Remake Learning Field Notes: June – September 2019

A seasonal update from Remake Learning director Sunanna Chand

It’s been a busy summer and early fall for the network, from the Space Design Summit to Policy to Professional Development and more. We recently announced Blueprint for Learning grantees, a new catalytic grant opportunity from Remake Learning. Remake Learning working groups continue to deepen content expertise and create tools and resources beneficial to the entire network. In 2019 alone we’ve hosted 52 public and free events with nearly 2,000 attendees, not including the hundreds who turned out to honor the Pittsburgh region’s educators at CelebratEd.

After the resounding success of Remake Learning Days 2019, during which we welcomed seven new regions, we’ve already announced the dates for next year: Remake Learning Days returns for its fifth anniversary May 7-17, 2020. All 2019 regions will return in 2020, alongside five new regions.

In August, we welcomed Erin Gatz onto the team as our new Research Fellow. This fellowship is a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh and we are thrilled to learn from Erin’s forthcoming work to understand, with even more clarity, the impact of Remake Learning.

With this strong foundation of team members, ongoing work, and diversified funding support in place, I announced in early September that I will be stepping down from Remake Learning at the end of this year. It has been a true honor to serve this network for the last five years, and as its Director for the past two years. I couldn’t be more excited to see where Remake Learning goes from here. Co-Chairs Gregg Behr, Jim Denova, and Valerie Kinloch are working diligently to find new leadership for Remake Learning.

As this may be the last time that I share an update like this with the Remake Learning network, please allow me to express my deep and sincere gratitude. You welcomed me to Pittsburgh and provided the opportunity for me to be of service to this incredible community. I am forever grateful.

Blueprint for Learning Grants

Blueprint for Learning is a Remake Learning funding opportunity providing 16 grants of up to $50,000 each to help educators reimagine, redesign, and remake their learning spaces.

Building on Remake Learning’s successful facilitation of more than 150 classroom transformations over the past 12 years, Blueprint for Learning Blueprint offered 16 grants of up to $50,000 to help schools, out-of-school time organizations, early childhood facilities, museums, libraries, and higher education institutions reimagine, redesign, and remake their learning spaces.

Developed in partnership with the National Design Alliance and Reimagine America’s Schools, and funded by the Grable, Benedum, and Hillman foundations, Blueprint for Learning offered $800,000 in total grants available, representing Remake Learning’s largest single investment in learning space design to date.

The funding opportunity opened in June with the release of the grant details and an invitation to the two-day Space Design Summit in July, co-hosted by Remake Learning, the National Design Alliance and Reimagine America’s Schools. More than 120 network members worked in teams to explore space design principles and develop ideas for projects they could undertake with the help of a Blueprint for Learning grant.

Educators gather at the Remake Learning Space Design Summit / Photo by Ben Filio

More than 100 proposals were submitted for consideration. Following thorough review, Remake Learning and its funding partners selected 16 organizations for the cohort:

  • Allegheny Valley School District
  • Attack Theatre
  • B.F. Jones Memorial Library
  • Bible Center Church
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania
  • Center that C.A.R.E.S.
  • Hope Academy
  • Human Services Center Corporation
  • Monongalia County Schools, North Elementary School
  • Pittsburgh Public Schools, Brashear High School
  • Providence Connections
  • Riverview School District
  • Senator John Heinz History Center
  • The Campus Laboratory School of Carlow University
  • Western Pennsylvania School for Deaf
  • Wheeling Country Day School

The Blueprint for Learning cohort includes a diverse group of nonprofit organizations and schools from southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia who serve students in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

The cohort will meet for three intensive design sessions through November 2019, the first of which was held September 11-13. A dozen local architects led 75 educators through an in-depth review of the design process, including critical community-building aspects, and visioning exercises. Cohort members will continue to hone their ideas and develop their plans this fall in preparation for implementing their space redesigns in 2020.

Network Activities

Remake Learning Network Activities are designed to cultivate and support a regional community of peer professionals committed to the vision and values of Remake Learning.

