Submitted by Shane Mauldin, McKinney ISD
With an eye toward the future, Glen Oaks Elementary put a new twist on Career Day recently by setting aside the traditional parade of guest presenters in favor of a more hands on approach. Rather than bring guests in, Glen Oaks sent their 5th graders out to the District’s high schools to get a first hand look at the wide range of Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities available to them in McKinney ISD—and the future careers to which they lead.
The day-long event in April gave the Glen Oaks kids a chance to begin exploring possible career paths, and it gave their older peers an opportunity to take on the role of mentor and share a little of what they have learned along the way.
And over the course of the day, what became clear is that there is something for everyone.
In a logistical feat worthy of Mensa membership, the staff at Glen Oaks arranged an individualized schedule for every 5th grade student, allowing each to pick his or her top 6 choices from the 16 CTE program clusters offered in McKinney ISD—everything from flower arrangement to forensics to robotics.
The kids boarded buses bound for Boyd, MHS and North for the morning sessions, enjoyed a leisurely lunch around mid-day and then rotated to a new campus for the afternoon. At each high school campus, students were grouped according to their interests and were accompanied by teachers, parent volunteers and high school mentors as they visited classrooms.
Kristin Ross, captain of the MHS FIRST Robotic Team, gave her group of students some pointers on maneuvering her team’s robots around an obstacle course (see top picture) —and answered their many, many questions.
“They ask a lot of questions which is awesome,” Ross said. “I love it. I love that they ask a lot of questions—‘So is this electrical tape?’ ‘Yes, it’s electrical tape.’ ‘Why is electrical tape there?’ ‘Well, I’ll explain it to you.’”
“They actually are really interested in robotics,” she said, “so I’m happy because I think when they get to high school, the program will definitely be bigger than it is now. We’re starting a legacy.”
No doubt about it—robots are awesome. But, another activity from earlier that morning had Glen Oaks 5th grader Beau Brewer captivated.
“I wouldn’t mind doing robotics,” Beau said. “But, it’s not my favorite thing.” He held up a plank of wood that had been tucked under his arm and proudly displayed the football design etched into the surface. He had made it in the MHS wood shop. “I found the construction class pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, in the MHS forensics classroom (see above), seniors were teaching another group of 5th graders how to lift fingerprints from various surfaces and how to extract DNA samples—in this case, from a strawberry. And, in the forensics class across town at Boyd, Glen Oaks students were trying out blood spatter measurement and hair/fiber examination.
At the Ag Barn (below left), MHS senior Sierra Francis and Agriculture teacher Rick Lemons introduced their Glen Oaks visitors to the sights—and smells—of the District’s steer and swine programs. The 5th graders tested their skill at walking a pig, and Francis talked about the importance of helping younger kids find their passion.
“I think a lot of them didn’t know that this is a part of McKinney ISD, and I think it’s great that they’re learning about this and learning about it younger—rather than waiting until high school,” she said.
“They’re the future. That’s the future of our agricultural program at McKinney ISD and the future of our FFA clubs, so it’s really nice to see that some of them have that spark. I wish I had known about this at a younger age because I definitely would have started FFA a lot earlier,” Francis said.
Tamy Smalskas, McKinney ISD Director of Special Projects and CTE, was thrilled with the District’s first attempt at this type of event.
“The entire day was remarkable!” Smalskas said. “The parents and students were amazed with what McKinney ISD offers our kids. It created a true bridge between elementary and high school families. The high school kids were excited to share their learned skills with these 5th graders, and the connections that were made will last forever.”
And, as those younger students caught glimpses of the career possibilities that await them—cosmetology, health science, aviation, animal science, pharmacology, graphic design, construction, law enforcement and on and on—they found that there is something for each of them.
And the possibilities are limitless.