“Who in the class used a right angle today?” Twenty middle school students eagerly raised their hands in answer to David Grant’s question. David is an instructor for ROP (Regional Occupational Program) teaching Construction Technology, Engineering and Aquaculture classes at San Lorenzo Valley High School. The middle school students were enrolled in his class for a weeklong Industrial Technology Step-Up Class. The course is one of five classes being offered this year in Santa Cruz County to middle school students giving them the opportunity to get a step-up to high school. The classes are intended to introduce the students to their local high schools while allowing them to apply their academic studies to real life projects.
From June 24-28, twenty middle school Industrial Technology students designed and engineered model truss bridges and then constructed them out of wood. Riley Clark, an 8th grade student who participated in the class last year said, “I like this year’s project. We had more parameters for our designs, which made it more challenging.” The rest of the week in the Industrial Technology class included a field trip to SLV High’s Sustainable Aquaculture Lab to learn how steelhead salmon are being raised as well as a lesson in electrical engineering where students soldered circuit boards to create sirens.
Seth Wilson, Digital Media guru and ROP instructor at Santa Cruz High School, hosted an Introduction to Digital Media Step-Up Class in his lab June 17-21. “The group this year was really great; I introduced different software and digital media concepts each day of the week and the students kept up with the rapid pace really well. We covered computer graphic principals, digital photography, video editing and animation. This group seemed to focus on animation as their favorite subject; once I showed them how to make frame by frame animation with Adobe Flash they were off and running, creating funny short animations and sharing them with each other. At the end of the class we had a small film festival. Students also had a lot of fun using the green screen for our digi-photo module; after a quick demonstration, students were creating digital manipulations on their own photographs using green screen removal, multiple exposures and graphic enhancements with Photoshop.”
Lisa Glick’s Garden and Nutrition Class at the Branciforte Small School’s site focused on local agriculture and nutrition. Some students remarked, “I liked the field trip to Kitayama Brothers,” a locally owned flower grower and shipper located in Watsonville.
“No, I like making our snacks and eating them best!” “Well, remember when we got to plant the seedlings in the garden and make our own plot? And don’t forget how we learned that there are no good or bad foods, but instead there are everyday foods and sometimes foods!”
The goal, said ROP Instructor Lisa Glick, was to allow the students to explore the idea of systems and interactions. Looking at everything from how our bodies react and interact with the foods we eat, to how plants support and enhance each other, some of the core academics that were supported by Lisa’s curriculum were language arts, art, science, cultural awareness and health. However, if you asked the students attending if they might recommend the class to another student and why, they simply said, “Yes, because it was so much fun!!!”
Video Production was taught by Dale Poor, ROP and Video Academy Instructor at Watsonville High School. The students had only five days to conceptualize a story, storyboard, shoot, and edit a short film. Additionally students were able to create a short piece in front of the green screen and learn how to add a new background – just like they do on television. Mr. Poor’s classroom had five high school students as mentors, so as well as the students getting a step-up they also gained a big brother or sister as they navigate through the school system. Some of the students were nervous about using cameras, lighting and the editing software, but were skillfully guided by their big buddies and all ended up having a great time.
Construction Technology taught by ROP Instructor Evan Clark at Watsonville High School was a strong support to mathematics with a few groans on the first day as students were guided through curriculum that required use of measurements, tool knowledge, a safety survey and calculations. But no one complained when starting on the second day, they all began to design and build their own bird houses. Many of the students asked to come back for a second week and build a bigger house! All of them said that they wanted to sign up for the class in high school.
So when you ask a student what they did for their summer vacation, be prepared to be surprised. For the 85 students that took part in these classes, they will tell you that they had a lot of fun but they will also tell you how much fun it was to learn something new. They might even tell you that they want to be the next Fellini, or that they would like to be an engineer or build houses.
The Step-Up classes were offered by the Regional Occupational Program of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education in promotion of Career Technical Education and Career Exploration for Middle School students.
For more information about the Step-Up classes or Middle School Career Exploration please contact Karen Lemon, Middle School Career Exploration Coordinator.
These free, public classes are sponsored by the Regional Occupational Program, Santa Cruz County Office of Education.