Rural Outreach

Remake Learning continued to develop relationships with educators and stakeholders in rural communities throughout the summer months. New contacts were made with Pennsylvania Arts Education Association/IUP Arts Education; Head Start WV; Laurel Highlands School District; Nathan Berger of LIGHTS, Ohio University on connections between Ohio/KY work and SW PA/Northern WV; and the Spark! Imagination and Science Center, Morgantown, WV.

In June, Remake Learning partnered with Parents in Toto to host a Lunch & Learn on sensory learning and the Autism Spectrum. In July, educators from Westmoreland and Fayette counties, and Athens, Ohio gathered for a #RemakeRural meetup at Intermediate Unit 7. And in August, Remake Learning hosted its first virtual meetup to facilitate connections between rural educators at great distances.

Parents in Toto educators share lessons in social-emotional learning. / Photo by Willy James

Parents in Toto educators share lessons in social-emotional learning. / Photo by Willy James

Remake Learning Days

Planning has begun for Remake Learning Days 2020. In June, leaders from the nine participating regions gathered in Pittsburgh alongside Remake Learning, Digital Promise, and PBS to reflect and share lessons learned from 2019. In southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia, intermediaries and neighborhood leads met in September to confirm May 7 – 17 for Remake Learning Days 2020.

All nine regions that participated in Remake Learning Days 2019 are expected to return in 2020. In August, Remake Learning Days issued a request for proposals inviting new regions to join the effort. As of the September deadline, 14 regions had submitted plans to participate.

Network Events

Even as school let out, Remake Learning’s convening activities didn’t let up. Throughout the summer, network members gathered to explore shared interests and learn from their peers.

In June, Rafi Santo of the Hive Research Lab led a virtual session on Brokering Youth Pathways, sharing key learnings from the recent report of the same name. In July, network members gathered to build connections among life sciences educators, learn about Social Change 101’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching social justice, and seeding collaboration between media makers and educators at the Media Makers / Educators Meetup. September saw a resurgence of network convening activities as the new school year got underway, with a lunch and learn on challenges around using Artificial Intelligence for learning with youth, and then a meta-lunch & learn at Assemble where Nina Barbuto shared some insights from Learning about Learning.

Remake Learning took part in two opportunities to showcase the state of education innovation in the Pittsburgh region in late September.

At CelebratED, a first-of-its-kind gala event honoring the Pittsburgh region’s educators, more than 500 people gathered for student performances, video profiles of some of the region’s most remarkable learning innovations, and remarks from Lasse Leponiemi, co-founder and executive director of HundrED, a Finnish organization that recently completed a spotlight on education innovation in Pittsburgh. Remake Learning recognized the 100 Ignite Grant recipients and announced the 16 members of the Blueprint for Learning cohort.

CelebratED was truly a night to remember.

CelebratED was truly a night to remember.

Just days later, Remake Learning co-hosted the Digital Promise EdClusters Convening, welcoming representatives from more than 20 regions across the United States to a two-day collaborative session on the state of place-based innovation networks.

The summit marked the return of Digital Promise to the region after kicking off their initial work on EdClusters at a convening in Pittsburgh in 2014. Remake Learning interviewed Digital Promise staff to share lessons learned over those five years.

EdClusters attendees on tour of Pittsburgh’s learning innovation hotspots.

EdClusters attendees on tour of Pittsburgh’s learning innovation hotspots.

Working Groups

Remake Learning Working Groups gather network members around specific topics and priorities that no single organization can impact alone.


In June, CSforPGH organized a series of engagements around the theme of inclusion. CSforPGH lead LaTrenda Sherrill partnered with Shimira Williams to co-host Twitter Chats around the hashtag #CSforInclusion.

The discussion culminated in the CS for Inclusion Summit on June 20th. Featuring a keynote by Dr. Nichole Pinkard, as well as panel discussions with representatives from state and local government, tech startups, and education, the event took a hard look at the data on computer science education and employment rates, and then looked at strategies for broadening the CS employment pipeline.

Dr. Nichole Pinkard in discussion with Ani Martinez at #CSforInclusion. / Photo by Willy James

Dr. Nichole Pinkard in discussion with Ani Martinez at #CSforInclusion. / Photo by Willy James

A delegation of Remake Learning network members attended the Pennsylvania Computer Science for All Summit in late June. There, they took part in conversations between education policymakers and labor and industry representatives aimed at identifying and closing gaps between education and economic opportunity.

