‘Enter’ the Summer with ‘Inter’ net.

A large part of Project Exploration’s mission is to increase youth and family access to quality STEM experiences in formal and informal settings, from cradle to career. As we began to design summer programming, we saw a need that Project Exploration could fill. The Chicago Park District was given the green light to do virtual and in-person camps (with proper social distancing and following other important guidelines and restrictions). The issue was that they needed a creative way to provide students with activities, specifically activities that could be accessed online, whether at the parks or from the comfort of home. Project Exploration jumped at the opportunity to support them by bringing in our programming.

Powered by Connections

Another challenge surfaced; many of the parks had unreliable and unstable internet connections. Through our existing partnerships with Verizon, we were able to leverage an opportunity for the partnering parks in on the south and west side of Chicago to receive reliable WiFi for K-8 students to engage with the online activities provided through our partnership ‘Powered by STEAMbassadors,’ with Chicago Park District, Truman College, and Northwestern University. The STEAMbassadors initiative created an integrated set of curated STEAM learning activities supported by a community of trained STEAMbassadors that park district youth could engage with across various learning spaces and contexts, and strong WiFi was already an integral part of the program’ success. This quickly led other students to get free high-speed internet at many of the west and south side park locations through the Ignite Cities initiative, supported by Verizon, which was created to coordinate a tech-driven solution to the city’s digital divide.

Act, Plan, and Win

Expanding public WiFi made it easier for our park district youth and their families to work and learn outside. Project Exploration believes in equity, the value of partnerships, and collaborative innovation to create more access to learning opportunities for youth. When Project Exploration sees an issue, we ‘spring into action, ‘fall’ into planning,’ and win(ter)!” This WiFi solution improved wireless access, so many students didn’t and won’t be left behind again.

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