Highlights from Real World Learning school tours

Belton Academies Freshman Career Fair helps freshman explore careers and decide on which academy to pursue.
Belton Academies Freshman Career Fair

On Thursday November 17, 2022, Real World Learning schools opened their doors to more than 200 educators across our region. Host sites and visitors not only shared various strategies and challenges for implementing Market Value Assets, employer engagement, and curriculum alignment, but also saw student-run businesses, micro-schools and other real-world experiences in action. Most importantly, they heard from student ambassadors about how they are directly impacted by real world learning. Below is the recap from each school tour and some of the key takeaways.

Basehor-Linwood High School – Innovation Academy

Area of Focus: Client Connected Projects / Entrepreneurship

The Innovation Academy focuses on client-connected projects and entrepreneurial experiences, and uses design thinking to provide a common language and process.

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a flexible curriculum that allows students to address core competencies through projects but offers alternative methods of completing a course to ensure completion of all elements.
  • Facilitating successful student-run businesses ranging from marketing and photography to lawn mowing and power washing, as well as a student-run coffee shop and spirit store.
  • Connecting extracurriculars to entrepreneurial or client-connected projects.
  • Leveraging relationships with local government to create larger client-connected project opportunities.
  • Utilizing a “canned” curriculum to provide a starting point for new initiatives (Geometry and Construction Class).

Basehor-Linwood is a great model for schools in smaller communities that may want to connect with local government and flexible curriculum development.

Basehor-Linwood’s Innovation Academy is AMAZING, tied to core curriculum, and student-driven, allowing students to succeed and fail – both important outcomes.

Laura Harsch, Shawnee Mission School District

Learn more about at the Innovation Academy’s website.

Read the story featured in Forbes by Tom Vander Ark.


Area of Focus: Academies of Belton, a Ford Next Generation Learning Community

Belton uses a career-focused wall-to-wall academy approach. Tour attendees observed the Freshman Career Fair and met with student ambassadors.

Key Takeaways

  • Developing their master schedule and preparing core teachers to bring in industry context to their classrooms.
  • Transforming relationships with employers to buy into the big picture.
  • Framing RWL for middle school and first-year high school students. Belton’s career fair is used as an exploratory event for freshman before they select their academy. The employers knew what they were a part of and the students had clearly set expectations and outcomes.

Belton’s Freshman Career Fair highlighted their expertise in activating their local business community (57 employers). Belton’s RWL Coordinator, Chase Nugen is a great resource for relationship building and onboarding partners to ensure they see the ‘big picture’ of Belton’s strategy and that employers are excited about RWL in general.

Learn more about the Academies at Belton.

Blue Valley CAPS

Area of Focus: Client Connected Projects, College Credit

BV CAPS offers courses in 6 strands aligned to high-growth and high-demand jobs in the KC region: Engineering, Medicine/Healthcare, Business, Technology & Media, Bioscience, Human Services, and Food & Entrepreneurship.

Key Takeaways

  • Blue Valley Caps has a range of incredible community partnerships that have allowed them to innovate in areas like food science, co-own/manage a small hog operation, and serve the community with projects like WalkinRollin.
  • Most students spend 2 to 2.5 hours (3 periods) on campus and tend to be seniors because of scheduling and other class requirements.
  • Thanks to a partnership with Corbion, BV CAPS had great opportunities for students to explore careers in food science and connect it with coursework in the medicine, bio-science and engineering strands.
  • Teacher externships and partnerships with professionals (attornies, nurses) have created more scalable RWL opportunities on campus.

BV CAPS has been providing real-world experiences for students for more than a decade. In addition to hearing from students in many of the strands offered on campus and touring their beautiful building, educators were able to connect and discuss the challenges and potential solutions around employer availability, scaling opportunities for all students, and managing CCPs versus internships.

Learn more about Blue Valley CAPS at their website.

Fort Osage – Campus Grounds Student- Run Coffee Shop

Area of Focus: Entrepreneurial Experiences, Internships

Fort Osage’s student-run coffee shop, Common Grounds, gives students real-world experience in running a local business.

Key Takeaways

  • Passionate support staff and community investment are essential to the success of a school-sponsored public-facing business to have the most extensive reach and impact.
  • Educators and staff must give students the space to lead and make decisions. Still, professional support staff, like a full-time Food Service Manager, can help provide the necessary structure to support a public-facing business.
  • ANY small community has the potential for a student-run business (pet grooming, auto repair, landscaping, etc.).

Common Grounds is an excellent example of entrepreneurial projects and student-run businesses and models for business and marketing educators.

Watch the video about the launch of Common Grounds at the beginning of the 2021/22 school year.

IdeaSpace at Barstow School

Area of Focus: STEAM Careers (K-12 career exploration, professional development, curriculum support, project review)

IDEA Space provides students in Grades 4-12 with STEAM-based learning connected to core content and real-world experiences during school, after school and during the summer.

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of designing space with flexibility for future needs. IDEA Space has open concept design with flexible furniture that can be adapted to current needs and can easily be changed/updated based on future needs.
  • Importance of including K-12 students in the programming offered. During the tour, attendees saw 6th graders and high school students participating in programs, but they also bring over elementary grade levels at different times so ALL students are included.
  • There are opportunities for students to engage in multiple ways: class time, required course work, independent studies, after school camps/clubs, summer camps, etc.