For a full update on CSforPGH, see this recent interview with working group lead LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill.

Maker Learning Collaborative

Ahead of the Nation of Makers conference in Chattanooga, Make For All put out a national call for maker commitments, and maker learning leaders in the greater Pittsburgh region responded. Maker educators and advocates from Pittsburgh accounted for more than 20% of all commitments made to the Make For All campaign. See what Remake Learning members committed to here.

Closer to home, the Maker Learning Collaborative partnered with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to host What Do I Do With This Stuff?, an opportunity for educators to bring teaching tools and equipment to the Museum Lab for free consultation and instruction from expert makers.

Educators get help making use of things and stuff at the Museum Lab.

Educators get help making use of things and stuff at the Museum Lab.

For a full update on the Maker Learning Collaborative, see this recent interview with working group lead Sunanna Chand.

Professional Learning Collaborative

Following an inclusive planning process that engaged members of the working group to determine a shared focus for the 2019-2020 school year, the Professional Learning Collaborative premiered its “Think Tank” program at a happy hour reception in August.

Through a series of four working sessions held over the course of the school year, members of the Professional Learning Collaborative will work progressively through four themes: Motivation, Inspiration, Collaboration, and Creation.

About 15 staff developers attended the first session in September, focusing on Motivation or getting to the “why” that drives their work. Future sessions will build on this shared sense of purpose and Remake Learning will commit mini-grants to foster collaborative projects.

For a full update on the Professional Learning Collaborative, see this recent interview with working group lead Allyce Pinchback-Johnson.

Future of Work Collaborative

Following the successful May 2019 launch of a working group on career readiness, working group lead Marita Garrett conducted additional outreach and planning over the summer months. This led to a rebranding of the working group as the Future of Work Collaborative, chosen to better reflect the scope of the working group’s enterprise.

The first official meeting of the working group took place in early September. More than 30 network members representing secondary education, career and technical education, community colleges, higher education, and industry attended. Working together in the BNY Innovation Center, began a process to gather insights and feedback that will guide the development of a tangible product valuable to the field.

STE(A)M Ecosystem

Planning and preparation for the STEM Observation Protocol, a project to assess how educators in various settings are using engaging, relevant, and equitable instructional practices to teach STEM, continued with Arts Education Collaborative positioned to lead the observation and reporting over the course of fall 2019.

In June, Remake Learning premiered the STEM Spotlight series, a project to lift up professionals who represent a more diverse and inclusive future for STEM careers. Based on nominations made by members of the STEAM Ecosystem, Remake Learning profiled five STEM professionals to learn about the origins of their interest in STEM, important STEM moments in their life, learning, and work. Featured professionals include Dr. Stephanie Siler, a scientist conducting research at Carnegie Mellon University; Max Dennison, a technologist leading efforts to diversify computer science education and opportunity in the city of Pittsburgh, Mattie Collins-Wood, an engineer creating opportunities for young women of color to pursue the field; Andre Swain, a roboticist using math and machines to fabricate advanced technology; and Dr. Andre Samuel, a science educator and founder of the Citizen Science Lab.

Remake Learning and its partners secured National Science Foundation funding sufficient to provide steady STE(A)M Ecosystem support for the next five years.

Innovative Education Policy Collaborative

In July, Remake Learning partnered with the Pitt Institute of Politics and the Consortium for Public Education to host a Legislators Forum. The goal of convening was to open up more communication channels between educators and legislators, particularly around the future of learning.

For a full update on the Innovative Education Policy Collaborative, see this recent interview with working group lead Sunanna Chand.

Youth Voice

Over the summer the Youth Voices working group continued deep development of the forthcoming Standards of Practice Toolkit, a set of resources that will bring attention to adultism in our region and help adult youth voice practitioners begin take concrete, evidence-based, hyper-local steps to address it.

For a full update on the Youth Voice working group, see this recent interview with working group lead Jess Gold.

Published October 16, 2019

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