What is Iowa BIG?
Iowa BIG isn’t just any other high school. Students from schools across Cedar Rapids come together at this initiative and project based school. But what makes this an “initiative and project based” high school? And why is it important?
According to Laura Seyfer, BIG is a school focusing on student-centered learning. This environment allows students to learn mostly through working on projects that help solve problems in their community, on topics they are passionate about. This makes students want to learn and be involved in their work, as it is centered around something a student truly cares about.
Learner-centered education gives students at Iowa BIG more voice and control over what they learn and how it is taught. Outside of projects, students are active in class seminars that fill in the gap and continue to teach them common core standards for classes. The open walls of Iowa BIG’s education expand outside of the actual big walls.
Students impact their community through projects that more deeply affect the community. These valuable skills taught through schools are more present when developing and solving problems for the people and world around them.
The school currently runs on two types of projects, inbound and outbound. Inbound projects come directly from the community, where partners come to students with a problem and ask to be helped with a project created by the students themselves.
Outbound projects are projects thought of by the students at BIG. These ideas are taken to the community for support.
At this time, Iowa BIG has two locations. One at Newbo, and one at Boyson. Typically a student is placed at one of these schools based on their location and type of classes a student is taking. It currently does not cost anything to be a part of, and Linn-Mar student Kaleb says, Iowa BIG pays for materials needed for projects.
What do students think about BIG?
Students at BIG are able to decide what they want to learn and be involved in. A student described their experience at big “a chance to be driven by passion rather than by textbook.” Iowa BIG gives students the opportunity to do something more that matters for the community. These projects teach students core principals that are needed in a real world setting, rather than that of a regular high school.
Two students explained that their time at big was their “first real interaction to life outside of a classroom” and they were able to “explore things students wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”
Prairie students Gracie and Cameron both enjoy Iowa BIG as it is a different from the usual school setting, and the things students are accustomed to at regular high schools are so much different at BIG.
They also enjoy being able to have chances to work with the community and do stuff they never be able to experience at school, as well as getting the chance to work on real world problems with new people.