The type of learning that takes place in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provides natural opportunities for CTE students to connect with younger students and the broader community. Because CTE classes and the related experiential learning are modeled after real world career paths, there are many ways to invite younger students into the action. Younger students can be the customers, recipients, or participants when CTE students create products, plan special events, or offer other services. This collaboration gives CTE students a sense of purpose and accomplishment in their work while providing younger students unique experiences and models for potential learning opportunities as they grow older.
Benefits Of Collaborations
For CTE students, cross-grade-level collaborations provide direction and meaningful context for their work. Because the product or activity will be seen and enjoyed by someone else, students have greater motivation to ensure a good outcome. Having a real audience or customer for one’s work helps to reframe the entire process – planning is more thoughtful, the work is of higher quality, and there is opportunity for natural feedback and refinement. And working with younger students provides a safe and understanding audience for CTE students who are learning as they are creating or producing. It also gives these students opportunities to practice important customer service and public relations skills, which are important across all industries.
For younger students, these cross-grade-level collaborations are incredibly meaningful and exciting. They provide time with older students whom they look up to, offer interesting learning opportunities, and showcase examples of the types of things they can participate in when they get to high school. These kinds of collaborations expand the types of experiences students can participate in and build dynamic learning communities across the district.
Examples Of Collaborations
The starting point for these collaborations should be the CTE programs that exist within a district. Consider the goals of local CTE programs and how working with younger grades could contribute to reaching those goals. Think through the kinds of products that could be designed or produced; what events could support the community; and what services students can offer. Here are some examples of cross-grade collaborations to inspire this thinking.
- Creating Made-to-Order Products: Family and consumer science students could partner with younger students to design and create a product. These might include stuffed animals, t-shirts, pillowcases, or tote bags. Younger students could choose the color or fabric and CTE students would create the product.
- Demonstrating Technical Skills: CTE students within auto career paths might teach younger students about how cars and engines work. Students who have experience with woodworking or welding could show younger students the types of tools they use and the kinds of products they create.
- Planning Student Events: Students working on leadership or business skills might work to plan an event for younger students or even the broader community. This could include a day of crafts or games, a family dance party, or a local craft and vendor fair. From organizing the details, to marketing, to managing a budget, these types of events provide CTE students with a whole host of experiences that reinforce their learning.
- Managing a School Store: CTE students might combine their skills by running a school store–either as a year-round establishment or a pop-up shop during special events. CTE students working on business and marketing skills could manage the store while students who are learning to make and create could sell their products. Younger students and their families could be invited to browse and shop.
- Preparing Food for School or Community Events: CTE students learning about the culinary arts could showcase their learning and skills by preparing food for various school and community events. These students might prepare a special snack for younger students, host a teacher appreciation brunch for their former elementary teachers, or offer a cooking class for younger students and a family helper.
- Providing Technical Support: CTE students learning about computers could partner with elementary schools to help teach younger students about their devices. CTE students learning about audio and visual equipment could offer their support at younger students’ programs, events, and plays.
Engaging The Community
With cross-grade-level collaborations, students get to have authentic experiences using the skills they have learned and developed in their CTE programs. Students creating food for others are chefs. Students making and selling their products are entrepreneurs. Students organizing and managing an event are event planners. And students seeing a community need and figuring out how to address it are problem-solvers and leaders. These real life applications drive student learning, motivation, enthusiasm, and success.
These students’ contributions elevate the overall dynamics of a community. There is a richer set of offerings available for students. There is a greater sense of connectedness with more people engaged and interacting. And, there is an increased appreciation for the talents and skills of CTE students–both now and in the future–when they will continue to contribute as professionals in our communities beyond high school graduation.
Providing cross-grade collaboration opportunities to students can have a lasting impact on their career plan. See how SchooLinks supports activities like that and more at your district.