Nominee for Global Youth Travel Award for Notable Innovation
Innovation: Reach for the Sky
Guest: Haley Ward, Vice President of Sales, Edge at Hudson Yards
Edge at Hudson Yards is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, with a one-of-a-kind design. It’s suspended in mid-air, giving you the feeling of floating in the sky with 360-degree views you can’t get anywhere else. Edge at Hudson Yards is partnering with Discovery Education to take students on a virtual adventure into NYC’s newest and most forward-thinking neighbourhood. At Edge the marvels of modern engineering elevate the possibilities of everyday life to extraordinary heights. Students can explore new horizons in community building as they journey 1,131 ft into the air for an unparalleled 360° view of the city and a behind-the-scenes look at amazing innovations of architecture and engineering.
What is the most innovative thing about Reach for the Sky?
When approaching the education programme, we knew that we wanted to deliver a best-in-class experience that matches and elevates the experience of visiting Edge. We found in our partner, Discovery Education, an incredible introduction to modern education. With them, we are catalyzing hands-on, experiential teaching and learning by giving classrooms nationwide a virtual pass to Edge at Hudson Yards. Through the programme, Reach for the Sky, we will inspire students to take action. We will also show them how big ideas and cutting-edge technology can be combined to improve lives and revolutionise communities. The programme focusses on STEAM careers and showcases the diverse set of experts it took to build Edge.
We believe Reach for the Sky to be one of the most exciting educational programmes to come from an attraction in NYC, reflecting modern educational practices in an exciting way and moving beyond the usual educational information provided by attractions.
In addition to providing the programme for free, we are also sponsoring 25 licenses for in-need schools here in NYC so that they can access Discovery Education’s full experience platform. In our current environment, having free digital access for all learners was a top priority.
How did the programme evolve and how is it suited to its target market?
When we were developing and opening Edge, we knew that having an educational programme was standard at attractions of our scale. These programmes provide essential information for educators and tour operators who offer educational field trips and tours. We set out to create a programme that matched our exciting design and brand, while showcasing the amazing story of how Edge was built. We told all through the STEAM lens while meeting NYC Department of Education standards for curricula. Our sales and marketing teams worked on this project for about a year while we spoke with several educators throughout NYC and major national institutions to learn about potential partners and the status of educational curricula today.
We learned a lot and discovered that education had really changed with all of the technology available today. Also, the expectations of teachers had shifted along with the media available. We knew that we had to pivot away from the standard programme of a PDF and lesson plans and move into a digital space using modern tools to tell our story. We partnered with Discovery Education, a leader in ed-tech content and developed the programme over several months.
What did you need to adapt for the programme to be successful?
Now that the programme has launched, we are hearing from our guests that they would like to access Reach for the Sky in other languages. We are now working on translating the programme into several languages so that it is accessible to more learners.
Do you have an idea as to when you might need to re-think the programme?
Our programme, Reach for the Sky, launched in November 2021 and we are generating fresh content for the next two years with Discovery Education. We also have a virtual field trip that launched in 2020. We expect to continue to highlight the many exciting things happening at Edge and Hudson Yards.
How have your relationships with trade partners changed during the pandemic?
The pandemic has been a turbulent time for many in the industry and we have always sought to support our trade partners during both the good times and the bad. Our relationships have grown stronger, and we all have a deeper appreciation of how much of a family our industry truly is.
What value does an international association like WYSE Travel confederation have to educational programmes like Reach for the Sky?
WYSE Travel Confederation brings our company together with the stakeholders and tastemakers of youth travel from around the world. We look to the association and its conferences to help us create relationships with youth travel companies worldwide. WYSE has helped introduce us to the greater world of student and youth travel and we look forward to more participation in the future.
We are extremely proud of the programme we have created and the engagement we are already seeing. We expected to have a certain number of viewers in our first year based on Discovery Education’s standard programme and we have already seen nearly half of that within just the first month. We are excited about the reach of this programme, the impact it could have on learners, and the new content yet to come. With a Global Youth Travel Award we believe we could impact even more learners.