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This Month’s Learning Innovation: EFMS’s Dream Factory

For the 550 students at Elizabeth Forward Middle School in Elizabeth, PA, going to school is really a “dream.” That’s because all sixth, seventh and eighth graders are taking classes at the newly opened “Dream Factory.”

Entering the “Innovation Hallway” of the classrooms that comprise the Dream Factory, you can’t help but be inspired. Lining the walls are photos and quotes from great innovators and inventors. And though their stories are moving, what happens inside these classrooms is even more amazing. What the administrators and educators at Elizabeth Forward have done is take traditional classes like computer science, art and technology education and brought them into the 21st century in a big way.

In the computer science area, students learn basic programming, but are also now bringing games they designed to life. They study robotics and automation, create high tech videos and sound tracks, and use 3-D printers to produce some of the amazing projects they create in class.

In the Dream Factory’s Visual Arts area, students learn traditional art techniques and skills, but now use high tech programs like 123 Design, Adobe Photoshop, Pic-Collage and Animation Express, and a 3D printer, to take their two-dimensional projects and make them three dimensional.

And in Technology Education, students study the fundamentals of manufacturing, working with materials like wood, sheet metal and plastic, but now add CNC routers, 3D printers and a laser engraver to their repertoire of tools.

Dr. Bart Rocco, superintendent of Elizabeth Forward School District, is excited about all the Dream Factory offers. “Giving children the opportunity to build an create using these technologies is another way we measure student success.

“I’m very concerned,” he adds, “as our country evolves, we’re losing some of these creative and unique people that can build and create and design, to other countries. And I think we have a charge to provide opportunities for children in our world to learn these technologies. That’s why this is important to us.” One of his hopes is that the Dream Factory will also help prepare the students to enter the work force of the future.

According to Dr. Rocco, there’s no middle school in the country that he knows of that has this kind of curriculum in place, “where children are getting an integration of these different areas, with these different technologies.” He wants to share this with other educators, to help them create these types of spaces.

Dr. Rocco’s goals for the students? “We want them to understand that working together, collaboration, is critical for success. We want them to know they can create anything that they want and build it. And there’s also trial and error. We want them to understand that in creative design and creating there’s going to be failure. Failure is part of the learning process. And finally, there’s a product that they can create and then maybe, in some way, help the world in which they live in.”

The Dream Factory was funded in part by the Grable Foundation, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Benedum Foundation and the Sprout Fund and was created with help from CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center.

According to Dr. Rocco, the Dream Factory is “changing the culture of the school.” Students are creative, they’re working together, and they’re happy to come to Elizabeth Forward Middle School.

Elizabeth Forward School District

Media Partners Spotlight New Learning Initiatives

Sharing Success Stories of People and Projects

Four of Pittsburgh’s leading media organizations -- WQED Multimedia, PopCity, 90.5 WESA and Pittsburgh Magazine have joined forces on a 12-month initiative dubbed “Spotlight on Learning Innovation.” Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, the precedent-setting multimedia project will focus on Pittsburgh’s leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Learning Innovation focuses on the Pittsburgh region’s need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics and connecting students with hands-on learning experiences that develop relevant skills.

Look for new stories, videos and content every month, on WQED-TV, iQ Kids Radio, and on WQED Interactive, and visit our partners at:
WESA
POP City Media
Pittsburgh Magazine

Hundreds Gather For Maker Party

Kids across Pittsburgh have been spending their summer learning through many new and exciting programs at area schools, cultural institutions, educational organizations and more. They recently celebrated their “summer of learning” at the Second Annual Pittsburgh Maker Party, held at the Society of Contemporary Craft in the Strip District.

A few hundred kids and their parents joined educators from Hive Pittsburgh, the Kids+Creativity Network, the Warhol Museum, TechShop, MAKESHOP and Sprout Fund staff at the party, which featured hands-on activities, food and music and learning stations where attendees checked out programs and projects from the Digital Corps, Pittsburgh City of Learning and Hive Pittsburgh.

Among the events: making seed bombs with Gardweeno; blasting away with marshmallow launchers built with inventors from TechShop, creating mini-videos with Steeltown Entertainment staff, and learning the science behind screen printing with educators from The Warhol Museum.

This was the culminating activity of the Pgh City of Learning Summer Campaign, highlighting how important (and fun) summer learning and engagement is for youth before they head back to school in the fall. It also highlighted opportunities to bridge the arts and technology through programs that appeal to, and address the needs of, youngsters.

Media Partnership Focuses on Learning Innovation

WQED Multimedia and our media partners, 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh have been focusing on Learning Innovation for the past months, and have put the media spotlight on everything from innovations in Early Childhood learning to computer science, STEAM and robotics.

The four media outlets, TV, radio, magazine and online magazine, are working together to focus on Pittsburgh leadership in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, Learning Innovation focuses on the Pittsburgh region's need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics and connecting students with hands-on learning experiences that develop relevant skills.

Look for new stories, videos and content every month, on WQED-TV, iQ Kids Radio, and on WQED Interactive, and visit our partners at WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.

Photos



The Remake Learning Digital Corps have been busy connecting digital learning experts with afterschool program providers. These youngsters in Homestead are increasing their digital literacy.



Checking out a possible shot is this student in Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program’s summer Directors’ Workshop.



A student discusses his film storyboard with Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program Director Susan Howard, standing.



Students from Clairton and the Wilkinsburg afterschool group, FUSE, have been participating in Hear Me 101, workshops that develop writing, technical communication and media literacy skills. Students create short documentaries that explore issues of importance to them. Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program provides help with much of the project.



Youth from Homewood explore the digital world with help from mentors from the Remake Learning Digital Corps.



Hundreds of educators attended FlipCon 14 in Mars. Here Aaron Sams, one of the leaders in the Flipped Learning Movement, shares his thoughts. Norton Gusky photo.



Young learners enjoy time on computers at one of assemble’s summer camps.



Making things the old fashioned way at an assemble summer camp.



“Making” is going to be a big part of the curriculum from K-12 at Avonworth Schools. Here teachers are learning how to include making and design into their classes.



Avonworth Schools have been working with the Children’s Museum MAKESHOP on integrating making into all areas of school curriculum. They received help in a brainstorming session from Maya for Human-Centered Design staff.

Spread The News

Do you have a story of learning innovation? A program, teacher or parent who is making a difference? Tell us about it and we’ll share it on our Learning Innovation webpage. Submit stories and videos to learning@wqed.org!

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  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
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    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.

featured specials

  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
  • Classical Crossroads
    Where classical music crosses paths with rock and roll, world music, folk music and jazz. Listen to interviews with people who make good music here.