Fifth Grade Students at Northside Elementary Present Career Fair
It may seem precocious for elementary school students to focus intently on future career choices, but that is exactly what the fifth grade students did at Northside Elementary School (NES) last month. On March 20, during the morning and again from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m., the cafeteria at NES became a bustling and exciting Career Fair for Navigators, their parents and district and community members.
The cafeteria tables held dozens of tri-fold posters with accompanying displays about professions from sociology professor to fashion designer, sound effects creator and automotive engineer. These career ambitions went far beyond the standard “teacher, doctor, professional athlete and pilot” choices that one would usually hear from children who are still several years removed from their teens.
“Since we are an AVID Elementary School, one of our goals is to teach students how their learning connects with the future,” said Michelle Gay, fifth grade NES teacher. “We want them to see themselves being able to take their knowledge and easily step into a career.” Students embraced those choices with energy and expertise, and they welcomed visitors, fully prepared to answer questions that went well beyond the predictable “Why did you choose this career?”
“My students learned how to complete effective research to learn more about careers they could have in the future,” said Gay. “The goal was for the students to develop knowledge, skills and perspectives that will help them achieve college and career success. With the help of our wonderful librarian, Kat Cole, the students crafted their own research questions and began hunting through online databases and books to find answers.”
“The students had to monitor themselves as they kept track of their work throughout the year. They had to be organized and create a plan for how they would complete their project.” Gay noted that students had to solve numerous problems along the way, learning that trial and error could help them develop more thorough knowledge of what does and doesn’t work well. “Completing this project in segments throughout the year also helped to instill exploration and preparation in students as they began to see both the project and their careers with long-term goals.”
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, Dr. Jessica O’Donovan, attended the evening portion of the Career Fair. “The strong college-going culture on an AVID Elementary campus encourages students to think about their college and career plans. Schools cover their walls with college pennants and banners, and educators speak about their college experiences. College and careers are no longer foreign concepts, and teachers provide the academic foundation students need to be on a path for college and career success. AVID Elementary closes the opportunity gap before it begins.”
One of the primary takeaways from a visit to the Fair was how much fun many students had on their career-exploration adventures. The displays were created with the awareness that the younger students at NES would spend time viewing the projects. The fifth grade students organized the information they gathered, so it could be understood by students of all ages. “Many students added images, games, and interactive elements to their presentations, so the younger students would be able to actively engage with them,” Gay said. “One student brought a basketball so he could teach students specific moves and have the students try them out. Anther student created brains using jello. She had students practice brain surgery by having them try to remove a 'tumor' from the brain. These interactive elements really helped the students gain a greater understanding of what each station was sharing.”
Kathi Breweur, CHCCS Career and Technical Education Director, also attended the Fair. “I was impressed with the students’ research and their ability to articulate a plan on how they would reach their career goals. The students shared with me what CTE classes they were planning to take in middle school, and they had a general idea of high school CTE classes they would take to build their skills in their career field. They seem to understand college is not the end game, but rather the journey to reach a career goal.”
The evening Fair was with NES parents. “This provided students the opportunity to talk to many professionals from the area about the careers they studied,” said Gay. “Many students told me after the event that parents were able to share more information with them based on their own experiences. This AVID Parent Night brought fascinating conversations between adults and students that led many wanting to continue exploring and pursuing the careers from the projects.”
"As an AVID Elementary School, the Northside teachers are building a strong college-going culture and helping students get a jump start in thinking about their future,” O’Donovan said. “Career Fair was a powerful way to ensure that college and career pathways feel realistic and relevant for our fifth graders."