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We have been nudging and supporting our partner schools for some time to give children more explicit help in exploring careers. At the Fall 1998 meeting of the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition, hosted by the Detroit office of Wayne County 4-H Extension Service, we all became aware of the terrific materials already developed by 4-H. Combining these curricular materials with the human capital we have built up for career presentations, tours, and job shadowing seemed like a natural marriage.
In spring 1999, Owen School paid coordinator Debbie Shoemaker, a Pontiac Public Schools parent, to run a Career Club in collaboration with Oakland County 4-H and with Learning Community Coordinator Susie. Susie helped with planning and materials; Debbie supervised two clubs of ten children, each meeting twice a week for about 12 weeks. They explored some 30 possible careers, including two in-person presentations, one tour, and two job shadowing experiences.
The students visited a home-based glassblowing business to see a demonstration and to talk about starting one's own business. A cartoonist came and talked about how he got into it as a sixteen-year-old by taking his drawings to the editor of the Oakland Press, where he is still published every week. He is in college right now studying engineering, so he could share how one dream can be used to support another (and how one is not stuck for life in the first career track chosen). Students, along with their parents, went to City Hall and were able to participate in the live taping of a Substandard Housing Hearing involving the city council. (Susie Shoemaker is also a City Councilwoman.) They were able to ask questions, to run the cameras, and to learn what an administrator for cable television does. They were fascinated and stayed a lot longer than expected.
Finally, club membersjoined by the technology clubtoured the television studio of UPN-50. They were able to see a video on the studio itself and to walk through the studios where different shows are taped. Meteorologist Jim Madaus spoke about his career and what he does in weather reporting. Students thought it was cool to know his office is located right in the news studio so that, at any given moment, he can go right on the air to broadcast an emergency weather report. The students were extremely well behaved and asked a lot of great questions.
During fall 1998, Susie had planned the Careers Theme Week. Theme weeks were the intersessions during the year-round schedule that Owen used until the end of the 1998-99 school year. First through fifth grades went to City Hall and to the 50th District Court. Students experienced a mock trial with the Chief District Judge Leo Bowman. The students learned about the three branches of government at City Hall with Mayor Walter Moore, Councilwoman Shoemaker, and Judge-elect Preston Thomas, and they toured City Hall. The fire department shared fire safety and explained their job to the K-2 grades. The 4-5 grades learned about Pontiac Landfill through a presentation done by Director Claudia Filler. Students went to the landfill that afternoon and learned about composting.
On Election Day, as part of the civic careers theme, K 5 grades came down to the Learning Community Room to vote. Susie developed lesson plans and printed out sample ballots; the City Clerk's office provided a voting machine, voting booths, ballot pens, official ballots, and gifts for every child. The children in 3-5 grades filled out their application to vote forms, received their ballots, voted in the booths, and fed their ballot to the machine. At the end of the day, the winners were announced over the P.A. system.
The Police Department allowed students in the third grade to come and tour the police station. Children loved the presentation and tour and loved being with Officer Mike Daves. Officer Daves visited school on Thursday and presented to each of the K 2 grades on what a police officer does and on personal safety. He ate lunch with the children and came down to participate in the voting. The children really came to know him and to appreciate what he does.
It was wonderful to see how so many community resources and people could be pulled together in a thematic way to expose children both to potential careers and to the lore of citizenship they will need as adults.
Program Description & Goals
A match was made between the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club and Ann Arbor's Slauson Middle School, through Health teacher Doris Sprentall. CUOS K-12 Outreach Director Jeannine LaSovage, a Kiwanis member, piloted a career exploration program with a class of 25, guiding them through a process of self-analysis designed to discover what kinds of work and fields they would be happy and productive in as adults. Then, Jeannine facilitated planning and execution of a five-week program in April and May 1999 with the following goals:
The program proceeded from several assumptions: (1) it is too much to ask schools and teachers to take on one more task such as this; (2) organization within the framework of an appropriate class, such as health, allows controlled entree to the children, which can be followed by as much after-school and weekend meeting time as necessary; (3) implementation within a school allows for access to the wealth of career exploration resources and self-analysis tools available via the World Wide Web; (4) such a program must allow for consistent contact with the same adult so that relationships can be formed; and (5) the program must be "customer-driven"flexible enough to follow the interests and imperatives of the young people planning their own lives and also committed to finding them shadowing experiences directly related to what they want to do.
The last proviso stems from our analysis of traditional Career Days as well-intentioned but usually only marginally successful, both because children do no preliminary analysis of their talents and career options, and because they are logistically forced to spend time in presentations on fields that do not interest them. Such shortcomings are an inherent and unavoidable aspect of any such large-group, one-shot attempts to meet children's career exploration needs. Our experience with college undergraduates has convinced us that almost no teens have a real conception of what career options are available to themand even fewer have done the hard work of self-analysis that is required to hone in on fields truly suited to their abilities and interests. Our longer-term Career Clubs are meant to systematize their inner and outer explorations over a longer term with help from a caring adult guide, making use of personality, temperament, and character analysis tools, plus the vast amount of specific career information available on the Web.
