At The Learning Center! Charter School, students as early as fifth grade are already engaging in career exploration to find out what it would be like to work in technology-related fields. As part of the school’s highly developed STEM program, students spend time dedicated to projects that emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in these four specific disciplines.
As part of this STEM-based approach to education, on January, 16th and 30th, fifth grade math and science teacher, Gina Stafford’s class had two Skype sessions with some of her former co-workers from Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport in Tennessee. Civil engineers, Sherry Self, Eric Williamson and Jessica Miller–a geographic information system (GIS)/Environmental specialist– talked to students via the internet, using a webcam and Skype video chat in the classroom. They described their specific jobs at the airport and what kind of education one would need for these types of careers.
The civil engineers showed pictures of the airport and discussed some of the current projects, such as the runway renovation project that is projected to take about six years to complete.
Teacher Gina Stafford, who formerly worked in the Department of Engineering and Planning at the airport, worked with civil engineers and GIS/Environmental specialists and arranged the Skype sessions with her students. “It’s pretty cool because one of the civil engineers and a (GIS)/Environmental specialist is female, which can help students see that these are also great career fields available to women,” said Stafford.
The students really seemed to enjoy these sessions according to Stafford and they learned a great deal via the webcam interaction. “This really helps students make connections between just talking about careers and real-world scenarios,” said Stafford. “And they have fun at the same time!”
Stafford also pointed out the airport has marketing, public relations, operations, facility maintenance, accounting, and human resource personnel who would be willing to Skype with students interested in these various career fields at the airport.