Photograph of jigsaw puzzle pieces.

CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

This collection of lessons for seventh-grade English language arts, math, science, and social studies aims to help students make connections between the academic curriculum and possible future careers. The lessons were created for CareerStart, a schools and community capacity-building strategy that attempts to positively influence the educational trajectory for all students, but especially those at higher risk for school failure. CareerStart was developed as a partnership among the Schools of Education and Social Work at UNC - Chapel Hill, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district, and the Piedmont Triad Council of Government.

Research conducted on low-income students in North Carolina public schools has shown that high drop-out rates in high school are preceded by significant student disengagement in middle school. These lessons were prepared by teachers to combat that disengagement by providing illustrations from real jobs to help students understand how course content is applied outside the classroom. As a result, teachers using these lessons should be able to easily answer frequently asked questions like, “Who really uses this information in the real world?” and “When will I ever need this information after I leave school?”

The lessons do not require teachers to introduce new content in the classroom. Instead, they provide teachers with creative ways to illustrate priority curriculum content with examples from a wide range of jobs and careers, ranging from those that require advanced technical training to those that require college or postgraduate degrees.

CareerStart is currently being evaluated via a longitudinal study of about 6,500 students at 14 middle schools in North Carolina. Findings to date confirm that the CareerStart successfully supports engagement with course content and encourages students to begin to think about future careers.