Infuse career exploration into STEAM programming

Simple ways to infuse career exploration into science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) lessons.

4-H STEAM lessons plus career exploration equals future inventors and scientists
Graphic depicts an equation where 4-H STEAM lessons plus career exploration equals future inventors and scientists. Graphic created by Debra Barrett.

Michigan State University Extension has made science education a key focus of its 4-H Youth Development programming. Many times the variety of venues and activities we host through Michigan 4-H (clubs, camps, mentor/mentee matches, events, etc.) provides the perfect environment for creating awareness of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) jobs and careers.

During the 2016-2017 program year, MSU Extension provided 243,000 4-H experiences related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Of those surveyed, 71 percent said they would like to have a job related to science after participating in one of these programs.

Here are four simple, easily expandable ways to infuse career exploration into STEAM/STEM programming that takes as little as 10-20 minutes.

Career matching lessons

Make it fun with a matching lesson.

  • The lesson provided by the My American Farm website promotes careers in agriculture. It includes 10 job titles to match and then an individual, or group of individuals, decides which job or jobs to explore further.
  • Using definitions and information from the S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I recently created a 12-item science career matching lesson to be part of a science blast for a local county fair.
  • For an agricultural science camp, a colleague of mine created a matching lesson of food and nutrition related careers. Name a topic and you should easily be able to find ideas from the S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be used to explore all sorts of job and career information. This is something that a 4-H volunteer could help prepare.

Career alphabet soup

I adapted the Alphabet Soup activity from the 4-H WOW! Wild Over Work curriculum about four years ago to be used outdoors and for summer events. It is very simple, yet it makes people think for a moment and adults like to participate too. You need a bowl of water and foam alphabet letters. Participants pull a letter from the bowl and are asked to name a job or career that starts with the letter they drew. You may see a picture and read more about my version of alphabet soup on the MSU Extension website.

Career research

Let the kids use the computer or their cell phone to search for job and career information. Or you could take a field trip or visit a local library. Websites such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Michigan eLibrary are at your fingertips! Career research is a great educational activity for 4-H volunteers to do with young people; it’s perfect for mentoring matches. The national 4-H curriculum called “Build your Future: choices…connections…careers” has a lesson related to career research.

Informational interview

According to the MSU Career Services Network, talking to current professionals is a great way to determine if a career field is for you. During informational interviews or job shadowing visits, you get an up-close look at workplaces and the “real job” from an employee’s view. Again, this is perfect for small groups of 4-H volunteers or mentors to do with young people.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. Add a little career exploration to your next educational lesson.

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