This spring, Science in Society’s flagship program, Science Club, opened at McGaw YMCA’s MetaMedia. MetaMedia is Science Club’s second site in Evanston, joining Family Focus, a nonprofit community center serving families in Evanston’s 5th ward. This Evanston expansion is part of Science in Society’s larger commitment to supporting underserved youth and under-resourced communities in our local area.
“Since we are based in Evanston, we felt it was important for Science in Society to expand our mission to provide underserved Evanston youth with high-quality STEM programming and long-term mentoring from practicing scientists,” said Rebecca Daugherty, Assistant Director at Science in Society. “We were impressed by MetaMedia’s dedication to reaching more underserved middle school youth in Evanston and providing them with quality, hands-on STEM experiences.”
MetaMedia is a fun and engaging youth space that fosters youth creativity, problem-solving, and exploration – values very much in line with Science Club’s inquiry-based investigations.
This partnership has been in development for several months. The result: a collaborative Science Club program built on the strengths of both MetaMedia’s cutting-edge makerspace and Science Club’s award-winning model for supporting underserved youth with hands-on science education.
Science Club combines a long-term mentorship model with authentic, impactful science opportunities to better serve communities in need and strengthen the STEM pipeline. The program, now located at four sites across Chicago and Evanston, gives 5th–8th graders from traditionally under-resourced schools a unique opportunity to collaborate with and get to know scientist-mentors from Northwestern and other Chicagoland universities.
The first cohort of Science Club youth at MetaMedia were selected based on previous program involvement and through referrals from local middle schools. Future recruitment will draw heavily on the EvanSTEM network and the Northwestern/District 65 Partnership Coordinator, Jen Lewin, to ensure the program supports as many underserved and minority families as possible.
For their first Science Club curricular unit, the new MetaMedia club members engineered an environmentally-friendly bouncy ball, learning about bioplastics – biodegradable plastics derived from substances other than petroleum – along the way. The project culminated in a final event, where members showed off their bioplastic bouncy balls, competed in accuracy and distance challenges, and demonstrated the properties of their top-secret recipes to friends and mentors.
“Evanston is a wonderfully diverse community and there are many kids who are eager to dive into science and engineering projects, but who don’t have the opportunity to explore these exciting fields,” said Daugherty. “We are excited to partner with MetaMedia to provide more youth with long-term, STEM-focused mentoring through Science Club.”
Science Club’s expansion to MetaMedia was made possible by a multi-year grant from the Lewis-Sebring Foundation. The program runs during the academic year and is free to all participants. Based on the success of this spring, we’re working with MetaMedia and the local school district to recruit and support twice as many students with long-term, impactful STEM learning opportunities in the coming year.