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Suggested Activities for Career Education

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Career education may be hailed by educators as a breakthrough in making education relevant to the lives of today's youth; however, without family and parental involvement, the objectives and goals of career education can become isolated within the classroom, without becoming an integral part of the life of the student. The effectiveness of the career education movement may very well rest with the individual teacher's ability to create a program that reaches out to the student not only in the classroom but in all phases of the child's life. Teachers may glean ideas from the following suggested activities, realizing that not every program will work in a given area. These are only a few examples a wise and innovative elementary teacher might devise to involve parents in improving the contribution of home and family to career education. With initiative and planning, teachers may create an effective program for almost every situation.

Parents representing a broad base of careers make a classroom presentation illustrating aspects of their work. Wherever possible, actual work situations are discussed, accompanied by pictures, uniforms, and other paraphernalia characteristic of the field of work.

Teacher Involvement


  1. Become acquainted with the types of work performed by the parents

  2. Contact those parents who represent a variety of careers to participate in the program

  3. Orient parents on the purpose of the activity before the program is started

  4. Prepare the students for the activity by making the necessary preparations to ensure that each parent, irrespective of his or her occupation, is treated with dignity and respect and that status is given to each career

  5. Provide an experience whereby the children would list the contributions they feel the different occupations provide

  6. Assist the students in understanding how many of these jobs relate to tasks in the home; for example, preparing meals and serving them (restaurant work), housecleaning (hotel management), grocery shopping (purchasing agent), paying bills (business management), repairing the car (auto mechanic), caring for the lawn and yard (landscaping)

  7. Conduct several follow-up activities (outlined below)
Follow-up Activities

Immediately following the activity, teachers should provide opportunities for students to become involved in learning about tasks related to the careers of their parents. For example, if a father is employed as a bus driver, let a student review the meaning and significance of traffic signals.

The teacher may wish to provide opportunities for the students to visit the worksite of one particular parent. For example, if a mother is a nurse, the class could visit a hospital (with the proper permission from the head of staff) so that the students could receive additional stimuli from an orientation on careers in the realm of medicine.

Activity 2: Parental Role-Playing by Students
  1. Assign all of the students to consult with their parents to learn of the kinds of work their parents perform in their occupations.

  2. Create sufficient enthusiasm and excitement in the classroom so that children will carry this feeling into the home.

  3. Encourage children to bring tools or wear clothing used by parents in connection with their work.

  4. Supervise practice sessions in the classroom.

  5. Invite parents to attend the classroom and participate in the activity.

  6. Supervise the activity in the classroom. If desired, the occupational exploration activity may be combined with music, drama, and art. For example:

    (a)    In one elementary school in Atlanta, the students presented an "occupational operetta," writing the script and music and dramatizing the work their parents performed in their daily occupations. The operetta helped the parents as well as the children learn about the kinds of contributions all of the careers made to our society. This type of activity could be used to introduce or to climax a career exploration program.

    (b)    In still another elementary school in Atlanta, the career exploration activity was combined with the fine arts area of education, with the children "interviewing" and then writing about the careers of their parents. In addition, the poet laureate of Georgia wrote poems about her impressions of the parents' jobs. As a follow-up, students also composed poems and sonnets, but these they sent to the poet laureate. The interchange of ideas and impressions was beneficial to students, parents, and perhaps even to the poet laureate.
Follow-up Activities

Teachers will find that the following activities will help to "cement" new knowledge the students have about their parents' occupations:
  1. Review the various occupations that were acted out (or where applicable, were dramatized), and discuss the contributions of each career.

  2. Collect pictures of occupations that were not represented in the activity, and discuss their importance to the home and family living.
Activity 3: Consultations with Parents

Teachers should give ample time for consulting with parents to discuss career education and its implications and for counseling parents on relating home situations to those of the elementary school. Through parent-teacher conferences, consultations, organizations, meetings, or newsletters, the teacher can identify or explain projects in career education while soliciting parental help. Each teacher will need to select the manner in which it is most effective to contact parents within his local setting.

Teacher Involvement
  1. Organize and carefully plan conferences to identify projects and activities that will be discussed.

  2. Communicate personally with parents, offering them suggestions on how they can incorporate career exploration activities with home life. Point out how many work areas in the home relate to occupations outside the home.

  3. Listen to suggestions of parents and incorporate these into school activities wherever possible.

  4. Express enthusiasm for programs in career exploration in the home. Create an atmosphere in which parents will feel comfortable.

  5. Provide information to parents on the interests or abilities of their children. If parents seem to have unrealistic goals for their children, do not openly oppose their plans, but help them re-channel their thinking by pointing out abilities of their children in other endeavors.

  6. Conduct follow-up activities.
Activity 4: Exploring Work with Parents

The objective of this activity is to provide an opportunity for the child to observe his parent(s) on the job for a short period of time. Firsthand knowledge of work at a factory, in a store or office, or at an outdoor worksite will give children an overview of their parents' niches in the world of work. The children will have a greater respect for the jobs and an appreciation of what the jobs entail, and will be better able to see how their parents relate to co-workers. The teacher can lay the foundation for accomplishing this activity by:
  1. After becoming acquainted with the work situations of the parents, plan a job visitation program that is practicable for local situations, selecting a committee of parents to assist in planning and implementing the activity. (See step 3 for examples.)

