In suburban Minneapolis, seventh graders will soon start building skills for local technical jobs that may be open to them when they finish school.
To better suit the needs of local businesses in the Anoka, Minn., area, the Anoka-Hennepin School District will update its seventh-grade technology education curriculum starting this upcoming fall. Over the last few years, the district’s administrators have spoken with local businesses, mainly in the manufacturing and engineering industries, says Ellen Delaney, director of secondary curriculum, assessment and instruction.
The companies are looking for students trained specifically for their businesses and who have soft skills such as teamwork and problem solving, she adds.
While the district has already updated its high school manufacturing and engineering classes, the changes in seventh grade would give students a jumpstart in these fields, Delany says. “The technology education course in seventh grade is mandatory, so it was important to update it as it’s often the first time students have exposure to these fields,” she says.
The revamped seventh grade technology curriculum will include more hands-on lessons on top of the work students are already doing on the computer, says Matt Sandys, technology education curriculum support teacher leader. It also will shift the focus from traditional woodshop and metal-shop projects to lessons on robotics, lasers, graphic design, 3D modeling software and understanding blueprints.
“By adding hands-on and creative elements to the course, we hope the students will find some part of the manufacturing or engineering process that they like,” Sandys says. “Instead of just learning about these industries on the computer, they can actually design projects, hold them in their hands and bring them home.”
The changes will also save money. Current classroom software that costs $67,000 annually will be replaced with district-created modules that will cost $35,000, Delany says. Two of the district’s six middle schools will serve as pilot sites this fall. The program will be implemented in all buildings within the next two years.