They are doing a great job of filling a gap in STEAM education accessibility for their Barstow students, as well as students from public schools in the southland through summer camps, after school clubs/camps, etc.

Christy Collins, North Kansas City School District

Kearney High School

Area of Focus: Agriculture Pathway with IRC and Internship Opportunities

Kearney High School created an agriculture pathway from the ground up in 2015 and has implemented multiple methods for a student to achieve MVAs.

Key Takeaways

  • Supervised Ag Experiences (SAEs) are either entrepreneurial experiences or an internship depending on individual student choice. Two students shared examples of starting their own sweet potato business while another is working with a cattle company.
  • Students develop businesses through the program, including business plans, depreciation schedules, book value vs. fair market value, and managing cashflow spreadsheets.
  • Students who complete the pathway earn IRCs verified by Farm Bureau.
  • The pathway also includes leadership training and out-of-school community service.
  • Challenge of promoting the program and how to use students to lead the promotion of RWL experiences to middle school students.

Kearney is an excellent example of how a pathway can make small pivots to implement MVAs. They have focused on what works for them and decided to concentrate on stackable credentials and internships over CCPs as part of the ag pathway. In addition, Kearney has made MVAs a high school graduation requirement starting with the class of 2024.

Read the story about the Ag Program’s ice cream businesses as part of their studies on food science.

Shawnee Mission

Area of Focus: Project Blue Eagle – Law, Public Safety, & Security (Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement)

SMSD’s Project Blue Eagle signature program prepares students for careers as first responders.

Key Takeaways

  • The cost of starting a fire program is not as high as suspected, and resources are available through state and community partners.
  • Partnerships with municipalities and community volunteers are vital, and Project Blue Eagle’s engagement of retired Lenexa Firefighters has created a link to an active volunteer community.
  • Experiences with private security and other community organizations can provide working internships and fill the gap between graduation and eligibility for police service.

Project Blue Eagle is a great resource and model for schools interested in building a Public Safety pathway with credentials.

Learn more about the signature programs that are part of Project Blue Eagle.

Shawnee Mission

Area of Focus: Embedding Entrepreneurship In All Contents and Grade Levels

Global Entrepreneurship Week was the perfect time to chat with student business owners at Shawnee Mission West.

Key Takeaways

  • About student businesses ranging from an interior/exterior painting company, music licensing, jewelry production, and sales, as well as a specialty coffee bean company,  Cloud’s Coffee.
  • Ways to meet core class teachers where they are and partner on various activities that help bring businesses into the classroom for single and longer-term engagements.
  • How to easily incorporate elements that relate to business classes into many standards and core subjects.
  • The key is approaching this with an entrepreneurial mindset and openness to collaboration.

Lessons from Shawnee Mission Wests program are valuable to core-class teachers, business teachers, RWL Coordinators, and schools interested in supporting entrepreneurial projects.

Watch the video “Shawnee Mission West Real World Learning goes to the mall.”

Raymore-Peculiar – CCPs in the Classroom Tour

Area of Focus: Client Connected Projects in Core Course – ELA

Raymore-Peculiar implemented Client Connected Projects to replace PBL capstone projects across all English 4 classes. Attendees heard from teachers and students and observed an English 4 classroom.

Key Takeaways

  • It is essential to give students voice and choice. Teachers should stay focused on the learning target (i.e. if it’s an analysis target, not a writing target, then it can be a video).
  • Teachers do not need to be hands-on with each project. In addition, it’s important for the teacher not to influence the learning process with their own experiences and allow students to build relationships with the employer/client.
  • Ray-Pec uses Design Thinking and has created the framework, not the step-by-step process, for students. Students own their journey, and it’s not the end product that is important but the learning along that journey.

Core class teachers, especially ELA teachers, can take a lot away from the structure and curriculum of Ray-Pec’s English 4. 

Our core content teachers haven’t done client connected projects, just CTE. Seeing how they look in English 4 was wonderful, and our teachers needed to see it could and does work.

Nicole Pizzato
KCKPS Work Based Learning Coordinator

Watch the video about Ray-Pec incorporating Real World Learning into English 4 classes.

Raymore-Peculiar – LEAD Center

Area of Focus: Client Connected Projects, IRCs, Internships

Raymore-Peculiar opened the LEAD (Learning, Experiences And Discovery) Center at the beginning of the 2022/23 school year. The center houses the Enterprise and Design micro-school that focuses on CCPs, Grow Your Own Teaching Academy, and electrical and machining programs.

Key Takeaways

  • The purposeful design process and the entrepreneurial experiences students are undergoing as part of the launch of the LEAD Center.
  • Students are running the marketing and promotion to other students and the community.
  • How to build culture and community among students and staff.
  • How to mix professional experiences and CTE, and how to meet students where they are.

The new LEAD Center blends professional experiences into CTE and includes opportunities for all students, including students with special needs.

Read tips for engaging with business partners from Ray-Pec’s RWL Coordinator Jake Wingo.