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This year, Mayor Emanuel launched Chicago Summer of Learning, the first coordinated effort to offering young people of all ages across the city access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. Partnered with over 100 organizations, this initiative has all of Chicago coming together to support young people in exploring the themes of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) learning throughout the summer. Summer is no longer about losing educational gains; it’s about making them!

Learners can earn digital “badges” and “level up” throughout the summer. Students will participate in variety of activities and earn badges, which show off that learners have developed specific skills — skills that can help young people in school and later in life.  As they earn multiple badges, learners level up, unlocking access to citywide competitions around the city. These citywide badges mark the highest achievement for Summer of Learning.

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In-Person Opportunities: Chicago has thousands of summer camps and recreation and learning opportunities for youth. Go directly to those organizations to enroll in programs. For example, to sign up for park programs, visit the Chicago Park District (www.chicagoparkdistrict.com) or your nearest park. Similarly, to enroll in library programs, please go to your nearest library location or visit the Chicago Public Library (http://www.chipublib.org).

Online Learning Opportunities: Explore online learning opportunities by going to the “Explore” page at www.chicagosummeroflearning.org and searching for “online” opportunities.

If you want to explore and learn together, visit the Chicago Summer of Learning Drop-In Center at DePaul University Center, on the corner of Jackson and State in downtown Chicago.  The Center will operate from 10-4 Monday through Thursday. The Drop-In Center is set-up to support young people as they engage in any of on-line activities and challenges. Kids can create media, learn to code, take on citizen science projects, document an international poetry festival, and more. The Drop-In is a safe space for students to come, work and get access to skilled mentors who can help them along their learning pathways. In addition the Drop-In provides a community of young people working towards similar goals, access state of the art computers, and discounts on food and transportation. The Poetry Foundation Library also offers space for students at 61 West Superior Street weekdays from 11-4.

A few noteworthy programs include working with the Mikva Challenge’s City-Wide Youth Council. As a paid intern, Mikva students will enforce the non-profit’s slogan, “Democracy is a Verb,” by developing their leadership and professional skills to conduct research and policy recommendations on issues affecting youth in Chicago. Students will learn how city government works and develop their skills in this field. Badges that can be earned through Mikva’s council include a variety of skills: facilitation, networking, public speaking, civic engagement, etc.

The READ program at Chicago Public Library will have students read 300 minutes of texts and materials and then complete reflection activities. The Technology in the Parks program will have kids earn badges by incorporating reading into everyday activities, using teamwork and imagination to build things (e.g. a boat that floats down the river).

The Old Town School of Folk Music is also offering Kids Classes for children of all ages. These classes are offered in music, dance, art, and theater. Students will develop their skills in creativity, community building, and self-expression by playing an instrument, learning a dance, or through various presentations. A badge from Old Town can be earned once a student participates in eight weeks of class and performs in a final recital.

Just recently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has signed on to join the initiative. By working together, MIT will provide up to 64,000 Chicago high school students with a free, rigorous, college-level course online. This course, “A Taste of Python Programming,” will be introductory to computer programming where students will learn the basics, key concepts, and techniques to learn the Python language and problem solve. MIT’s online course begins June 25 and runs through August 3. Students can register for the Python course now through their website:  http://edx.org/Chi6

The Game Changer Chicago Design Lab at the University of Chicago developed an alternate reality educational game for 500 middle and high school-aged students to explore social issues in Chicago through puzzles, creative writing, and city exploration.

The Hive Learning Network, which is focused on connecting learning across multiple spaces, has developed 5 citywide challenges that combine in-depth learning opportunities across multiple organizations, like My Chi-Town Challenge: Students begin their journey in their own homes or online, then level up to challenges that take them outside, through city neighborhoods, parks, and grounds, to end up inside Chicago’s great cultural institutions.

For more information on Summer of Learning: www.chicagosummeroflearning.org – sign up and start learning and earning badges today!

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