iLearn Schools' 'Make It Happen!' Day
iLearn Schools hosted its annual “Make It Happen!” event on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at the Clifton Campus of Passaic Arts and Science Charter Middle School at 43 Clifton Avenue. The event had been on hold since the Covid pandemic, and this was their return to in-person science fun. Mr. Alban Biba, M.Ed and Director of Science Programs at iLearn said, "The purpose of the program is to create an inclusive and diverse community of STEAM makers, thinkers, and doers around the iLearn school community. We want to empower our students to think for themselves, secondly retain and attain STEAM leaders for the future! Thirdly, making sure our learners and educators are having fun and becoming lifelong learners!"
iLearn Schools is a charter school organization that has grown to serve more than 5,000 students across 14 campuses, 5 districts (Bergen, Passaic, Paterson, Hudson, and the Bronx), and 2 states (NJ and NY). Passaic Arts and Sciences Charter School (PASCS) has campuses in both Clifton and Passaic and serves approximately 1,700 students in grades K-12.
The Make It Happen! event is organized to allow students from all the iLearn schools to come up with a project in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) which they demonstrate to an audience of iLearn students, parents, teachers, and the general public. Each student team works with a science teacher to come up with their project and ask themselves how they would explain this to a broad audience. Each team gets their own table at Make it Happen! and people can stop by, ask questions, try the experiments, and do a little of their own hands-on science. The students learn how to answer questions, explain their projects to people, and work as a team. Dogan Aykurt (Hudson Campus) said “As a teacher, when I design a class, I like hands-on learning that puts the students at the center. In designing a project for others, my students get to see what it is like to create a lesson that puts someone else in the center, and to write instructions that anyone can follow.”
At Table 14, Ms. Smith and her team of 3rd grade students explained how they used circuits, LEGOs, and coding to build working windmills. The class had read "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind" about a child in Malawi who uses found objects to build a windmill for irrigation, and it inspired them to build their own windmills.
Along the theme of environmental conservation, Shaswat Singha and Rashmi Kumari demonstrated how rainwater can be collected and reused.
Caleigh Gaudet and Ida Northcutt were at Table 1, showing people how they could design their own earrings.
Table 25 had a team of students who challenged people to build a chair out of paper and tape that was stable enough to hold a stuffed animal.
Table 4 featured Mr. Cooper and his 8th grade team of scientists from PASCS Middle Passaic Campus. They designed a hydroponics system that allows farmers to grow plants and fish in a symbiotic relationship.
At Table 3, teacher Dylan Wine was explaining that he is a science teacher who makes guitars, and so he loves to show students the way guitars are built, as a "user interface" for music. He also teaches forensic science, so his students were demonstrating the "Bone Guitar" which is decorated like a crime scene. He and his students plan to perform using the guitars they build. He has a YouTube Channel called Guitar Science.
There were many tables and projects to check out, from learning how a Putt Putt Boat works, to building your own robots, designing your own lava lamps, and other crafts. Everett McArthur, who studied at iLearn and is now their Alumni Liaison, a student of astrophysics at Columbia University, and also does research at the American Museum of Natural History, said that at iLearn the focus is on making science fun for everyone. Hands-on science is the way kids get excited about learning, and we can't wait to see what these learners do next!