What We Do

Project Exploration is a Chicago-based nationally recognized nonprofit science education and youth development organization launched in 1999 to address inequities in access to high-quality STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) opportunities in out-of-school time. We strive to ensure every Chicago student becomes STEM literate, promote a diversified STEM workforce in Chicago and work to serve students that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. PE makes STEM education accessible through:

  • Programs that run after school, summer and school breaks at several Chicago Public Schools.
  • The West Side STEM Learning Center, a community STEM hub that runs after school programs throughout the school year as well as a summer camp.
  • Virtual STEM@home program opportunities, which make high quality STEM accessible to students regardless of school closures, strikes, and breaks
  • Community-building connections for schools, students and families through leadership in the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative.

School-Based Programs

Partnering with Chicago Public Schools that have barriers to accessing high quality STEM resources, Project Exploration brings our expertise to the out of school time space while simultaneously working closely with administration and teachers to strengthen academic provisions. On average, PE runs 15 programs with schools in this capacity annually.

2021-2022 school-based program partners included:

  • Barbara A. Sizemore Academy
    • Building Block Club (K-2nd grade), STEMQuest (3rd-8th grade)
  • Betty Shabazz Academy
    • Building Block Club (K-2nd grade), STEMQuest (3rd-8th grade)
  • Hefferan Elementary School
    • Medical Sciences (3rd-5th grade)
  • Holy Family School
    • Building Block Club (K-2nd grade), STEMQuest (3rd-8th grade)
  • Lawndale Community Academy
    • STEMQuest (3rd-8th grade)
  • Plato Learning Academy
    • Building Block Club (K-2nd grade), STEMQuest (3rd-8th grade)
  • UCCS Donoghue Elementary School
    • STEMQuest (3rd-5th grade)
  • Woodson Elementary School
    • Sisters4Science (5th-8th grade girls), Brothers4Science (5th-8th grade boys)

Learn more about PE’s School-Based Programs.

STEM Learning Centers (SLC)

In 2017, Project Exploration launched its first STEM Learning Center on the George Leland Elementary School Campus. The West Side STEM Learning Center serves as a community STEM hub that seeks to amplify the value of STEM learning in Austin by providing youth with high-quality STEM programs and internships, while integrating family and community outreach. In 2022, Project Exploration opened another STEM Learning Center at Bethel New Life, a community-based, nonprofit partner in another distinct region of Chicago’s Austin community. Both STEM Learning Centers reinforce our mission to provide high-quality STEM programs in communities where inequities to access STEM learning opportunities persist. Signature program opportunities offered at the SLCs include:

  • Building Block Club (Kindergarten to 2nd grade girls and boys)
  • Little Sisters4Science (3rd-5th grade girls)
  • Sisters4Science (6th-8th grade girls)
  • Little Brothers4Science (3rd-5th grade boys)
  • Brothers4Science (6th-8th grade boys)

Learn more about Project Exploration’s SLC.

Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative

Chicago has a wealth of STEM learning opportunities for youth, in classrooms and through out-of-school time experiences. However, challenges to access and equity continue to persist for young people – particularly those from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. How can we work collaboratively to provide all Chicago youth with quality STEM experiences to support their academic, civic, and career development? The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative is a community-driven initiative that works to address inequities in the STEM learning continuum. Our strength-based approach focuses on three critical areas: cross-sector knowledge building, collaboration, and collective action.

Learn more about the cooperative.


While STEM@home was developed out of necessity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this novel program has been strategically and sustainably built to strengthen the in-person programming PE has provided in the out-of-school time space for more than 20 years. Our mission has always been to create transformative learning opportunities for youth underrepresented in the sciences –particularly students of color and girls – regardless of the neighborhoods in which they live, the state of their schools, truancy rates of students, or the crisis with which we’re challenged. School strikes, summer breaks, truancy, and crises such as the COVID pandemic necessitate that we deepen STEM learning experiences not only in the afterschool space but at home. Through STEM@home, PE intends to ensure transformative learning opportunities are not only available but also incentivized at home with Chicago students who are at greatest risk of falling behind their peers.

STEM@home refers to a suite of resources and e-learning opportunities that are made available to families virtually through PE’s website and in mailed STEM@home kits. The resources help parents engage kids in fun, hands-on STEM activities requiring simple materials which they already have at home or which can be cost-effectively provided via mailed kits.

STEM@home programs offered in 2021-2022 include:

  • Building Block Club (Kindergarten to 2nd grade)
  • Little Sisters4Science (3rd to 5th grade girls)
  • Sisters4Science (6th to 8th grade girls)
  • Little Brothers4Science (3rd to 5th grade boys)
  • Brothers4Science (6th to 8th grade boys)

Learn more about Project Exploration’s virtual program opportunities.

This video about Project Exploration’s Youth-Science Pathways model was produced by Free Spirit Media and funded by the HIVE Network.

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