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.
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.
The science center is “a great big community classroom I can rely on,” said one local parent.
Our programs include:
STEM Saturdays - Free programs and activities for families of young children, available weekly
Field Trips - Field trips held at Homewood Science Center for pre-K to 8th grade students to develop interest, understanding, and self-efficacy in the engineering design process
STEAM Play - Longer open hours with paid registration and access to entire facility
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
Chicago Southland STEM Network - Platform for diverse stakeholders to collaborate on regional STEM education and workforce development
Summer Camps & Classes - Engaging out-of-school STEM experiences for students in pre-K through 8th grade
PopUp SCIENCE - Hands-on activities to spark children’s curiosity and exploration of STEM
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.
On Homewood Science Center in-school field trips, pre-K to 8th grade 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.
We love seeing families explore our newly improved facility, so we are adding another program called STEAM Play as a paid option to visit. STEM Saturdays will continue as a free family program. STEAM Play is an additional opportunity to enjoy Homewood Science Center with a fee of $10 per child. Babies and adults will not be charged to accompany children during STEAM Play.
Homewood Science Center’s Girls STEAM SUCCESS Club is a free program that empowers female 6th-12th grade students to successfully set and achieve goals, build skills, meet women in STEAM careers, and have fun with science. The Club is kicked off with a one day conference followed by monthly opportunities to meet or attend off site field trips.
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.
Each spring and fall middle school interns 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.”
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 by convening 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.
PopUp SCIENCE 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 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 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.”