Project Exploration had a great opportunity in Summer of 2016 to bring back the Environmental Adventurers program. With our partners at After School Matters, we have developed and implemented a curriculum centered around ecology, zoology, biology, and many other ‘-ologies’ connected with the Environmental Sciences to educate youth about the importance of being aware of your impact on the environment around you, especially considering the current effects of Climate Change.
To run this program, PE has had the opportunity to bring on a talented new STEM Facilitator, Kyle Reid. Born and raised in Chicago, and having attended Chicago Public Schools, Kyle was excited to share the knowledge he has gained while studying Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a younger generation in a neighborhood where the students are facing many of the difficulties he himself faced growing up. Recently, our Program Coordinator, Kiara Byrd, sat down with Kyle and spoke with him about his experience and insights from his time with Project Exploration.
- Thinking back to when you started at Project Exploration, tell us how you got involved and why you wanted to join our team?
When I was younger, I was always interested in nature, but I never saw a future in it. I could not find a way to do something I enjoyed for a living, so I dropped out of high school and worked odd jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, through mentoring at my community college, I found a path to a career I loved; that career was wildlife research. Traveling the world learning about and discovering animals is the closest thing I could be to a real life Pokémon trainer (my favorite thing as a kid). I heard about Project Exploration through a co-worker. When I saw their mission, inspiring scientific discovery in underrepresented youth through mentorship, I saw a chance to make sure what happened to me wouldn’t happen to other young people. I wanted to be part of a group that got the youth of Chicago to open their horizons to knowledge and careers they otherwise would not have access to.
- How do you feel your work as a STEM Facilitator relates to your studies in Biology while you were at UIC?I could not dream of a better connection! My educational focus, both in the classroom and in my research, was to learn all the awesome ways how our natural world works. Now I have the chance to share the best of my education with teens who will be the future caretakers of their world that is facing numerous threats.
- Through working on Environmental Adventurers with Project Exploration, what have you learned from working with Project Exploration youth?
That spark never dies for good. Society puts high expectations on our youth to ace the test and complete hours of homework daily. Authority figures rather than mentors constantly supervise and micromanage every action they take. It’s not hard for a young person to lose their inner investigator in the pursuit of money or approval. My students and I remind each other every day that it’s okay to geek out on the things you are passionate about.
- Outside of working with Project Exploration youth, how do you enjoy spending your time?
Haha, great follow up! I embrace my inner investigator. I spend a lot of time at all the learning hotspots in Chicago. The Field Museum, The Nature Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Garfield Park Conservatory, Two Zoos, and the city parks working on my Pokémon Go team.
- What’s next for you?I’m torn in the best way! Initially I was sure after finishing at UIC, I would transition to graduate school to travel the world work on my PhD and studying bats (my favorite animal). However, given the current state of scientific funding and our environment, I might be more use to the future of our planet in the classroom than in the field.
- Is there anything else you can see yourself getting out of the work you do with Project Exploration?
Working at Project Exploration is already super rewarding
because I see my students work their brains in new ways daily. On top of that, I get to travel all around the city promoting the organization and meeting influential and brilliant minds who want to help the next generation.
Written by: Kiara Bird