Remake Learning Field Notes: October – January 2022

A seasonal update from Remake Learning Network Director Tyler Samstag

After a busy fall, the end of 2021 provided the Remake Learning team and network a time to look back and plan ahead. It was time well spent building a foundation for many activities and initiatives launching later this spring!

For one, the Remake Learning Days team spent several heads-down months planning for upcoming spring festivals, securing participating regions, partners, and sponsorships, and recruiting event hosts.

After officially awarding 17 Moonshot Grants in 2021 (between two rounds of funding), the Remake Learning team reflected on the application process and funding structure, working to make improvements based on applicant and grantee feedback. In January, Remake Learning announced the return of Moonshot Grants, with two rounds of funding coming later this spring and fall.

In addition, the Remake Learning team continued to expand and celebrate exciting milestones. LaTrenda Sherrill took on the new role of Remake Learning Working Group Strategist while also being named to the national STEM Learning Ecosystem’s Leadership Coordinating Council. At the same time, three longtime network members joined the Remake Learning team as working group leads and co-leads: Dr. Lisa Abel-Palmieri and Christine Nguyen will co-lead CSforPGH, while Dr. Andre Samuel will lead the Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem.

In the coming months, we look forward to working with these new faces, building on the work of the last several months, and continuing to uplift the successes and innovations of our region’s amazing educators.

Jump to: Moonshot GrantsRemake Learning Days Across AmericaNetwork ActivitiesWorking GroupsSpecial Projects

Moonshot Grants

Moonshot Grants are a Remake Learning Funding Opportunity, providing grants of up to $70,000 to test bold ideas for the future of learning.

After a successful inaugural launch of Moonshot Grants in 2021, we announced the opportunity’s continuation in early 2022, with two rounds of upcoming funding slated for the spring and fall.

In December, team members Stephanie Lewis and Tyler Samstag presented about Moonshot Grants at the PA Department of Education’s SAS Institute. Later that month, the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Three Rivers Educational Technology Council also featured Moonshot grantees. Project leads from California Area School District and Bible Center Church’s Oasis Farm and Fishery braved a winter storm to share about their projects at the Moonwalk and Talk Evening Reception, hosted at Astrobotic’s Moonshot Museum.

In January, Cohort 1 grantees came together for their mid-point design session, sharing progress made to date. In February, the network hosted a virtual Lunch & Learn on Moonshot grantees, which was attended by over 60 network members. Attendees heard from Bible Center Church’s Oasis Farm and Fishery, California Area School District, Cornell School DistrictDuquesne University, Hatch, and West Virginia University.

Applications for the next round of Moonshot Grants are open now and close on April 15.

Remake Learning Days Across America

Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA) is an innovative learning festival for families and youth, taking root in 17+ regions and featuring hands-on events designed for kids of all ages at libraries, schools, tech centers, museums, play spaces, community centers, and more.

Winter marked an exceptionally busy period for RLDAA. The festival confirmed 17 participating regions for 2022, including three new regions: North East Pennsylvania, South Central Pennsylvania, and Suncoast Florida. In total, RLDAA festivals will reach coast to coast in 2022, from San Diego to Philadelphia!

2022 RLDAA national partners include PBS KidsCommon Sense MediaLearning Heroes, and Digital Promise.

Plans for the upcoming festival also build on the excitement that spread across the state of Pennsylvania in 2021. RLDAA 2022 will feature six unique festivals across PA, covering the entire state. In 2022, RLDAA will also renew its partnership with Career Ready PA and the PA Department of Education. They will host the Backpack Challenge, providing an opportunity for RLDAA event participants to obtain artifacts for their career portfolios. Finally, the 2022 festival will also see a return of DiscoverED, an opportunity for elementary students across PA to virtually partner with one another and collaboratively complete an engineering challenge.

The RLDAA team also presented at multiple PA statewide conferences in December and January, including at the PA STEM Coalition, STEMATHON, and The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C).

Network Activities

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

Meetups and Lunch & Learns

Attendance at network Lunch & Learns and Meetups soared in recent months, with both virtual and in-person events providing valuable opportunities for members to connect. Our Director of Relationships, Stephanie Lewis, hosted New Member Meetups in October and November, welcoming new faces to the network.

At the Sense of Belonging Lunch & Learn in November, co-hosted with the Readiness Institute at Penn StateSam Moore of the Moonshot Museum shared how this new Northside institution is intentionally designing its offerings to be inclusive. Also in November, Remake Learning partnered with CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center to host an in-person Transformational Games Meetup. Over 30 attendees enjoyed a happy hour and tour of the center, and play-tested games from the University of PittsburghVex Robotics, and SimCoach Games.

In December, the All Working Group Meetup at Margaux brought together members from all four of our active working groups to network and end the year in celebration!

Kicking off networking events in the new year, the Empowered Youth = Enhanced Futures Lunch & Learn featured Nina Barbuto of Assemble and Allison Paradise of The Epicenter, who shared their strategies for empowering young people.


In late fall, Remake Learning hosted a Researcher-Educator Meetup featuring Ascender Director Nadyli Nuñez and CMU Ph.D. student Yasmine Kottiri. Participants discussed regional resources for entrepreneurs focused on equity in education.

Our Director of Research and Impact, Erin Gatz, and Bailey Nichols, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, published their findings on the Remake Learning blog in December. Their post highlighted research conducted about the network for a research-practice partnership course.

In January, Erin and Stephanie Lewis presented at the international Learning Planet festival, workshopping asset mapping activities with participants from around the world.

