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What a powerful verb. So many nouns used in education gain strength from the word ignite: learning, preparation, engagement, awareness, creativity, passion, innovation.

We've been using the word ignite frequently in Bentonville schools lately. Not only is it the name of a new program that engages students in real, relevant learning opportunities, it also helps spark collaboration from kindergarten through 12th grade.

This year we've challenged our professional educators to pivot toward igniting student engagement with project- or problem-based learning on a larger scale. In the past year, we had students whose projects sparked awareness of people with disabilities, solutions to issues in the developing world and innovations that made Fortune 500 companies take notice. One project by students at Lincoln Junior High grew into a collaboration with engineers to create a video game controller that provides full functionality for people with limited use of one hand.

Ignite is also the name we chose for our professional studies center. Increasingly we hear that, while students are well educated, they are not as well prepared for careers in today's workplace. In my four years as superintendent, our board of education and numerous community members have sought programs for high school students that lead to career certifications as well as provide them with training in professional skills. We developed Ignite@psc to create pathways to careers for students whether or not higher education is the first step.

Ignite@psc launched this fall with an information technologies solutions class being held at TATA Consultancy Services. This course, facilitated by Bentonville Public Schools IT Director Andy Mayes, immerses students in a professional atmosphere. Students work as interns for TATA and Walmart or in client-based relationships with businesses, non-profits and churches. If you're looking for a tech solution, seek these kids out! Throughout the process they will gain those workforce skills and habits of mind that prepare them for available jobs. One local tech entrepreneur stated that these students could potentially graduate Bentonville High School and move into a job that pays $60,000.

Other strands for Ignite@psc are being developed in collaboration with local, regional and national businesses to align with areas of growth in the workforce. Believe me, IT Solutions is just the initial stage of development for Ignite@psc. Want to support Ignite@psc? Consider partnering to develop logistics management, culinary arts, construction trades, digital marketing, audio/video production and medical professions strands.

In schools throughout the district, ignition has begun to engage students from kindergarten to 12th grade in real, relevant learning experiences that not only prepare them for the future, but also spark creativity, passion and innovation.

Michael Poore is superintendent of the Bentonville School District.

NAN Our Town on 08/27/2015

Print Headline: Igniting the future

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