You do not hear a lot of high school students say they are excited to get up and go to school every day, but that is exactly what is happening at Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).
The state-of-the-art program at CAPs began at the start of the 2009-2010 school year offering Blue Valley district juniors and seniors a new kind of curriculum. Currently, CAPS offers concentrations in bioscience, business, engineering, and human services, each of which includes a variety of sub-pathways and was selected due to its immediate relevancy in the Kansas City regional marketplace. The program at CAPS is centered on project-based learning including opportunities for students to work with professionals in numerous industries. “This profession-based learning model doesn’t exist anywhere else in the nation,” Executive Director Donna M. Deeds says of the program.
The design goals, spatial requirements, and educational curriculum were formulated simultaneously through a collaborative workshop process led by Perkins+Will that included district administrators, educators, industry leaders, and business professionals. From Kansas Biotech to Garmin Industries, each participant in the process lent their perspective, resulting in a unique vision for the high school. Interestingly, the resulting facility does not resemble a school at all, but rather a professional environment where students work with real companies on real projects. All of the labs are of a professional industry standard including donated equipment from regional business to ensure that the students are working on the same software and machinery as today’s workforce. Students are also taught interviewing and networking skills to ensure they are truly prepared professionally when they finish their time at CAPS.
Several CAPS students have gone on to create and implement solutions for the same companies that helped develop the program, and some students have received provisional patents for the ideas they have generated. There is no doubt that this is a truly unique program deserving of a unique facility.
This project is one great example of what can happen when the focus of an institution is to provide students with the tools to become real-world innovators, particularly when those goals are informed by a variety of potential stakeholders. While the school has not been replicated elsewhere as of yet, it continues to receive wide recognition. In 2011, CAPS was a CEFPI MacConnell Award Finalist, it received an Exhibition of School Architecture Citation by the National School Boards Association and an Edison Innovation Award.
To learn more about CAPS, please visit perkinswill.com.