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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Introducing Students to the World of Work

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

We have been covering the video series called A Year at Mission Hill since it was released in January. You can see earlier episodes in the left column of this page. The eighth episode, called "The World of Work" is a particularly compelling one, in that it showcases how Mission Hill teachers engage their middle and elementary students in their community through the lens of work.

Middle School: The World of Work Project

Mission Hill 7/8th grade teacher Anne Ruggiero wanted to help her students become aware of the possibilities around career and life outside of school. This project gave them tools for exploring those possibilities.

As part of a writing project with 826 Boston, Ruggiero had her students contemplate and identify their interests. Then, she and her team combed the Boston area to find people -- real life martial artists and computer scientists, and even the mayor -- who could talk to the kids about their lives including how they got to their current jobs, and what they did day-to-day.

  • Learning the art of interviewing In preparation for these visits, students learned the crucial art of interviewing: asking good questions, listening, taking notes, and drawing out more information.
  • Writing first-person stories Then, they wrote up their "World of Work" essays as first-person stories, speaking from their interviewee's point of view.
  • Partnership with college students Ruggiero worked with a professor at Northeastern College to bring college students to her classroom and act as mentors. The mentors helped the middle schoolers refine their first-person stories, in addition to share with them some of the real-world stories about what it's like to be in college.
  • Arts integration Each student made a wood block print that appeared next to their interview. The student interviews were to be published in a book called A Place for Me in the World that was edited by the students and distributed nationally with the help of 826 Boston.

I will leave it to you to watch the video and see how the students reacted to seeing the books!

Elementary School: Students Tour Bakery and Recreate One in Class

With the same philosophy, Mission Hill elementary teachers bring their students out into the community where people are working.

  • Student-centered It is important, says Mission Hill's elementary teacher, that the kids drive their own learning. The class decided they wanted to tour a bakery, so they discussed and identified what they wanted to know, then read books, researched the internet, and apprenticed with a real baker.
  • Real-life experiences The delightful bake shop that the students create gives them direct experience of the value of chemistry, math, reading and writing as an integrated set of useful skills.

Again, you really must see the video to behold the wonder that is this delightful bakery.

The producers of A Year at Mission Hill have made numerous resources available. Please share any projects you've done that have helped engage students with their community through real world work. Or have you served as a mentor, or know of a school that is implementing something like this? It's such a powerful model.

A Year At Mission Hill
Explore the culture and community at one inner city elementary school in Boston through this documentary film series.

Comments (3)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Melissa Hamilton's picture

Learning the art of interviewing In preparation for these visits, students learned the crucial art of interviewing: asking good questions, listening, taking notes, and drawing out more information.

Rachel Gopp's picture

This is a great way to motivate students in school because it is based upon personality and interests. I especially like that college students were able to spend time with the middle schoolers. This creates positive role models and an incentive to go to college. There are many students who graduate high school not knowing what career is best for them. As a result, some of them begin taking college classes that they are guessing they are interested in, and they end up having to go to school for a longer time. Encouraging students to learn how to go into the community and find out what career truly interests them, will benefit them for life. I would definitely like to do something like this with my future classroom.

Helen Russell's picture
Helen Russell
Executive Director, Apprentice Learning

The World of Work is studied every four years as part of Mission Hill's thematic curriculum. Apprentice Learning, (http://apprenticelearning.org), a nonprofit partnered with Mission Hill School, provides a hands-on introduction to positive work habits and aspirational careers through short internships (apprenticeships) during the school day. All 8th graders at Mission Hill School participate in this experience. In fact, it is part of the school's graduation portfolio. Mission HIll School demonstrates that preparing students for careers, and helping them understand how their academic skills are used in the world of work can become part of a student's everyday learning experience. Bravo!

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