Program Implementation and Results
Eight Kiwanis mentors (Letitia Byrd, Wes Colmery, Lynne Lande, Burt Lamkin, Jerry Hartweg, Tom McFadden, Jerry McMahon, and Peter Schork) were coordinated by Gene Parola of Kiwanis and Doris Sprentall of Slauson to work with pairs of children from Doris' Health class for five weeks. Jeannine LaSovage of CUOS prepared materials and provided training for the mentors. These small groups met, found islands of calm in a crowded school, and did the following: got to know one another, completed at least one individual personality/aptitude survey, explored identified career fields, examined multiple intelligences and learning styles, related these individual strengths to possible careers, found and arranged at least one individual shadowing experience, and wrote both thank-you notes and short papers describing what they had learned about themselves, about possible career fields, and about next steps they could take to further explore these fields.
What did we learn? Number One would have to be that children loved this experience! They were initially dumbfounded by the question, "What do you like to do?"and soon realized that many of the things they do are done to please or meet the expectations of someone else. They had difficulty thinking of what makes them happy, independent of the plans and expectations of parents, teachers, and other significant adults.
Second, we reinforced our conviction that young people are generally clueless about careers available, other than those they've seen in their families or in the media. Even if they have some idea of what they'd like to do vocationally, they have none about the variety of arenas in which a specific skill can be applied. Further, they were universally relieved to learn of the now-standard "serial careers" that imply they do not have to decide right now what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They were delighted to learn about both gradual transitions to new skills and abrupt career changes that adults routinely and successfully negotiate.
We were exceptionally pleased to see the serious role staked out by the Kiwanis volunteers, who had to go beyond their circle of friends, family, and coworkers to acquaintances of this inner tier in order to find people in the right fields to match with their children. It was such a learning and growing experience for the volunteers, too. Some were initially a bit apprehensive about working with the children and were sometimes hesitant to make "cold calls" to strangers to help arrange shadowing experiences. But they pushed through this anxiety to do wonderful things with those they mentored. Why did they do it? Not just because they are altruists, we're convinced. Beyond the enjoyment of helping children in a direct and personal way, they seem to have a common concern for righting a wrong or filling a hole in the education of children for life. Perhaps they hope to have such programs in place for their own children or grandchildren, and several expressed a concern for making a positive and personal mark on the world. The point is that they could overcome discomfort and worries about the ability to pull this off because they were passionate about the need for it: they share a visceral conviction that children really need this, they aren't getting it, and that they, personally, could change that.
Plans for Next Year
The Kiwanians do not just want to continue this program, they want to expand it to every middle and high school in Ann Arbor Public Schools, simultaneously reviving their Builders Clubs and Key Clubs at those schools. In addition to doing community service, members would receive services, as well. The plan is to bring in Circle K (the college version of Kiwanis) members from UM to help in this expansion. Contacts have been made and funding requested for Circle K coordinators at each site. We will probably begin more modestly this year, while planning for this broad a program in the fall of 2000. We are all excited at the prospect of bringing disparate elements of the community together in this way.
Our mentoring program at Pioneer piloted an explicit career exploration component this year, which was very individually tailored by UM student coordinator Karyl Shand for each of the six high school students who tried it. We think of this as prototyping for how mentors can be guided to do the same things with their mentees: help them think about their abilities and interests (using such tools as personality and type indicators, learning style inventories, and multiple intelligences surveys), brainstorm an array of possible career interests, narrow down choices by researching those fields, and find an individual in a specific field of great interest with which to discuss details of preparation for that field and various arenas in which the particular skills could be appliedand to see firsthand the parameters of the job. We envision this as a significant enhancement of the mentoring program, for both mentor and mentee, since both will be made aware of the self-analysis and career exploration resources available and will put real time and thought into such matters. We believe that our undergraduate mentors are just as much in need of such reflection and research as the high schoolers. In fact, our coordinators, all of whom feel they were "pipelined" into engineering, are adamant that we should be focusing on the whole person and helping each of our mentees become complete and successful human beings, rather than "feeding fields that need bodies." Instead of shunting anyone with brains into a technical field, they believe we should be assisting people in discovering who and what they were meant to be. As one impassioned undergraduate put it: "No one should graduate with a 2.5 [grade point average]! If you do, you're in the wrong fieldand will be neither happy nor productive." If you can find your own passion and learn how to pursue it, on the other hand, these young women are certain that it will be better for you, for schools and colleges, for employers, and for entire fields and industries.
Plans for Next Year
The plan is to help mentors guide their teens through some self-analysis, using tools available through our Web site; research fields of potential interest; and then explore a few more directly through job shadowing, tours, or an e-mail relationship with a professional in that field. Only a few, from Karyl's experience, will be ready to go through this entire process, but all should find at least an introduction to it useful. Our orientation for mentors will, accordingly, be much longer and more formal than in the fall of 1998. We expect this requirement to reduce the number of our mentors, but feel the trade-off in the quality of the mentoring relationship will be worth it.
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|I.||Science Clubs||III.||Career Clubs|
|A. Program Description and Goals||A. Owen School|
|B. Peace Neighborhood Center||B. Slauson Middle School|
|C. North Maple Estates||C. Pioneer High School|
|D. George School|
|E. Community Church of God||IV.||Technology|
|F. Owen School||A. Owen School|
|G. Lessons Learned from Science Clubs||B. Coalition Web Site|
|II.||Mentoring Programs||V.||Research Experiences for Teachers|
|A. Program Description and Goals||A. Things We Learned|
|B. Chapelle School||B. What Comes Next|
|C. Pioneer High School|
|D. The Neutral Zone||VI.||Conclusions and Recommendations|
|E. HOPE Program|
|F. Serendipity Reading Clubs||VII.||Appendix A. Organizational Chart|
|G. Camp Discovery||Appendix B. Partners List|