Fuse Joins City of Chicago’s Summer of Learning Initiative

Fuse Joins City of Chicago’s Summer of Learning Initiative


The Fuse drop-in program that draws young people into science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) with “cool” hands-on activities is part of the City’s new Summer of Learning initiative. The largest summer learning effort in the nation, Summer of Learning is intended to infuse learning into summer programs that young people across the city attend when school is out.

Developed by Northwestern University researchers, Fuse currently meets at libraries, schools and youth centers where students can drop by after school and on Saturdays for STEAM “challenges.” Fuse presents middle and high school students with hands-on challenges such as mobile app development, 3-D printing and design, robotics and other areas of interest to teens.

“In the same way that players ‘level up’ in a video game, teens can ‘level up’ through Fuse challenges, which provide an engaging way for them to tackle increasingly difficult tasks,” says SESP professor Kemi Jona. Jona is director of Northwestern’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP), which connects K-12 students and their teachers with the world-class STEM resources of the University. Jona developed FUSE with Reed Stevens, professor of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy.

A new aspect of Fuse that will be implemented as part of Summer of Learning is a digital badging system, where students earn “badges” as they demonstrate skills. Each organization in Summer of Learning will design its own digital badges for youth to earn and collect when they complete learning activities over the summer — from field trips to experiments to team projects. Badges are intended to motivate and recognize learning, as well as give learners digital credentials that show the skills that they have developed.

“We see Fuse as an on-ramp to deeper learning experiences in STEAM,” says Amy Pratt, associate director of OSEP. Soon to start up at downtown Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, FUSE already operates at Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago, Evanston Township and Wheeling high schools and the Teen Loft at the Evanston Public Library. FUSE is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

An unprecedented number of organizations — 143 as of March — are part of the “unique effort” that Summer of Learning represents. Summer of Learning seeks a coordinated approach for youth in every neighborhood to access high-quality programs. Examples of how learning will be infused in City-funded summer programs are reading time in Chicago Park District programs, reading programs through libraries and community organizations, classes at museums and financial literacy training in conjunction with summer job opportunities.

“Summer programs help our children stay safe and engaged during the summer, but they also represent a robust opportunity to continue learning year-round,” says Mayor Rahm Emanuel of the Summer of Learning initiative. “This initiative for the first time prioritizes learning as a critical piece of summer programming, and we are calling on all organizations that serve our children to join.”

Summer of Learning will specifically focus learning activities around the theme of STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/7/17