John Tolley, April 30, 2019

You might say that this story of Northwestern University education excellence comes to you courtesy of delicious ham.

How?s that, you ask? Well, a recent donation from the Smithfield Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Smithfield Foods, purveyors of delectable pork products) is helping Northwestern?s FUSE Studio expand their mission to schools across the US.

FUSE - featured here in a 2017 BTN LiveBIG vignette - is a suite of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) programs that provides students with the tools they need to create their own unique learning experience through maker-based projects. STEAM concepts and skills are introduced via challenges that students work through in their own chosen order and at the pace that best suits their style of learning. From 3D-printing to robotics to animation, FUSE challenges encourage interdisciplinary thinking and problem-solving facilitated by teachers who act as guides.


FUSE Studios are already established in  schools in 23 states and in seven schools in Helsinki, Finland. The $350,000 from the Smithfield Foundation will allow the program to expand to an additional 20 schools located in the Midwest and North Carolina.

"This grant helps us bring engaging STEAM education into schools that benefits both students and the community as a whole," said Henry Mann, FUSE program director, speaking with Northwestern News. "Our innovative approach gives students access to a diverse suite of challenges to ignite creativity, collaboration, and discovery through tasks not found in a typical classroom setting.?

FUSE itself grew out of pilot projects based on public library programs, after-school programs and educational camps created by Northwestern learning sciences professor Reed Stevens. The initial idea eschewed the traditional classroom model of learning in favor of creating ?creative and compelling learning environments.? The program grew via word-of-mouth as educators shared how FUSE programs helped ignite a passion for learning in their students. It is expected that over the course of the 2018-19 school year, around 26,000 students will participate in a FUSE program at the 200 schools currently engaging in the curriculum.