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Ames Offers Educational Programs With Real-World Work Experience

Here's how our educators are making school cool.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on May 5, 2019

Ames, IA Educational Programs
Ames / SolStock

With 10 districts and two private schools, students have plenty of options for an education. Each has its advantages, from smaller class sizes in the more rural districts to statewide accolades for National Merit Scholars in the more urban Ames School District. Here are just a few programs that show what our schools have to offer.

Business Engagement Collaborative

Rolling into its fourth year at Ames High School, the Business Engagement Collaborative connects students with the local business community. Businesses partner with the students and pitch projects for students to investigate. Students get real-world working experience, and businesses find creative solutions to solve their problems.

“It’s not another class,” says program adviser and business teacher Vicki Hales. “They go to a dedicated space at the Ames Chamber of Commerce. It makes it feel like they’re going to work.”

In addition to working on three or four projects each year, students build their resumes, attend job shadowing sessions, and conduct mock interviews. Hales says the program has about 50 businesses participating.

1:1 Initiative

Mastering use of technology is an important skill in the modern workplace. The 1:1 Initiative in the Ames Community School District provides each student with a school- issued Chromebook. The goals of the initiative are wide ranging and have had a huge impact on students within the classroom and beyond. Students are able to create and collaborate using digital tools, and teachers are able to personalize learning centered on the individual needs of their students.

“We can put a device in every student’s hands, regardless of their background, and give them access to learning beyond the classroom,” says Technology Director Karl Hehr. “This has created areas where students can become lifelong learners.”

Story County SCALE

The eight school districts that make up the Story County Consortium participate in this partnership with Des Moines Area Community College, the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission, and local businesses. SCALE teaches students in four basic areas, business communication and technology; multi- disciplinary engineering; health and human services; and renewable energy/biosciences.

“SCALE instructors provide basic instruction related to their respective strand and content for all students,” says John Kinley, Story County Consortium director.

Each semester, business and industry partners develop a list of potential projects for SCALE students to address within each of the four strands of the program, offering employees to serve as mentors and even dedicated work space for the students.


Gilbert School District’s elementary and intermediate students’ STEM education includes access to a Makerspace — a dedicated space for creative hands-on learning. An important element of the Makerspace is the use of the engineering design process — Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve — in any subject area. Past Makerspace projects include a “marble run” project and a friendship bridge created by fifth- graders. First-graders researched and built butterfly habitats, using the engineering cycle. Preschoolers used the same engineering cycle to create kites and pet habitats.

“It isn’t just about math and science,” says Carrie Clark, director of Curriculum and Teacher Leadership for Gilbert Schools. “For students to be future- ready, they need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers.”

Nevada FFA

With agricultural jobs accounting for a significant portion of the region’s workforce, pairing educational opportunities with local agricultural businesses is a great fit for Nevada Community Schools. Nevada High School ag students gain experience in the classroom as well as a greenhouse, ag mechanics lab, test plots and through unique business activities for students.

“One of our main educational areas, which also creates revenue, is the rebuilding and restoration of agriculture tractors,” says teacher Kevin Cooper. “We have several tractors donated annually, or we work on tractors for customers. Students enjoy incredible networking, problem solving, skill development, marketing, and the relationships that are developed.” Other revenue streams for student workers include moving services and soil delivery.

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