December 3, 2023

In her computer science class at Hampton Middle School, Kristen DeMichiei asked her sixth-grade students to complete a lofty task — solve a real-world problem using pocket-sized computers called microbits.

One student group created a bracelet to detect if it’s windy outside. Another group made a headband that lights up when it’s dark, and one even crafted a popcorn dispenser. Andrew Allen and Simon Troup created a “paint and snake game” complete with lots of code, a colorful box that houses the game and LED lights.

“You can control a snake, and then the goal is to eat the apples and become longer. And then if you run into a wall or your tail, you will die,” Troup, 12, said. “And then it tells you your score.”

Troup was one of about 30 to 40 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who volunteered at Hampton Township School District’s annual Remake Learning Days celebration on May 17 at the high school.

The showcase displayed student projects and assignments that represent “future-driven learning opportunities.” Remake Learning Days is an initiative founded in the Pittsburgh region in which schools across the country participate.

Booths included everything from advanced machine learning to Chinese language and culture to Spanish-language conversations to computer programming. Local companies, such as Advanced Construction Robotics and Carnegie Robotics, also displayed some of their work.

“We try to showcase not just what the high school is doing. We want to get a lot of different people and see the connections that are being done throughout all the different levels,” said Ed McKaveney, the district’s technology director.

One of the parts McKaveney said he enjoys most about the event is seeing the combination of art and technology. He remarked that if had been able to see animation rather than a text screen while programming when he was younger, he might have chosen a different career path.

“That’s part of what we’re doing here, is just opening kids up to possibilities,” McKaveney said, allowing them to realize “how their learning applies to different things, so that it’s not just like, oh, when would I ever use this?”

At another booth, fifth-graders from Poff Elementary School took part in their own “Who Was …?” book. This popular children’s book series chronicles the lives of historical figures such as Anne Frank and Abraham Lincoln. More than 50 students at Poff wrote a paper as though they lived in an early American colony, researched that colony’s government and eventually solved a problem that people from that time might have experienced.

Cole Butler, for example, became a blacksmith in Pennsylvania. He constructed an auto shovel so farmers wouldn’t get as tired and hungry while digging holes. Catherine McCabe became a farmer in Georgia who made a medical mask.

The project combined social studies, writing, art, STEM and library research.

“We did a little graph about the 13 colonies each day so they would remember the names,” said Poff teacher Nicole Martin. “And then we let them take their own spin on it and kind of connect to the ‘Who Was…’ books and create an occupation for themselves and really immerse themselves in that time.”

Edward Brucker, an art teacher at Poff, added:

“What’s fun about that is because you left that open-ended, they can tailor it to their tastes and interests, and that makes them internalize the information.”

Rebecca Johnson is a contributing writer.


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