By Christopher Maggio
People in Pittsburgh’s creative and technical industries know where to go if they want to explore another skill, such as computer coding or video production, but for parents, teachers, and students outside of those circles, knowing where to look can be daunting.
The Remake Learning Days Kickoff at PNC Park Mon., May 15 provided learners of all ages with what Liz Schwab called “a great one-stop shop to show them resources.” Schwab is a public affairs manager at Google. Google Geek Street was one of the presenting sponsors, and Pirates Charities hosted.
— Remake Learning (@remakelearning) May 15, 2017
Children and adults came by school bus, T, and car and made their way to the 100-level of the ballpark via the home plate entrance. The beverage stations were dry, the concession windows shuttered; rather, 50 tables representing a myriad of companies, nonprofits, and schools dispensed knowledge and hands-on activities.
The kickoff, which ran from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., was far from a glue-and-popsicle craft day. At the Children’s Museum’s table, kids created kaleidoscopic patterns using markers attached equidistantly around recycled water bottles. The bottles stood atop the markers, four for every bottle, and small motors and batteries powered them across drawing paper.
Elsewhere, students of the Sarah Heinz Advanced Robotics Program (SHARP) steered an approximately 2”x2”x1”-robot. The machine, all wires and blinking lights, turned on a dime, never colliding with unsuspecting people.
At the South Fayette Township School District tables, STEAM Consultants, despite a median age of nine, proved more gregarious than some of the adults, flagging down passersby to show off stop-motion Lego animation and Lego WeDo ping-pong launchers controlled by Scratch software. The kids even came armed with business cards (albeit with only their first names printed).
— Remake Learning (@remakelearning) May 15, 2017
While children played, adults networked, the latter looking for the best resources for their daughters, sons, students, and themselves. The large turnout, boosted in part by the cloudless sky and warm air, made for a successful opening.
The Remake Learning Network, a group of more than 250 organizations, launched Remake Learning Days in 2016. The Sprout Fund manages the network, whose goal is to remake 20th-century pedagogy into 21st-century pedagogy so that children can be ready for new opportunities. The events run through Fri., May 26.
“We are excited for families to experience Remake Learning Days,” Dorie Taylor, the producer of Remake Learning, said over email. “With nearly 350 hands-on learning events, we can’t wait to see what our youth will create, tinker, and discover.”
Most of these events are free and take place at the same organizations that make up the network. A robot raceway and virtual reality are two of the 25 events that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host at its various branches. The Senator John Heinz History Center’s Innovation Station features an engineering playground and an Everbright machine to design pop art.
— Innovation Lab @ DMS (@dmsmakerspace) May 15, 2017
The events are spread across Western Pennsylvania and, new this year, West Virginia. Unsure where to begin? Remake Learning divided all the activities into daily themes, which run the gamut of the arts to outdoor learning.
The kickoff culminated with a proclamation read by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto making May 15 to 26 Remake Learning Days.
Peduto afterwards borrowed a two-joystick remote control from one of the Greene County home schoolers enrolled in BotsIQ. The control steered a robot with two circular saws. A sealed, transparent cube protected onlookers from flying debris, but they still jumped as the robot demolished a toy truck.
Other speakers at the kickoff included Lisa Birmingham, Comcast’s Vice President of External Affairs. She emphasized the importance of building “digital muscle” among Western Pennsylvania’s and West Virginia’s youth. Comcast was another presenting sponsor. Its Internet Essentials program helps bring low-cost internet to homes.
— Comcast Western PA (@ComcastWestrnPA) May 17, 2017
The two honorary co-chairs spoke last. Grammy-award-winning singer and Mt. Lebanon-native Daya couldn’t be there in person, but she gave a nice shout-out to Remake Learning Days in a pre-recorded speech that played on the jumbotron.
Jasiri X, hip-hop artist and cofounder of 1Hood, was the other co-chair. “We want to make Pittsburgh the most liveable city not just for a few but for everybody,” he said.
Throughout the afternoon, the PA system repeated a playlist of inspirational songs (“Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). When Jasiri X finished, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” happened to play—fitting, though, for a generation of children sure to make learning their own.