Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Connecting School to Work: Preparing Early for a Career

At Shorecrest High, these two students joined the school-to-work program — with some outstanding results.

July 1, 1997

The school-to-work program at Shorecrest High School turned a hobby into real work for Kevin Baillie and Ryan Tudhope.

Credit: Kevin Baillie and Ryan Tudhope

School inspires, educates, and profoundly influences us in nearly every way possible. It gives shape to who we are and what our futures hold for us, and it can help us discover the previously hidden talents and abilities that may give us the crucial edge needed to succeed in today's competitive world.

For these reasons, we bring to your attention the exceptional technology and business programs that are an integral part of Shorecrest High School's curriculum. As students at Shorecrest, in Shoreline, Washington, we were encouraged to take advantage of the school-to-work programs, and we gladly did so. The results of our experience reached far beyond our wildest dreams and expectations.

We began our journey into the world of work at the beginning of our freshman year. We both enrolled in Drafting Technology I, an introductory course to AutoCAD and other computer-aided drafting programs.

Our instructor, Rick Nordby, and student colleagues encouraged us to experiment with the computers and various software. Mr. Nordby saw that we had a passion for work in this area, so he brought a number of professional-quality graphics to our attention. We were amazed that three-dimensional software allowed us to create worlds within the computer.

From Hobby to Job

Following our introduction, we spent as much time as possible on what was then our hobby: creating realistic-looking, three-dimensional computer graphics animations.

The Shorecrest program provided us with the equipment, time, and instruction necessary to elevate our skills to the next level. But we came to realize that skills are not always enough to take someone straight to the top. The focus of the Shorecrest program is to launch students into the business world.

The leadership and contacts of Shorecrest's principal and the school-to-work specialist opened doors for the more than twenty students who go through the program every year. As a result of their internships, Shorecrest students often work at well-paying jobs during the summer and after their graduation. Students have received jobs that range from designing signs and billboards to planning houses.

As a direct result of this program and our hard work, we gained a reputation throughout the community. The first corporation to take note of our talents was Trionix. The owners approached us about working on a project after they saw demonstrations of our work. We were given the responsibility to create animated visualizations and fly-throughs for a multi-million dollar project dealing with the renovation of the Space Needle, a prominent landmark here in Seattle.

We immediately filed for a business license, created our own company, Aura Studios, and began production on our first real-world project. To help us complete the work, Trionix and the Space Needle provided a matching grant to the school to purchase a graphics workstation. While at Trionix, we continued to work closely with the Shorecrest faculty as we negotiated contracts, consulted with large architectural firms, and learned business etiquette and financial management, all of which will be indispensable to us in the future.

Working and Learning at School

As time passed, our professional careers continued to advance. Our work at Trionix brought us thirty additional contacts in the computer, architectural, and game development industries. One of these was Mark Kenworthy, a project director at Microsoft, who came to Shorecrest to discuss with us a project his group was putting together.

The production, later called Bloodstar, would be a five- or six-minute, computer-animated film designed to demonstrate new technologies developed by Microsoft.

We were hired for the job, and our initial work on the project was primarily conducted in the Shorecrest drafting department. We scheduled regular meetings with both our Microsoft and Shorecrest advisers to discuss the script, storyboards, and timelines. With summer vacation came the exciting prospect of working on the Microsoft campus itself.

We were assigned a small office and quickly set up a workspace to serve as our residence. We had unlimited access to state-of-the-art computer equipment and a vast bank of human knowledge.

A Boon to Academic Skills

Our work at Microsoft expanded our technical knowledge, refined our artistic abilities and, most important, gave us experience in corporate America. Now our business-related skills can be applied to any field we may choose to pursue. But these skills and knowledge also reach beyond the office directly into our school work and personal lives.

We've improved our presentation, writing, and communication skills and are now able to create animated movies, write detailed scripts, draw storyboards, and render colorful posters. From English to art, our ability to create visual images has greatly enhanced the overall effectiveness of our school work and projects as a whole.

While working on our Microsoft project, the George Lucas Educational Foundation visited Shorecrest. Some of our encounters with Microsoft are captured in the resulting documentary film, Learn & Live: Engaging in Real-World Projects. One of the most exciting aspects of being in the documentary film is knowing that the great experiences we had can serve as examples to students and schools everywhere.

A 'Real-World' Experience

We sometimes ask, "Where would we be without Shorecrest's school-to-work program?" Students everywhere need to have exposure like we've had to the "real world." And by using the Internet and sophisticated computer software programs, it now is feasible for schools to simulate the workplace (and its related technologies) so that even the youngest students can be exposed to what we've learned firsthand. Learn & Live: Engaging in Real-World Projects provides powerful images to a wide audience about how technology can affect the way that we learn and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.

The twenty-first century holds many of our dreams and visions. More educational institutions can and will center themselves around the vast world of multimedia learning opportunities. We hope that classrooms will expand links to the outside world and the trillions of pages of information contained on the Internet. In time, the desk space in front of each student might be occupied by a built-in console networked to the entire world.

Live video conferences with European students, class link-up projects, and the simple ease of administering tests and assignments will become a clear reality. Since many of the schools and programs featured in Learn & Live already are approaching these capacities, we anticipate the future of public education with great excitement.

It is important for us to recognize, however, the important role teachers will continue to serve. Even with the extraordinary amount of technology available at Shorecrest, our career options opened up because they were built on a solid education from the teachers at school who constantly challenged us to better ourselves.

Technology has not directly altered our lives. Rick Nordby, with the assistance of technology, has changed our lives. Computers and multimedia technologies are extremely powerful teaching tools but are not substitutes for inspired and visionary teaching.

Our creativity springs from the interaction we have with others. The school-to-work program at Shorecrest High School has given us the opportunity to interact with others in a productive environment. Along the way, we've expanded our creative skills and knowledge and our prospects for a successful career by working with what began as a beloved hobby: computer graphics.

Kevin Baillie and Ryan Tudhope were students at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Washington, when they co-wrote this article.

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  • 9-12 High School

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