Finnish Educators Seek Closer Look At FUSE Program

Finnish Educators Seek Closer Look At FUSE Program

In something of a role reversal, a team of Finnish educators plans to visit U.S. schools in late October for a first-hand look at Northwestern University’s rapidly expanding FUSE Studio program.

For years, American educators have been traveling to Finland for insight into the country’s successful school system.

Now a Finnish contingent wants to see FUSE in action because it is closely aligned with the goals of their new core curriculum, which “emphasizes the joy of learning and the pupils’ active role,” according to Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

FUSE is a makerspace-like program developed by researchers at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy to spark middle and high school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, arts-design and math (STEAM).

Inside a FUSE Studio, children select from challenges in areas such as robotics, electronics, biotechnology, graphic design, game development, 3-D printing and more.

Each challenge is designed to be immediately accessible and engaging, similar to the first level of a video game. As kids “level up,” the challenges get harder, requiring them to build on previous knowledge to advance. Help is available, but only on demand. To complete a level, they must upload digital evidence of their creations.

FUSE opened its first international location in August in two Helsinki schools. But the Finnish educators “want to learn all that they can about FUSE to more widely implement it in Helsinki schools and, then, most likely in the rest of Finland’s schools,” said FUSE program director Reed Stevens, a professor of learning sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy and co-creator of the program.

“Finland is one of the most respected countries in the world for its forward-looking and successful educational initiatives,” Stevens said.

“The fact that Finland is so purposefully investing in and implementing FUSE speaks to the value of the program, especially in the context of debates over the decline American education, testing, accountability, and other misdirected goals.”

To date, FUSE has reached more than 10,000 pre-teens and teenagers in 87 locations, including schools, libraries and youth centers in Illinois, Ohio and California. 

New openings this fall include:

  • Two schools from Helsinki, Finland as well as Heureka, the Finnish national science museum
  • FIve high schools from the Chicago Public Schools will be offering a for-credit science course built around FUSE and aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a first for the FUSE program
  • Two alternative high schools from Chicago will be using FUSE to help engage their students in STEAM learning
  • Other studios are starting in Israel, Michigan, Tennessee and Florida

The Finnish group will be led by one of Stevens’ research collaborators, Kristiina Kumpulainen, director of the Center for Playful Learning at the University of Helsinki.

Kumpulainen’s research partner, a representative from the city of Helsinki and two principals from internationally known elementary schools that recently implemented FUSE also plan to watch FUSE in action.

At Finland’s Playful Learning Center, researchers are investigating how FUSE “enables, restricts and challenges students’ engagement, learning and identify formation in science, technology, engineering and math” in Finnish elementary and secondary schools as well as a science center.

 They hope to tease out the potential of the FUSE Studio concept for “individual growth as well as for institutional transformation.”

"FUSE resonates well with the Finnish new core curriculum that emphases STEAM learning, and so-called ‘phenomenon-based learning’ in which different school subjects are learned in integrated and meaningful ways, as in real life,” said Kumpulainen, a professor of education at the University of Helsinki.

 “FUSE is also very relevant for addressing digital learning and making, which are among the core competence areas in the new core curriculum,” Kumpulainen said.


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 9/6/16