Each summer, youth from all parts of Philadelphia come to Temple University to participate in the Building Information Technology Skills (bITS) program at Temple University. The program offers unique opportunities for urban youth to acquire new digital literacy and professional skills for the 21st century. The program seeks to build new capacities for community development and economic change through the languages of digital technology.
Youth in the bITS program participate in service learning projects or a faculty-led internship experience. This summer, a group of youth worked on a project led by Geography and Urban Studies PhD student Alisa Shockley with Environmental Studies major Jillian Eller as a fellow mentor. They examined parks in North Philadelphia and Center City, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different parks. They then proposed a new park that could be put in place at 8th and Berks, just east of Temple’s Campus. Given the size of the plot of land and the best and worst practices they saw across the city, they designed a park that sought to integrate the needs of the community with aesthetic design. Their final proposal pulled from family-friendly parks found in North Philadelphia, with kids playing and teenagers present, and the design focused around a fountain seen at Logan Circle, to suggest a park with a rec center to generate money, space for kids, dogs and parents, and a community garden space. In keeping with Philadelphia’s love of mural but putting their own spin on it, they suggested painting the walkways instead of a building wall.
Check out their story map, detailing their fieldwork, reflections and suggestions, here: Engaging with Spaces: 8th and Diamond Playground Fieldwork.
In addition to the student mentors, other members of the GUS community were involved with the bITS program including PhD student Sarah Heck, who worked as a coordinator for the program. Guest visitors included Assistant Professor Dr. David Organ and 2016 PhD graduate Alec Foster.
The bITS program invites several guest speakers to attend and work with the youth. For the past several years, Cey Adams, a graffiti artist and co-founder of the Drawing Board, Def Jam Recordings visual design firm. Just one day after participating in the bITS showcase, Cey Adams was featured in August 11th’s Google Doodle, recognizing the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip hop.
The bITS program is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Philadelphia Youth Network. It began as a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Michele Masucci, Vice President for Research at Temple University and a Geography and Urban Studies Professor. More information about the bITS summer program and its affiliation with the Apps and Maps Studios at Temple is available here.
Pictured above: Jillian Eller and Alisa Shockley, bITS mentors from GUS, and their group of youth at the final presentation day.
Pictured right: Dr. Michele Masucci, Vice President for Research, presents Cey Adams with a thank you gift.
Pictured left: Philadelphia Youth Network’s Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend addresses the youth, recognizing their hard work in the program.