Kansas City Public Library, Science City Win Grant Competition to Design Digital Learning Lab for Youth in Kansas City Metropolitan Area

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Steven Woolfolk

(Kansas City Missouri) - Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the Kansas City Public Library, in partnership with Science City at Union Station, as one of only 12 U.S. organizations to receive funding to create a learning lab for middle and high school students. The learning lab created by the Library and Science City will be designed to improve digital literacy and to engage young people in hands-on learning. These labs will help youth gain the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers, and life today.

The Library and Science City received $100,000 in funding from IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the learning lab. The two institutions provided an additional $40,234 in matching funds to support the work.

"Teens love technology and telling stories," Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III said. "The Kansas City Public Library is thrilled to bring the two together in our proposed Learning lab with Science City at Union Station."

"There are a number of outstanding science centers and the most successful have become established as both a meaningful educational resource and an important asset to their community," said George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station. "This grant and our partnership with the Kansas City Public Library will help us advance Science City at Union Station to that level. We believe this new interactive lab will be an outstanding attraction and a valuable resource for our community."

The funds will be used to develop a prototype "Learning Lab" at Union Station as well as a mobile lab that will travel to Kansas City Public Library branches, schools and other locations throughout the city.

Both the Union Station lab and the mobile lab will provide students with access to a variety of technologies - including digital cameras and video recorders, computers, drawing tablets, mixing boards, and software titles aimed to assist in the creation of original media.

"This competition was announced in answer to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to bring American students to the forefront in science and math, to provide the workers of tomorrow with the skills they need today," said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. "Libraries and museums are part of re-envisioning learning in the 21st century; they are trusted community institutions where teens can follow their passions and imagine exciting futures."

"Digital media are profoundly influencing young people's lives, their behavior, their civic participation, and where and how they learn," said Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation. "These innovative new teen labs are designed to provide young people with engaging and diverse opportunities for learning and exploration beyond the classroom. The nation's libraries and museums play an important role in leveling the playing field by providing greater access to learning experiences that equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century."

The Learning Labs Project is inspired by YOUmedia, an innovative teen learning space at the Chicago Public Library. Based on the latest research about how young people learn today, YOUmedia encourages teens to use both digital and traditional media to promote creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. The YOUmedia lab connects teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply. It enables them to discover new opportunities and follow their passions by not only being consumers of media, but also creators of content.

The Learning Labs Project will be administered by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), which bring critical expertise and professional networks to the effort, and will help amplify each grantees' experiences more broadly to libraries and museums nationwide.

Applications materials for a second round of the grant competition will be available in spring, 2012, at www.imls.gov.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

About the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The goal is to build a base of evidence about how young people learn today, in an effort to re-imagine learning in the 21st century. More information is available at www.macfound.org/education.

About the Urban Libraries Council
Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is a membership organization made up of North America's premier public library systems and the corporations supporting them. While ULC's members primarily represent urban and suburban settings, the work done by ULC is widely used by all libraries including those in rural settings. ULC strategically addresses issues important to all communities including education, workforce and economic development, public safety, environmental sustainability, health, and wellness. ULC's members are thought leaders dedicated to the continuous evolution and strengthening of libraries to meet changing community needs. As ULC celebrates its forty-year anniversary, its work focuses on helping library leaders develop and utilize skills and strategies that match the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more at www.urbanlibraries.org.

About the Association of Science-Technology Centers
The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is a global nonprofit organization of science centers and museums committed to raising public understanding of science's role in solving critical societal issues, and its value in igniting and nurturing the innovative spirit that people of all ages need for success in today's world. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning by serving and linking its members worldwide and advancing their common goals. Founded in 1973, ASTC's nearly 600 members in 44 countries include not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, space centers, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children's museums, as well as companies, consultants, and other organizations that share an interest in informal science education. Visit www.astc.org to learn more about ASTC and find a science center near you.