'Back to School Jam' Celebrates Learning

'Back to School Jam' Celebrates Learning

Forest_preserveHundreds of youth and families will gather at  Chicago's Jones College Prep High School on Saturday, Sept. 23, for an event that encourages students to explore new interests and find pathways leading toward college and careers.

The Back to School Jam, part of Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) and Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) “Create Your Path” program, is a celebration of summer learning and a preview of the kinds of programs available to youth in the fall.

More than 20 CCOL partners, including NASA Glenn Research Center, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will offer hands-on activities and feature the work youth did with them this past summer. 

CCOL, an initiative Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, is powered by the Digital Youth Network (DYN), which was founded by Northwestern University professor Nichole Pinkard in 2006.

“It has been an exciting journey, working with the mayor's office and city and community organizations over the last four years to raise awareness about the out-of-school learning opportunities for students and families of Chicago,” said Pinkard, who joined Northwestern’s faculty this fall as an associate professor of learning sciences at the University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). “We are excited to strengthen the CCOL partnership by bringing the wealth of Northwestern and SESP’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships resources to this work.”

CCOL blurs the line between in- and out-of-classroom learning by helping youth connect with interest-based learning opportunities across the city. CCOL’s platform, ChicagoCityofLearning.org, helps young people and adults explore Chicago’s vast array of cultural, technological and intellectual resources, discover new interests, pursue passions and document experiences. More than 100 institutions including museums, city agencies, and community organizations form the foundation for a robust, informal learning ecosystem.

“Chicago City of Learning helps connect youth to the diverse opportunities that our youth-serving organizations offer, and the Back to School Jam provides kids and families with a taste of that diversity,” said Sybil Madison-Boyd, CCOL director and research associate at SESP.

Pinkard, one of the first graduates of SESP’s learning sciences Ph.D. program in 1998, founded DYN in 2006 at the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. She then took the program to DePaul University before joining Northwestern’s faculty this fall. She will continue to develop DYN and CCOL programming with support from SESP’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP).

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Pinkard as part of SESP and as our new director at OSEP,” said OSEP associate director Amy Pratt. “Her work exemplifies how bridging scholarship, partnerships and practice can help to improve learning in our communities and further University and community engagement. This is a priority for SESP and Northwestern, and we are excited to support her work, especially Chicago City of Learning.”

OSEP designs research-based STEM education programs and partnerships to facilitate learning and professional development experiences for K-12 students and educators.

Read about other education partnerships on the OSEP website.

By Kayla Stoner
Last Modified: 9/20/17