The Knowledge House’s Exploring Technology is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: High school students in the Bronx
Number of participants: Roughly 200
Location: In school and in community-based organizations
- Home base: 363 Rider Ave. 3rd Fl Bronx NY 10451
- Community organizations: Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, Nelson Management Group Ltd, Workforce 1
- Schools: Bronx Aerospace, KIPP Academy, Wings Academy, Bronx Compass, Urban Assembly, Astor Collegiate, Bronx Latin, University Heights, BASE, Bronx International, AIM II New Visions, Ellis Prep, Bronx High School for the Visual Arts, Fordham STEP, YPIE
Frequency/Duration: The 80-hour modular curriculum is customizable; schools have done Saturday-only programs, for example, or weekly computer science classes for credit. The summer SYEP-partnered program extends to 120 hours.
Eligibility Criteria: The organization works with high schools in the Bronx, community-based organizations in and beyond the borough, and has run programs in Los Angeles. Students go through a standard application process but because Knowledge House works directly with teachers and school administrators, they often pre-select students.
Curriculum: Exploring Technology, now in its second year, introduces various tech skills, including robotics, design and software. It also puts an emphasis on computational thinking and social emotional learning. The 80-hour modular curriculum also exposes students to pathways into tech careers, college programs and Knowledge House adult programs.
Outcomes: The organization runs 3 programs (2 for adults and 1 for K–12 students) that can be completed sequentially; alums can then take more advanced courses at the Knowledge House or through partner bootcamps. “The purpose is that they learn different pathways to pursue tech careers, [including] non-tech jobs, tech jobs and tech jobs at non-tech companies,” said co-founder and CEO Jerelyn Rodriguez.
The Knowledge House is also working to strengthen the bridge from its high school programs into adult programs and local colleges.; It spent a year aligning its Intro to Tech course to Hostos Community College’s curriculum so that a student can matriculate with advanced placement and 6 college credits.
Partnerships: Mouse, DreamYard, Here to Here (helps KH connect w/certain schools in the Bronx), local CUNY schools (Hostos CC, that have pre-college partnerships w/high schools), Lafayette Boynton, NYC Workforce 1
Cost: Free for students
Sources of funding: Mixed
What makes the program stand out? Being small and neighborhood-oriented allows the Knowledge House to respond quickly and creatively to the needs of students, schools and CBOs as well as the tech industry itself. For example, when adult graduates came back to Rodriguez saying they didn’t want to learn code but still wanted to work in tech, the Knowledge House found referral partners for adult learners that focused on tech-related design, cybersecurity or project management. And to complement that shift, they began exposing K–12 students to a wider variety of skills and career options beyond coding. Moreover, with the market saturated with coding programs, “there was a greater need to teach problem solving skills,” Rodriguez said.
The Knowledge House also stands out for its approach to staffing. The organization often hires program alumni rather than bringing in tech industry volunteers. “One of our value adds is all of our teachers are of color, because most of them are our alums,” said Rodriguez. “We know that if we do a volunteer model, we’ll have a diversity problem.” (Staff of the Knowledge House lead K–8 sessions, while high school sessions are co-taught by DOE teachers and program alums.
What does the organization need? While the Knowledge House has the goal of being in every Bronx high school, it has struggled to expand now that schools get free professional development through CS4All and “they’re not prioritizing their dollars for STEM programs” the way they used to, Rodriguez said. The Knowledge House has a pay-per-student model that “today a lot of schools can’t afford.”
Additionally, the Knowledge House’s success metrics, such as social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and attendance, “aren’t really looked at when it comes to the high school graduate going to their next phase,” and don’t always attract funders.
Does the organization provide professional development? Yes. The Knowledge House has partnered with Mouse to provide professional development in computer science education to public school teachers.