Fairport Harbor Schools: Hooked on Education


In Fairport Harbor, Ohio—a small village on Lake Erie northwest of Cleveland—the school system has partnered with area businesses to create an innovative, personalized educational experience for students rooted in rigorous academic content, entrepreneurship, and a common interest in creating a successful company within the community.   

FairportHarborThrough a project called Hooked on Education, a diverse group of more than 30 students are working out of Harding High School’s new design lab to research, design, test, manufacture, market, and sell fishing lures. This work is part of an integrated curriculum that includes hands-on, real-world experiences aligned to students’ talents and interests. Students also have opportunities to engage with, and learn from, business owners at Avery Dennison, Royal Plastics, MJM Industries, Chemsultants International, and Top Flight Sport Fishing, among others. The project is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Education’s Straight A Fund. 

"I've been an administrator for 30 years, and this is the most exciting educational opportunity I've ever encountered," Fairport Harbor Superintendent Domenic Paolo told the Cleveland Plain Dealer late last year.

Fairport Harbor’s model of personalized learning grows out of four interdependent components: 

  • A detailed understanding or profile of each learner
  • A clear set of standards toward which each learner is progressing
  • Collaboration with each learner to construct a customized learning path
  • A well-chosen project that is relevant, embedded in the community, and developed around the talents and interests of students. 

Each year, teachers and students collaborate to develop a learner profile, including skills, interests, academic history, current schedule, and the student’s future plans. Progress is monitored and reported using multiple measures aligned to the strengths of each student. 

The project recognizes the powerful role students must play in setting learning goals, planning their learning paths, tracking their progress, and demonstrating their learning as partners and co-designers alongside educators. 

“Personalized learning places the student at the center of their own instruction and empowers educators to work with them to create a clear path to success,” explained Superintendent Paolo. 

Through the process of designing, producing, and selling fishing lures, Hooked on Education students are also developing key knowledge and skills that will prepare them for future success in whatever career and life path they choose, including: 

  • Creating a business model and marketing plan
  • Delivering a product presentation
  • Collaborating and communicating in teams 
  • Building and managing a budget 
  • Coordinating the production process 

Hooked on Education is designed to give students a better and deeper educational experience by developing community connections, engaging student talents and interests, and personalizing their learning to help each student reach their fullest potential. 

In June 2017, Fairport Harbor hosted Students at the Center: A Personalized Learning Symposium, a two-day immersion designed to embed personalized learning techniques and best practices into the fabric of schools in the region and develop collaborative partnerships throughout the state. The event included numerous breakout sessions with practitioners from districts and organizations sharing personal stories of how they are engaged in personalized learning.