Project Team

GeoConvos (1)

Find out more about the individuals behind this project:

Chicago History Museum | Education Department

Ilana Bruton, Public Programs Manager
Ilana Bruton is responsible for the design and implementation of programs to expand and diversify CHM’s audiences through interpretive experiences.  Ilana has served on many committees during her tenure at CHM including Program Director for the exhibition Shalom Chicago supported by The Covenant Foundation.  Ilana has a Master of Arts in Museum Education from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Humanities with a Specialization in Museum Studies at Michigan State University.  Ilana’s previous position was as Curator of Education, Youth Family, and Adult Programs at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  She has received awards in community service and creative achievement including Youth Mentor Recognition for Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford Museum (2010) and from the Chicago History Museum a Peer Recognition Award for Innovation (2012). You can follow her on Twitter at: @iBMuseum.

Ani Schmidt, Public Programs Coordinator
As a part of the Education Department, Ani develops and facilitates programs for adult, youth, and family audiences, including large-scale commemorative events such as CHM’s annual Fourth of July celebration. She works closely with interns and volunteers to share Chicago’s stories using engaging methods such as city tours, gallery experiences, and on-site programs. Most recently, she served on the project team for the exhibition The Secret Lives of Objects and as program director for CHM’s 2015 Family Night event. Currently, Ani serves on the Executive Board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago. Prior to entering the museum field, Ani taught English to students (ages 4-12) in Hwaseong, South Korea. With interests in social learning and visitor research, she holds an MA in Art & Museum Studies from Georgetown University and a BA in Cognitive Science and Art History from Northwestern University. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @MuseumUnhinged.


University of Illinois at Chicago | College of Education

Nathan Phillips, PhD, Assistant Professor, Literacy, Language, and Culture, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Nate studies space and place as they relate to literacy and learning—particularly youth learning. His work focuses on young people’s spatial literacies and media literacies in and out of school, across virtual and physical landscapes, and among multiple media. Nathan is particularly interested in these literacies and mobilities as they relate to the possibilities for young people to actively and critically participate in civic processes that have an impact on their lives now and in the future. Nate taught high school English, journalism, creative writing, and film before receiving his doctorate in language, literacy, and culture from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, Nathan was a research assistant in the Space, Learning, and Mobility Lab (SLaMLab) directed by Rogers Hall and Kevin Leander. SLaMLab investigates how physical and virtual spaces can better support learning. Nathan’s work has been funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter: @nathancphillips.


The Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

David Bild, Coordinator of Teen and Young Adult Programs
David has been working at the Nature Museum since Fall 2011. His work focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of formal and nonformal programming for middle through high school-aged students and teacher professional development. Since Fall 2012, he has served as the coordinator and lead educator for the Nature Museum’s “Teenagers Exploring and Explaining Nature and Science (TEENS)” program. David is also part-time faculty in the Environmental Sciences & Studies Department at DePaul University, teaching an undergraduate experiential learning course in Environmental Education on behalf of the Nature Museum. Prior to joining the Nature Museum, David taught 7th and 8th grade science and social studies in Phoenix, Arizona for two years. David was a Teach for America corps member and earned his Master’s of Education (MEd) in Secondary Education from Arizona State University in 2011. Before becoming a formal educator, David was an archaeologist in the Southwest US and Mexico for 10 years, supervising survey and excavation projects for academic institutions, government agencies, and environmental consulting firms. David earned his BS in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DBild.

Michelle Rabkin, Senior Director of Education
Michelle has been a member of the Education Department since 2010. During her tenure, Michelle has developed and taught curriculum for pre-K to 12th grade students, managed programmatic decisions, led evaluation and curriculum efforts, and fostered partnerships with both internal and community partners. As Senior Director, Michelle oversees programming and resources reaching 65,000 school children, 1,700 educators and over 260,000 visitors each year. Previously, Michelle taught in Chicago Public Schools at Bond Elementary School. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University, a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University and is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association of Interpretation. She has taught Environmental Education and Stewardship, an undergraduate course at DePaul University and has co-authored a published curriculum Tree Squirrels: Narrators of Nature in Your Neighborhood in a national NSTA publication called Citizen Science: 15 Lessons that Bring Biology to Life, 6-12.


Project Exploration

Jaclyn Carmichael, Program Director
Jaclyn Carmichael started as the Program Manager with Project Exploration during 2014 and has recently been promoted to Program Director this past September. She has a passion for science education and helping to find interesting and innovative ways to convey that passion to her students. After earning her Bachelor’s in Biological Science and Teacher’s Certification at Eastern Illinois University in 2009, Jaclyn took her first job in Phoenix, Arizona; where she realized the need for inquiry-based science education, particularly in inner-city schools. Upon returning to Chicago, she worked at Perspectives Charter School – Joslin Campus in the South Loop of Chicago and over 3 years, developed multiple science curriculums based in Biology, Environmental Science, Anatomy, and Earth Science for grades 6 – 12. Upon her departure from classroom teaching in 2014, she entered the non-profit world to work for Project Exploration and has loved every minute of it. Her favorite part of the job is having a chance to work with so many people from institutions all across Chicago to help create programs and opportunities for youth in the areas of science, technology, and engineering. She looks forward to learning a lot in her new position and possibly moving on to earning a Master’s degree in the near future.


Lincoln Park Zoo

Emma Martell , Learning Exploration Manager
Emma Martell holds a degree in English Literature & Secondary Education from Northwestern University, where her professors stressed the need to give students authentic, differentiated experiences. Emma soon saw that the best place to foster this kind of learning was in informal settings like zoos and aquariums. She received a Museum Studies Certificate from Northwestern School of Continuing Studies in 2012 and is currently finishing her Masters in Teaching with a focus in Biology through Miami University of Ohio. Emma has studied abroad to learn about community based conservation in biodiversity hotspots in India, Mexico, and Borneo. She gained experience through jobs and internships at the Evanston Art Center, Chicago History Museum, Kohl Children’s Museum, National Hellenic Museum, and Chicago Botanic Garden. Emma joined Lincoln Park Zoo in 2013 and has been a member of the Hive network since 2014. As the Manager of Learning Exploration, she leads a team that specializes in piloting new initiatives for the Learning Department. This work can range from citizen science to teen internships to community engagement.

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