Courses, careers connect at readiness night events

April 9, 2012


About 300 Martinsville High School students and their families learned about new school programs and how they connect to future careers at College and Career Readiness Nights last week.

The events were a new way to inform and register students for classes, giving parents a more active role in helping students choose their courseloads and connecting them in person with teachers and guidance counselors.

“I think it was a success,” Principal Aji Dixon said. “We wanted to showcase our new programs, inform students about various types of careers, and allow students and parents to talk directly to teachers about their classes. Hopefully, it will help them make a more informed decision.”

In the commons area, a boxy, computer-controlled robot wheeled around to showcase the school’s new robotics engineering class. Students on the MHS robotics team designed, programmed and built the robot. Now, students will be able to take the subject as a course for technology credit.

“We’ve gotten a great response from students interested in taking the course,” Dixon said.

The robotics engineering class builds on physics and math concepts and is “designed to interest students in the field of robotics and motivate them to pursue advanced education in science and engineering,” according to the course description.

Students also will be able to pursue online courses with supervision and support at school through Virtual Virginia, a program of the Virginia Department of Education. The availability of online courses will offer more scheduling options for students to take Advanced Placement courses, for example, or languages that are not offered at the high school.

Many new course offerings were designed to help students develop marketable career skills. One is Computer Control and Automation, which deals with advanced manufacturing.

Guidance counselor Clarence Simington said MHS is continuing to collaborate with Patrick Henry Community College to offer more career and technical education courses (formerly known as vocational).

In addition to the popular culinary arts program, students can take motorsports, auto body repair, HVAC and electricity, agricultural education and building trades through PHCC.

“We see education as an economic tipping point for this community,” said Angilee Downing, the division’s executive director of instruction and federal programs.

“We’re developing new programs to develop students who are both career- and college-ready, so they are prepared no matter what choices they make after high school,” she said.

Whether a graduate enters the work force immediately or attends a two- or four-year college, many of the skills overlap, she added. “These are no longer two separate pieces.”

“We’ve been evaluating our programming with a look to 21st-century teaching and learning skills, as well as focusing on what we’re calling STEAM-H,” which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, math and health sciences.

STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) has been an ongoing educational focus to prepare students for high-tech careers, but the concept of STEAM recognizes the important role of creativity in fostering innovation.

The health sciences were represented at the event with a display that showcased a defibrillator, a dummy on which to practice CPR and a rubber arm with a “pulse” that students use to practice taking blood pressure. Students can explore this career field through the introduction to medical science, medical terminology and health assistant courses with a teacher who holds a master of science in nursing.

Simington said he heard good responses from parents about the events, which were held Tuesday and Thursday nights.

“They were positive and thankful for the information. We were able to answer a lot of their questions,” he said.

Kim Barto is community outreach and grants coordinator for the city schools.


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