In some of the classrooms where learning happens in Battle Ground Public Schools, the curriculums include fractions and American literature, but not in the traditional way you'd expect. In these classes, the fractions might lead to a light and fluffy chocolate souffle, or they could result in Tuscan style curtains for a tall, rustic window.
And the American literature? Freshman biology students in the natural resources section at the district's Center for Agriculture, Science, and Environmental Education read "The Hot Zone," a non-fiction thriller about the origins and incidents involving viral hemorrhagic fevers, including ebolaviruses.
These classes are part of the school district's Career and Technical Education (CTE) department, and are designed to give students hands-on training in skills that will help them get jobs or prepare them to take their educations to the next level beyond high school. CTE is a term applied to programs that specialize in the skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career preparation. At Battle Ground Public Schools, approximately 200 CTE classes are taught each semester in 36 content areas by teachers who have worked in the industry they are teaching. Many of the district's CTE programs have agreements with local community colleges that let students receive college credit for some of the high school classes.
As a part of CTE month, Battle Ground Public Schools is inviting community members on Feb. 24 to see what students are learning in its CTE program. Patrons are invited to tour some of the CTE classes at Battle Ground and Prairie high schools and CASEE and see first-hand what students are learning. "CTE is a big part of our students' schedules," said Cindy Arnold, director of CTE. "We want to share what they are learning."
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, about 80 percent of students taking a CTE course met college and career readiness goals, compared to 63 percent of students on a traditional academic path. CTE students perform at higher academic levels because their academics are integrated with real-world, employable skills."CTE classes help students get jobs out of high school and give them the skills to go to college," Arnold said. "Students in CTE programs are more connected to their interests and see, in CTE classes, how their interests can translate into a career. They are more apt to go into a job that interests them."
Middle and high school students in Battle Ground Public Schools can take CTE classes in a variety of career clusters including: agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audio/video technology and communications; business management and administration; education and training; finance; government and public administration; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, corrections and security; manufacturing; health services; marketing; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and transportation, distribution and logistics.
Often, the problems that students tackle in CTE courses are similar to the ones they might face in a career. For example, students might discuss techniques that a teller can use for mitigating a distraught customer while working in the iQ Credit Union on the BGHS campus. Or they might learn how to diagnose a sick carburetor in automotive technology or develop a video game in video game design. Other CTE students could prepare for a product launch in marketing classes or take inventory in the Battle Ground High School student store.
And the teachers who lead students in these endeavors have been there. The district hires CTE teachers who have experience in the industries they teach. These industry experts then take a series of teacher certification classes, often through the Clark County Skills Center, while they are teaching. Jessica Drake, who teaches culinary arts and other family and consumer science classes at Battle Ground High School, worked in the restaurant industry before becoming a teacher. She became interested in teaching after managing the student-run cafe in the Vancouver Public Schools district office.
Having industry experience lets Drake create lesson plans that mimic what occurs in a restaurant kitchen. Some of the students in her Foods III class whipped up a few batches of chocolate brownies on a Thursday morning, melting butter and unsweetened chocolate together in saucepans before whisking in sugar, vanilla, and eggs. The chewy brownies would be for sale from concessions at the weekend's BGHS production of "Crimes of the Heart." Other students prepared batter for chocolate souffles and then used Google Classroom to submit recipes to Drake for review.
Caleb Johnson, a BGHS senior who made white chocolate covered pretzels for the play's concessions, is considering attending WSU-Vancouver's hotel and restaurant management program and then going to culinary school. "I have a lot of options," he said.
But no matter which CTE classes students take, they can determine whether a vocation interests them and learn skills that will help them find success in the pursuit of that vocation. "CTE helps students see the connection between what they are learning and the world around them," Arnold said.
BGPS Career and Technical Education Patron Tour
The Career and Technical Education Patron tour will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24. It will begin at Prairie High School, continue to Battle Ground High School, and then end at CASEE. Transportation will be provided between campuses. Please RSVP to the CTE program: 885-5359 or firstname.lastname@example.org.