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"Talk and Try:" Real World Learning to the Classroom

"Talk and Try:" Real World Learning to the Classroom

“Did you always know that you wanted to be a principal?” When asked this question by a student, Cherokee Elementary School’s principal, Valerie Montgomery, had to stop and pause…and start brainstorming with her building leadership team.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at the school’s “Passion Project Day,” students explored different activities thanks to volunteers who came in to share about their passions. “Passion Project Day was about the importance of having our students try things they may not have the opportunity to do elsewhere,” Montgomery said. 

With volunteers back in the buildings, Montgomery and her team decided it was time for real-world learning to make its return as well. “What if we could bring a few people in to share about their career, experience and passion?” she asked. 

Montgomery enlisted the help of Lakota’s strategic partnership coordinator, Katie Bauer, and the sixth-grade team to recruit speakers for the career-day event they called “Talk and Try.” Together, the group set up six different careers that students could choose from: Sales Management; Mental Health; Pipefitting; Graphic Design; Medical Devices; and Electrical Engineering.

“Careers are…about having a passion,” explained sixth-grade teacher Monica Lidman. “It seemed like a natural fit for our kids as we start having conversations about growing older and discovering things you enjoy that might get you thinking about your future.”

During the event, students were able to rotate through five of the six options, including their top three choices. The speakers talked about their careers for 10-15 minutes then led the students through an activity that would give them a taste of what the job might be like. “The students were so engaged and excited,” said Montgomery. “I’ve had parents tell me that the students were talking about (the experience) when they got home.”

“I thought it was really fun,” said Isla Coatney, a sixth grader whose favorite career was electrical engineering. “I love science and I’m pretty good at math,” she continued. She really enjoyed the “try it” portion when she worked with a battery and magnets to make wires move.

Abigail Rai, who also enjoyed the electrical engineer presentation, was surprised by the options. “There were a lot of different jobs that we didn’t think about.”

“There are so many more career opportunities for kids than when I was a Lakota student,” said Lidman. “We want the kids to know as much as possible about the world of work and the opportunities they ALL have.”

“I think the try it part made it come to life,” said Bauer. “The try it part made it relatable for the students and helped them understand the why behind what they do.” 

Kean Shoen would agree. The sixth grader was surprised to discover that he was interested in sales management. “I realized that I liked the idea of selling (a variety of products),” he said. However, joining the United States Air Force is still at the top of his list.

Lidman is pleased with how the event turned out. “Our kids do a lot of learning with us.  We love taking their learning in different directions,” she said. “Sometimes the best learning happens when we set aside time to try new things.”

And, the answer to the question that sparked “Talk and Try?” No, Montgomery didn’t always know she wanted to be a principal, but she is certainly glad she did.

  • real world learning