By Katrina Schwartz
Discussions of learning tend to focus on what happens in schools, but many students are learning lots of important skills outside of school through extracurriculars like sports, music, art, politics or any other passion. Often students don’t get recognition for the learning they pursue on their own, and many times they don’t even see their passion as learning at all. The Chicago City of Learning project is trying to meet that need by helping connect youth to resources that support their interests and provide validation for the hard work that goes into learning outside the academic setting.
Chicago City of Learning started in 2013, growing out of a prolonged teachers strike that prompted the city to think about how it could connect its youth to non-school constructive activities that they might be able to get credit for later. At that time, city official realized there was no centralized place for youth to discover opportunities related to their interests and no way for the city to keep track of the hundreds of organizations offering programming. Chicago City of Learning was born as a mayor’s initiative, but was soon taken over by partner organizations.