Project Exploration Approach

collage in the after-school program

Environmental Science Program

Project Exploration (PE) has a structured set of programs that are implemented in the middle and high school setting in several Chicago Public Schools. Our approach for the Connect project was to use these structures that are established and include an additional aspect into each in a way that flowed best with the individual programs, such as Sisters4Science or Science Giants.

The importance of educating the future generations about the disastrous state of our planet was the driving force behind Project Exploration’s involvement in this Connect project. The next generation is full of the young people who will grow up to be the ones to either solve the problem or live with the consequences of past generations’ mistakes. One issue is that the future generations have too many distractions to recognize why education in the STEM fields are important. Using our structure of out-of-school time programming, PE thought this would be an excellent platform to encourage skill and knowledge development related to the environmental sciences and climate change. The underlying goal of this project is to successfully aid our participants in understanding why it's important to understand  issues related to climate change, how humans have contributed to the problem, and ways in which participants themselves can help with the problem. The research done prior to creating the plan for project execution mostly revolved around the issues that pertain specifically to Chicago and how the city’s government has taken steps to lessen Chicago’s impact on the climate. This research, along with the application of the Chicago Botanic Garden's Climate Change Curriculum, made the material presented very relevant and specific to the environment the participants live in.

When looking at the great toolkit of activities provided through the Connect project, the program team at PE considered several factors related to our programs. When working with the middle school demographic, PE works to build a curriculum that is consistently interactive for the participants in order to maintain their interest and attention. We also work to build the participant’s skills in important career-readiness skills such as public speaking, team building, and confidence building. The tools that we chose (Climate and Community Jeopardy, Visual Collages, and Climate Action Posters) worked with both PE’s mission and goals, as well as keeping the participants engaged in the topic and projects. The poster campaign project also set students up for success at our culminating event, Reflection of Knowledge, and helped them to practice explaining their ideas to a group—which will help them to implement their plan at their school next year!

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Chicago Climate Change Plan – a plan laid out by different organizations and institutions to encourage more eco-friendly practices within Chicago’s business, governmental, and population infrastructures