moonshot grants

10 new Moonshot Grants will help local educators launch wildly ambitious projects

Photo above by Mike Bergmann via Unsplash.

Some of the most creative learning innovations in America have been happening in the Pittsburgh region thanks to Remake Learning’s Moonshot Grants program. This month, the program grew further — offering funding to 10 more initiatives.

The first Moonshot Grants were given just a year after the pandemic began, when schools and students (and the rest of us, too) were still reeling from the crisis of COVID-19. The idea was simple but powerful: Dream up a clear vision for a future of learning that centers equity and justice, then design an experimental, collaborative project to help make that future come true.

The teachers, school administrators and after-school educators applying for these funds didn’t have to prove their ideas would work. They just had to think big, forge effective partnerships with others in the community and then seize the day.

In that first round of funding back in the spring of 2021, nearly $500,000 was awarded to seven educational organizations and schools, ranging from Bible Center Church’s Oasis Farm & Fishery and Wilkinsburg Public Library to California Area and Cornell School Districts.

Since then, Remake Learning has awarded Moonshot Grants to more than 40 projects, totaling more than $2.7 million in support of unexpected ideas. This month, Remake Learning has announced the 10 latest projects — a few that build on work already underway and several that are entirely new.

“Our world is evolving at a very, very rapid pace. The reality that this requires is bold, innovative thinking to challenge the status quo, and to keep up with the changes,” says Stephanie Lewis, Remake Learning’s director of relationships. “So we’re excited that we have the resources and the people who are willing to be brave enough to experiment and think boldly around learning.”

Each of these projects, Lewis says, prioritizes collaboration.

“We recognize we cannot continue to work in our silos. The real world does not operate in that way,” she says. “We are more likely to be successful when we work together across sectors within a community, including everyone that’s involved, using their strengths and that collective knowledge to really make a difference.”

The fall 2023 crop of Moonshot grantees are:

Fly Like a Girl Drone Academy: Continuing the Mission (Baldwin-Whitehall School District)
Their Bold Idea: Breakthrough barriers that discourage girls from pursuing opportunities in aviation

In partnership with Beaver Area School District and South Fayette Township School District, educators at Baldwin-Whitehall will expand their Fly Like a Girl Drone Academy to be open to any high school girl in the Pittsburgh region. Partners in the drone flight industry will help participating students gain the skills and experience necessary to become certified drone pilots.

Welcome to Butler’s Neighborhood (Butler Area School District)
Their Bold Idea: Transform the City of Butler into a destination for childhood opportunity

Integrating the school with the community in a big way, Butler Area School District is partnering with city leaders to develop the Butler Compact for Children, a commitment by the city’s leaders to the wellbeing and thriving of all children. School and city will then work hand in hand to make good on this promise by launching an Artist in Residence program, creating a Youth Arts Alley, and transforming Butler’s Main Street into a learning lab.

Building a Future in STEAM: Village Games+ (Homewood Children’s Village)
Their Bold Idea: Inspire students in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh to pursue a future in STEAM

Working with the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Academy and workforce development agency Partner4Work, Homewood Children’s Village is expanding on a pilot program to recruit student game developers to create early literacy games for younger learners. Participating students gain valuable skills and exposure to game design careers, plus they are paid for their work!

Remake Civics (LIGHT Education Initiative)
Their Bold Idea: Create a new paradigm for civics education

Working with the Carlynton School District, LIGHT Education Initiative spent several years developing an approach to civics education that fundamentally rethinks how teachers and community members team up to help students become informed and inquisitive participants in civic life.

Studio Stream (Local X Change)
Their Bold Idea: Amplifying teen voices from an earthbound communication satellite

Together with Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, Local X Change will repurpose a Japanese mini-truck into a traveling communications satellite and co-create an internet-based radio station with rural teens living in Brownsville, PA. Learners will be introduced to working with electronic circuits through the creation of custom Bluetooth speakers that will be distributed into communities touched by Studio Stream.

Energizing Tomorrow’s Future Career Leaders & Workforce (Neighborhood Learning Alliance)
Their Bold Idea: Broaden horizons for K-5 students in the city of Pittsburgh

In line with UN Sustainable Development Goals and inspired by Pittsburgh’s new federal workforce development hub designation, the Neighborhood Learning Alliance will create elementary afterschool and summer camp career pathway activities that expose low-income and minority elementary students to mid-to-high paying career fields through interactive design labs.

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum as a Certified Autism Center (Pennsylvania Trolley Museum)
Their Bold Idea: Become the first officially recognized Certified Autism Center in western Pennsylvania

In an effort to make the museum a more inclusive, adaptable, and flexible site of learning, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum will make major investments in training their team and equipping their facilities to truly serve learners with Autism Sensory Disorders.

Freight to Plate Food Trailer (South Fayette Township School District)
Their Bold Idea: Use the power of food to bring people together and give students authentic learning experiences

Building on their recently activated Freight Farm where students grow food and produce honey, South Fayette Township School District will outfit a mobile food trailer to transform the fruits of their farming labors into delicious global cuisine that can then be distributed in community settings.

Equip Nontraditional Computer Science Educators (STEM Coding Lab)
Their Bold Idea: Turn everyday people into computer science educators

In partnership with Civic Champs, STEM Coding Lab will create computer science activity packets and digital learning modules for a pilot cohort of adult mentors who will then introduce the children they mentor to the principles and practice of computer science.

Empowering Equity in Education: A Multifaceted Approach to Professional Development and STREAM Access for Black Students and Educators (Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh)
Their Bold Idea: Address systemic issues affecting Black educators and students

Urban Academy will launch the State of Black Learning Leadership Fellowship program to enhance educators’ understanding of the racial dynamics within the educational landscape, especially in the STEAM fields. Additionally, educators will collaborate with companies to gain real-world STEM experiences that they can transfer back to their students.

Support for Moonshot Grants is provided by The Grable Foundation and The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.