By: Tim Felderman, West Delaware High School Principal
West Delaware High School’s DelCo BEST program allows students, in cooperation with community partners, to design a unique learning experience that aligns individual student skills with community and business needs. Students are paired with community partners and businesses through processes reflecting real world employment practices, to provide opportunities for students to develop 21st Century Skills. The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council selected West Delaware for a STEM BEST grant during the fall of 2016.
Learning beyond the walls of a high school is an objective of West Delaware. West Delaware’s Vision area of Challenging Academics is defined as “educators use effective instructional practices to actively engage students in diverse learning opportunities that require critical thinking and problem solving in real world contexts.” The STEM BEST program and the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council support of programming which allows students and community partners to develop real-world learning experiences fits the skill sets and dispositions that all students need to be successful in future careers.
An example of an experience in the DelCo BEST course is students’ recent work with the Good Neighbor Home (GNH) in Manchester. GNH pitched the concept of aesthetic improvements to improve the climate of the building to students. Three students surveyed residents, designed a color palette and decoration scheme, pitched proposals to GNH staff, researched options and prices, and began implementation of the project. Students shared professional skills were developed and ultimately refined in the areas of designed a multi-step project, problem solving, collaboration, implementing a vision, budgeting, and meeting the needs of a diverse audience.
An exciting addition this year is the partnership with the Central Community School District in Elkader. Through this partnership, students from both schools benefit from the resources and talents the schools, staff, and communities provide. The DelCo BEST and ClaytonCo BEST programs are a model of a collaboration between rural schools districts to provide opportunities which otherwise may not be available.