“When you’re in high school, and you’re thinking about a career, you could think about what’s just going to make you a lot of money, or you could think about something that you’re going to be happy doing for the rest of your life.”

This advice, offered by a Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate, illustrates a primary theme of the Working Class public television series: inspiring students and teachers to connect academics with practical experiences and to relate classroom learning to careers.

hammer“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question adults ask kids all the time. But, how often do we sit down and explore real career options with them? Do we help them understand how the things they learn in school apply to real-life challenges?

Have you ever wished you could go back to school with a greater appreciation for how the world works? I have often thought I would pay much closer attention and work harder – not for the grades, but to gain a greater understanding of things that I now need to know. That includes everything from planning my finances to understanding how systems and machines that I use every day actually work.

Have you ever wished you could go back to school with a greater appreciation for how the world works?

We know that education is mandatory, but do we understand that it is important? Do we explain to students how the lessons they are learning will make a difference in the quality of their lives?

spider-designIf we want our kids to have the opportunity to earn a living doing something they enjoy, we need to help them lay the groundwork for success now. We can do that by encouraging them to explore their interests and follow their curiosities as part of the learning experience.

We know that education is mandatory, but do we understand that it is important?

We need to do more than remind them they’ll be on their own one day. We must help them consider where their talents and interests lie, then encourage them to find ways to connect their basic education – reading, writing, and mathematics – to those things they enjoy.

gogglesHere are three simple things we can do now to help inspire the next generation to make the most of their learning experiences:

(1) Give them access to books, magazines, and reputable Internet resources that relate to the subjects they find interesting. Read along with them. When the subject matter is interesting – and you are sharing the experience with them – they may get more excited about reading.

(2) When their homework assignment includes writing an essay, encourage them to write about something that relates the subject matter to their personal interests. They may need to do some research in order to link the assignment to a subject they find compelling, but treat the exercise like a game and they may rise to your challenge.

(3) Think about the role numbers play in their hobbies – whether it be observing nature, making things, or playing sports or video games – and describe ways that learning mathematics could help them do what they love to do even better.

2-writersThe next time you ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” also be willing to share from your own experiences and provide a bit of guidance to encourage young minds to stay open to opportunities they will enjoy.

Encourage them to consider the advice (given at the beginning of this piece) of Penn College graduate Lauren Hoderny-Hill – to think about something that they will be happy doing for the rest of their lives – and then learn everything they can about it.

Working Class: Build and Grow Green premieres Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. on WVIA TV.

Lauren, who now works at one of the nation’s top public gardens, appears in the latest episode Working Class, which premieres later this month. I hope you will watch and learn more about her life as a senior gardener at Longwood Gardens.

The broadcast premiere of Working Class: Build and Grow Green, a production Penn College and WVIA Public Media, is set for Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. on WVIA TV. The film also will be available for viewing on the series website on that date. Please tune in and invite a student or teacher in your life to watch with you.


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