Remake Learning Days: What’s happening in West Virginia?
Meet Donna Peduto and Learn Why She’s Excited for Remake Learning Days in West Virginia
There’s something in the air in West Virginia.
It’s springtime, and the snow is melting on the mountains. The trees are ready to bloom. And, as the state’s historic teachers strike recently showed, there’s an undeniable enthusiasm for education and the future of West Virginia’s kids. Where else would teachers pool their money and pack bagged lunches for students before heading to the picket line? Where else would parents go out of their way to create homemade science projects for neighborhood kids? For nearly two weeks in late February and early March, the nation caught glimpse after glimpse of West Virginia’s generosity and passion.
Today, the state famous for country roads is heading in an exciting new direction. Educators across West Virginia are spreading innovative teaching and learning, bringing rockets, robots, and real-life problem-solving into classrooms and beyond — with plenty more to come.
There are so many places to learn in West Virginia: schools, libraries, churches, and of course the wild, wonderful outdoors. As executive director of the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative, Donna Peduto works to bring them all together. The Collaborative is, as she puts it, a “think-and-do tank” that champions growth in public schools through outreach, innovation, and convening. We caught up with Peduto to learn about all the ways West Virginia is remaking learning, and to get a sneak preview of what to expect during Remake Learning Days.
What exactly does the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative do? Can you tell us a bit about your work?
Sure! Our job is to champion public schools, and we do that by bringing together legislators, business leaders, educators, and the public. Recently, we’ve taken on several initiatives to inform state policy and support public education. We’re a nonpartisan organization with members from around the state, the region, and the nation. Our members are learned and diverse, and they help us respond to some of the most critical issues in education. They come from lots of different places and organizations: the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center, the Alliance for Excellent Education, community and technical colleges, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Benedum Foundation, just to name a few.
Why did you choose to become a Community Champion for Remake Learning Days?
Ever since joining the Remake Learning Council, I’ve seen how broad Remake Learning is and how many different areas the network has been able to affect. It’s just amazing to me — members of the network can turn simple ideas upside down and make a positive difference anywhere. They’ve received international recognition and a lot of national attention, from former President Obama and the current mayor of Pittsburgh and others. I want that for West Virginia.
I became a Community Champion because I want to spread the word about Remake Learning and seek out more possibilities for partnerships. There are so many potential ways for West Virginia to get involved — I just visited a museum in Morgantown that would be a perfect fit!
Can you say more about that? Why is something like Remake Learning Days important to West Virginia?
Recently, our state launched a new initiative called West Virginia Forward. It came out of a report from McKinsey & Company that lays out recommendations for what the state needs to do in order to grow. West Virginia Forward is about embracing those recommendations.
What we’ve found is that there’s a real opportunity gap in West Virginia, particularly for women and minorities. I think Remake Learning Days is an important vehicle in that regard because it’s something everybody can embrace. It’s inclusive and very motivating, especially to young people. And it brings STEM concepts to students in a way that’s relevant — it doesn’t just say, “Hey, let’s get together and look at math formulas,” which is what a lot of students think STEM careers might look like. I think Remake Learning Days could mark a big turning point for STEM in our state.
I also like it because it’s uplifting. We get down on ourselves sometimes — a lot of West Virginians are struggling in this economy. But I think Remake Learning Days can lift up the whole state. That’s important, because we have such an opportunity to grow. Things here are turning around, but a lot of employers can’t find qualified workers. So Remake Learning Days is a huge opportunity because we can show our young people all these different, exciting types of learning and careers.
Which Remake Learning Days events are you particularly excited about?
There are so many that I just can’t get over it! I love the idea of the 4-H Outdoor Classroom. The STE(A)M Community Night sounds great, too. The Play in a Day youth theater workshop looks excellent, and so does the Healthy Forest event in Charleston.
You know, we live in a beautiful state with lots of natural resources. But it’s interesting how many students haven’t been exposed to outdoor learning. I taught school for 22 years, and most of my students hadn’t done hands-on things like water sampling on our rivers and lakes. So these outdoor learning events can open up a whole new world for them.
What do you want parents to know about Remake Learning Days?
Remake Learning Days is about learning for all. Adults are totally engaged in it — not just for kids, but for themselves, too. I love that part of it. It’s a no-pressure, non-judgmental, relaxed way to get comfortable with STEM concepts.
It also embraces your children’s strengths. I think every parent wants individualized learning for their child, and Remake Learning Days events are tailored to student interests. All of these opportunities can take children further, nurture them, and help them grow.
Parents: Take your kids further with even more great events in West Virginia!
Thursday, May 17 | Levels, WV
Teams will create a robot that will be able to complete various tasks such as pushing/pulling items, following a line, and detecting an earthquake. Teams will complete three challenges of their choice to maximize their points. Teams will compete in a final challenge, designing a rescue robot to solve a real-world problem in our area.
Saturday, May 19 | Grantsville, WV
The evening will begin with a picnic-style meal for all attendees and include a variety of workshops appropriate for various age groups. Examples of the workshops activities include — but are not limited to — crafts, coloring, and fun activities for small children; more educational hands-on activities for pre-teens; and building a telescope for teens and adults.
Monday, May 21 | Wheeling, WV
The year is 2076 and humanity has finally colonized Mars! Immerse yourself in our Mars Transport Vehicle or Mars Mission Control simulators to become a crew member exploring the possibility of water and life on Mars. This hands-on mission will allow you to become an astronaut specialist such as a Navigation Officer, who will use mathematical calculations to adjust the thrust needed for safe landings, or a Bio Specialist, who will conduct soil experiments in a glovebox! Participants will take one of the nine Mission Specialist roles and perform essential tasks needed for a successful mission.
Friday, May 25 | Buckeye, WV
Be prepared to get lost in planting a fantastic adventure. Assist in designing a corn maze! Help create twisting pathways and use geometry. We will invent the maze from scratch, using our imagination, love of exploring and lots of graph paper. It’s a maze, it’s a game, it’s educational, and it’s FUN! Spend quality time together with your family, friends, and classmate sharing the experience.
For more events in West Virginia, download a free Remake Learning Days planning guide.
This blog is part of a special initiative to connect children and youth in four Pittsburgh neighborhoods and West Virginia to Remake Learning Days (May 17-25).
Remake Learning thanks the Education Alliance for coordinating West Virginia’s events and outreach, as well as the Benedum Foundation and Chevron for their support throughout the state.