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Unleashing Human Potential through Passion, Projects, & Community

Iowa BIG

location_on United States
Iowa BIG is a high school program which provides high school students with critical employability skills and academic standards through authentic, "real" projects from business, non-profit and government agencies. Student pursue areas of passion to make things happen in and for our community. Students exit with strong agency and ownership, resilency, and professional networks.
Dr. Trace Pickering, Iowa BIG Co-Founder & Executive Director
Context is the foundation of a messy world where skills and mindsets interact in new ways with every new experience we face. BIG's deeply contextualized learning experiences brings meaning to learning

Dr. Trace Pickering, Iowa BIG Co-Founder & Executive Director


HundrED has not validated this innovation

Anyone can submit their innovation to HundrED Open. All information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been checked by HundrED. Innovation page has been created by Trace Pickering on February 4th, 2021
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Innovation Overview

Target Group
Updated on June 6th, 2022
about the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Created in response to our community's demands, Iowa BIG was created to provide a picture of the future of education in the present. Traditional high school models leave too many kids bored, passionless, and without agency to own their own learning journey. We wanted to stop giving kids fake work and start giving them real problems and challenges our businesses, non-profits, and gov't agencies.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Students attend BIG from 7 different high schools across 4 school districts for at least 1/2 day to attend the Learner-Centered Program. They gain core academic credit by meeting standards in English, math, science, social studies and business through authentic projects in and with community, supplemented by seminars modeled after college and adult learning models.

Students peruse our project pool of over 100 projects or pitch a project to the community. They select projects and work they care about, form a team, and begin work. Teachers are trained in Modern Agile and the tools of Agile and teach the kids effective teamwork and project management through those tools. Students conduct customer discovery, work with their partner to create a project scope, and then work to make it all happen.

Teachers work collaboratively and show students how the seemingly separate disciplines work together. Projects succeed and fail, just like the real world, and all the learning is extracted.

How has it been spreading?

BIG is nationally and internationally recognized. BIG staff have trained and supported hundreds of educators across the country as they developed their own version of our model. We are recognized and have been in publications by Getting Smart, XQ Super Schools, Education Reimagined, and countless other publications and organizations.

Our community now desires to move this from a program to an actual Magnet High School, which would allow for hundreds of more students to take advantage of this learning model and help lead the way towards a full transformation of the high school experience.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Contact Trace Pickering, Co-Founder and Executive Director at How do you start? 1) Have a growth and learner-centered orientation (, 2) Have leadership willing to step up and support the effort, 3) Lack of fear - fear of failure, fear of backlash, fear of the unknown.


Achievements & Awards

February 2021
Innovation page created on

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