Waukee Innovation and Learning Center

Fusing industry and education for real-world learning

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Waukee Community School District
Waukee, Iowa, United States
66,600 square feet

What happens when programming and architectural design merge seamlessly to create a new high school? You get a groundbreaking learning space like the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center (WILC). Fusing business acumen and education for real-world learning, the WILC houses Waukee’s Aspiring Professional Experience program—a collaborative learning experience consisting of education, business and community members united to help students develop into highly skilled and adaptable leaders.

Departing from the traditional programming of learning environments where most spaces are designated for specific activities, the WILC was designed with the flexibility to fit a curriculum that changes annually. It was thoughtfully constructed to be a learning environment that reflects the future of learning—equipping students with the skills needed for in-demand careers and entrepreneurialism in an ever-changing economy.

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The exterior was designed to resemble a professional studio building more than a traditional school, with dynamic glazing patterns allowing for views both in and out of the space and connection to the rural landscape.

When Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center in 2017, he called the building a “model for the country” and said he hopes every student in America has the chance to learn in a similar environment.

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The central focus of the building is a central co-working space where 100 students can gather. It encompasses an array of tables and chairs for group or individual work, while classrooms, labs and student break-out spaces flow around it. The two-story design has alcoves on the upper floor for students overlooking the central area, while down below, classrooms and labs have garage-style doors that often remain open onto the co-working space.

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Flexible meeting areas overlook the co-working space, providing students and industry partners a variety of options for collaborative study.
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Movable furniture in spacious classrooms allows teachers to easily reconfigure the classroom environment as needed.
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The design of the student-focused rooms allows students to research, think and create together or independently.
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The design of the student-focused rooms allows students to research, think and create together or independently.

At WILC, relationships are key to the curriculum, so the building accommodates various levels of engagement between students, teachers and the external business community. Flexible areas embrace those relationships by offering spaces of varying sizes and furnishings that can move to fit the needs of the day. Ultimately, the goal is to give students opportunities to learn in new ways while building authentic relationships with their classmates and adults.


  • 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.

    David J. Wilkerson, Ph.D. Former Superintendent of the Waukee Community School District
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