NC Panel: Unlikely Partnerships? Youth Organizations and Institutions: Collaborating for Future Learning


Historically, teens have been marginalized from public civic space; they are neither adult nor child, thus there is often no “there there” for teens, no “legitimized” public space to occupy. And while there is a general lament over lack of youth involvement in civic and cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, there is simultaneous regulation and/or explicit exclusion of youth from these spaces.

Complicating this ambivalence toward youth and public space is research that emphasizes the importance of out-of-school time and supporting a broader ‘ecology of learning.’ If youth spend more time out of school than in school, but have been historically marginalized in spaces that might support learning, what could remedy this problem?

In this session we look at unique partnerships directly addressing this issue through innovation, both technological and social. These partnerships between youth organizations and civic and cultural institutions seek to create participatory learning cultures in spaces where this may run contrary to existing cultural practices and norms.

Included in the panel are representatives from youth organizations and cultural institutions including:

YouMedia Chicago is an innovative, 21st century teen learning space housed at the Chicago Public Library’s downtown Harold Washington Library Center. YouMedia was created to connect young adults, books, media, mentors, and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity. YouMedia is a partnership between the Chicago Public Library and the Digital Youth Network. In this session, representatives from both organizations will describe what they’ve learned in the first year of implementation.

I Dig Science is an ongoing collaboration between Global Kids (GK) and Natural History museums in New York and Chicago (AMNH and the Field Museum). The I Dig Science program is one example of the larger GK Edge Project which aims to expand the capacity of civic and cultural institutions to use new media as innovative educational platforms that engage youth in learning and promote youth civic participation. I Dig Science focuses on teaching science and critical global issues such as climate change, biodiversity, and cultural preservation using an immersive 3D virtual environment and a web-based e-learning platform. Each organization will describe what they have learned over the course of their three year partnership and how this informs the broader work of the Edge Project.