The face of education is changing this fall for some students at Fort Wayne Community Schools. The district is partnering with Junior Achievement to become the first in Indiana to adopt a program called 3DE, a project-based learning model that combines public and private collaboration.
“It seems a little complicated, but ultimately it’s not complicated at all,” explains Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana president Lena Yarian. “It’s really just making education relevant. When you make education relevant, there’s a domino effect of good things that transpire.”
The concept is actually quite simple. Students work hand-in-hand with companies both across the country and in their own communities to develop solutions to real-world business problems. By integrating case studies into the curriculum, students learn to think critically and practically.
“At the same time, they’re learning what we call core competencies such as communication, collaboration, creativity and cultural agility. These are the types of skills companies look for in all employees, whether they are entering the workforce right after school or going to college and then entering the workforce,” Yarian says.
FWCS will initially launch the program for half of the students in the freshman class at Snider High School, and freshmen at North Side High School. Northrop and South Side will begin participating in two years, followed by Wayne High School the next year. Because it’s a huge commitment from the schools and businesses involved, there are measures in place to help ensure success. For example, a 3DE director will be on site at each school and teachers are spending time this summer undergoing additional training. Educators and district leaders are excited about how transformative the experience will be for everyone involved.
“I believe when students start to get involved in relevant, real-world problems and they see their work as being impactful, that sparks an interest in them and they feel more invested in the projects that they’re working on,” says FWCS Board of Trustees vice president Maria Norman. “I hope it will allow students to be more engaged in their learning and be excited to come to school and be a part of something.”
Norman and fellow FWCS board member Rohli Booker have both been impressed by statistics from other schools where 3DE has already been implemented. The stats show students involved in the program improved their GPA, and had higher attendance and graduation rates.
“Being a part of developing solutions to real-world challenges is something that I think will help build their confidence and their belief in themselves. They learn that they can set goals and they can achieve them in different areas of their life,” adds Booker.
While students are bound to reap the benefits of 3DE, the local business community will as well. Companies are able to introduce potential career paths to students and develop a pipeline of future employees.
“It’s a way that they can showcase themselves in front of young people and young people can see, ‘Wow, that company does more than I ever knew.’ If we can expose these students to local careers, they are much more likely to stay here,” stresses Yarian. “We’ve observed firsthand how much the students enjoy it when businesses come into their classroom. It shows the students that they care about them, and when the kids feel cared for, they try harder.”
In the end, FWCS officials and Junior Achievement leaders believe 3DE will foster the kind of relationships and encourage educational growth that benefit students and families, the school district, business leaders and the entire community.
“As we bring community members on board and they see the type of education that students are getting at Fort Wayne Community Schools, they’ll not only be impressed with our staff, but they’ll be impressed with our students and our facilities,” stresses Norman.
“In order to have a really successful, thriving community, you have to support public education,” Booker says. “There’s a direct relationship between the success of our students and the success of our communities. JA certainly understands that, so I feel confident about how successful this program will be and the positive impact it will have on our community.”
For 3DE to be a viable educational model, the support of the local business community is needed. If you are interested in participating as a business partner or volunteer, please reach out to Lena Yarian (Lena.Yarian@JA.org) or Pat Morello (Pat.Morello@JA.org).
Address: 550 E. Wallen Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Phone: (260) 484-2543