What do you want to be when you grow up?
It’s a question children are often asked, but they may not always be aware of the immense possibilities.
The Merced City School District offers opportunities including career days, college tours, and other educational excursions to help connect students to some of the many options, and now our seventh and eighth graders are also getting a chance to ‘see the future’ with the help of their teachers and technology.
During the past two weeks, approximately 2,400 students from all four of our middle schools have visited our state-of-the-art STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Center for lessons designed to educate and inspire them. Several different stations were set up throughout the facility.
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In one room, staff members spoke about the wide variety of post-secondary education options, from trade schools to junior colleges to universities, as well as the differences between them.
Students could then use interactive software on their Chromebooks to help determine which institutions might be a good fit for them.
They also had an opportunity to take virtual reality tours of colleges and universities all across the country using Oculus headsets. In just minutes, they were exploring campuses as far away as New York.
One student told me the immersive experience sparked his interest in attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado. In the main room, staff members spoke to students about careers they may have never considered and linked them to topics that are often popular with kids.
For those who enjoy sports, they delved into lesser known options such as equipment engineers. For those who love animals, they mentioned not only veterinarian positions, but also jobs at wildlife refuges. The presentation also touched on the education each career may require.
The third room gave students a chance to try some of the tools that are used in various professions.
They could learn how a laser cutter works and watch it in action, try their hand with a pen that creates 3D objects, build electronic circuits, or use calipers and bone samples to solve a missing person case.
One station also gave students materials to create their own mortarboards. Hoover seventh grader Azteca Pina placed a UC Merced logo on hers and told me how proud she would feel to wear such a cap on her high school graduation day.
She also explained that she would like to attend the university and become a counselor so she can help people who may be struggling with difficult issues. In another room, students could share their aspirations in a different way by recording messages about their future plans in front of a green screen.
Our STEAM Coordinator, Adrienne Nau, says it’s been exciting to see each station making an impact on our students. She explains, “If they like working with their hands, they get attached to the tools. If they saw a college they never thought about before, they start researching that.
Some of them are talking about different careers they might want to pursue and trying to research what education they’ll need for that.” It’s all about giving our students the motivation and information they need to envision bright futures, set goals for success, and ultimately achieve their dreams.