Contact: Elyse Adler, Elyse.firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Partners: Southern Word, Metro Nashville Public Schools, STEM Hub, NPL Foundation, Mayor Karl Dean, Vanderbilt University
Imagine teens actively engaged in learning physics, math, writing, or graphic design. Studio NPL is an initiative for Nashville teens, providing them with the opportunity to be innovators, problem solvers, and creators through our newly designed physical spaces, as well as a mobile lab for outreach into the community.
NPL received a MacArthur Foundation Learning Lab planning grant. We were able to engage teens throughout the planning process, which helped inform our new service model, space design, and name, Studio NPL.
Studio NPL is unique in that it is championed in this city by both government and the private sector. It was also developed, in large part, by teens working on our staff, visiting our locations, and participating in our prototypes. Nashville also has an enviable relationship with our public school system, as well as with many other cultural and educational institutions throughout the city.
Our foundation for Studio NPL is based on research that clearly shows that teens thrive in a digital environment – that through interest-based, self-directed and mentor-facilitated projects, youth improve academically and socially. With comfortable, safe spaces filled with 3D printers, sound recording booths, gaming walls, and robotics kits, teens – with the help of skilled and caring adults - are able to explore their interests and discover new ones. The goal is to help them succeed in school, grow personally, and be empowered to become productive and happy adults.
Studio NPL is in its beginning stages, and we are in the process of developing a logic model. NPL staff, teens, and community partners are working together to identify what success looks like and how we will know when we’ve achieved it. Over the past eight years, we’ve been surveying our teens at programs. Last year, we learned that 89 percent of them enjoyed our programs, 90 percent would return, and 87 percent would recommend to a friend.
Since hiring dedicated Teen Services staff and creating dedicated teen spaces, we have seen an increase in teens checking out materials and coming to our programs. They walk here, ride the bus, get dropped off, and most importantly, they bring their friends! They come from every neighborhood in the city to seek us out.
Studio NPL has expanded our services to teens even further. From the two prototype projects (an architecture prototype and a writing/music/graphic design prototype), we know that the participants connected with their mentors, learned new skills, and created new interests—one teen is now considering becoming an architect, and another has become a star in the local spoken word community.
In the future, teens will have even more opportunities. As they compose music, they will improve their math skills. As they invent on the 3D printer, they will sharpen science, technology and engineering aptitudes. What’s more, teens will have a great opportunity this fall to participate in a Studio NPL – STEM Hub program involving poetry about astronomy concepts: nashlibrary.cabedgedev.com/the-studio-npl.