February 2018

What Works: Career Exploration Ideas

By Elementary School Counselors across the U.S.
Elementary school counselors share their most successful career development program.

For my fifth graders, we use the Montana Career Information System to take an interest inventory. Students complete a worksheet about their top career cluster, which includes research into classes to take in high school, duties required for that career, jobs in that career, etc. Students then use the Big Future College Search site to find colleges that offer programs in their top career cluster. They record information about that college and learn along the way what a "major" is, what "teacher-student ratio" is, etc. Students then write the admissions office an email using an email address I created specifically for this project. They describe their research project, explain that the college offers a major in their top career cluster and request information (in my name and to be sent to our elementary school address). Students never share their last name or personal information. My students are so excited to receive mail from their chosen college! Some have received t-shirts, calculators, pennants, stickers or pencils. Students have remarked that they didn't think they could start thinking about college in 5th grade!

I also had a student return after entering high school to let me know that she continued to use the Big Future website/process from our project to research colleges and had already chosen several colleges that she wanted to attend back east.

     -- Tanya Kirschman, Highland Elementary School, Billings, MT
Picture the Possibilities...Parents submitted a picture of themselves working, their career path, and skills they use in a google doc. Then we posted the pictures on a bulletin board and had books made for each classroom. View the book online.
     -- Hayley Arnold, Old Bonhomme Elementary, St. Louis, MO

Pictured from L: Old Bonhomme Elementary parents Dan Hanes, scientist and college professor; Mimi Vo, internal medicine physician; John Drake, lawyer; and Edna Rodríguez, trading manager.
Career Café! Once a month we host a member of the community to come and speak to our fifth-grade students about their careers. The group is normally between 15-25 students and kids love to ask questions and see pictures about different careers. They naturally end up asking about college and what they studied so students also get some information about college and how that is connected to careers.
     -- Heather Davis, McKinley Elementary School, Arlington, VA
Agriculture is the biggest career influence in my community. Our school decided to partake in that field by conducting Ag Day, an agricultural career day every year. We also conduct the career development lessons from the Georgia Department of Education for our K-5 students in case they have other career goals.
     -- Lekesha Wilson, M . E. LEWIS Elementary School, Sparta, GA
Last year the fifth-grade students explored their interests and strengths, then used a variety of assessments to match their selections with careers. From there, they chose one career to research more. Using the online Occupational Outlook Handbook, students learned more about their potential career including education needed, work environment, and salary. After their investigative work, each student presented their career information to the class, enhancing their public speaking skills. Some students even dressed the part. The "audience" was encouraged to ask thoughtful questions, which truly deepened the conversation.

Some students realized that what they thought they wanted to be "when they grew up" changed after completing the project. It was wonderful that they came to this realization while in fifth grade so that by the time they are in high school they will be better prepared to follow a path that will be a true match.
     -- Marie Kueny, EBSOLA Dual Language, Kenosha, WI
Our school is a STEM school. To connect our counseling program to our school-wide STEM initiatives, we focus on different STEM Stars from each career cluster each time we visit our classrooms. We draw from famous people to people working within our school. Each STEM Star PowerPoint follows a format with hints, the reveal, maybe a video and pictures, a discussion about the 4 Cs of STEM, and a link to the appropriate career cluster. By the end of the year, we have 16-17 clusters covered.
     -- Jennifer Frederick, Claire Murphy and Lisa Hunt, Sope Creek Elementary, Marietta, GA