One of the unique features of Project Exploration programs is the evolution of our curriculums. We are always looking for new and interesting topics and activities to share with our students to expose them to the many different and varied subjects that are included under the umbrella of ‘STEM’. In this respect, our program team is consistently looking to build new partners with other organizations. One such investigation has developed into a newly approved grant, through the Hive Fund for Connected Learning through the Chicago Community Trust, called “GeoConvos” (short for ‘geographical conversations’).

This project was started two years ago with the University of Illinois – College of Education and the Chicago History Museum, and was called “GeoConvos: From Here to There”. The original two partners set out to ‘identify, design, and support learning pathways for youth that extend into their futures and allow for embodied engagements with the past’ (hivechicago.org).  They started by designing activities that used different geographical tools, maps and drawings, to develop different learning opportunities ‘through physical and digital spaces’. These activities were meant to give the youth and teens a chance to share about their journeys through Chicago, life, and beyond in a safe and interactive way.

The second iteration of the program continued to work on fine-tuning the activities developed during the first round, and brought in a third partner from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum here in Chicago.  In this round of funding, the partners were ‘developing, exploring, designing, and piloting innovated methods and tools to investigate (hivechicago.org) different questions related to the overall goal of GeoConvos. The partners also starting putting together a Facilitator Guide and sharing out with other educators, through professional development, through the Hive Chicago member network.

Project Exploration (PE) has been brought in as a new partner, along with the Lincoln Park Zoo in the third phase of this project. The overall goal of this grant cycle will be to implement the activities in different programs at the Nature Museum, PE, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Our program curriculum will be modified to embed the activities in a way that sensibly flows through the curriculum for each individual program.  All the partners will work to modify and create a final copy of the Facilitator Guide that will become available through a website and professional development sessions throughout the school year.

We are really excited to be joining in with such great partners on a very innovative project! Keep an eye out for updates at this projects gets started and progresses throughout the year!

Written by: Jaclyn Carmichael, Program Director

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