Career exploration curriculum for elementary school-age kids

The “Leap Into Careers” 4-H curriculum helps younger kids learn about future jobs and careers while practicing workforce skills.

Young children in a cafeteria learning from chefs.
Young children in a cafeteria learning from chefs.

How does working with systems relate to workforce development? Do toothpicks and candy really foster teamwork? When you think about clusters of jobs and careers, what is available in your local community? Does your community have the potential to support new entrepreneurs? The opportunities are endless, and it is never too early to explore jobs and careers.

Michigan State University Extension’s “Build Your Futurenational 4-H curriculum helps sixth through 12th graders explore the world of work. Looking for a resource for younger kids? The “Leap Into Careers” 4-H curriculum from the University of Nebraska Lincoln is filled with lessons to address these intriguing questions.

Leap Into Careers” is full of activities to help third through fifth graders explore careers, develop or practice workforce skills and encourage owning your own business as a career option. It was developed around Nebraska’s Career Education Career Fields and Clusters, which are very similar to Michigan’s Career Pathways. Lessons include a success indicator, the life skills addressed, needed supplies and time, along with an introduction and step-by-step instructions to make any facilitator or instructor look like a pro. The intention is for individuals to work their way through a variety of lessons provided and not to just do one or two of them and stop.

Here is a glimpse of what some of the lessons contain.

  • Can You Build It? This is where candy and toothpicks come in to play. Teamwork is a very sought-after skill in today’s world of work. The lesson includes a very creative way to practice workforce skills while exploring jobs and careers associated with building, engineering and construction.
  • Let the System Be Your Guide lesson is a fun way to teach individuals how to apply a system to complete a task. This lesson encourages the life skill of problem-solving and more. This could be lots of fun to share with family and friends as well!
  • Examining the Career Fields is a series of lessons to help individuals identify jobs and careers that fit with six career fields or clusters. Decision-making and goal setting are some of the life skills targeted with these lessons. This series also encourages individuals to learn about their local community and job market, including starting your own business.

The lessons suggested here take about 20 minutes each. This curriculum could fit into a variety of 4-H venues and be easily adapted to other state job and career clusters or pathways. Visit Shop 4-H to see more details about the “Leap Into Careers” curriculum.

MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education or youth entrepreneurship, email us at

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