Passion. Projects. Community.

BIG exists to assist students in developing their agency, efficacy, and passions while gaining valuable real-world and academic skills so they can succeed in a world of rapid and constant change.

A Message from the Executive Director

Iowa BIG

Welcome to the Iowa BIG website!

Whether a current or prospective parent or student, an interested educator from Iowa or around the globe, or a community member we know you will find the information and help you are looking for here. 

Founded in the 2013-2014 school year by the Cedar Rapids and College Community School Districts, Iowa BIG serves nearly 200 students in the Cedar Rapids metro area. The communities of Alburnett and North Linn CSD also provide the Iowa BIG experience to their students and a special agreement with the Mt. Vernon CSD and Marion Independent School allows for students there to also be a part of the program.

We take our vision to “unleash human potential” very seriously and have a strong belief that learning and performing in context is the best way to both retain and develop one’s knowledge, understanding, and ability to make things happen. We want every student to discover their passions, find their personal strengths, and ultimately recognize that they are the owner/operator of their own learning and future.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to learn more or to inquire about coming to visit us so you can see and experience our work first hand. Thank you for taking the time to see what we do and who we are. 

With gratitude,

Dr. Trace Pickering

Co-Founder, Iowa BIG

Discover IowaBIG

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Iowa BIG is for students and families looking for a different learning experience and/or wishing to enhance or add to their current high school experience.

I’ve always heard of other young people getting involved in their community, but I never had that opportunity before joining Iowa BIG.

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Find out more about what we believe about teaching, learning, and human development.

Here is How We Serve a Variety of Students

IowaBIG Student


Students with high GPAs and strong test scores can leverage BIG to enhance and round-out their resumes. BIG students routinely gain access to selective colleges and scholarships because they have honed a strong personal mission statement and have a powerful and unique story to tell about the impact they have made on themselves and others. Combined with their stellar achievements in their traditional high school, BIG students stand out from the thousands of other students with similar GPAs and activities.

IowaBIG Student

Bored or Frustrated Students

By the time students reach high school some have lost their spark for learning and are just trying to “gut it out” for a few more years. This happens for a myriad of reasons. BIG provides students an opportunity to learn and engage in new ways and to rediscover their passions and natural love of learning. Like our co-founder, Trace, says, “BIG is a great place for the ‘A’ student who’s hanging out as a ‘C+’ student.” This type of student typically begins performing closer to their potential back at their high schools as well.

IowaBIG Student

The Disengaged and Lost

For a subset of students, the structure of school just doesn’t work for them, no matter how hard the teachers and school tries. It may be because they have no idea what they want to do or like or care about. It may be due to a cultural mis-match between them and the school. Or, it may be simply that they can’t learn effectively in the current model. BIG provides a great opportunity for these students to come and explore, learn more about themselves, and begin to re-engage in learning and find possible paths for their future.

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