Rob McClendon: Well, if the state is to fill
its skills gap, the work to do so may start earlier than you think. Students as early
as fifth grade are already making career choices, whether they realize it or not. That’s why
a program called ULearn is steering students at younger ages toward subjects essential
for a highly-skilled workforce. With more on that, here’s our J.D. Rosman.
J.D. Rosman: If someone were to ask you what was one thing you remember from middle school,
chances are it would be something you did with your hands. ULearn Academy is doing just
this. It’s a program from Canadian Valley Technology Center that trains coaches and
allows students to take the reins in their education.
Jodey Maxey: It’s all hands-on. I mean, there is no worksheets, there’s no grading, it’s
all about the sky is the limit. You know, “Hey, what do you want to do? OK, let me run
to Lowes and get some of that.” J.D.: Jody Maxey is a sixth-grade teacher
and Canadian Valley ULearn coach and says that students success is through their own
projects and ideas. Maxey: They’re building, and they’re designing.
I’ve got, my students are doing everything from farm equipment to coding with scratch
on the computer to doing a service learning project with a lunch tray for a handicapped
child in our building. J.D.: Allowing students to learn a variety
of skills that apply to real life. Maxey: Kids are trying to find their passion.
What do they want to do. Trying to find where they want to go in life.
Scott Charlson: We’re trying to really emulate real life in a real way.
J.D.: Canadian Valley’s Scott Charlson understands the importance of empowering students and
allowing them to find their passion. Charlson: ULearn Academy is for every student.
And that’s the thing, when you look at kids who are dropping out of school — where does
that begin, middle school? OK, if kids are involved and are passionate about learning
and we hook ’em early, that’s not gonna happen. J.D.: And according to Canadian Valley’s Don
Wilson, the concept of hands-on learning is not foreign to anyone familiar with Oklahoma’s
CareerTech System. Don Wilson: We’re not dealing with something
that’s new here. You learn from your experiences. That’s how a human being learns.
J.D.: Experiences that broaden both the students’ and the coaches’ minds.
Maxey: Like I said with the two boys that are coding, that’s way out of my element.
So, you know, I keep saying, “I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out.” So it’s, I’m using
Dr. Wilson and Mr. Charlson as outlets. I’m using Twitter.
Charlson: It’s about taking risks, too. That’s the other huge thing. We encourage failure.
Now, what kind of a school encourages failure? But until we crash and burn and until something
doesn’t work, how do we learn? J.D.: Turning failure into greatness, which
allows this learning to take place beyond these walls.
Charlson: But the interesting thing that we’re finding is, you know, beyond the school day,
the kids are engaged in those projects with one another at home.
J.D.: Learning teamwork and collaboration. Something Coach Maxey sees increasing in her
students daily. Maxey: The biggest, most important for my
situation is self-esteem, confidence in themselves, having a want to come to school and a desire
to come to school because they know, “Hey, I can come work on my project here if I’m
taking care of business over here.” J.D.: A desire that instructors believe is
contagious. Charlson: Every child has, brings knowledge
to the table. They have things that you could learn from them about. And if once you connect
to the passion, then you start to realize what’s inside the individual.
Student: What I like about it is having the tools to do this. If you have the opportunity
to do this class, I would absolutely do it because, I mean, it’s a great experience.
Maxey: Couldn’t ask for a better, a better opportunity for my kids.
J.D.: Now, if you would like to learn more about ULearn Academy or if you are a teacher
and want to become a ULearn Coach, they are hosting a Maker Faire on May 14.