Five Ways to Infuse Career Preparation into Lessons

With all the paperwork, parent conferences, grading, and standardized test preparation, it seems there’s little time for much else, nevermind also having students research future job markets and careers. So, how can we incorporate career preparation into our lessons while still focusing on class content?

  1. Build 21st Century Skills:

    While this doesn’t directly relate to career research, we all know that students will be well off having mastered these skills. Employers and colleges are looking for students who can collaborate on projects, communicate across multiple platforms, create and innovate, as well as think critically.

  2. Utilize IDEA Teams:

    IDEA Teams are a great way to reinforce iteration within group projects. Zulama students work in small groups to innovate, design, engage others, and assess in the form of ongoing iteration. When these steps become second nature to students, we know they are well prepared to tackle the future.

  3. Reinforce Collaboration:

    One of the most important 21st Century Skills, collaboration is the key to student success in a future career. It seems that teamwork and collaboration are one in the same, but there is actually a subtle difference between the two. Collaboration has more to do with creative thinking, positively interacting, and sharing insights while teamwork is about sharing responsibility, helping others achieve, and protecting and supporting team goals. Students need to collaborate while working in teams, future careers, communities, and even across broad networks, like social media.

  4. Employ Project-Based Learning:

    Project-Based Learning provides authentic learning experiences similar to those in future careers. Allow your students to explore their strengths and promote the talents of others within their IDEA Teams. This is a great way for students to self-evaluate and discover skills that were previously hidden. Self-reflection will help students gain a clear idea of careers they may enjoy based on their personal strengths.

  5. Focus on STEAM:

    We know that more than ever, we are not isolated. We are involved in a global economy and students will likely compete for jobs in a global environment. In order to give our students a leg up we can’t teach subjects in isolation. With a focus on STEAM, we connect science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, all subjects needed to develop well-rounded 21st century citizens. By showing students how to see connections between different content areas, they will be able to make the same connections in college and beyond.

With these five tips in your back pocket, your students will be well on the path to a bright future!


Day in a Classroom: Making

west a game mod 2

Day in a Classroom: Making

Sarah Avery, Community Advocate, Educator

Back in January, with the semester drawing to a close, students were hard at work studying for finals, writing term papers, and finishing presentation projects.  Never had I seen students more excited to be doing these things than in Chris Lucas’s classroom at West Allegheny High School.  Mr. Lucas, a Zulama teacher, teaches Evolution of Games and Mobile Game Design to students from 9th to 12th grade.  When I first entered the the classroom, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  As a substitute, I’m used to students being standoff-ish around new people. I wasn’t expecting students to welcome me into their space and be so excited that I experience the games they were building.

In my visit, students were playtesting traditional games (like Chess and Nine Man Morris) they had modified.  Suddenly, pieces could move any number of spaces and a roll of the dice could determine just how lucky you really are. Everywhere I looked, students were collaborating, building, analyzing, and having fun.

An interesting game modification I found was in the game of Chess. The students decided that if a piece takes another piece, rather than just removing it from the board, you flip it over and that square becomes a blank space that no one can land on, so while you play, the board becomes more and more limited, raising the level of difficulty and strategy involved.  Another modification that caused much excitement took place in Nine Man Morris.  The students added a bit of chance to the game by offering the option to roll the dice in addition to traditional moves. However, whatever number you rolled, you must abide by the moves listed in the directions. For example, if you rolled a three, your opponent may take one of your pieces, but if you rolled a five, you revived one of your taken pieces. So, the students had to weigh the risks in addition to thinking strategically about their moves. This led to many loud outbursts of laughter as the hand of fate moved against the players.

west a game mod 1

In the later class of Mobile Game Design, the students were much less animated because they were focused on finishing their term individual game design projects.  However, I did get to speak with them about their games.  Many of them were working on debugging their programs. One student had trouble losing lives once his character died.  Eventually, after discussing the issues with Mr. Lucas, the student decided to delete the character and rewrite the code. Though frustrated by his writing error, he admitted that he learned to be more observant and aware when programming. He noted that through his Zulama classes he has learned the skills perseverance, iteration, and resilience in order to solve issues. He has since then begun working with GameMaker, a more challenging game programming system.

Throughout my two hour visit I saw many things, but what everything boils down to is the essence of the Maker Movement. defines the Maker Movement as “a trend in which individuals or groups of individuals create and market products that are recreated and assembled using unused, discarded or broken electronic, plastic, silicon or virtually any raw material and/or product from a computer-related device.” While this is very long winded and technical, I prefer to define the Maker Movement as the spirit of collaboration on a project to create something that will solve a problem. Simply put, a maker is someone who makes.

From homes to community centers to schools to corporate America, the Maker Movement has grown in popularity.  At Zulama, we support the Maker Movement through our curriculum’s emphasis on project-based learning. Our teachers are riding that wave of technological creativity and ingenuity in the classroom with our students. Exploration and discovery are the best methods of education. Through game design and project based learning, we can utilize students’ natural curiosity to enhance their educational experiences by having them teach themselves, like the student who had to rewrite his code in order to fix his problem. In the past, teachers held the keys to knowledge, but through the Maker Movement and project based learning, everyone holds the keys and collaborates to learn.  Students are actively and creatively engaged in learning through dynamic and authentic experiences in order to investigate, collaborate, and innovate. Learning and creating memories is an active process and teachers who embrace the Maker Movement take full advantage of that by creating interactive projects and games designed to spark interest, enhance understanding, and create a sense of ownership for students’ education.


