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Establishing Your Student’s Educational Foundation

I believe the foundation of life is much like a structural building foundation, as both need to be strong to succeed. Having parents who are educators with a combined 80 years of experience has no doubt contributed to my enthusiasm for continued learning and designing environments that not only support, but enhance learning. Whether I am working with a school district on a new classroom design or researching the latest trends I consider myself a cheerleader for the field of education.

Throughout the years I have been involved in several career day presentations at a variety of education levels. Each time I present to a group of students there are three key messages I reinforce:

1. Your interests and strength will evolve

Students may give up on math or science early, not realizing the subject could actually be something they excel at in the future. In fact, it could play a vital role within their career ambitions, especially with the transition of available jobs from manufacturing to creative and technology-based areas.

Students must try and embrace the subjects they dislike because with a little dedication, they can ultimately excel in these areas. Also, if they truly don’t intend on coming across that subject willingly in the future, they ought to try and make the best of it to secure the best foundation they can in the subject.

2. Ignore that guy in the back of class

Looking back on your school days you might remember “that guy” in the back of class muttering; “we’re never going to use this stuff in the real world!” While we aren’t all practicing math equations daily there are many professions applying math and physics principles regularly.

Even if you aren’t an engineer or scientist we all see and use these basic principles in every day life. Why does a curve ball curve? Why does ice float? What keeps a moving bicycle from falling over? These questions include the fundamental laws and theories of the physics surrounding our daily life.

During a career day session, I sometimes lean on a table to illustrate the concept of statics and what it means when equal and opposite forces result in static equilibrium. I also use the eraser end of a pencil as though the pencil is a column against a student’s hand. I then put a hardcover book in between to illustrate the concept of a concrete footing or foundation on soft earth “the student’s hand” (this exercise illustrates the opposition and reconciliation of forces and the distribution of the load on a footing). Students typically smile realizing that physics and engineering principals are indeed all around us in every day life. The footing (book) distributes the forces in opposition to the columnar force (action and “reaction”) so the pencil is not even felt.

3. This “stuff” matters

At the end of the day an educated life is a full life. It empowers students to take the reigns on what direction they want to go. The more well rounded and holistic an education is the more options it gives students in the future. The U.S. Census Bureau has released data proving the substantial value of a college education in the United States. Workers 18 and over sporting bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. The “stuff” students are learning today really can effect the rest of their lives. I tell students it is a travesty if you are not able to make sure you received correct change at the store cash register; an educated life is a happier life.

The world has come to the point where an educational foundation makes a huge difference in your life’s plan. One big way we can approach this is through curriculum, instruction and advisement that provides a mix of knowledge and skills. MSOE in collaboration with the Project Lead the Way program are helping districts make strides in providing enhanced STEM base education to students.

At EUA, I am fortunate to be able to help guide clients in implementing the latest in flexible learning design, where classroom walls are no longer the only places students can learn within a day. By making sure spaces are adaptable, we can continuously evolve the way we engage with students to better address all learning styles.

Let’s keep the conversation going, what other ways can we encourage students to stick with technical areas of study to better prepare them for future careers? Literacy and numeracy are both important. Let’s encourage students to be their most complete self in humanities and sciences.

Abie Khatchadourian, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB

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