from a lack of transportation options to language barriers.
“There are learning assets in every community in Chicago, whether we know it or not, and there’s potential in every child,” said Jafri. “Whether we nurture that potential is another question.”
Chicago’s public libraries, which will be an important part of the festival, are an excellent example of resources that many students and parents may not know about—or may wrongly overlook.
“We hope to showcase how libraries have reimagined themselves and are remaking learning,” Jafri said.
She cited in particular the library’s YOUmedia Chicago initiative, which has established teen digital learning spaces at 12 library locations. YOUmedia sites expose teens to graphic design, STEM and hands-on making, 2- and 3-D design, and video and music, among other activities. The program was the first of its kind in the nation, a fact that many, including some Chicago residents, don’t know.
When the Chicago Learning Exchange took school groups to a downtown branch of the library last year, Jafri said, many students were stunned by the resources available there. Several graduating seniors remarked that they wished they had known about the library’s assets earlier.
That kind of disconnect is exactly what Jafri and her colleagues hope Remake Learning Days Chi will help to remedy.
“How do we think about all the resources and organizations we work with, how do we bring them together to celebrate hands-on learning?” Jafri asked. “This event is an opportunity to do that on a large scale.
“But also a secondary outcome we’re hoping for is to change the narrative of neighborhoods in Chicago,” Jafri said. “A lot of the work we’re doing is happening in communities that have been historically disinvested, and may have problems with violence. But there are also good things happening, like in this work that educators and young people are doing.”