Grantee Corner  |  Wichita Public Schools

Unified School District 259 DBA Wichita Public Schools (WPS) is located in the City of Wichita, the largest city in Kansas. WPS educates 11 percent of the public school students in the state. The district serves more than 51,000 students in 98 schools: 55 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, 10 high schools, 3 K-8 schools, and 15 special programs. Twenty-four schools house magnet programs with a variety of magnet themes clustered into five educational career pathways:  science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); arts; communications; leadership/citizenship; and traditional. The district is diverse, with 66 percent minority students and more than 70 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

In 2010, WPS received its first Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant. It was awarded its second MSAP grant in 2013 for Project DISCOVER, which includes three elementary schools and two middle schools. MSAP funds have given each school a strong magnet identity and have enhanced learning through the theme.
At Buckner Performing Arts and Science Magnet Elementary, students are actively engaged in learning. Classroom lessons include a wide range of activities such as performing dissections, holding Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, building bridges and towers, playing instruments, acting as characters from stories, or discussing killer whales with an Alaskan Park Ranger. Buckner students are excited about coming to school because they are learning in innovative and exciting ways and are encouraged to share their gifts and talents with the school, families, and community.

At L’Ouverture Career Explorations and Technology Magnet Elementary School, students are immersed in an environment rich with technology and career exploration. For example, second grade students have built a moving alligator with Lego robotics when studying alligators, fifth graders have broadcasted morning news segments for the L’Ouverture News Network, and kindergartens have met with firefighters so they can learn about a potential career.  L’Ouverture creates an environment where students feel empowered to become self-motivated learners.

Spaght Science and Communications Magnet Elementary School engages students in STEM and arts activities, such as Lego engineering projects, robotics, television broadcasting, and newspaper production. While reviewing the scientific method, fifth graders learn how the chemical reaction of Pop Rocks and Nerds candy mixed with cola can inflate a balloon. Second graders have videoconferences with students in Tanzania. The students at Spaght are empowered to become lifelong learners.

Brooks Center for STEM and the Arts Magnet Middle School integrates STEM and performing arts. Students are the focus at Brooks and they excel in academics, behavior, and character. A one-to-one Chromebooks initiative offers excellent technology opportunities that have increased student engagement and learning. A new onsite STEM Action Lab features 15 hands-on modules for students to use all five senses in the discovery of STEM. Students can also enroll in performing arts classes where they learn a wide variety of dance, from jazz to tap to ballet.

The combined STEM and Career Explorations theme at Jardine STEM and Career Explorations Magnet Middle Academy prepares students for the high-speed, technology-rich, innovative global economy they will experience as adults. Students receive strong foundational knowledge in the four domains of STEM. The focus on STEM practices and project-based learning provides students with opportunities to conduct investigations, gather and use data, consider societal issues, and solve problems using critical thinking and technology as tools.

Kim Burkhalter is the WPS MSAP Project Director. She has worked for WPS for more than 20 years, where she works daily to be a voice for equity and change. In her dual role as the Director of Equity/Diversity and Magnet Programs, she works to ensure that the district’s diversity and equity goals are met to provide equitable educational access for all WPS students. She also serves as a diversity and equity educational consultant. She received her doctorate in education leadership from Wichita State University.

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