Area teens have the opportunity this summer to check out the first stages of the new free Kansas City Digital Media Lab in Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road.
From 4 to 8 p.m. every Friday in June and July, young people between the ages of 13 and 18 can have hands-on experiences with audio and video production equipment. And they can work with several laptops and tablets loaded with programs for designing games and graphics, as well as video editing software.
The lab allows young people to employ cutting-edge digital tools to tell their own stories. In addition, it will let teens advance their studies, prepare for jobs, and explore the world around them.
These open house sessions are an opportunity for teens to evaluate the work done so far on the project. Assuming additional funding is secured, the teens' input will be used to shape the lab when it opens full time at a later date.
"It's really important to understand that this is an opportunity for us to get feedback from teens," says the Kansas City Public Library's Andrea Ellis, learning labs project coordinator.
"We don't want them to come in, decide they don't like it, and walk out. We want them to tell us what works and what doesn't so we can get it right at an early stage in the lab's development."
The lab is located on the lower level of Union Station. Ellis recommends that visitors go to the information kiosk in the station's lobby and follow the signage to the Digital Media Lab. Library staffers and members of the Digital Media Teen Advisory Board will be photographing the open houses for use in Twitter, Facebook, and blog promotions.
Efforts have been underway for several months to make the lab a reality. Working with a $100,000 planning grant (one of only 24 in the country) from the MacArthur Foundation administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Kansas City Public Library and Science City at Union Station have been collecting information to ensure that the proposed facility meets the needs of local young people.
The Kansas City Digital Media Lab seeks to fulfill its mission by:
The goal is to allow teens to engage in projects that promote critical thinking, creativity, and skill-building. Planners envision a ripple effect in which teens who participate will go on to become mentors themselves.
There will be other benefits. Teens who previously had not considered attending institutions of higher learning may now see it as a reachable goal. And when youth are engaged in satisfying civic and creative processes, the community at large benefits. By being in tune with technology and innovation, young people will position themselves to be advocates, entrepreneurs, and employees in the local digital media industry, thus potentially attracting even more dynamic businesses to the area.
Throughout the planning process, fund-raising has continued. Contributions are being sought from businesses, the not-for-profit community, and individuals.
Ultimately, planners believe, the Digital Media Lab will be replicated in communities all over the country. The Digital Media Lab will demonstrate how teens can enhance their participation in their peer groups, communities, potential futures, and the creative process itself.
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