Simple Ideas for Making Career Education Fun

By Clare H. Garman

If there is one thing which I have learned through my many years of working with
people in a variety of situations, it is that they often learn best when they are actively engaged in something which is relevant to them. Part of the difficulty with teaching
career education to younger students is that they often feel that a career is something that they will have when they are much older or out of college, and that what is going on after school or even on Friday night is much more interesting. Since my new job required that I “infuse” career awareness activities into a program called the 9th Grade Technical Arts Exploratory, I quickly realized that I needed to make career information relevant and fun for these students. After briefly reflecting on my own adolescence and admitting that even I was more interested in other things at that time, I immersed myself in “pop” culture with the help of my niece and nephew and I found out about some things that students could relate to. Some of these things include money, food, sports figures, computer games, movies, music, movies stars and action-related activities. Now as these students cycled through different technical areas, and learned about technical careers while performing related “hands-on” projects, I visited classrooms armed with ideas, contests and games to inform students about careers and career decision making. I have included ideas which instructors can easily incorporate into both academic and technical classes.

Game Time
This is a good activity when it’s obvious that students need to get up and move around. Students move desks to one side of the room. There are three stations:

    (A) People-focused;
    (B) Action-focused; and
    (C) Information/Idea focused.
The teacher reads three statements; one relating to each category such as “Would you rather (A) plan a party with your friends; (B) work on installing more memory into your computer; (C)read about DNA cloning. Students move to the station that corresponds to their answer and marks their answer on a piece of paper. This continues with five or six different statements with students marking down their answers and counting the numbers of A’s, B’s and C’s. The teacher asks how many students had more A’s, B’s, etc. then describes
the categories. Students are asked to name occupations representative of those categories
and that students may enjoy occupations in those categories because they are attracted to activities in those occupations. Also students then determine if they might fall into one category more than another.

What’s Their Game?
Students view pictures of celebrities or people who are known for something, such as Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Venus Williams, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride,Brittany Spears and members of NSYNC. Students are asked what they have in common with each other. The answer is that they are doing what they enjoy and found what they are good at, have worked hard and have overcome obstacles to be successful. A discussion may follow on how we all have different abilities, strengths and aptitudes and need to discover them.

Word Puzzles
Students are given word search puzzles with a career theme. They need to find the occupations hidden in the word puzzle and name the theme or the career cluster which they represent. The first twenty students to return them to me in the career game box will win career power bars (candy bars or granola bars with the words career power attached).

Create a Bulletin Board
Students are asked to design a career bulletin board in a particular technical area; such as Electronics, Culinary, and Computer Programming and to find pictures and information related to occupations within that field. Students are given some career information web sites and the categories of information they must find. Some categories include: occupation outlook, salary trends, the main duties of the job, the personality characteristics needed; and education or training required.

In summary, although the subject of career education may not be as exciting as listening to Brittany Spears or watching Michael Jordan, there are many activities that teachers can do to have students start thinking about careers, and their own individual talents and abilities.

Clare Garman is a career counselor at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She previously worked as an Outreach Counselor/Director for an alternative education program at a local vocational technical school for more than fifteen years. Ms. Garman holds a M. Ed. from the University of Massachusetts-Boston and has recently taken courses at Tufts University in Medford. She is a Cambridge native.

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