On May 9, University Elementary At La Fiesta School in Rohnert Park will host a “Jobs and Business Expo” – a culmination of over three months of work the kindergarten and first grade students completed to learn about careers and businesses in their community. While this is the third year that the school has hosted this event, this is the first time the community-at-large is invited and encouraged to come and participate.
“We’re inviting the community out, the University Elementary families and also the wider community, to come and see how kindergarteners learn about jobs and how it builds in first grade, and tying it all together,” says Ryan Kurada, K/1 Teacher at University Elementary. “We also want to show what kids are capable of doing. They are amazing people.”
The undertaking is part of the project-based, integrated learning that University Elementary strives to offer. The learning on jobs and businesses covered not only those social studies requirements, but also incorporated math, science, and language arts as well.
To meet kindergarten standards of learning about jobs in the community, the students engaged in field trips to visit professionals in different types of work settings, interviewed presenters from different fields during classrooms visits, and completed other educational activities. They then put together all they learned for display at the expo.
“Starting in March they started writing about the jobs and reflecting on them and thinking about which ones they would like to represent,” says Tammy Barksdale, K/1 Teacher at University Elementary. “They’re going to be sharing their knowledge of what they’ve learned about their job with people who come. They’ll have some documentation like pictures, writing samples, they’ll make tools that job profession requires, and will dress up as that role. We’re encouraging people to visit and ask about their jobs, and the students should be able to tell people about what they learned about that career.”
The nine professions the classrooms concentrated on this year include police officer, librarian, nurse, veterinarian, accountant, teacher, manufacturer, machine fabricator, and playground designer. The fields and industries covered vary from year to year.
The first grade standards build upon what was learned in kindergarten to include learning about manufacturers who produce the good and services used in our communities.
“We’ve been working with Sonoma-USA, a company in Santa Rosa,” says Kurada. “I wanted to have the kids get inspired by their business. He takes old Sonoma Raceway banners and coffee sacks from different coffee companies and upcycles them. He turns them into awesome products like tote bags, and backpacks, and wine carriers and all sorts of functional products.”
Besides manufacturing processes, the children also learned about sustainability and producing goods that are environmentally friendly. At the factory the children could witness how scrap fabrics could be reused, how die cutter machines and sewing machines work and the whole process of manufacturing.
“We first show some of the finished products and talk about upcycling to the classes,” says Steffen Kuehr, CEO of Sonoma-USA. “Then the students do a factory tour and see the whole process of how the products are made. After the tour they can take some materials to create their own products.”
Once back in the classroom the first graders worked in groups to create their own business. Besides upcycling and creating an actual product, they were also charged with creating a business name and logo, making business cards, pricing their product, making a business plan, and even creating a commercial.
“It is very impressive and amazing to see what the children come up with,” says Kuehr. “It’s great to see how kids soak it all up. Some kids know about recycling but once they learn about reusing things they encourage their parents too and inspire to make the process better, and make it normal to rethink waste materials.”
“One of the groups is called Toy Bots and they are using scrap cardboard and foil to make toy robots,” says Kurada. “Another group is called Moon Sun and they’ve created knee pads out of scrap fabric. Some have made backpacks, headbands out of T-shirts, and a dress made out of scrap fabric. It’s incredible what these kids have created, all from scrap materials.”
In all, three K/1 classes, 70 students, are participating in the event held at University Elementary from 5:30 to 7:00pm. Taqueria Sol Azteca will provide food for purchase, Friedman’s Home Improvement donated wood, and John Voyles, parent and machine fabricator, is building a stage for the event.
“The amazing thing about our school is that our K/1 team does amazing projects like this but it really continues throughout the grades,” says Megan Hassur, K/1 Teacher at University Elementary. “It’s not just one teacher or one grade level that is doing project-based learning and inquiry-based curriculum, it’s throughout our school.”