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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

AIU, Leadership Pittsburgh Honor 7 ‘Unboxed’ Teachers

Seven area classroom teachers have been named as “Unboxed Teachers” by The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) and Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. Nominated by their superintendents, the teachers embody the principles of unboxed learning and consider learning in the broadest sense of the word.

These winners were nominated because they seek new ways to engage their students’ imaginations. Among their teaching methods: gamification, flipped learning, authentic assessing and discovery.

These teachers are changing public education in southwestern Pennsylvania by helping students become the drivers and masters of their own learning, according to Dr. Linda Hippert, executive director of the AIU.

“We know that in the classroom our teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of children. The innovation and creativity is contagious,” she said.

Winners will attend Leadership Pittsburgh Inc.’s Unboxed Edges of Learning Conference at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort Nov. 14-15, an invitation-only event for Pittsburgh’s changemakers from businesses, foundations and academic organizations. Winners will also submit proposals for potential funding and present the results of their learning.

The winners are: Melissa Cwynar of Avonworth School District; Mary Wilson of Elizabeth Forward School District; Tina Raspanti of Mt. Lebanon School District; Karen Kircher of Northgate School District; Alan Welding of Chartiers Valley School District; Veneashea Davis of Woodland Hills School District and Melissa Drake of South Fayette School District.

WQED In Media Consortium to Spotlight Remake Learning

WQED Multimedia and our media partners, 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh have been focusing on learning innovations for the past year. This year, we’re doing it again, under the banner “Remake Learning.” We will continue to focus on everything from innovations in Early Childhood learning to computer science, STEAM and robotics.

This is the first time we can recall that four media outlets are working together to focus on the wonderful innovations happening in our area. We have it covered – TV, radio, magazine and the web – and will spotlight Pittsburgh educators and community leaders who have helped make this area a flagship in the international movement to “remake learning” and create educational opportunities designed for our times.

Made possible through a grant from the Grable Foundation, Remake Learning focuses on the Pittsburgh region's need to prepare its young people for college and the work force by building on the basics, finding the motivation 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.

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 Remake Learning webpage. Submit stories and videos to learning@wqed.org!

Photos



At Propel McKeesport, 8th grade science instructor Lori Mascara uses Pasco resources to bring science to life in a revamped STEM focus. Students collect and analyze real-time data with equipment used in universities.



The Remake Learning Digital Corps is helping young people like this Carrick student learn new digital literacy skills like coding, programming and basic robotics.



This summer, students served as interns at The Heinz Endowments. They worked with Saturday Light Brigade Radio to create radio features focusing on community issues as part of the Green Compass program. (SLB Radio photo.)



The Allegheny Intermediate Unit3 recently held its first STEAM showcase, with 25 grant recipients demonstrating their innovations. These East Allegheny School District students spent a year creating a virtual city.



Another AIU3 grant recipient was McKeesport Area School District. They brought a SMALLab to the elementary school, where these students have fun while learning math concepts.



Preparing a group of educators for the taping of the next iQSmartparent – focusing on digital badges -- is WQED’s Director of Education Jennifer Stancil, WQED's Executive Director of Educational Partnerships.



Environmental Charter Schools at Frick Park brings these artists from Assemble to the school each week to work on STEAM art projects.



Environmental Charter Schools has a special room where even the teachers get to explore – The Thinking Lab. These two educators are trying out new techniques to use in the classroom.

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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.
  • 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.

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.

featured specials