Partnering Industry and Education for Real-World Learning
While it is still most commonly found in higher education institutions, entrepreneurial education is on the rise within PK-12 education curriculums. With the nation experiencing rising costs in post-secondary education, as well as ever-evolving changes in employment opportunities, there is a growing opportunity to create programs and facilities that introduce entrepreneurial education earlier through PK-12 intuitions. Enter the Waukee Innovation & Learning Center (WILC), which houses the Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) program in Waukee, IA. The result of a multi-phased, highly interactive design and engagement process, WILC provides a comprehensive educational experience for students that joins educational curriculum with business acumen all under one roof.
The design team worked closely with the Waukee Community School District to develop a facility that catered to the needs of the APEX curriculum. They challenged themselves to create something new, knowing if they were going to have the opportunity to develop this facility, it needed to be something that would catapult students into the future. This meant breaking with traditional layouts, and leaving the idea of a standard school behind. The facility provides spaces dedicated to the five core APEX strands: Business and Finance, Engineering, Technology, Health Services, Biosciences and Added Value Agriculture. Through areas including studios, workshops, labs, enclaves and a co-working zone known as The Hub, students, staff and local business partners can learn, meet and engage.
The facility has received a number of accolades, including winning the 2019 SxSW EDU Learn by Design award program. Apple CEO Tim Cook also praised the facility in The Des Moines Register: “I consider it a model for the school of the future. But the great thing is, it’s happening today.”
The design process was comprehensive, involving our full school community, and requiring participants to stretch their thinking. Everyone was engaged in thinking outside the box to create new and unique learning spaces that represent what our students will experience in the private sector and beyond! I was extremely pleased with the process and end result and am confident our students and communities will benefit for years to come.
David J. Wilkerson, Ph.D.