Familiar faces abounded throughout the halls of Dillon Valley Elementary School Friday as county professionals made their way to presentation areas. Delicious smells emanated from the library where the chef was setting up. A group of firefighters marched by, carrying an impressive amount of gear. An artist leaned her paintings and sketches against a wall.
This was the scene for Dillon Valley Elementary's first ever Career Day. The school invited more than 40 experts and professionals from a variety of backgrounds to come and talk with the students. The jobs represented included firefighting, police work, lawyer, artist, writer, mechanic, athlete, paramedic, computer code writing and more. Because of the school's dual-language program, some of the presentations were conducted entirely in Spanish.
"We just thought, what a great way to make the things we're learning in class relevant," said principal Cathy Beck. "To expose them to different career opportunities and to learn about the career pathway."
Students were given the list of presenters and allowed to choose two to attend, one in each language. They then drew two more presentations at random to expose them to a variety of careers.
Each presenter came prepared. Some had slideshows, others had special equipment, clothing or demonstrations. Ian Buchanan, chef and culinary arts instructor at Colorado Mountain College, had a table set up in the library with ingredients laid out. He told the students about how he became a chef, and asked them about what they thought the job entailed.
"Being a chef isn't just about cooking food and eating food. The chef has to manage everybody too," he said. "What does teamwork mean to you guys?"
Hands shot up across the crowd. The very same thing was happening throughout the school. In his presentation, CAIC avalanche technician Tim Brown showed the students a slideshow with videos of live avalanches. The children crowded around the computer, asking questions and sharing stories. They discussed the current snow conditions and debunked a few snow myths.
When asked what skills he used that he learned from school, Brown said, "Science and writing. The most important thing for me is my science background. Without science, I wouldn't know enough about the snow to explain it." At the end of the presentation he concluded, "I would encourage you guys to work hard in school so you can learn the skills that you need in your job."
Finn Miles, a fourth grader who watched Brown's presentation, said he chose to come to it.
"I really like the outdoors and skiing," he said. "I never knew there was a job like this."
While the kids were clearly enjoying themselves, those giving the presentations said that they had a good time as well.
"They had a lot of good questions, a lot of interest," said Matthew Dayton, who competed in Nordic combined in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. "I was honored to have a good group of kids."
Bonnie Norling Wakeman, who painted the mural on the wall near the library, showed a group of young artists her sketch board for the project and described her methods.
"It was great to talk about this piece because they see it every day," Norling Wakeman said. "It was wonderful."
Fourth-graders Maia Fishman and Mackenzie Westenskow said they both enjoyed the artist presentation. They said they learned a lot about planning sketches and creating motion in a picture. When she chose to attend the artist presentation, Maia wrote her reason on an index card:
"I want to be an artist so I can express myself through color and pictures."
The purpose of Career Day, said organizer and literary resource/reading recovery teacher Kendra Carpenter, is to present the students with a live person as a model.
"I think it makes it seem real, an attainable goal. They see it right in front of them," she said.
With a live person, the students can see demonstrations, ask questions and get immediate answers, which gives a much more powerful impression than just reading from a book, Carpenter said. It was also important to offer both English and Spanish language experiences. "We want all of our students to see what they can do," she said.
Teachers are always telling students that "someday" they will use the skills they're learning, but the Career Day is meant to change that, Carpenter said. "We're trying to make 'someday' today."