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Teenage Designers of Learning Places for Children - Explora

Explora—Albuquerque, NM

Project Name: Youth Intern Program: en movimiento (project overview poster)


To create opportunities for inspirational discovery and the joy of lifelong learning through science, technology, and art.

Project Leader

Kristen Leigh

Project Summary

Explora involved youth interns in creating a portable physical space that they could set up in the various community centers where they deliver science programs.

Project Goal and Description

Explora's Youth Interns regularly provide experiential science activities in city community centers. The Learning Places project provides a portable, physical space, full of experiential science activities, that is designed, fabricated, equipped and staffed by interns, in collaboration with Explora exhibit developers and educators, for outreach to city community centers and city parks in underserved neighborhoods.

Community Collaboration

Community Partners

  • City of Albuquerque community centers and parks.

History of Partnership

For the past five years Explora's Youth Interns have regularly provided experiential, inquiry-based, after-school programs in science at City of Albuquerque community centers. Students from the centers also have regularly come to Explora. In addition, Explora educators have provided community center activities coordinators and staff members with curriculum, materials, mentoring and professional development workshops through N-PASS, an NSF funded project. The City of Albuquerque has funded additional community center staff members to attend professional development workshops at Explora. Explora maintains ongoing relationships with community center staff members.

Explora's Youth Interns

Thirty diverse, intelligent committed high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, devoted to continual learning to become better educators for younger students. Prospective interns are referred to the program by high school teachers and counselors, social service organizations or churches, from underserved or at-risk schools or neighborhoods. All qualify for the free or reduced price school lunch program. Interns must apply to the program and attend an application interview with a parent, guardian or other supportive adult.

Planning and Program Activities

Substantially completed design, fabrication and equipping of the Mobile Learning Place from September 2008 through May 2009.

Next Steps

Field testing the Learning Place and putting it into service.

Assumptions We Made

Those proven false:

  • That we would have the Mobile Learning Place in service by 8 months from the start of development

Those proven true:

  • That the youth interns had the ability, interest, preparation and will to successfully carry out the Learning Places project
  • That the project would take a lot more time and money than anticipated by the grant
  • That a year and a half of practicing and learning Explora's pedagogy, and facilitating exhibit and educational program activities at Explora, would prepare the Senior Interns to comfortably participate in professional development workshops geared for in-service educators and to comfortably become apprentice exhibit developers.
  • That the interns already had a collegial relationship with Explora's exhibit developers and educators that would comfortably be deepened through the Learning Places project.

Insights We Gained

Every community is different. In our town the community center staff is more stable as a collaborator than a place. The staff members are transient and frequently move from one site to another, but they take their commitment to a project with them. If Explora has the physical space and materials, these center staff members will collaborate with the delivery of the services. On the other hand, the community centers' own spaces are maintained for the convenience of cleaning and permanence, and do not lend themselves to sustaining comfortable and flexible learning spaces. Changing the institutional culture of a community center is not likely with our resources. Sustaining a transformative, reflective, personal, experimental small space environment in the midst of the unfocused super-dynamic of our typical, local community center is an unnecessary and perhaps insurmountable challenge, which can be dissolved by creating our own whole portable space with an environment created for its own purpose.

Learn more about St. Louis Science Center's YES program, and the Science Museum of Minnesota's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center