Teacher: ‘Don’t walk, run’ to use Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning
You might say that the Boone Community School District has an “edge” when it comes to combining in-class lessons with work-based learning. Specifically, it has EDGE, which stands for Empowering Desire Guiding Experience.
The district’s EDGE coordinator, Lindsey Hyman, said there are 17 authentic projects going on right now. For instance, some students are working with a local wedding gown business, Modern Dress, to develop a pop-up store and fashion show in conjunction with the district’s fashion class. Included in the students’ work is completing market research for the company.
Hyman relies on the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning to find many projects for her students. Here are her thoughts:
What motivated you to try the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning and reach out on a project?
Last year I kept all of our authentic projects on a Trello board and Boone’s was disjointed from all the other great projects out there available to students, so I wanted one spot for students to go to find authentic projects that were accessible and easy to read.
How did you integrate this project into your curriculum?
This course is made to work on the essential skills of EDGE listed below, and authentic projects really work on college and career readiness standards while emphasizing these skills.
- Productivity/goal setting
- Career Readiness
- Life Skills
- Character Development
- Adaptability & Flexibility
How did this work-based learning connect classroom standards to real-life experiences for your students?
All authentic projects require students to engage with a local professional and partner. Doing this really raises the stakes for students in their communication skills with professionals while emphasizing the importance of the project's quality because the partner is depending on them. Having a local partner allows students to begin networking and getting real-time feedback, all things that are important for life outside of school walls and their college and career readiness.
How did your students benefit or grow from engaging in this type of authentic project learning?
This is my second year doing this course and one of my favorite things about this course is seeing students emerge confident in their skills and having more self-awareness. All too often, students are conditioned to be the receiver of information. Authentic projects allow students a chance to have some choice and the ability to make decisions in collaboration with the teacher and partner. This creates autonomy which is such an important skill in the 21st century. Students really find themselves in having a choice of a project that matters to them or can help them gain skills for their future.
How did your students benefit or grow from working with a business partner?
Students really gain collaboration, communication and networking skills. I always enjoy seeing their professional communication skills grow from the beginning of the year to the end. At the beginning often students are scared to call/email a professional and by the end they have engaged in the work enough and gained skills along the way to give them the confidence to do that work independently.
What advice or guidance would you offer to other educators about using the Clearinghouse and/or integrating authentic projects into their classrooms?
Don’t walk, run. As a former math teacher, these projects have opened my eyes to the potential students have when we just give them the chance.
Iowa Governor’s STEM BEST and my authentic learning networks were invaluable last year in collaboration with other teachers. Huge shout out to a little professional learning community (PLC) formed with Ankeny Orbis and Knoxville Community Schools in our self-made PLC. We met once a month last year and it truly helped and continues to help grow capacity in EDGE.
By integrating real-world projects into your classroom, did it change your perspective on instructional strategies?
100%. EDGE has big goals to see integration of authentic projects throughout the Boone Community School District. Giving students choice and voice is so important for reasons beyond curriculum. Social-emotional learning skills get developed alongside the essential standards while benefiting local business needs.
What would you like employers to know about what makes a project ideal for a classroom setting, such as the breadth of the topic, the length of time involved, etc.
We get a lot of projects, events, and tasks which are amazing but I want businesses and partners to know that our students can think about problems and issues in a different way and create various solutions for partners using the design thinking process as well. We want our projects to evolve to see them become problem solvers alongside the work they are doing.
We held a ProjectPalooza at the beginning of the year with iJag. This was a successful way for partners to learn about various aspects of work-based learning within our iJAG and EDGE classrooms. It also allowed our students to get excited about projects from community members by hearing about the project face-to-face.