Nashville – Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Nashville Public Library as one of only 12 U.S. organizations to receive funding to create learning labs for middle and high school students. The Nashville Public Library learning labs will be designed to improve digital literacy and to engage young people in hands-on learning. These labs will help youth gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers, and life today.
The Nashville Public Library Foundation received $100,000 in funding from IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the learning lab. The planning team includes Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Vanderbilt Peabody faculty and YouthSpeaks Nashville.
“We need to move youth beyond exposure and initial engagement with media, information, and technologies to activities of production, learning, and expertise-building,” said Tari Hughes, Executive Director of the Nashville Public Library Foundation. “Planning for the Learning Lab(s) at NPL will help support Nashville’s city-wide focus on youth. It is a perfect extension of Limitless Libraries, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools.”
The planning team will be joined by teen constituents and volunteers, teen T.O.T.A.L. (Totally Outstanding Teen Advocates For The Library) staff, and professionals from Nashville’s vibrant creative community to ensure that both the environment and offerings of the learning lab align with current research on teen learning and engage middle- and high-school teens in meaningful, relevant ways. The library will use the Youth Speaks Nashville program as a model for effective engagement.
The Nashville Public Library Foundation will continue to seek local and national funding to build and implement the Learning Lab project.
“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.”
Programs like The Learning Lab Project address a critical need. According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment, American students significantly lag behind their developed country counterparts ranking 21 out of 30 in science literacy and 25th out of 30 in math literacy.
“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 Lab 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.