  2. Explain in detail to the students what this activity will entail: parents' approval, foreman's or supervisor's approval, etc. Generate enough enthusiasm in the children that they will be successful in securing participation of their parents.

  3. Work with the committee of parents in orienting all parents on the purpose of this activity. For this activity to be successful, the parents should understand at the outset that their efforts in securing permission for their children to visit them on the job will help to reinforce their children's concept of the workaday world. By having the various tasks explained to them, the youngsters will get a first-hand knowledge of the types of careers their parents are pursuing. For example:

    (a)    A father or mother who is a barber or beauty shop operator might arrange for his or her son or daughter to visit the barber shop or beauty salon to see hair trimmed or cut: for a man, for a woman, for an older person, for a teenager, or for a child. The parent could expand the significance of the lesson by explaining the "psychology" he or she uses on the different customers in urging them to try a new hair style or a new tint. The parent could explain how barbering depends more on one's ability to sell people a service and make them pleased with the result than merely the cutting of hair. The children could relate this work with school lessons in mathematics (costs of various cuts, overhead, paying for supplies), social studies (explaining to customers how hair styles change), English (using proper grammar), and so forth.

    (b)    A retail sales clerk (mother or father) could arrange for the child to watch during the actual selling of an item, taking the money for the item sold, ringing the money on the cash register, "making change," bagging or wrapping the article, and thanking the customer as the parcel is presented. If the children visit at a time when there are no customers, they will see the parent keeping busy by arranging merchandise for display, stamping canned goods, marking price tags, and so forth. Any actual hands-on experience can provide the stimulus for a child to begin to think about the world of work, especially if the parent tells why he or she "likes" the job.

Parental Involvement

Several parents could become a working committee to plan activities-making arrangements for all of the children in the classroom to visit worksites, irrespective of the home environment. The ideal situation of course would be for all of the parents to participate by arranging for visitation to their jobs; but since this will be the exception rather than the rule, the committee could identify those whose employers accede to the request.

Activity 5: Learning to Manage

Through a role-playing activity in the classroom, the teacher can assist the children in learning how to purchase items for family use. The children could collect pictures from catalogs or magazines, determine the price they deemed appropriate for each item, and make price tags for the "merchandise." Then by using "play" money from a game or some they have made themselves, they could set up store and buy and sell the articles (pictures). As an extension of this activity, the children could take the money and pictures home and conduct a similar activity among family members.

Teacher Involvement
  1. Review the role of the family in buying goods and services.

  2. Provide the impetus for the children to bring play money and pictures of various types of merchandise (both expensive and inexpensive) to the classroom. Help them attach price tags to the items.

  3. Explain the buying and selling principles, and supervise the activity.

  4. Prepare a simple list of instructions for the children to take to their parents along with the play money and pictures so that the parents can reinforce the knowledge gained from this activity by engaging in a similar exercise at home.

  5. Conduct follow-up activities.
Parental Involvement

The parents may wish to make the home activity more personal and meaningful for their child by using actual buying and selling experiences and explaining them to the child-itemizing and tallying the cash register check tab from the grocery or dry goods store, comparing real bills and coins with those the child made in the classroom, checking costs of items in newspapers, catalogs, or magazines. Consulting the instruction checklist that the teacher prepared will make it easier for the parents to "zero in" on the specific areas of learning that their children are receiving in school.

Follow-up Activities

Devote several days to allowing the children to report on the buying and selling activities that were completed in their homes.

Activity 6: Who Am I?

This activity may become the most popular one in the school year: giving the child the opportunity to tell of the talents and abilities of family members. By outlining a "questionnaire" for the child to take home for interviewing family members, the teacher can guide the child in the rudiments of querying a person for information. Let the children help with the outline, incorporating good as well as not-so-good suggestions, but making sure that all suggestions are received with equal consideration.

Teacher Involvement

The teacher must be cognizant of various facets of psychology in this exercise, relying on his educated guesses as to whether a child shows an affinity for any activities below:
  1. As each child recites the talents, etc., of his or her family, be alert to any likes, dislikes, abilities, and interests that the child may display. Jot them down by each child's name so that you can relay them to the parents during consultations.

  2. Assist the students in preparing a handbook for recording special interests and goals.

  3. Assist the students in filling out a part of the handbook in the classroom.

  4. Encourage the students to take their handbooks home with them to discuss them with the family. A section should be filled in by each family member, with family goals set for each member.
Parental Involvement

The parents should review the handbook with their child, being alert for any special interests or abilities exhibited by them-selves as well as the children. They can assist their children in setting goals and determining what must be done to achieve these goals.

Follow-up Activities

Teachers should review the handbooks with the students from time to time, encouraging the boys and girls to continue to add to the pages. The teachers can also encourage the students to engage in other activities outside the home and school which correspond to family and individual interests and abilities-churches, neighborhood theater groups, and the like.
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