Posted by: Carol | April 5, 2011

Kinders Go to College

Most will agree that the middle school years are a tough time — for both the children moving through them as well as the adults who are working with those students. They’ll also agree that these two to three years are critical  in the development of students, when youth are developing their identities, seeking autonomy as never before, and often disengaging from school and other structured, adult-led activities1.  So how to design and implement meaningful and engaging career exploration opportunities for students at this age? Here’s an idea from the folks at the Yuba Community Collaborative.

Kinders Go To College (KG2C) is an annual day-long event held at Woodland Community College, which brings together a broad spectrum of students, from kindergarteners to university graduate students for a day of fun and learning about career and education options. Kindergarten participants are paired with an eighth grade mentor who guides them through various workshops and activities that are run by the high school, community college, and university students and faculty. Themed around the Community Collaborative’s grant focus, agriculture and environmental sustainability, the workshops include activities like building solar-powered toy cars, potting flowers, surveying land in a large field, and meeting and learning about various animals from the agriculture department.

Okay, you say. Sounds fun. But isn’t this more about kindergarten students? How does this target those middle schoolers?

Well, sort of by stealth, actually.

The middle school and kindergarten students are recruited from schools in both Woodland Joint Unified School District and Esparto Unified School District. District officials select school sites for participation, and at the selected school sites, principals then designate specific teachers and their classes to participate. In all, three eighth grade classes and three kindergarten classes are chosen to take part in KG2C. But it doesn’t end there for the eighth graders.

KG2C program staff meet with each class of eighth graders three times prior to the event, working with them on team-building and leadership exercises and helping them to prepare for their roles as mentors to the kindergarten students. The role of mentor is presented as an important opportunity — and the kids take it seriously. The eighth graders are remarkably self-possessed on the day of the event, and program staff note that the students take ownership of the program, helping to plan the day along with program staff and even meeting with their “Kinders” (as they refer to their young charges) prior to the day of the event. In the two years that the event has already taken place (the 3rd annual K2GC day will take place in May 2011), every single eighth grade mentor has  shown up for it — not one middle schooler has missed the day.

And what are the further implications of that, aside from the fact that the program has successfully engaged the middle school students? It means that not only are the kindergarten students learning about community college and university programs and career opportunities in agriculture, environmental sustainability, and green technologies, but the eighth graders are as well.

Throughout the day, the eighth grade mentors are actively engaging with, listening to, and working side by side with high school ROP students,  students, and faculty from Woodland Community College, undergraduate and graduate students from UC Davis, and professionals from participating community agencies, such as Legal Services of Northern California and the local Police Department. They’re hearing about how tech and engineering skills cross into other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing; how laws are created and used to support environmental initiatives and businesses; what kinds of skills are needed to become a police officer; how programs at a community college are linked to university degrees — all under the guise of leading their Kinders through the day.

KG2C is a terrific example of CTE in action — broadening horizons and creating opportunities — especially in the minds of our young people.

For more information about KG2C or to learn about how you might create your own version of the program, contact Lori Perez, Yolo County Office of Education Regional Occupation Program (ROP), at or at 530.668.3776.

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