How FUSE Started
With initial funding from the MacArthur Foundation, we piloted FUSE Studios in public libraries, summer camps, and afterschool clubs in and around Chicago during 2011. Led by Northwestern University Learning Sciences Professor Reed Stevens, FUSE was initially designed with the expectation that it would be implemented in various out-of-school contexts, but with hopes it might also find a home in schools. The design principles of the FUSE approach are rooted in prior ethnographic studies by Professor Stevens and other researchers on alternatives to the traditional classroom model for how to organize creative and compelling learning environments. Despite no marketing effort to schools, word-of-mouth about FUSE’s potential to provide students with new, engaging learning experiences led to gradually increasing interest in bringing FUSE into schools. Starting in September 2013, implementation of FUSE in schools began in partnership with Schaumburg District 54, the largest K-8 school district in Illinois. This district, along with many others, now implements FUSE as part of their school day curriculum.
Adoption has spread beyond the Chicago area to include elementary, middle, and high schools in 18 states and in Helsinki, Finland. In the 19-20 school year we expect over 26,000 students to take a FUSE class at one of the almost 200 schools implementing the program.
- what and how students learn in FUSE studios
- how FUSE impacts students’ interests in STEAM disciplines and fields
- the different ways students learn with and from other students
- the new roles that teachers play in FUSE classrooms
- how students develop 21st-century skills in FUSE
- the different ways students extend and go beyond FUSE challenges, during and after FUSE
We have also begun to study the different ways in which teachers adopt and adapt the FUSE program to fit their local needs and goals and how these adaptations influence student learning and experience. Given the rapid expansion of FUSE, we are also studying the conditions that influence how FUSE as an educational innovation is spreading and taking root in schools across the US.
Here are select publications detailing our research findings on FUSE:
- “Failure is just another try”: Re-framing failure in school through the FUSE studio approach. International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 99, 2019.
- Interest development and learning in choice-based, in-school, making activities: The case of a 3D printer. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 2018.
- Exploring the Adoption, Spread, and Sustainability of an Informal STEAM Learning Innovation in Schools. International Society of the Learning Sciences, 2018.
- FUSE: An Alternative Infrastructure for Empowering Learners in Schools. International Society of the Learning Sciences, 2016.
- ‘Re-mediating’ Learning. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 2015.
Digital Media Producer
Anne Hayden Stevens
Senior Software Developer
General Inquiries about Studios
FUSE in the News
p> 06.29.21 FUSE Studios Expands to Southern California(Northwestern School of Education & Social Policy)
02.21.21 Lighting a FUSE at Union Middle: Smithfield, Northwestern University provides STEAM grant (The Samson Independent)
10.9.19 Golfview Elementary Magnet School Implementing STEAM Into Their Curriculum (Space Coast Daily)
12.18.18 Lehigh middle students learn to power mini go-karts, use 3D printers, model dream homes (Fort Meyers News-Press)
11.06.18 FUSE for STEM Learning and Interest Development: An Interview with Reed Stevens (CIRCL: The Center for Innovative Research on Cyber Learning)
8.15.18 Madison Middle Hosts Ribbon Cutting for First Boeing Funded FUSE Studio in Titusville | (Space Coast Daily, FL)
2.08.18 Boeing Awards Grant for STEAM Initiatives to Brevard Schools Foundation (Brevard Schools Foundation, Brevard, FL)
2.08.18 Boeing Awards Grant for STEAM Initiatives (Hometown News, Brevard, FL)
2.08.18 FUSE Challenges Evanston Sixth Graders (SESP, NU)
1.10.18 At Northwestern, researchers 'FUSE' fun challenges with STEAM learning (Big Ten Network)
12.29.17 FUSE Studio inspires STEM learning at Peoria school (Seattle Times)
11.15.17 The Case for Shop Class: How Vocational schools and gap years can help ease academic anxiety (Chicago Tribune)
11.09.17 < a target="_blank"href="https://theislandnow.com/community-news/floral-park-fuse-lab-encourages-innovation/">Floral Park FUSE lab encourages innovation (The Island Now)
09.20.17 FUSE Studios Expand to 23 New Schools (SESP News, Northwestern University)
5.31.17 Manual Academy selected for 'Limousine Level' Learning Lab (Peoria Journal Star)
5.25.17 The Common Denominator between Sesame Street and the Internet? Learning. (Edweek Blog)
3.11.17 Highland Park High School Unveils '21st Century Learning' Renovations (Daily North Shore)
Fall 2016: The FUSE Phenomenon. (Inquiry Magazine, Northwestern School of Education & Social Policy)
10.01.16 Finnish Educators call FUSE an 'Inspiration" (SESP News)
9.6.16 Finnish Educators seek closer look at FUSE Program (SESP News)
11.30.15 - Clark County students explore interests with FUSE (Springfield News-Sun)
11.30.15 - Local jewelry designer creates FUSE challenge (Northwestern News)
8.26.15 - Game to Learn (Evanston RoundTable)
Funding partners help FUSE reach high need populations and schools in targeted communities. The Nellie Mae Foundation, Smithfield Foods, Boeing, Creating IT Futures, CompTIA, The MacArthur Foundation, Hive Chicago, Siemens Industries Inc., IBM, and Motorola Mobility have all funded FUSE. Schools are funded in Chicago by The Boeing Corporation. Schools are also funded by Siemens and the Nellie Mae Foundation. FUSE has also been funded by the MacArthur Foundation and Hive Chicago.
FUSE research, program design and staff are generously supported by grants from the National Science Foundation under NSF grants DRL-1348800 and DRL-1433724. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
I think FUSE is especially good for the needs of our students. We’re a Title One school, so almost 40% of our students are on free and reduced lunch. I think when it was first proposed to have a FUSE Lab here, we were so excited because many of these kids don’t have this technology at home. The exposure for them is just something that I think they wouldn’t have had, and yet it fits the needs of the kids who do have technology at home.
Principal, Elementary School
Some of the kids that aren’t always as successful in the General Ed classroom for the general content, they come in here and they just shine. Some of our Special Ed students, they can print out on a 3D printer, they can level up in those challenges. Sometimes the kids you didn’t know, those quiet kids, they really excel in here.
Principal, Elementary School
Student confidence is skyrocketing in here because students love choice. Student empowerment, when you talk about 21st-century learners, they want to choose what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it
Facilitator, Middle School
FUSE helped me in my other classes because it gave me the opportunity to be able to problem solve and learn how to do things on my own.
High School Student
My relationship with students has changed as a result of FUSE. The classroom setting has become more relaxed in a positive way.
Facilitator, Middle School
The difference between when I was a traditional classroom teacher and now as a Facilitator in FUSE is control. As a classroom teacher, I felt I had to control everything and I had to plan out every minute of every class period. The beauty of FUSE is I don’t have to. The kids are in control of what they’re gonna do with their time, and how their going to utilize their time, whether it be starting a task, finishing a task, looking at resources, re-watching a video, they control the time. And it’s beautiful.
Facilitator, Middle School
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