To the Editor:
I read with interest “Career-Preparation Programs Take Root in Middle Schools” and agree completely with Jason A. Cascarino, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Spark, who was quoted in the article. Cascarino argued that we need to meet middle school kids “where they are” as we offer them a sense of various career options.
Through the National Science Foundation-funded STEM Learning and Research Center, also known as STELAR—led by Education Development Center, where I work—my colleagues and I support projects around the country that focus on getting middle and high school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The projects implemented by the center are varied, and include, for example, using apparel design as a vehicle to introduce middle school girls to geometry, electronics, and thermal transfer. This teaches them about engineering careers through STEM learning. It’s hands-on, collaborative, relevant—but it is also fun.
If there is one thing that we have learned in our work, it is that successful career-preparation programs for kids in this age group must focus on making connections between careers and real-world contexts and problems. The best programs build motivation and the ability to overcome the obstacles that these young people may face in the future.
Senior Project Director
Pathways to College and Careers
Education Development Center
A version of this article appeared in the August 26, 2015 edition of Education Week as Middle-Schoolers Need Context, Connection in Career Education