Over the years, it has become apparent that schools need to integrate life skills into their curriculum so students are prepared for their futures. The Pennsylvania Department of Education created the Future Ready Index to evaluate learning in a more holistic way, and AHCCS has welcomed this way of teaching with open arms. AHCCS’s Future Ready Sessions that occur everyday present 7th-12th graders with real-world experiences and the chance to learn valuable skills that can help them thrive after high school.
“Kids can’t dream of something if they don’t know it exists, so we’re trying to show kids what they could do,” Mrs. Katie Mastauskas, STEM teacher, says. “Teaching them what’s out there opens a whole new door of opportunities and hopefully can spark potential interests.”
AHCCS’s Future Ready Sessions include STEM courses, college and career readiness courses, and lessons that discuss adult responsibilities. These all complement each other nicely because the STEM courses not only cover what careers use science, technology, engineering and math, but students are being challenged to think outside the box and consider real world issues.
“Students will not only have mini design projects in my class every month, but I will also be implementing a school wide STEM mission called The Garden Project,” Mrs. Mastauskas says. “It’s going to focus around a big, real world issue. One idea I have is basing it around the food shortage problem our population is currently experiencing. I am still developing the program, however, so I would love for students to tell me if there’s something they’d really like to learn more about.”
The concept of asking students to take an overall arching problem and then discuss the smaller parts of it is an important aspect of a future ready curriculum. Inspiring them to look at the bigger picture and then tackle other problems within it is necessary if we want students to think outside the box. We hope AHCCS students will participate in one particular event that could go hand and hand with The Garden Project and challenge students to have an open mind.
“I’m really excited about something called the E-Cyber mission,” Mrs. Mastauskas says. “This is a nationwide STEM competition where teams of students identify a problem within their community and work together to explore solutions for it. It allows students to use the design process and use their own prototype.”
Like the Future Ready Sessions at AHCCS, this is a task that doesn’t give step by step directions. They are simply given criteria and any constraints while trying to think of a solution on their own. Being creative is just one of the many ways Mrs. Mastauskas would like her students to approach this new education they are receiving this year.
“There is no right answer in my class, it is completely open ended,” Mrs. Mastauskas says. “I’ve had students ask if they are going to fail because the solution they came up with didn’t work. What I need them to remember is that it’s the process that matters, not the end result. If something doesn’t work, they should ask themselves what they learned from that. We’ve had so many advances in technology from things people originally saw as failures.”
We hope this year brings out new passions and discoveries in our students. We are thrilled to be able to offer them opportunities to advance their knowledge not just in the classroom, but in the outside world!