Chicago Public Library Launches the Winter Learning Challenge

Students encouraged to participate in challenging engineering activities during the school break 

Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon, Chief of Teaching and Learning at Chicago Public Schools LaTanya McDade and the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library welcomed students from Talman Elementary today to kick off this year’s Chicago Public Library Winter Learning Challenge: Enter for Engineering. The Winter Learning Challenge: Enter for Engineering is targeted for kids and tweens, and the Teen Winter Challenge: Express Yourself is targeted for teens. CPL encourages students to stay active and engaged over break by suggesting books and activities that build literacy, STEM and art skills during out-of-school-time. The challenge will run through January 8, 2018.

“The Winter Learning Challenge puts Chicago’s children ahead of the curve by encouraging academic opportunities even while outside of the classroom,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “By offering stimulating educational and creative avenues for our students, Chicago Public Library is helping to inspire the next generation of lifelong learners.”

STEM learning at CPL also continues beyond Winter Learning with ongoing branch events, including Family Science Nights sponsored by Boeing. In addition, Chicago Public Library has also rebuilt children’s areas in branches across the city to embed STEAM learning into library programming and the spaces themselves.  These early learning play spaces engage parents and kids of all ages in out-of-school learning and literacy opportunities.

"Nurturing learning is one of our key initiatives,” said Commissioner Bannon. “From our rebuilt early learning spaces across the city to year-round family literacy and science programming, CPL is committed to providing access to programs that advance learning, especially STEM and the arts. These winter learning challenges complement our award-winning Summer Learning Challenge and make out-of-school learning fun and engaging for all ages."

"Providing students with engaging learning opportunities during break helps keep kids active, engaged and ready for the return to school," said Dr. Janice K. Jackson, CPS Acting Chief Executive Officer. "By creating opportunities for students and their families to learn together through experiments, books and arts, the Winter Learning Challenge will help ensure students have a fun, productive break that furthers their learning while school is out.”

The Winter Learning Challenge and the Teen Winter Challenge are generously supported by the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

Winter Learning Challenge: Enter for Engineering

Open to children up to 14 years old, the Winter Learning Challenge encourages students to learn about engineering through a fun and engaging self-paced learning challenge available on the Library’s website through January 8, 2018.

Chicago Public Schools’ two-week winter break is an optimal time to explore all the Library has to offer and to continue learning using CPL’s resources.

Participation is easy. Following the theme Enter for Engineering, kids are invited to think big (or small). Make a plan, build it, test it out and see what you can do to improve it! Participants complete the activities log, using the suggested Read, Discover and Create activities listed, joining Mad Science Chicago for fun engineering programs in branches, or enter their own theme-related activities. Activities logs are available on the Library’s website or at all CPL locations. To see a list of books, online resources and suggested activities, visit

Suggested activities include reading a book, magazine or website for 20 minutes a day for at least five days, discovering new information about engineering by doing an activity, and creating at least one story, a piece of art or design challenge inspired by the engineering theme. All entrants who return a completed log to any CPL location by January 16 will receive a prize.

Teen Winter Challenge: Express Yourself

Teens are invited to “Express Yourself” this winter by participating in CPL’s Teen Winter Challenge art competition. Through January 8, 2018, CPL asks teens ages 14 to 18 to submit a digital portfolio of at least four original pieces of work using skills the teen has developed at CPL or any educational setting in 2017-18 (e.g. drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, music, film) and a 250 word artist’s statement.

Prizes include scholarships or gift cards to Blick Art Materials or B&H Photo Video—and the opportunity to see artwork featured on CPL’s website. All high school students living in Chicago are eligible to submit a portfolio. Send portfolio submission emails to with the subject line “Teen Winter Challenge 2017-18: {Teen’s Name}.” Submissions must include teen’s name, age, grade, high school, local library branch, email address and a telephone number.

Complete prize information and submission guidelines, including tips on writing an artist’s statement and inspirational reading suggestions, can be found at

CPL staff and partnering Chicago art institutions will judge submissions on the cohesiveness of the portfolio, clarity of the artist’s statement and evidence of growth. Winners will be notified in February 2018.

About Chicago Public Library

Since 1873, CPL has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 80 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults. CPL has received the Social Innovator Award from Chicago Innovation Awards; won a National Medal for Library Services from the Institute for Museum and Library Services; was named the first ever winner of the National Summer Learning Association’s Founder’s Award in recognition of its Summer Learning Challenge; and was ranked number one in the U.S., and third in the world by an international study of major urban libraries conducted by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany. For more information, please call (312) 747-4050 or visit To follow CPL on social media, visit us on Twitter (@chipublib) or Facebook (Chicago Public Library).