The Experiment Digital is a virtual exchange program designed to connect high school aged students around the world. Started in 2016, The Experiment Digital currently offers exchanges focused on three different themes, Youth Leadership & Community Service, STEAM Discovery Lab, and Climate Change & the Environment. For six-to-eight weeks, students log on to an interactive platform to learn about topics related to their program theme and interact with their peers through videos, chats, webinars, and games. Students come away from the program with an enhanced understanding and practice of leadership, hands-on experience with issues related to their program theme, and mutual understanding between youth from different countries.
The Experiment Digital is implemented by staff at The Experiment. The Experiment is the nation’s most experienced and respected provider of international education and experiential learning for high school students. For more than 85 years, our summer study abroad programs have allowed students to explore the world in a personal, meaningful way, and to develop new, enduring friendships through hands-on cultural experiences and homestays in 25 countries. Each year, hundreds of students come away from The Experiment with invaluable cultural, leadership, language, and interpersonal skills that help them thrive in diverse environments and prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service and STEAM Discovery Lab virtual exchanges are funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States, the Middle East and NorthAfrica. The Experiment Digital STEAM Discovery Lab is powered by the Boeing-funded STEM Hub in Egypt.
The Experiment Digital Climate Change & the Environment virtual exchange is privately funded by our generous donors.
Here is what a typical week during the program may look like:
- Watch a video to learn how to analyze the root causes of an issue happening in your community. (5 minutes)
- Share your perspective on why homelessness is happening in your city and respond to what your peers have shared. (15 minutes)
- Post a photo of your favorite store in your city. (5 minutes)
- Discuss with your “neighborhood” (a group of 20–25) three of the best items to keep on a sinking boat in order to survive. (1 Hour)
Tuesday, 3PM (Example)
- Ask a community activist questions about implementing better street cleaning solutions during a live webinar. (1 Hour)
Saturday, 12PM (Example)
- Video chat with your “family” (a small group of five) and your facilitator, on the intersection between gender and peacebuilding. (1 Hour)
The program takes place for either six weeks in the spring or eight weeks over the summer and will require 3–4 hours of time each week. Of the 4 hours, 3 hours will be carried out on their own time. They can choose when to complete those activities, and how they fit into their schedule. For the remaining hour, they will be joining a scheduled video call with their small group, the timing of which will be predetermined in advance.
Students who participate in and complete The Experiment Digital Youth Leadership & Community Service or STEAM Discovery Lab, will receive a Certificate of Completion, gain access to the U.S. Department of State’s International Exchange Alumni network, and be eligible to apply for unique project funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of State. Students who complete any Experiment Digital program will receive a $400 scholarship to study abroad in summer 2022 with The Experiment in International Living.
During our application review, we look for participants who: (1) demonstrate a commitment to the program and its goals; (2) are passionate about developing their leadership and cross-cultural communication skills; (3) have an open-minded attitude and are willing to learn from others; (4) have an interest in the program’s theme; and (5) have not had extensive travel experience.
Throughout the entirety of the program, students will be directly supervised by a professional facilitator, who are typically alumni of our program who have experience with cultural exchange and undergo an intensive month-long training on online facilitation. They will be monitoring all interactions on the online platform. If anything of concern arises, they will be following a strict risk management protocol to inform that through the proper channels to full-time staff at The Experiment Digital, who will be reachable 24/7.
The Experiment Digital is held on a closed workspace on Canvas, a learning management system. Only those with an invitation will be able to access the platform and any information on the platform. The program will then begin with a module on digital citizenship, which teaches the students how to interact productively and safely online. Together, they will form a list of “norms for online communications,” which they will agree to abide by throughout the program. We will utilize Zoom, a video conferencing platform for the small group conversations. During these conversations, students have the option to turn on or turn off the video. They can participate in the program using entirely audio and no video.