What do you want to be when you grow up? Ask any child that question, and you are bound to get a myriad of responses that range from firefighter to teacher to astronaut. And why not? Childhood is a time of wonder, imagination, and discovery, making this an excellent time to begin supporting career awareness through self-awareness. After surveying 500,000 students grades 5-12, a 2012 Gallup poll found that student interest and engagement in learning peaks during elementary school, after which follows a steady decline with each passing year (Viviano, 2015). Elementary school is the perfect time to combine an enthusiasm for learning with strategies to foster self-awareness.
In their article, Begin With The End in Mind, authors Papay, Unger, Williams-Diehm, and Mitchell establish the importance of self-determination. The authors assert that "developing self-determination and career awareness is a lifelong process that should begin in the primary grades." By doing so, we set students up for career and personal success following secondary school.
Cultivating self-determination pays off in the workplace. It is self-determination that allows individuals to set goals and execute action steps to accomplish those goals (Papay and et al., 2015). Career awareness promotes self-awareness from an early age as children learn about their abilities, their interests, and their strengths. Therefore, K-5 career awareness is at its best when integrated into the curriculum. The authors suggest easy strategies for cultivating essential career awareness skills into the elementary curriculum.
With developmentally appropriate learning experiences supporting career awareness, we can set students up for future success. Self-determination and self-awareness are essential to social and emotional learning. By cultivating these skills in our young students, we support career awareness, which can lead to greater self-awareness, build literacy skills, and support social and emotional development. To learn more about how INFOhio resources support social and emotional development, visit the Teach With INFOhio Blog and read the posts on supporting SEL for grades K-2 and grades 3-5.
What can K-5 educators do?
Supported by the Ohio Department of Education, SuccessBound provides resources for educators that dispel common myths related to career education. SuccessBound is changing the way we approach career education with promising practices from classrooms across Ohio. Here are some suggestions from the Educator Factsheet:
Implementing Creative Career Awareness in the Classroom
Can't bring a speaker to your classroom? Don't have the funding for a field trip? INFOhio has lots of resources that bring a variety of work environments and careers to your classroom.
From the main page, explore the "People at Work" category. Within this category, you will find encyclopedia entries, videos, pictures, stories, interactive learning games, and activities to cultivate career curiosity. Explore stories, complete with lesson plans, and printable beginning reader books. Learn more about using World Book Early Learning in the classroom in INFOhio Campus, our go-to spot for professional development.
Read Spend A Day with a Doctor or peek inside A Very Busy Firehouse. Learn more about What Does the President Do? and Who Works at the Zoo with eBooks from BookFlix. Create opportunities for your learners to explore work environments and build literacy skills with interactive learning games and bi-modal text. According to Harkins, vicariously experiencing the world of work through developmentally appropriate literature help younger students learn more about different careers.
Bring the stories of interesting people and their work to your classroom with World Book Kids. From the home screen, select Important People. Search by Job or Achievement and learn about the challenges inventors, explorers, teachers, and business leaders have overcome to launch successful careers.
Bring the world of fashion design, engineering, software development, and much more to your classroom with Gale in Context: Elementary. Cultivate career curiosity with access to magazine articles, biographies, images, and videos. Resources can be filtered by five different content levels, ensuring all students have access to high-quality, authentic texts to learn about a variety of careers. With highlighting and note taking tools, send to Google Drive, or send to OneNote, students can build digital literacy skills as they learn more about in-demand careers. You can search for careers by keyword, or explore the categories in the People category.
Engage students in self-directed career awareness as they explore career resources with IWonder. As Papay and et al indicate, self-awareness is critical to career awareness. With access to career interest surveys from OhioMeansJobs and Education Planner, upper elementary students begin to reflect on their skills, interests, and strengths using this information to guide their transition from career awareness to career exploration. IWonder includes links to resources for in-demand careers predicted to grow exponentially in the field of information technology and cyber security.
Bring the world of work to your classroom with videos from INFOhio's Digital Video Collection. Begin with the "Careers" playlist, videos selected to support career awareness, exploration, and planning. Curate your own collection of videos to promote career awareness. Many videos include teacher guides, lesson plans, and instructional resources to support career awareness instruction in your classrooms and libraries.
Big dreams for the future begin when we are young when anything is possible. Strategies for fostering career awareness build on existing classroom practices. Adults can do much to take advantage of a child's natural curiosity and engagement in learning to start building a positive attitude and habits towards careers and work.
Visit INFOhio's Career Awareness for K-5 students page to locate the resources featured in this blog post. To learn more about how to implement INFOhio's K-5 digital resources and tools into the classroom, visit INFOhio campus. Classes in the Ages 3-5 Digital Content Pathway and K-5 Digital Content Pathway include flexible, personalized professional development to support the use and integration of INFOhio's digital content and web tools.