remake learning days

smaLLab, a greenhouse and much more: How learning is being remade at Northgate

Photo above courtesy of KDKA.

Remake Learning Days starts May 4 and continues for almost three weeks with educational family activities all around our region. One local school district is creating some unique ways to teach students as they ‘remake learning.’

Becoming ‘Creators of Knowledge’

Learning about the solar system is a lot more fun when racing your friends on the floor to arrange the correct order of planets. The seventh graders at Northgate Middle School are using a computer projection called the “smaLLab” to do this.

“It keeps you engaged for the whole day and makes you more energetic and want to learn more,” says seventh-grader Evan Carson.

“I love being able to move around and do all this really crazy stuff,” says student Tristan Weaver.

Weaver’s classmate Malaya Pearson agrees: “I like to get up more,” Pearson says, “so we don’t just have to sit in the same chair every day.”

The Northgate School District is trying to break the mold that most of teaching has looked like for at least 100 years. Technology has created all kinds of opportunities to learn in new and interactive formats.

Jeff Evancho, director of partnership and equity for Northgate Schools, says the district is,“finding ways to engage kids to understand what they’re interested in and help them become the creators of knowledge rather than the consumers of knowledge. Because I think that’s the big difference between the way that we learned and the way that they’re learning.”

Something for Everyone 

“Every student learns differently, and so while some students definitely learn with traditional book, pen and paper and taking notes, a lot of students like that interaction and different ways of learning the information,” says Middle School science teacher Stephanie Francis, who uses the SmaLLab tool.

Northgate School District, covering Avalon and Bellevue in the North Hills, is a small district but is resourceful –- seeking out grant money and donations. They transformed one floor of a former hospital to house after-school programs, using recycled furniture, restaurant booths and free leftover paint.

The Bots IQ IS program teaches robotics and coding using LEGOs … and offers apprenticeship programs for older students.

Northgate School District 5th grader Ryan Gannon loves the Bots IQ program and says, “You get to use your imagination and making robots.”

Third-grader Eliza Piccirilli also enjoys it. “I like seeing how they can move around and how a whole bunch of things can work,” she says.

Sixth-grader Noah is also a fan: “I just really love that you can be creative and show your thoughts through builds, and I think that’s really fun to do.”

Growing a Greenhouse

Construction just started on what’s going to be a greenhouse for horticulture therapy. In addition, the science and life skills classes will use the greenhouse for lessons using the plants.

The high school also has a Chill Room for social and emotional learning and emotional support for students who need it at school, and the elementary schools have makerspaces – one with new LEGO-focused programming for both students and the community using hundreds of dollars worth of donated LEGO bricks.

“Makerspaces are spaces where teachers have resources beyond textbooks and computer screens projected in front of the classroom, where they can give students opportunities to make meaning and prove their understanding of the bigger ideas which is the purpose of education,” Evancho says.

Northgate Schools and lots of schools, libraries and communities are hosting Remake Learning events during the festival, so that families can have fun learning together during Remake Learning Days, May 4-23, 2023.

Want to visit Northgate during the festival?

Bellevue Elementary has a Remake Learning Lego Festival on May 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. for anyone in the community. There’s also a Student Showcase of Excellence from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 25 at the Northgate Middle/High School. There will be a variety of student exhibits, activities, performances, and demonstrations during the evening that highlight the innovation found throughout all grade levels in the district.

Search here for more than 200 hands-on learning events around the region. And click here to see video of hands-on learning at Northgate.