Career Pathways… Let The Journey Begin!

by Phyllis J. Nelson

In the summer of 2001, I awoke in the middle of the night with an idea of writing my own children’s book… one with all six of the career pathways. Rhymes flowed and a rough outline soon appeared. With daybreak, Pathway Pals was born.

We often hear of the “ideal” guidance program as one of establishing a K-12 Career Pathway system. Starting young does have its advantages. Children are open to new experiences. They have the confidence of believing that they can do anything in the world. In other words… they are fearless by nature. But, when evaluating the needs at the elementary level, two questions arise:

    1.Should you teach career pathways to your youngest children, and if so,
    2.How do you help children grasp the “pathway” concept?

What Are Career Pathways?

Career pathways are part of a comprehensive guidance system with the purpose of helping “all” students explore careers. Because there are thousands of jobs in the world, it can be confusing as to what is available or even knowing how begin exploring your career options. Career pathways solve this dilemma by sorting jobs into broad occupational groupings. The groupings are based upon the similarities of interests and requirements. Pathway names may vary, but they are often known as:
    Health Science
    Human Services
    Natural Resources

Beginning In Grade K… Let’s Pretend!

Career pathways are as natural as child’s play-pretending “to be” starts at age three or even earlier. Children are eager to role-play as mommy, daddy, teacher, doctor and more. With this in mind, very young children should enjoy learning about career pathways. Pathways serve as an excellent way in which to increase career awareness while encouraging “constructive” play.

So then, just how do you teach children about career pathways? This question was much harder to answer. As a K-12 counselor myself, I am always looking for quality career guidance materials. However, I found there to be limited resources for teaching career pathways at the elementary level. It’s true that some guidance materials are available. But, most books focus upon only one pathway… rather than providing an overview of all six.

The Awakening… A Dream Or Nightmare?

Until that evening in the summer of 2001, I was neither aware of a solution nor had any idea of the journey that lay ahead. Months later and after many revisions of my Pathway Pals storybook, my husband encouraged me to go a step further. I recruited my daughter, Nichelle, to ink the characters. (My stick figures left a lot to be desired.) Patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, the book took form.

I soon realized that Pathway Pals could be more useful if it was developed as a complete guidance system. I know from experience, that a counselor’s time is limited. So in addition to the storybook, I took on the project of making a companion activity book, classroom posters, lesson plans and the enrichment activities reference guide. My goal was to develop a seamless system where exposure to career pathways was increased as students progress from grade to grade. For instance,

    •Grade K: The storybook is read to introduce children to career pathways.
    •Grade 1: After reading the storybook, each child receives their very own Pathway activity book. These activities provide “hands-on” learning.
    •Grade 2: Pathway posters are displayed for visual learning and reinforcment of the pathway concept. Additionally, in-classroom activities provide a “first-hand” experience. For instance, an older student could show his/her artwork, do a skit or sing a song with the children to demonstrate the “Art” pathway.
    •Grade 3: Creativity, hands-on learning and teamwork participation results when students work in groups to develop their own classroom pathway posters. Plus, one or more field trips are planned for career pathway exploration in the community.

The Trial Run… Ready Or Not… Here We Come!

With the system in place, I wondered, “What is next?” In April of 2003, I decided that Pathway Pals was ready for the classroom. Nichelle, also an educator, did a trial run with first grade students. She set up a visit at her former elementary school.

I waited eagerly for her phone call with the results of the young critics. Ring went the phone… and I held my breath. “Mom, the children loved it,” said Nichelle. I felt instant relief.

My Own Pathway Exploration
Starting young does have its advantages… children are fearless. I wasn’t so brave. I almost gave up several times if it weren’t for the encouragement from my family.

Jumping into the publishing field has been quite an education in itself- - revision to revision, searching for a printer and developing a web site (http://ww.pathway-pals.com) - - just to name a few. So now I am sharing a bit of my life since the summer of 2001 and spreading the word about Pathway Pals.

For me, this has truly been an exploration of a path unknown. But now with the sun on my back and my ducks in a row, it is much easier to trudge forward. I must keep in mind, that with the confidence of a young child, I can do anything in the world… Let The Journey Begin!

Phyllis J. Nelson has an MA in Counseling Psychology, Secondary Endorsement, and Counseling Psychology, Elementary Endorsement. She also has a BS in Secondary Education, (Major: Distributive Education, Minor: Business Education, Vocational Certification). Her experience includes working as a Counselor at Van Buren Technology Center, Lawrence, MI 1995-present and a Counselor and Placement Director, at Lake Michigan College, Benton Harbor, MI 1988-1995 in addition to other positions.
Phyllis' Publications/Program Development include:
In-house educational and promotional materials at the high school and college level
software development:
EDP 2000+ A computerized educational development plan written in Microsoft Access, 1999
Picture Your Career, A computerized career pathway program written in Microsoft Access to assist students in choosing a career pathway. (Anticipated completion, Fall 2004)

Email: pjnelson1@yahoo.com
Web Site:http://www.pathway-pals.com

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