Kids, parents, grandparents, and educators are getting together around West Virginia this week to celebrate non-traditional learning. It’s part of a growing initiative to demonstrate and practice innovative education models.
A Weather Balloon on a Rainy Day
A rainy Friday morning in Wheeling could not dampen the spirits of kids outside on the lawn in front of Wheeling Country Day School. It was launch-day.
“Right now the weather balloon is being filled up. It’s getting pretty, pretty big. It’s much bigger than your average balloon. We have two milk bottles that are halfway full. Once they start lifting off of the ground, that’s when we know the weather balloon is ready to be launched and has enough helium,” said Sophie Toma.
Toma and her classmate Grace Mull make up the public relations team for the launch of the weather balloon -- a science project that allows students here to explore a variety of science themes, and practice a variety of 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Toma and Mull would often finish each other’s thoughts.
“It’s a tradition for 5th grade to launch the weather balloon,” Mull said.
“It’s one of the big 5th grade projects. It’s one of the last deep dives before we graduate,” Toma added. “This is the first time we’ve ever had to launch in rain, so let’s see what happens!”
The rain did let up in Wheeling. Umbrellas were mostly tucked away. Kids smiled for a group photo, then they surrounded the balloon towing a three-pound styrofoam cooler decorated in school colors, and loaded with a few cameras, a figurine super-hero, and GPS tracking.
Countdown. Release. Cheers.
The students in the project's recovery team tracked the balloon and drove three-and-a-half hours east with teachers to retrieve it.
Head of School Liz Hofreiter says her school's educational philosophies align with the mission the Remake Learning network, which values "engaging, relevant and equitable" learning environments.
"This in not a dog and pony show," Hofreiter said. "This is what we would be doing even if no one was watching."
But parents and grandparents were there watching, too. The school invited them to participate in a "Remake Learning Day."
Remake Learning Days
The weather balloon launch that Wheeling Country Day School hosted is one of a series of public educational events during what are called “Remake Learning Days.” These events take place throughout the state between May 9th - May 19th this year. The Remake Learning network launched Remake Learning Days in 2016 in response to the need to provide opportunities for parents to connect with the new, innovative learning happening in kids’ classrooms.
This is the fourth year of “Remake Learning Days” in West Virginia. The events are organized by the Remake Learning network -- a collection of individuals, organizations, and schools with a mission of promoting a shift in educational practices toward less passive models of education.
Sunanna Chand is the director of Remake Learning. She explained that the event in Wheeling is one of 30 events in West Virginia, and one of 900 across the country.
“When we imagine education in our minds we often imagine a teacher in the front of a class and rows of desks,” Chand said, “and what we’re celebrating is hands-on learning that gets kids really applying the knowledge instead of regurgitating it on a test."
"As our society moves to be more technologically advanced,” she continued, “we’re thinking about how learning has to change, and a lot of that is giving kids an opportunity to be creative problem-solvers.”
Featured learning themes throughout state events include the arts, makers, outdoor learning, science, and technology. Public events are being held at schools, museums, libraries, companies, and schools. Since the program's launch, more than 53,000 youth, parents and caregivers have participated in 600+ Remake Learning Days events - the majority of which were free.
The Remake Learning Days - West Virginia effort is supported by The Grable Foundation, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Google, UPMC, PNC Foundation, EQT, The Buhl Foundation and Covestro. The national Remake Learning Days Across America effort is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Grable Foundation and Schmidt Futures and led by national co-hosts Remake Learning, PBS Kids and Digital Promise.
To view a full list of events in West Virginia, visit the West Virginia Remake Learning website. While many events hold unlimited capacity, some have registration limits. Parents, students and caregivers are encouraged to sign up.