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Thinking Bigger: Building a Sustainable Future for Business-Education Partnerships

The CAIU is excited to announce the expansion of the Think BIG! program in the Harrisburg area. In partnership with Phoenix Contact, the CAIU is embarking on a year-long collaboration to formalize and expand the curriculum for schools within the IU footprint.

What is Think BIG?

Think Big Logo

In 2017, Phoenix Contact began the Think BIG! program with Foose Elementary School in Harrisburg. Every month from November through May, employees from local businesses to teach hands-on science lessons. The lessons focus on renewable energy concepts and is built on the foundation of integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), STEELS (Science, Technology & Engineering, Environmental Literacy, Sustainability) and Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Standards into a supplemental curriculum.

The goal is to enhance student learning, foster career exploration (particularly STEM careers in green energy) as well as to promote the many benefits of these types of partnership to businesses, schools, students, and communities.

Why This Program?

In the capital region, there are a wealth of businesses and schools that can form the basis of these mutually beneficial partnerships. The proposal targets fourth-grade as the focus for a variety of reasons. First, research has demonstrated that in early childhood, students are forming career beliefs and aspirations. Developing a growth mindset and the opportunity to engage in in-depth career exploration are critical early skills that lead to increased education completion and income potential. As a result, Pennsylvania requires schools to engage in early career exploration and development of work-ready skills. Another reason to engage in the development of both career exploration and work-ready skills early is the opportunity for students to be exposed to the immense width and breadth of careers that are available—some of which they otherwise might not know about—particularly in the areas of STEM, STEELS, and renewable energy. This is particularly true in schools that are located in economically distressed areas.

How Will It Work?

Dr. Saia Accepting Check at Phoenix Contact

The CAIU received a $565,000 grant from Phoenix Contact in order to formalize and expand the curriculum already in place. For the rest of the 2023-24 school year, CAIU staff will shadow Phoenix Contact employees during their monthly visits to Foose Elementary to inform the development of a packaged, supplemental curriculum aligned to STEELS and Career Ready PA Core Standards. Ultimately, this collaboration will provide a model for businesses to engage in business-education partnerships, and a training module to support business partners in the classroom.


For more information, email:


We are building out the program blueprint for businesses and schools to simplify implementation during the 2023-2024 school year. 

This year we need partners for feedback and focus groups to review our progress.

We are also looking for early adopters, so if you are interested in being a partner, please complete the form below.

I Want to Get Involved!

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