By Dr. Ben Churchill
Carlsbad Unified School District
Carlsbad Unified is serious about preparing students for success in their ultimate careers. Some students will go on to college after high school, others will decide to serve our country in the military, and some of our graduates will choose to go directly into the workforce. Regardless of their paths, we are committed to making sure they are ready to thrive in their chosen fields.
We are systematic and intentional in creating meaningful learning opportunities for students. Beginning in kindergarten, students use iPads, smart boards, and online learning tools to become engaged while learning. Access to technology in the early years builds their independence, helps teachers to individualize instruction to meet the needs of all learners, and prepares students to meet new learning objectives in their later years. There are third and fourth graders learning coding, English learners using “English in a Flash” software to build their skills, and students expanding their reading skills with online programs. Carlsbad Unified strives, also, to be a leader in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction. By implementing the Project Lead the Way curriculum at Calavera Hills Elementary, our “STEM Street on College Boulevard” (including Calavera Hills Elementary, Calavera Hills Middle, and Sage Creek High School) made Carlsbad Unified the first school district in California to have articulated K-12 STEM pathways.
By middle school, students are immersed in learning 21st century skills. Technology and project-based learning are integral to the instructional program. Every 6th grader is issued a chromebook. Specifically designed electives expose students to a variety of career-related skills. In a Medical Detectives elective course, students using the design process — collaborating and incorporating feedback from professionals — engineered an antiviral solution to a pandemic outbreak. In a Design and Modeling class, students built an orthotic for a child with cerebral palsy. Aviara Oaks Middle School students prepare for the professional world by learning teamwork, timeliness, and stress preparation in their performing arts classes. And, at the Broadcasting Program at Valley Middle School — recognized as the top middle school program in the nation — students research, write stories, and produce a news program.
Carlsbad Unified is part of a consortium that won a $13M grant to expand Career Pathway opportunities for high school students. High school students may choose from 40 career-related courses, in eleven relevant and engaging career pathways, spanning seven industry sectors. Over 2,000 high school students take at least one Career Pathways class during their high school career. Carlsbad High School offers pathways in Broadcast Journalism, Photography and Graphic Design, Film Academy, Child Development, Fashion Design, Business and Virtual Enterprise, and Computer Science. Sage Creek High School offers pathways in Engineering and Biomedical Sciences. A CHS student may take AP Computer Science and learn JAVA programming. A SCHS student might take Engineering, a hands-on experience in which students are currently designing an alternative-fuel car using hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels.
The district received $300,000 from the Career Pathways grant to develop and expand programs specific to San Diego County; an additional $500,000 matching grant will develop further career-readiness programs. A number of our pathway offerings are aligned with current and emerging workforce needs in Carlsbad and in San Diego County, such as Computer Science (part of the Information and Communications Technologies pathway), Biomedical Sciences, and Engineering. The work-based learning offered by our Career Pathway programs provides students with hands-on experience that brings relevance to their classroom learning. Carlsbad Unified needs the support and participation of our business community to build powerful experiences for Carlsbad’s students.
Another product of the grant is a new Work-Based Learning Portal to connect students and educators with local employers and community partners throughout San Diego County. You can check it out at sdeportal.org. We are looking for local businesses and industries to partner with us. There will be many ways to participate:
Awareness activities, including guest speakers in the classroom, company tours, and participation in career fairs; exploration activities, involving mentoring students at school sites or opportunities for job shadowing; and preparation activities, such as providing projects for students to work on in school, giving feedback on student projects and presentations, and offering paid or unpaid internships.
Please check out the online portal, and consider partnering with us in any way that you can.
And help us prepare our Carlsbad Unified students for their future careers, so that they can live and thrive in this remarkable community.