The Maker Movement and Education

The Maker Movement and Education

Sarah Avery, Community Advocate, Educator

Sarah AveryWe all remember the iconic scene in The Sandlot where the boys try desperately to retrieve their lost ball. First, they start with a primitive pole, graduating to a pole with a pot on the end; but, their ingenuity does not end there. They end up breaking out the big guns when Smalls gathers every piece of his erector set to build an advance ball-retrieving machine.  Needless to say, despite their scientific approaches, they fail, but in their failure they find new and improved ways to attain their goal: retrieving the lost Babe Ruth ball.

This scene shows the true spirit of the Maker Movement: people collaborating on a project to create something that will solve a problem. A maker, boiled down to the barest of terms, is someone who makes, just as a gardener is someone who gardens and a writer is someone who writes.  If you create, invent, build, or engineer, you are a maker.

We need our students to be makers. A healthy economy is built on entrepreneurs, inventors, and start ups, and in recent years we have seen a resurgence of makers. Kickstarters, Esty, Pinterest are just a few websites that allow people to show off their creations. Pinterest, in particular, is famous for its expansive database of DIY projects. Though Pinterest is generally an adult social media outlet, our greatest makers are often students.  People under the age of 18 have less responsibilities and more curiosity, leading to free time devoted to inventing and discovering. One example of a young maker is Joey Huddy, 16 year old electrical engineering prodigy.  At the age of 12, he wowed President Obama with his marshmallow gun at the National Science fair.  Currently, he is finishing high school, applying for colleges, all while being the youngest Intel employee ever.  That is quite an accomplishment for the young man whose personal mantra is “Don’t be bored, make something.”  Thanks to Joey and millions of other makers in the US, in February 2014, the White House announced the first White House Maker Faire in the article, “Announcing the First White House Maker Faire” by Tom Kalil and Jason Miller.  On June 18th 2014, the White House held the Makers Faire designed to celebrate the return of ingenuity and creativity in the US. You

With the expansion of technology, the Maker Movement has taken off, like the industrial revolution of technology.  We need to ride that wave in our classrooms.  Exploration and discovery are the best methods of education. Through game design and project based learning, we can utilize students’ natural curiosity to enhance their educational experiences by essentially having them teach themselves while teachers facilitate.  In the past, teachers held the keys to knowledge, but through the Maker Movement and project based learning, everyone holds the keys and collaborates to learn.  Students are no longer sponges, passively soaking up information.  Learning and creating memories is an active process and we can take advantage of that by creating interactive projects and games designed to spark interest, enhance understanding, and create a sense of ownership for students’ education.

My most vivid memories from high school and middle school were when I was creating, researching, building, designing, and collaborating.  It instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment in my education.  That’s what we want to give to our students: a community built on educational pride and ownership.

In The Sandlot, the boys create a bond that lasts a lifetime. Through the challenges they face, their resourcefulness shines, giving the audience a clear image of what it means to be a maker: someone a part of a community that works together toward a common goal through discovery, inventiveness, and perseverance.


Teacher Spotlight: Mary Wilson


Teacher Spotlight

Mary Wilson

Elizabeth Forward High School

When Mary Wilson heard about the National STEM Video Game Challenge, she was obviously very excited.  She knew her students were up to the task, so she gave them the chance to compete nationally against other students.

With the deadline being only a few weeks away, her students have been hard at work perfecting their games.  In December, Elizabeth Forward held a school-day game-jam in its Media Center. After the teams were assembled and organized, the students came up with a game idea, and began designing and coding.  When creating teams, students thought strategically about the roles that need filled.  Each student has a position based on their strengths: artist, programmer, designer, or storyteller. These game design projects are great for promoting collaboration and showcasing 21st Century skills, truly a fantastic way to include all areas of STEAM.  Since the game- jam, Mary’s students have worked on their games in their free time while at home, in study hall, and after school in order to prepare for the challenge.

Past winners of the National Video Game Challenge have come from all over the country with topics ranging from biology, environmentalism, and leadership skills.  The lucky few present their games at the annual White House Science Fair and meet celebrities, like Bill Nye, and other top officials from various government agencies, like NASA. Nic Balida, a 2013 winner of the National STEM Video Game Challenge, discusses his experiences at the White House Science Fair in Allison Mishkin’s article, “STEM Challenge Winner Nic Badila Attends White House Science Fair.”

Nic says that “[t]he next generation is our future, and learning to program taught [him] that [he] can literally create whatever [he] want[s]. More kids need to do that.”1 This is exactly what Mary’s students do everyday.  She has them discovering, experimenting, and creating.  These are the skills our 21st century learners need to be successful and ones that are integral to the Maker Movement.

1 Mishkin, Allison. “STEM Challenge Winner Nic Badila Attends White House Science Fair.” 5 June 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.