ICS canceled

Part 1: What are we losing?

Lucas Bleyle, Diversions/Opinion Editor

If people were to look into the Multipurpose Room most mornings, they might not find senior Max Eness sitting at a seat listening to the teacher talk. Instead, they might see Eness working on a project with his peers during ICS (Integrated Capstone Seminar), a course that meets for three periods every morning. “ICS is a new course here at Ames High, and it is based on the principles of Project Based Learning,” Max explained.

The class meets three periods a day and combines Sociology, Government, Environmental Science, and Advanced English 12. As Max explained it: “Mr. Todd explains the science of a problem, Zmolek explains why a problem isn’t being solved and its political aspects, and Brekke teaches how to best communicate the conclusion and solutions to those problems.”

The goal of the first semester was creating artwork that demonstrated water quality issues in the state of Iowa as part of the Lexicon of Sustainability project. The class got off to a rough start because students were not used to this new type of learning. Max described it as, “being thrown in the deep end.”

He sees normal classes as teaching us how to be good at school, but not necessarily teaching us skills that translate into real-world skills. “We do projects that carry weight in the real world,” Max said. Many students who took ICS were unaccustomed to this level of personal responsibility and individualized curriculum. The difficulty of the class was a result of the fact that there was no right answer, correct method, or bare minimum, but only whether a real difference was made in the community.  He described the class as,“Pushing us out of this incubated environment we have been in for the last 12 years.” This class doesn’t hold your hand. It shows you the path and tells you to walk. “I grew a lot from being authentically incompetent,”  Max said.

The second semester was focused on community impact projects to fix the problems that were illustrated in the first semester Lexicon of Sustainability posters. “It’s a group of four people saying this is a problem and here’s what we are going to do solve it,” Max said. “And then they solve it.”

The difference between ICS and other classes is that it goes beyond just research on a problem by actually working to fix the problem. Our intent is not to get an A in the class. Our intent is to change the world,” Max explained. And that is never as easy as just getting an A.


Why the class has been canceled (featuring an exclusive interview with Mr. Evans) is coming in part 2.