Shedd Aquarium’s Teen Learning Lab is the coolest hangout

You probably knew that the Shedd aquarium is home to the Wild Reef and an awesome oceanarium. But did you know that it’s also the home to a Teen Learning Lab?

I recently checked out the Lab for the first time last week with my daughter and her good friend, and we were really impressed by this awesome space that is open free of charge to high school teens. (Actually, I should say that the teens visited and allowed me to tag along.)

After we first walked in and were welcomed, a staff member offered a brief overview and informed the teens, “Adults are allowed in here with teen supervision only. It’s up to you whether she gets to say,” nodding my direction. That pleased the girls a great deal. (It would also be a great option for kids who are looking for a little space to do their own thing while parents check out exhibits with younger siblings.)

Your teen will have a lot of fun, and they’ll probably learn something. The Teen Learning Lab gives visitors the chance to see experiments in process, talk with Shedd staff members and explore the aquarium with their peers. Here’s what they can expect out of a visit:

Learn more about exhibits

While it’s not guaranteed, it’s possible that a visit to the Teen Learning Lab can include an activity in parts of the Shedd outside the lab. My daughter and her friend were lucky enough to visit on a day when they headed to check out the newly opened Stingray Touch exhibit. They loved having the insight of someone who works there and could give them the inside scoop.

Play with the equipment

3-D printers, the Adobe Software Suite, video production equipment and more can be found in the Teen Learning Lab. Kids are encouraged to pursue their passions and develop projects they want to work on there, and with all the equipment available, they are limited only by their imagination.

Ongoing projects mean repeated visits to the Lab, something that’s not only welcomed but strongly encouraged. My teen is thinking about a photography project. Some kids conduct scientific research working alongside highly respected scientists, others work on volunteer projects related to animal welfare. The possibilities are pretty endless, and while they sound pretty serious, it’s a pretty high energy, fun space that feels like a cool teen hangout.

Learn about careers

If your teen is more interested in technology, marketing or videography than marine biology, they can connect with staff members who do those jobs at the Shedd. The Lab currently has a mentor pool of over 40 experts from 17 different departments. Represented departments include Marine Mammals, Facilities, Technology, Marketing and Animal Health.

Learn about other opportunities

Wade Berger, Teen Learning Lab Manager, explained that one function of the Learning Lab is to act as a hub for all the activities for teens at the Shedd. It’s a one-stop-shop to learn about volunteer opportunities, summer classes, work-study programs and more.

Get help on school projects

Whether kids are working on a science fair project on microbiology, a paper about Chicago architecture or doing a career exploration project, the Teen Learning Lab could be a great resource.

Is it fun?

Definitely yes.

Do teens have to love science?

Nope! Though chances are they may leave more interested in science.

When is it open?

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Teen Learning Lab is open from 2-7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. After Labor Day, it is open from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Where is it?

Check in at the Education entrance.

Who can visit?

Teens in high school can visit the Teen Learning Lab. Students in CPS, suburban high schools, private high schools, charter schools, and homeschooled teens are welcome.

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