- Stephen Plum, a science teacher and director of a health science-focused high school in Wisconsin, shares in Edutopia how he and his colleague created a high school that made learning relevant to students by connecting with the community and fostering authentic field experiences.
- Field experiences help students better understand why certain subjects are taught and why social skills, such as collaboration and empathy, are needed in the workplace. They also lead to increased engagement in the learning process and fuel students' desires to earn their high school diplomas.
- These experiences also help shape these students' futures as they explore their own identities in new situations, expand their comfort zones and better understand which career path fits their future goals.
As students enter high school, they begin to develop a sense of what is important and relevant to their lives, and in doing so, they focus on what they consider to be pertinent while discarding what they deem unnecessary. However, they often make these vital decisions without sufficient data about what the future holds, and they don't realize how the learning possibilities they choose to throw away could impact their future opportunities.
School leaders can help address this issue by providing more hands-on activities and field experiences that will open students' eyes to what lies ahead. In younger grades, this may be accomplished through field trips and project-based learning experiences. However, in high school, students need something more thorough and authentic that will engage them and help them find a goal they are passionate about meeting.
There are several ways to make these kinds of opportunities possible. Connecting schools to local businesses and industries to create field experiences is one way to expose students to a variety of professions and help them determine what's right for them. This can sometimes be accomplished by state or local organizations that work to help form these relationships. Some schools are exploring CEO classes or are using career coaches to help students see these connections, while internships and part-time jobs are other ways to link students to authentic experiences in ways that also build up their resumes. The possibilities should abound, because educators are not the only ones who want students to see the value and relevance of learning; employers want students to make that connection, too.