After much thought about how to introduce careers to my K-2nd students, I decided to develop stations for various careers because kids enjoy doing “stations.” The next question was what careers could I easily develop into a hands-on station, with developmentally appropriate and safe activities? With my tendency to focus on activities that include reading, writing, math (measurement) and problem solving, I created four stations: carpentry, art (quilt designer), problem solving (career-related games or critical thinking/logic games) and research-a-career (using library career books). I had the advantage of being able to set up the stations in one room and the students come to the room during their life skills class time. However, with a little modification and planning, these stations could be placed in containers and transported on a cart to each classroom.
During my first year, I used one 35 minute class time with the four stations – it was very rushed. The next year I planned on two class times with the following guidelines and meeting format:
First class meeting
Second class meeting
Carpenter’s Station: At the carpenter’s station, students had the opportunity to measure real 2” x 4” lumber cut into various lengths with small carpenter tape measures (12 ft size). There was also a simple diagram for framing a small wall (2’ by 4’). The students needed to measure and layout the lumber needed to frame the wall like a carpenter. I also have a level and a carpenter’s square for the students to use. Materials needed for the Carpenter’s station:
Quilt Designer’s Station: The quilt designers had a chance to design their own quilt on the quilt design wall using pre-cut fabric squares. The students also had a chance to practice measuring their designs or the fabric squares, to look at quilting patterns (reading & measuring) and to look at a sewing machine. Materials needed at the Quilt Designer’s Station:
Research-A-Career Station: For this station, I ask the librarian to pull all of the age-appropriate career books from the school library. This station gives students a chance to explore other career options, in which they might be interested.
Problem-Solving Station: I have used Logic Links® or Noodlers® from Mindware. Logic Links® requires good reading skills and problem-solving/logic skills to correctly order the color disk according to the clues. Noodlers® is a visual problem-solving game. Students are given a picture with icons that must be separated into their own space using a certain number of sticks. Both activities were purchased from Mindware .
My goal has been to develop two new career stations each year so that I have a three year rotation. In year two, I developed the Plumber’s and the Plant Scientist’s stations, and in year three, the Architect’s and Auto Mechanic’s stations.
Hands-on career stations provide early elementary students the opportunity to explore career possibilities. Student engagement at each station is at a high level and students eagerly recall activities associated with the career stations the following year. Feedback from the faculty has been extremely positive as well. Overall, I feel that the hands-on career stations are a developmentally sound method of sparking career awareness and linking the need for academic learning in kindergarten, first and second grade students.