Grantee Corner  |  Fort Wayne Community Schools

Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) is the largest traditional public school district in Indiana, serving nearly 30,000 students. FWCS operates 2 early childhood centers, 30 elementary schools, 1 intermediate school, 10 middle schools, 5 high schools, 1 alternative school, and 1 career and technical school. The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant supports strengthening STEM/STEAM learning at five schools: Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, Irwin and Weisser Park elementary schools, Memorial Park Middle School, and South Side High School.

Irwin Elementary STEM Magnet School (K-5) has had a focus on math and science for more than two decades. With the MSAP grant support, the school is bolstering its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus by partnering with Discovery Education. Teachers have participated in targeted professional learning to integrate STEM concepts throughout the day. The school has moved beyond extra math and science lessons to create a culture of inquiry-based learning.

Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, Weisser Park Elementary School, and Memorial Park Middle School make up FWCS’s fine arts magnet pathway, and also partner with Discovery Education. 

Whitney Young serves students in pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten and uses the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. Integrating STEM into the curriculum was a natural fit for the already arts-focused, student-centered learning environment. 

Students build on the lessons they learned at Whitney Young when they attend Weisser Park Elementary for grades 1-5. Weisser Park already had a high-tech music lab sponsored by the international music company, Sweetwater Sound, which is located in Fort Wayne. By partnering with Discovery Education, Weisser Park further integrates arts and music into the STEM concepts that are part of musical and theatrical performances.

At Memorial Park Middle School, students in grades 6-8 continue to learn in a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM)-focused environment. Memorial Park has long been known for its strong music programs, which have helped to develop some of the city’s top musical talent. The addition of the STEAM focus gives students a deeper understanding of the technical aspects of performances, including lighting and sound systems. In addition, students experience more hands-on learning in core classes that focus on asking questions and exploring answers collaboratively.

South Side High School is home to the region’s only International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Although students from the fine arts magnet schools have always moved up to South Side, until recently its arts programs lagged behind others in the city. MSAP funding enabled South Side to put more emphasis on high-level fine arts courses, and to integrate inquiry-based learning beyond the IB program. Today, math students collaborate on building catapults and biology students use stop-motion animation to demonstrate scientific principles.

Get Nichols serves as the MSAP Project Director. She is the Chief of School Leadership for Fort Wayne Community Schools and oversees 48 of its schools. She began her career in education in 1980 as a first-grade teacher in Oklahoma and joined FWCS in 1994. She became an elementary school principal in 2000, and in 2007 moved to the central office.