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CCHS introduces ‘BIG’ learning concept

CCHS introduces ‘BIG’ learning concept

Program to involve community businesses in education projects

Students, businesses and parents were introduced Monday to a program designed to teach students through projects that draw on their passions and are meaningful to them and their communities.

It’s a project-based program that the Charles City School District is planning on launching on a small scale in the third trimester of this school year, which begins in March. Before that happens, however, the district needs community partners on board to offer or accept projects for the students. It also needs students interested in applying to be part of the program. On Monday, the Charles City district received help explaining the program from people who created the model. Representatives from Iowa BIG, an initiative-based high school in Cedar Rapids, came to Charles City to explain their program. Two students spoke at the high school throughout the day. Troy Miller, its director of strategic partnerships, met with representatives of Charles City businesses at the North Iowa Area Community College center next to Hy-Vee. In the evening, a forum was held at the high school for parents.

Their messages were similar to all audiences. The program is student-driven. Through project initiatives the students initiate or sign on for with community partners, they learn not only what they are required to learn by state and federal standards, they learn skills sought in the workplace and establish a network.

“Students deserve to do something real,” Miller said.

Bentlee Birchansky, a student in Iowa Big, told students that the program is going to get them excited. It’s projects are “student-passion-driven” and “authentic,” not something concocted to meet a class goal.

He detailed some of the projects from a student who built a drone with a camera to detect nitrogen levels in farm fields to another who has established a business growing marketable vegetables in an aquaponics system built in a commercial storage crate.

“If you have initiative and find something you are passionate about, you will be successful,” Miller said.

Miller said the program grew out of what community members said they wanted in education. It’s origin starts in 2012 when The Gazette Company implemented a program inviting community leaders to go back to school for a day. Before they went, they were asked to “identify things that students need to know, what they must be able to do and what they need to be like in their adult life to be successful and productive professionals, community leaders and private citizens,” a fact sheet Miller handed out said. After they went back to school, the leaders were asked for recommendations they had on transforming

education. From that Iowa BIG was developed. The nearly 100 students in the program today come from six high schools, the sheet said.

Charles City has held backto- school days for community leaders seeking the same information.

The BIG program has a location separate from the high schools it serves where students go for part of their school day.

This location serves as a place to meet with the core teaching staff and with other students to track progress, make plans and help each other. From there, the students go out to community partners to work on initiatives.

Community partners in the Iowa Big program include for-profits, nonprofits and government entities.

Meetings with Charles City High School staff and more community business and non-profit leaders continue today.

By Chris Baldus [email protected]

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