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Racing Rats, Independent Cows, and Robots: Is Teaching Career Literacy in Early Grades Effective?

by Rose Gaylen


Teaching Career Literacy in Early Grades: Why it Matters


It’s not too early for both primary and secondary students to begin their work-based learning and career exploration journeys. Perhaps work based learning and career training sound too advanced for elementary or middle school students, as if it’s not relevant yet. But good career pathway foundations should be laid early, and occupational identities are formed early—research says as early as age 6. 


Robotics and Sustainable Farming: New Possibilities to Career Pathways


When kids explore career possibilities, and different skills in a way that’s applicable and appropriate for their age, there’s still plenty of ways to enjoy the early years of their schooling. They’ll be much more engaged in what they’re learning -- far more than the dry, outdated textbooks, worksheets and ‘activities’ that currently mar an education system which is still designed around the yearly planting schedule of a farmer. And not a modern farmer, either—the Grapes of Wrath version. 


Nothing against farmers, in fact we need more – and that’s just the point. Farming now includes robotics. Cows move through the milking stations at their own pace, according to when they feel they need to be milked. It's automated and efficient. The entire system keeps track of the food intake, vitamins, and even some of the medicines the cows might need to feel better and be their healthiest bovine selves. The system alerts the farmer when a cow needs assistance, and it cleans up the barn floors just like a trusty janitor keeping things clean and comfortable. 


Work-Based Learning and Career Exploration: Engaging Students in Learning


Work-based learning and career exploration is a necessary strategy for students to explore new possibilities and skills that they may not have known existed. And when they're engaged and invested in what they're doing, they have fun!  At MindSpark Learning, we believe that educators, schools, and districts should have strong, sustainable work-based learning programs that are locally connected to industry partners. These programs should address the needs of the labor market both locally and nationally and provide the modern education that students need today. 


Narrowing the Opportunity Gap and Increasing Diversity in STEM Fields


Problem solving is crucial, whether it's for architects and engineers addressing a growing population, or ecologists addressing the consequences of logging and fracking. And we need to narrow or even eliminate the opportunity gap and decrease underrepresentation in STEM. We're missing out on solutions that people of different genders and ethnic backgrounds can bring to the table. 


Kids see ideas and possibilities without the self-consciousness and cynicism that we inevitably hang around our necks as we get older. So, let's teach kids who see ways to save plant life, frog species, and cure cancer. Let's design ways to farm that are even more sustainable than they are now. Let's imagine a world where self-driving cars run on fuel that hasn't even been invented yet. 


The world is changing rapidly, and it won't be the same by the time we're done trying to prepare students for a successful future. But we can make it an innovative rat race. One based on equity, and maybe even the emancipation of rats themselves in science labs (fingers crossed). 


Building Foundations for Success: MindSpark Learning's Career Connected Learning Unleashed 


That's why MindSpark's new course, Career Connected Learning Unleashed, is here to address current educational inadequacies. We want to build more equitable access to successful careers by narrowing or eliminating belief, equity, skills, and pathways gaps. 


So, let's start building those foundations for success early, and unleash our kids' potential to create a better world. To learn more about Career Connected Learning Unleashed, visit www.mindspark.org/career-connected 


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