“When will I ever use this?” is a question frequently asked by students. Making a real life connection using careers may help student answer that question within the context of core classes including English, math, science, social studies. If students can connect daily lessons with the world of work, students may see how what they are learning crosses over from classroom curriculum to career. When students see how a musician might use math, a chef uses chemistry and a private pilot uses geography, the curriculum has relevance.
School counselors, career counselors, and classroom educators can incorporate creative career exploration by using career exploration assessments, career guidance lessons and career interest inventories to present the possibilities for students. School newspapers, websites, and newsletters may also wish to feature careers in demand for students to consider. Classroom teachers may want to add an additional section to each unit in the curriculum that includes careers within the content. For example in a geography class, ask students to research a career that would need to know geography such as a GPS programmer, weather forecaster, or a land developer.
The greater variety of careers suggested by the class the more options for career possibilities for the students to explore. Adjusting for age and abilities, this could work for students at elementary, intermediate and middle school levels. Once students have made a list of five to eight careers of interest, they could make a career spinner. Free templates may be found online using a search engine. Students may construct an individual game spinner using a brad and cardboard square similar to the illustration here and then label the colored circle with the careers they have selected.
Another option for students is to cut a pie wedge picture, use computer clip art, or color a symbol for the occupations. Expanding on the suggested lesson plan, career and school counselors can help educators incorporate the following lessons to build connections with core curriculum. After a teacher finishes a lesson, the students could use their career spinners to spin a career choice. Then the teacher could tie in some questions based on that career. For example, if a classroom teacher finished a lesson on decimal points or fractions, students would be asked to get out their career spinners and spin a career. Then the teacher could ask students to share an example how the career worker might use fractions or decimals on their job spinners. They could even write a math story problem for their classmates to practice. Some additional examples for other core curriculum lessons may include:
Write a story about a day in the life of one of the careers using the profession as the lead character. (A story about a pastry chef and how the typical day might look for those working in this occupation)
Write a sample thank you note for their services that they might receive for doing their job at the highest level of satisfaction. (A thank you to a life guard for rescuing a stranded swimmer, a teacher for making a difference, a politician for a difficult decision).
Design a story problem for the career showing how they might use math. (If the carpet installer wants to use the maximum length of carpet with minimal waste, using the dimensions provided to calculate the square footage needed).
Create a math problem that the career professional may have to use each day. (A pharmacist tech needs to know the metric system to calculate medication for children.)
What kind of science or technology does this career use to help do the job better, faster, easier or more accurately? (A firefighter needs to know what type of extinguisher to use on certain chemicals or hazardous materials. How can the ambulance find the emergency location faster?)
What science or technology themes might the career professional encounter? (Investigate green jobs, how steroids hurt athletes, or how to determine a type of harmful bacteria in food, or how is technology used in recording music, what is clean technology?)
Years ago, if this career existed, how has it changed? (i.e. Railroad engineer) If this career didn’t exist previously tell how it may have come about? (i.e. Astronaut)
Predict how this job may change in the future due to demand, technology, or global impact. Are there certain regions of the country where the job is found more readily? (shortage of natural fuels in some regions, location of rain-forest, high speed internet, history and future of social networking)
Locate a story where one of the characters had a job of interest to you. What did you learn about the job from the character?
Locate and read a job description for a career and explain why this is a good fit for your skills and personality. What type of training or education is required based on your readings?
Are there any songs, poems, plays or famous pictures of any of your career choices? After finding a representation, share it with the class and tell what meaning it has for you personally. If you can’t find one, write your own song, skit, poem, or artwork or find a photograph or picture of your careers to make into a collage.
Write a short skit about a career showing how a typical ethical dilemma might be approached in this profession. Discuss with your classmates why making good decisions is important to this career. (A person gives you too much change back; you saw someone shoplift an item, a car dealer gave inaccurate information about a car, a scientist changed some data, or someone changed the price tag to a lower amount.)
In another language, find the name of the career or what the workers are called in this job. Write this information on your career spinner. What is the importance of understanding other cultures in your career fields?
Why is this career from your career cube found in some cultures but in other parts of the world, but may not be commonly found in other countries? (an exchange student indicated there were not words in their vocabulary for computer terms as they didn’t have computers when they were growing up.)
Explain why either gender could do this career, yet in some cultures access may not always be an option.
When students see the connection with direct application of subject matter and problem solving, students may be more engaged in learning. Undecided students may become more aware of opportunities and others may have more incentive to succeed as classes take on more relevance and meaning. When career and school counselors help educators make the career connection when teaching reading, writing, math, science and global perspectives, students may learn more about the jobs available, the training necessary, and the type of people and skills that are needed to become successfully employed in these careers.
Carol Johnson, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor teaching in the School Counseling program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dr. Johnson is a former teacher and school counselor. Contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org