IL Area South Children’s Cluster

On March 12, 2022, South Suburban Chicago Chapter hosted 7 Mid-Western region Jack and Jill chapters for the IL Area South Children’s Cluster. Led by Chair Linah Alsberry and Co-Chair Erin Killingsworth-Walker, this virtual event for children in grades K-8 was themed, “It’s Rocket Science: Launching our Future Leaders into Outer Space.” 150 children registered for the event and were given curated “space capsules” filled with needed materials, a t-shirt, water bottle, and other space goodies. Keynote speaker Kantis Simmons started the day off with an amazing inspirational talk and presentation. Kantis is a former NASA Scientist, Renowned Speaker and Author. He is the nation’s leading school success strategist and his mission is to put an end to the academic failure epidemic, teacher turnover rate, and trillion dollars student loan debt crisis sweeping across America’s schools and colleges.

After the keynote, our small groups began their individual programming. Grades K-2, the Little Dippers, and grades 3-5, the Moon Walkers, took an astronomical adventure through interactive demonstrations, collaborative exploration, and expert instruction. These mini-astronomers learned about space related topics such as comets and space food and nutrition. They finished their day with a talk from neuroscientist and author Theanne Griffith, who co-writes the non-fiction series, Ada Twist, Scientist: The Why Files.

Tweens in grades 6-8, the Space Explorers, traveled into deep space in search of a strange and unusual system. Facilitated by the Challenger Learning Center of NW Indiana, they took on roles of NASA Mission Control team leaders and worked together to guide the away team orbiting Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, to launch a probe that will search for evidence of life below the ice. Later students used the information they learned about Europa to promote an innovative recreation tourist attraction and shared their ideas on Flipgrid. They also learned about the psychological evaluations aspiring astronauts must take and took their own self-identity/self-interest assessment in a session led by certified therapist, Dr. Wanda Parker.

As we launched our Future Leaders into outer space, we wanted to bring the community with us on our journey. We partnered with the Ford Heights location of Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago to offer STEM programming to youth in the community. Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago focus on providing youth with essential academic support so they are able to flourish in and out of the classroom. The STEM programs offer a robust hands-on STEM curriculum, which connects youth to science themes through immersive activities.  

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