Jaclyn Carmichael, Project Exploration Program at DML

Hello everyone! My name is Jaclyn Carmichael and I am the Program Director for Project Exploration! It has been a busy time of travel these past couple months for me and I wanted to share a little about what I’ve been up to! In October, I traveled to Orange County, California to attend and present at the Digital Media and Learning Conference (DML) held at University of California – Irvine campus. I had the opportunity to meet other educators and program personnel from around the country and discuss challenges, strategies, and tools to make our work more impactful and efficient. On behalf of our GeoConvos grant, funded by the Hive Fund for Connected Learning and the Chicago Community Trust, I, along with Ilana Bruton (Public Programs Manager, Chicago History Museum), Ani Schmidt (Public Programs Coordinator, Chicago History Museum), and Virginia Killan Lund (Research Assistant, University of Illinois at Chicago), presented about our work on GeoConvos. The presentation included information about the project and the theory behind our initiative, as well as the current status of the work, including the organizations involved and how we would be working with students in Chicago. Since this project building our research into a Facilitator Guide of activities that can be used by educators, we also had our attendees participate in some of our activities; including ‘GeoBio’ where we had participants indicate 2 locations that were significant to their career and presence at DML. We got tremendous feedback on our work and came back to Chicago with new ideas to move our work forward!

Next Stop, MozFest

My next opportunity to travel took me internationally, to London, England! With the support of Hive Chicago and the Mozilla Foundation, I was awarded a stipend to travel across the ‘pond’ to attend Mozilla Festival (MozFest) at the end of October. ‘MozFest is an annual celebration of the open Internet movement. It’s where passionate technologists, educators, and makers come together to explore the future of the open Web’ (MozFest website). MozFest is a unique experience, in that it’s more of an ‘unconference’. The sessions are open door, varied, and participants really use their time as they see fit. No one is set in one category or set of sessions, which makes this conference very fast paced and has a lot going on! One big theme that I was inspired by was this concept of ‘Fake News’ (very prevalent in American news stories and discussions now) and really asking the question about ‘how do we teach our youth the skills and strategies to seek out unbiased and objective news sources. Participants come from all over the world, which is really exciting; it gave me the opportunity to discuss education strategies and educational digital inclusion with so many different perspectives! I also had the privilege to dive deep into what other Hive Chicago members are doing in their organizations and their work with youth; including Chris Bresky from the Adler Planetarium, who is doing amazing astronomical engineering activities with his youth, centered around finding and studying meteorites that have landed in Lake Michigan. It was truly a pleasure to be given this opportunity to learn from so many other professionals, and being in London was a dream come true!

One more thing, SciGirls

As if those two amazing conference wasn’t enough, I had one more trip at the beginning of November. I applied for and was chosen to become a Trainer for an organization called SciGirls. SciGirls is a television show, produced by Twin Cities PBS (TPT), and funded by the National Science Foundation, that works to educate middle school students on STEM in fun and interactive ways. The television show is entering it’s 5th season and each episode follows a group of girls who investigate a STEM question through experiments and testing! Outside of the television show, SciGirls also does extensive outreach and educational programming with schools and organizations, like Project Exploration. As a trainer, I am now a part of those initiatives. In November, I attended a 3-day training at the TPT studios in St. Paul, Minnesota where the SciGirls staff trained myself and 15 other trainers on the curriculum, strategies for training other educators, team building games, as well as how to navigate the SciGirls CONNECT website, which is the online base for all the educational programming and outreach initiatives for educators. It was such an honor to be a part of this programming. I had the opportunity to meet with and get to know other outstanding educators from around the country that work as tirelessly as I do to help young girls and boys in our cities how important STEM is and how fun it can be to do! I can’t wait to start sharing what I learned with the educators and program providers in Chicago!

So that’s the last of my travels! I’m excited to be back in the office and using what I learned from all the amazing people I met to make Project Exploration programs even better for our students!

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