December 20, 2013

Mayor Emanuel Announces City of Learning Initiative to Continue Momentum of Summer of Learning

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that the new City of Learning initiative will provide students with access to a year-round set of activities and learning opportunities for all youth. Building on the city’s successful Summer of Learning initiative, the City of Learning initiative will continue to provide students with a platform for learning outside the classroom that will connect to their education at school.

“The City of Chicago is proud to expand access to year-round learning opportunities and safe spaces for our youth when school is not in session,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By transforming the City into a campus year round, we will continue to provide creative, interactive learning opportunities that will maximize the potential of all children.”

Throughout December, particularly during winter break, students are invited to take part in Mayor Emanuel’s Winter Adventure Passport, a series of group and self-guided activities that will engage participants to explore Chicago and document their learning. As a reward, those who complete three or more activities and submit a completed Winter Passport will be eligible to win one of many prizes offered. Passports and information cards were given out at CPS Report Card Pick-Up Day and are available at libraries across the city and at

Some examples of Winter Adventure activities include:

  • Creating a Homemade Terrarium (Make Magazine Maker Camp): Bring a little bit of the great outdoors into your house by creating a mossy woodland major jar terrarium. Watch a video online to learn how and then upload a picture of completed products to Tumblr.
  • Explore Migration (Chicago Public Library): Draw, paint, or take a picture that celebrates the butterfly as a symbol of freedom and movement.
  • Virtual Field Trip: Go behind-the-scenes virtually at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
  • City Self (Museum of Contemporary Art): Visit an exhibit and design skyscraper prototypes with Chicago artists.

On January 18, 2014 from 11am to 4pm, Chicago City of Learning will host a free day of exploration at the DePaul University Center, called Destination: Chicago, a festival of doing and making for all ages, to cap off the Winter Adventure Passport. Similar to the Summer Showcase, students will come together to engage in hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) activities and appreciate the work of their peers. Participating organizations who offer year-round and summer programs will be present, providing families and students with a preview of exciting opportunities available to them for spring and summer.

To expand Summer of Learning into a year-long learning experience, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided a $1.5 million grant to Digital Youth Network (DYN), a digital literacy program for youth based at DePaul University. As the leading partner, DYN will leverage this grant to provide for more learning opportunities than last year’s Summer of Learning, helping to provide children with more pathways connected to their interests, and ensuring that the new knowledge and skills they acquire unlock opportunities for further learning, internships, jobs, and academic success. This $1.5 million dollar grant is part of MacArthur’s $100 million digital media and learning initiative to re-imagine learning for the digital age.

With efforts to provide youth across the city with learning outside of school and safe environments, City of Learning will serve as a precursor to Summer of Learning 2014. Last summer, Chicago’s Summer of Learning engaged students with more than 100 organizations who offered learning opportunities in STEAM. These programs allowed students to develop new skills and be inspired to explore and create future pathways.

More than 230,000 students participated in the Summer of Learning, engaging in a variety of activities at the city’s museums, cultural institutions, parks, libraries, community organizations, public spaces, as well as colleges and universities. As a reward for their hard work, students earned more than 100,000 digital badges to share with friends, families, employers, and schools—representing their skills and achievements.

Chicago's investments in other interactive, STEAM learning opportunities for children include:

  • Since the start of the initiative in 2012, Learning Gardens are now featured in 100 schools, providing over 50,000 children across Chicago every school day hands-on nutrition and science education opportunities. 
  • Every child in Chicago will have a quality park or playground within a seven-minute walk of his or her home within the next five years.
  • Chicago is the only city in the country that has elevated the arts to the School Progress Report and through a public-private partnership with Ingenuity, developed a systematic data tracking system to track our goal that every school and every child has access to a quality arts education over the next three years.
  • The Mayor and CPS created five STEM schools across the City in partnership with major corporations to offer students rigorous education options, competitive internships, and access to a college curriculum to prepare them for success in the classroom and in life. 
  • The City is committed to rebuilding 300 playgrounds across Chicago over the next five years, ensuring that these playgrounds offer meaningful play opportunities by providing new physically challenging and adventurous playground equipment.

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