About Us

This is Iowa BIG.
What is Iowa BIG?

Iowa BIG is a public school with no admissions requirements. Each partnering district has slots proportional to their financial commitment to the program. We currently serve an accurate cross section of our partner districts’ demographics.

Currently, Iowa BIG is a partnership of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, the College Community School District (Prairie), the Linn-Mar Community School District, and the Alburnett Community School District. Students from these districts pay no tuition, and our teaching staff is employed by these three organizations. Currently, a number of students from Mt. Vernon Community School District pay tuition to attend, thus students from surrounding districts can participate in Iowa BIG.

Iowa BIG was created by the community and through the community building efforts of The Gazette Company and The Cedar Rapids Community School District. BIG’s core design principles come directly from the partnership of school and community.

  • Use student passion to drive deep learning and deliver core academic credits.
  • Engage students in authentic community projects, problems, and opportunities.
  • Connect students more deeply to the people and resources of their community (Cedar Rapids).

We believe that educational options are necessary for every student to be successful. We must provide students with as many contextually-rich experiences as possible so they not only develop basic skills, but, more importantly, they can competently use those skills to solve real problems and make new things happen.

I am Iowa BIG. (2018)
Video created by Kyle Duane Kazimour, Iowa BIG Graduate


We believe that joy is the most important outcome for a student’s experience at Iowa BIG. There are two types of projects. “Inbounds” are initiatives brought to the students by the community and students choose what project to take on. The second type of projects are called “outbounds,” which are initiatives created by students and brought to the community. Students are encouraged to explore their interests, and discover their passion by making an impact in their community.


Iowa BIG operates in locations embedded within the community it serves. The Cedar Rapids BIG “tables” are in a co-working space downtown and in an office space above a bank. Team meetings, learning, and work sessions often take place “on-site” with the partner, and on student’s individual work time, they are encouraged to work in environments that suit them best, like coffee shops, libraries or home. Moving the learning out of the classroom environment connects students even more deeply with their community.


By imitating a schedule that is similar to a college schedule, students at Iowa BIG get a head start at time management skills. Here are three sample schedules illustrating a week in a life of a BIG student.


Iowa BIG uses standards referenced, competency based assessments. Using BIG’s custom made software BBQ, teachers across multiple disciplines assess each individual student by sharing stories and evidence of student progress and agreeing on the student’s developing status.
Student records reflect a summarized progress over the entirety of the student’s education at Iowa BIG by tracking attainment of core and elective standards, which follow them from year to year and build on each other, allowing students to learn and grow at their own pace, and allow teachers to work with them on a highly individualized level. Students self-assess through regular reflection and one on one retrospectives with teachers.


Iowa BIG ‘s 21st century focused curriculum is community based, and is co-created with partners, mentors, students and teachers. Students learn most of their content through rich interdisciplinary initiatives, often taught by experts in the field, and teachers work to link the content back to Iowa Common Core and NGSS standards.
Students passion drives deep learning during their work on initiatives, however some content does not naturally fit into the initiative experience. To ensure that required content is learned, and to cover standards that do not naturally fall into most initiative, students attend weekly seminars that are taught by teachers certified in core and elective content.