Powered by District 65’s EvanSTEM project in partnership with Northwestern University’s Digital Youth Network (DYN), EL3 is a place where youth can find learning opportunities to pursue either online, in school and out-of school -- Evanston Learns: (1) in school, (2) out-of-school, and (3) online. Through EL3, young people can discover new paths and interests, explore Evanston’s rich resources, and find out what they can learn, make, do and, ultimately, become.
More than just a tool to search and find programs that interest students, EL3 becomes a space for young people to develop their respective learning history. Each program they attend, each skill they master, each APP they conquer, and each project they complete via EL3 is included as part of their learning profile.
The creation of EL3 is a collaboration between Northwestern University’s Digital Youth Network (DYN) and EvanSTEM, a project within Evanston Skokie School District 65. Evanston’s EL3 platform is based upon Chicago’s City of Learning platform that was created by DYN in 2013.
DYN grew out of the MacArthur Foundation’s 2008 five-year, $50 million Digital Media and Learning Initiative, which awarded DYN founder Nichole Pinkard a generous grant to study how digital media affects literacy.
DYN is expanding its reach in order to become more accessible to a wider audience. But the mission to address one of the nation’s most significant and enduring questions remains the same:
How do we produce reliably excellent learning opportunities for children growing up in urban America?
Chicago’s version of EL3 is called the Chicago City of Learning (CCOL), which grew out of the 2013 Chicago Summer of Learning, when more than 100 youth-serving organizations joined together to make their programs visible. Youth participants earned digital badges that provided permanent recognition of their achievements through their activities. Now, in 2019, CCOL operates year-round and partners with more than 120 youth-serving Chicago organizations, and continues to help youth to find and record their interests and achievements.
As the founder of DYN and the lead for the development of CCOL, Dr. Nichole Pinkard (Profile) and her team at Northwestern’s OCEP are the principal drivers in the creation and development of EL3.
Working in partnership to design and implement the EL3 platform is EvanSTEM, Evanston’s STEM ecosystem housed within Evanston-Skokie School District 65 and led by Kirby Girolami Callam (Profile). EvanSTEM is a collective impact effort of STEM educators, program providers, industry leaders and professionals coordinating and collaborating to increase underrepresented student success in STEM programs, courses and ultimately careers.
Core to Evanston’s ecosystem are the Evanston Public Library, the YMCA MetaMedia, Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), Family Focus and Northwestern University -- five providers working jointly to create engaging accessible STEM programs for underrepresented youth. Via EL3, these youth are now producing, documenting, archiving and sharing their ideas and creations across programs and classrooms.
Kirby Callam co-founded and designed the EvanSTEM project in coordination with Evanston School District 65 superintendent Paul Goren in 2015. He has extensive experience as an educator, administrator, and youth program leader.
In the 1990’s Kirby founded the Washington Park Youth Program, a successful full-service youth program on Chicago’s Southside in partnership with local schools, the Chicago Park District, three community organizations and the University of Chicago (U of C). Later that decade, he led the operational start-up of the U of C’s first charter school in the nearby North Kenwood/Oakland community. After teaching middle school math in Evanston District 65 for five years, Kirby founded and led the Chicago Talent Development Charter High School on Chicago’s Westside for five years. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, a Master’s in Public and Private Management from Yale University, and Master’s of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University.