By Jason Earle – 12th Grade, North Allegheny High School
During the Civil War, Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville served as a manufacturing and supply center, but 200 years later on August 8, 2015, it was the venue for the Back to School Bash and Pittsburgh Maker Party. Capping off the summer, the event had food, games, and unique learning activities for students of all ages.
Ryan Coon of The Sprout Fund described the event as “one big party” showcasing the variety of skills that students learned over the summer while providing motivation and encouragement to pursue new challenges in the upcoming school year.
Encounter Church’s Back to School Bash has become an annual event at Arsenal Park to celebrate going back to school. The party has grown in popularity each year, with an expected attendance of 800 participants for the 2015 celebration.
This year, the Maker Party, sponsored by The Sprout Fund and Pittsburgh City of Learning, joined the Back to School Bash at Arsenal Park for the first time after previously taking place at The TechShop in Bakery Square in 2013 and the Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip District in 2014. Students who have consistently attended the Back to School Bash had the added pleasure this year of diving into the hands-on activities bridging the arts and technology provided by the Maker Party.
Over 20 different organizations involved with Pittsburgh City of Learning took part in the event, supplying students with activities from a variety of fields, such as filmmaking, arts and crafts, and S.T.E.M. learning. One group, Girls of Steel Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, allowed the kids to experiment with different robots. Steeltown Youth Media provided students with information about filmmaking, while Saturday Light Brigade Radio Productions gave students the chance to test out a headset and microphone as if broadcasting on the radio. Furthermore, the kids designed hand made arts and crafts and explored modern technology provided by various organizations.
The Back to School Bash and Maker Party aim not only to excite students for the new school year, but to provide opportunities and supplies to parents sending children to school for the first time. The first 400 students to arrive at the bash were given a free backpack filled with notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies gearing up the kids for the first day of school. Organizations at the event gave away school supplies and books as well. Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a children’s literacy nonprofit group, wishes to provide kids with the resources and motivation necessary to support a lifelong love of reading. RIF and Arsenal Elementary School attended the celebration, distributing books for all of the children to read.
Although the event successfully prepared students for the upcoming school year, the kids still took advantage of one final opportunity to bask in the summer sun and have some fun. Along with the free refreshments, some jumped for joy in the bounce house while others showed off their hula hooping skills or received face paintings. The fun-filled day of entertainment and education at Arsenal Park proved to be a perfect way to culminate the summer and kickstart a new year in the classroom.
Jason Earle will be a 12th grade student at North Allegheny High School this fall. He lives in McCandless where he plays soccer and basketball while pursuing various musical endeavors. Jason also participates in North Allegheny’s cable television station, NATV.