Homewood Science Center is a nonprofit community science center founded in 2016 to serve Chicago’s culturally and economically diverse south suburbs. Our mission is to inspire scientific wonder, learning, and pursuit. We work with educators, STEM professionals, and partner organizations to increase STEM literacy and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, so all area students can gain the skills and confidence they need to fully enjoy and contribute to the civic and commercial vibrancy of our region.
Homewood Science Center provides programs for children, families, schools, and afterschool centers; leads youth internships and volunteer opportunities; operates a community makerspace; maintains a demonstration native pollinator garden; presents films, exhibits, and speakers; teaches kids’ camps and classes; hosts robotics teams; and convenes regional STEM stakeholders for professional development and collaboration. The science center is “a great big community classroom I can rely on,” said one local parent.
Through our programs and events, Homewood Science Center is working to improve STEM literacy; close the STEM achievement gap for female, minority, and low-income students; and increase economic mobility. As a regional hub for STEM in south Cook County, Homewood Science Center provides area students the skills to thrive in the 21st century workforce, educators the tools to develop STEM-literate students, and business and industry the talent to innovate and grow.
Our programs include:
STEM Saturdays - Free programs and activities for families of young children, available weekly
PopUp SCIENCE @Home - Hands-on activities to spark children’s curiosity and exploration of STEM
Girls STEAM SUCCESS - Club for underserved female middle school students to meet diverse professional mentors and build 21st century job skills
Middle School Conservation Ecology Internship - Project-based internship to teach young people how to manage and preserve biodiversity and natural resources
Exploring Engineering - In-school field trips for pre-K and elementary students to develop interest, understanding, and self-efficacy in the engineering design process
Chicago Southland STEM Network - Platform for diverse stakeholders to collaborate on regional STEM education and workforce development
The RoundUp - Weekly email news digest with links to resources for families, educators, and STEM enthusiasts
Summer Camps & Classes - Engaging out-of-school STEM experiences for students in pre-K through 8th grade
Families of young learners explore STEM through hands-on activities, exhibits, creative play, and special presentations led by STEM enthusiasts and experts from leading institutions like the Forest Preserves of Cook County and University of Chicago. Children’s early experiences in STEM set the stage for future learning and economic mobility, and young learners whose families are engaged in their education earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.
PopUp SCIENCE @Home kits include materials and hands-on STEM activities supported by the Next Generation Science Standards, standards adopted by Illinois schools to prepare students for college and careers. Homewood Science Center distributes these kits in partnership with area schools, nonprofits, and municipal organizations. Elizabeth Reich, principal of Serena Hills Elementary School, a Title I, low-income school in Chicago Heights, said, “PopUp SCIENCE @Home gets kids interacting and creating and using those great 21st century skills that they’ll need to be employed later on.” Homewood Science Center also works with schools to develop PopUp SCIENCE classroom activities that support the schools’ science curricula.
Homewood Science Center’s Girls STEAM SUCCESS Club is a free afterschool program that empowers female middle school students to successfully set and achieve goals, build skills for high school, meet women in STEAM careers, and have fun with science. The program features eight club meetings at Homewood Science Center with healthy snacks, hands-on STEAM activities, and diverse mentors in STEAM; a family field trip; two summer film fest events; and a Back-to-School SUCCESS Soiree with end-of-year-awards. Research shows female mentors are a powerful force to help girls and young women maintain confidence in their skills, feel a sense of belonging, and stay committed to personal and professional goals in STEAM. “I liked that they helped me get to my life goals,” said one student participant.
Students who apply and are selected for this internship work with local ecology experts to plan and complete a youth-led conservation ecology project in the community, then present their work at a Homewood Science Center event. One student wrote of the group’s invasive species removal efforts at a local nature preserve, “I looked at the before and after pictures taken, and I was amazed at the difference we had all made, working together.”
On Homewood Science Center in-school field trips, pre-K and elementary students learn STEM vocabulary, are introduced to STEM principles, and experience the engineering design process first-hand, through STEM activities supported by the Next Generation Science Standards. “Kids need to be hands-on to understand. This helps them get enthused about learning,” said one teacher about the program.
The Chicago Southland STEM Network is a platform for parents, educators, nonprofits, business and industry leaders, and policymakers to work together to improve regional STEM education and workforce development. Homewood Science Center keeps this group informed about STEM opportunities via a weekly news digest and convenes the network twice yearly for professional development and networking. “I always learn something new,” wrote one attendee. “It’s a great way to find ideas and develop relationships,” wrote another. Relationships built through the Chicago Southland STEM Network are bringing fresh resources to STEM educators in the south suburbs. For example, Homewood Science Center partnered in hosting Northwestern University’s STEM Summit for K-12 educators in 2019, the first time in the event’s 10-year history to be held in south Cook County.
Homewood Science Center also works closely with the Jones Center, a charitable organization that offers programming for low-income youth in Chicago Heights, and Restoration Ministries, a nonprofit serving young people in Harvey. Julia Martin, Restoration Ministries director of youth programming, said, “For our kids, keeping science in their lives is crucial. The science center is the difference between that happening and not happening.”
Homewood Science Center's email news digest takes STEM to a higher level with five quick links to resources for families, educators, and STEM enthusiasts each week. The RoundUp keeps our community informed about what's happening in STEM and celebrates STEM achievement, locally and globally.