Registration is now open for Evanston’s Summer Fest at Butler Park, a seven-week STEAM program beginning June 21 that lets middle school-aged children explore everything from roller skating and drone racing to woodworking, creating beats, and podcasting.

Summer Fest will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday though Aug. 6 at Butler Park in Evanston’s Fifth Ward, 2401 Emerson St., in Evanston. The park is located east of the canal between Emerson St. and Bridge St.

The initiative, which is supported by faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and students from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, is a community wide effort between the McGaw YMCA, the Evanston Parks Department, DePaul University, the Chicago Park DistrictProject Exploration, and many more groups and individuals.

“The activities are designed to spark creativity, build social skills, and help create an environment where science-related activities are as commonplace as basketball,” said Nicole Pinkard, Associate Professor of Learning Sciences and faculty Director of the Office of Community Education Partnerships. “It’s a unique collaboration, anchored by McGaw YMCA,  among Evanston organizations to bring programming to the Fifth Ward, which has the City’s largest population of children of color.”

The STEAM activities­ will be led by college-aged mentors called STEAMbassadors and Junior Mentors from the City of Evanston’s Mayor Youth Employment Program. The mentors are trained by School of Education and Social Policy researchers, who also helped design many of the activities.

In addition, Evanston’s own community members lead activities. For example, DJ Corey Bless will teach youth DJ skills, and Meleika Gardner of Evanston Live TV will teach podcasting.

Register here.

In a separate initiative, Northwestern is also supporting Family Nights each Wednesday from June 30 through July 28. Sponsored by Northwestern’s Neighborhood & Community Relations, Evanston Community Bank & Trust, as well as STEAM programs like Digital Youth Divas and STEAMbassadors, Family Nights are centered around family fun. 

Activities include episodes of Doug Unplugs, a show designed for pre-K to second graders, as well as face painting, drum circles, game nights, storytelling, outdoor roller skating, music, and more for all ages. Adults are encouraged to participate with the youth and their neighbors. 

Local businesses, through a partnership with the Black Professional Network of Evanston and sponsorship from the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, will host a fair at the Family Night kick-off event on June 30 and throughout the summer.

Summer Fest is part of the new My City, Your City, Our City initiative, a series of free events and activities for youth ages 13 to 18 at parks and community centers throughout the summer.

Julie Deardorff

Julie Deardorff is an Evanston resident, the mom of two teenagers, and award-winning journalist and columnist who covered everything from sports and politics to education and health during a 23-year career...