Details into the historic McElroy grant given to Waterloo School - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Details into the historic McElroy grant given to Waterloo Schools

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The R.J. McElroy Trust recently announced a $1.5 million grant to Waterloo Community Schools. It's the largest programmatic grant the McElroy Trust has ever given.

The Waterloo School District will be receiving the $1.5 million over three years to help establish a new experience-based program.

"If any of us think about our stories of being a young person, it was experiences that inspired most of us," said Dr. Stacy Van Gorp, McElroy Trust Executive Director.

Together, the two groups are looking to close the gap between classroom learning and real-life experiences.

"The students will have experiences that connect the dots for them, maybe what they are learning in the classroom and they get to experience it in the real world. We think it will help with retention. We think it will ignite a passion in them," said Waterloo Schools Superintendent, Dr. Jane Lindaman.

For example, science and math brought to life by hands-on agricultural activities.

"So the kids might visit a farm. We have all kinds of agricultural around the area, so they may get to go multiple times throughout the years," said Lindaman.

The exact experiences are still in the planning stages, but starting with elementary students, the strategic program will eventually provide district-wide activities at every grade level.

"We know that this is innovation. There is not a roadmap for this," said Van Gorp.

McElroy plans to help the district develop the program, which will also involve community service projects.  But the idea won't work without the help of many local businesses and organizations.

"This is all about taking learning outside the boundaries of the building and learning in real-time, in real places, in our community, in real ways. That takes partnership. We are the kind of community that can do that. We are the kind of community where people want to welcome young people," said Van Gorp.

The program is in the planning stages, with hopes to start integrating the experiences into the learning process at the elementary level this fall.

Eventually, the program will spread to the nearly 11,000 K-12 students in the district.

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