Thursday, 29 March 2018 18:46

Career-Focused Programs Offer MN High School Students Several Options

Written by Erin Hinrichs, MinnPost
A student practices welding in an auto body class at Burnsville High School. A student practices welding in an auto body class at Burnsville High School. MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs


To help ensure that the coursework students are taking actually mirrors the skill sets employers are looking for, both districts tapped into their local business community and postsecondary institutions. Teachers used the feedback they gathered to customize their curriculum, and administrators incorporated some of this initial feedback into the design of the classrooms themselves.


For instance, the newly redesigned Shakopee High School now has a spacious culinary lab that’s equipped with stainless steel commercial-grade equipment, including TV monitors, steamers, boilers and a commercial dishwashing machine.


“I’ve never seen anything like that in a high school setting before,” Pawlicki said. “As we were going through that process in meeting with businesses and they described what those experiences look like on the industry side, we asked: How can we emulate that in the high school?’”


Works in Progress

In doing their design research, Pawlicki and Funston both identified Alexandria Area High School’s academy model as their primary local source of inspiration. Shakopee also sent people to Nashville to tour a similar high school design.


This redesign trend seems to be gaining traction---albeit on a smaller scale---in a number of suburban area districts. According to Nancy Thul, director of teaching and learning for the Shakopee district, elements of the academy model have taken root in Jordan, Chaska, Hutchinson, Northfield, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park, Mendota Heights and elsewhere.


The Shakopee and Burnsville examples stand out, in part, because they coincided with some pretty major construction projects that were spurred by the need to accommodate expanding student populations. Shakopee High School has nearly doubled in size through this expansion and redesign effort.


Pawlicki said this allowed his predecessors to incorporate some eye-catching design elements into the construction project---like a law and legal lab and a hometown bank branch---that would be difficult to fit into existing spaces.

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