In February, Dr. Tom Akiva and Dr. Marijke Hecht guest authored another Remake Learning blog post: Ecosystems for Learning and Development: In Pittsburgh and Beyond. They shared insights from a recently published book edited by Tom and Kimberly Robinson of Forum for Youth Investments, titled It Takes an Ecosystem: Understanding the People, Places and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings. The book features chapters written by several Remake Learning network members, including Lori Delale-O’Connor (University of Pittsburgh), Junlei Li (Harvard University), Dana Winters (Fred Rogers Center), Mac Howison (The Heinz Endowments), Esohe Osai (University of Pittsburgh), and Valerie Kinloch (University of Pittsburgh and Remake Learning Co-Chair).


This winter, Alyssa Moore of IU1 continued her work as our new Rural Outreach Coordinator. In November, she hosted a virtual Lunch & Learn to introduce herself to rural network members as well as provide an opportunity for participants to learn about rural-focused initiatives from presenters Dana Shultz of Pittsburgh Technical College and Tim Heffernan of the PA Rural Robotics Initiative.

In January, a cohort of six rural Intermediate Unit executive directors (from IUs 1, 4, 7, 8, 27, and 28) met with Alyssa and Remake Learning Co-Chair Jim Denova to explore unique challenges and opportunities facing rural school districts across southwestern PA.

Working Groups

Remake Learning Working Groups actively explore topics through events, communications, learning opportunities, mini-grants, and more.

Maker Learning Collaborative

Digital Promise published The State of Maker Learning Today in October, with guidance from Maker Learning Collaborative Lead Nick Schiner. The publication features our regional Maker Learning Leadership Cohort and Maker Learning Month, which took place last summer. The publication also highlights efforts at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and New Castle Area School District, quoting the districts’ Director of Academics and Innovation and network member Emily Sanders.

Leveraging the benefits of technology, members of the Maker Learning Collaborative networked at virtual happy hours in both October and November. In January, the Collaborative hosted a Lunch & Learn about The State of Maker Learning Today report.

In January, Tiffany Ward of Pittsburgh Village Project and Pittsburgh Public Schools joined the Maker Learning Collaborative steering committee.

Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem

Throughout the start of the 2022 school year, the Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem continued to support the leadership of the Pennsylvania Statewide STEM Ecosystem, which has organized eight webinars between October and January and attracted more than 400 attendees from across the state. In January, our own Dorie Taylor, RLDAA Producer, and Tyler Samstag presented at a webinar about the six Remake Learning Days festivals taking place across Pennsylvania in 2022.

Personalized Learning Working Group

The Personalized Learning Working Group, led in partnership with KnowledgeWorks, has continued to convene a practice affinity group, who are collaboratively developing a Personalized Learning Framework. The framework will serve as a guide and resource, including strategies, tools, and local examples for educators across the region.

In recent months, stakeholder representation in the working group has broadened substantially with the support of network member Chris Sweeney. Chris has strategically integrated the SWPA Personalized Learning Network into the practice affinity group, helping to identify six key elements of personalized learning.

In December, the working group hosted State Level Strategies for Advancing Student Centered Education Policy, featuring panelists from Minnesota and Kentucky.

Special Projects

Remake Learning Special Projects investigate emerging trends in teaching and learning and engage in collaborative work with community partners.

Shifting Power in Educational Research & Development (Shifting Power)

In late fall, the 17 Shifting Power educator-researcher pairs submitted their final outputs. Their research projects ranged in focus, depth, methodology, and output format.

For example, one looked at the representation of Black and Brown scientists in college textbooks by analyzing a set of books and survey data from teaching faculty across six institutions of higher education. Another used mixed-method design to investigate how the use of Finch robots when teaching math impact middle school students’ self-efficacy and achievement.

In another case, an educator designed and used a lesson entitled “Hair Love” to engage students in one elementary special education classroom and then presented reflections, observations of impact, and recommendations for integrating creative expression.

In October, Shifting Power presented a session at the National Council of Teachers of English National Convention titled “Shifting Power: Educators Taking the Lead in Equitable Education Research.” Presenters included Lori Delale-O’Connor (University of Pittsburgh), M. Beatrice Dias (CMU CREATE Lab), DaVonna Graham (University of Pittsburgh), Channing Moreland (University of Pittsburgh), Lisa Pickett (Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts & Education), Allyce Pinchbeck-Johnson (Pinchback Consulting LLC/Remake Learning) and  Ginger Thompkins (Pittsburgh Public Schools).

Common Ground

Building off of the work of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which last summer distributed mini-grants to support summer partnerships between Allegheny County school districts and regional out-of-school organizations, Remake Learning and AIU brought together four partner pairs for a series of critical conversations hosted by Timothy Jones in November and December. Each partnership received funding to support further collaboration throughout the winter. Partnerships include:

The findings from the critical conversations will be shared in a new publication in the coming month.

The UnComission

In fall, Remake Learning contributed to 100Kin10’s unCommission, a massively diverse and participatory experience to identify a set of interlocking goals for the future of STEM learning. The unCommission will uplift hundreds of stories from those directly experiencing the STEM education system, centering the voices of Black, Latinx, and Native American students who have been most excluded from STEM education and the workforce. Through the support of network members Jessica Kaminsky and Jordan Mroziak (Better Questions LLC.), 40 stories from regional youth were submitted to this national effort, with three organizations acting as anchors to the project: Assemble, Auberle, and Boom Concepts.

Author: Tyler Samstag, Network Director