Sarita Smith, McGaw YMCA Manager of Youth Initiatives, illustrates what is available to middle school youth for free in MetaMedia’s digital media and maker lab. Photos from McGaw Y

MetaMedia, located in the McGaw YMCA, is a free after-school digital media lab and hang-out space open exclusively to middle-school youth. For weeks, it has been the buzz in middle schools, and recently the center hosted 100 youth in one afternoon.

On March 21, the community was invited to the grand opening to participate in workshops and activities for the entire family. Visitors had the opportunity to use 3D modeling software to design and print a customized keychain; produce short stop-motion animated videos; cut a track in the music studio with the help of the in-house audio engineer; share original poetry, raps, or songs at the Media Open Mic; and try the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset to explore 3D environments.

MetaMedia connects youth interests with production-centered learning guided by adults who provide collaboration and critique. MetaMedia was developed in partnership with the McGaw YMCA, Northwestern University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships, and Youth Organizations Umbrella.

The center’s creation was supported by the Lewis-Sebring Foundation and included the renovation of McGaw YMCA’s youth lobby into a modern, 3,000- square-foot space just for middle school youth. This underserved population will not only enjoy the workshops, projects and time to hang out with friends and instructors in Meta-Media, but they also gain access to the entire McGaw YMCA facility.