Many of you may remember the ''Home Ec'' classes as the girls baking cookies and muffins, and the boys taking ''shop'' class. Those classes were never co-ed. Over the years, those classes have changed quite a bit, and all for the good.
New York mandates all students receive 30 weeks of Home and Careers before moving on to high school. Students going to Southwestern receive 10 weeks of these classes at each level of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. All classes are co-ed, and students are dealing with life skills at each level.
Many schools present these classes using technology, and do not include the ''hands-on'' approaches featured at Southwestern. The ''hands-on'' approach is something that Mrs. Imfeld (Home & Careers educator/Family & Consumer Sciences department chair) prefers to continue in her curriculum. It is also the experiences that the students look forward to and enjoy as they move through their middle school years.
Seventh-grader Clay Hanson sews camouflage hunting pants. Below,
Eighth-grade students run a restaurant business named “Winter Wonder Food.”
The sixth- and seventh-grade programs of instruction prepare students to meet their responsibilities as members of families, consumers, home managers and wage-earners.
Sixth-grades focus on self-discovery, setting goals and values, decision-making, and communicating, as well as developing leadership and friendship skills. This goes along with the anti-bullying and good character program SWCS has throughout its school system. The Southwestern School District was one of the first four schools in the nation to embrace CASS (Creating a Safe School) in 2003. Faculty, staff, parents and students were trained in this program and also served as mentors, not only to SWCS students, but traveled throughout the county as well as nationally to train and promote the anti-bullying concept. The district continues to embrace a zero-tolerance toward bullying and promotes good character at all levels using a variety of activities throughout the school year. The end of the 10-week program involves a basic hand-sewn project where each student chooses from a variety of sports equipment, pillows and animals to hand-sew. They are taught to thread a needle and knot the thread, not to mention the actual sewing of the project. Their excitement is contagious, as a young man this past 10 weeks came running into class the day after learning how to thread and knot the needle to share with me how he had ''fixed over 50 items at home last night, all of the rips and tears in my families' clothes, sewed on buttons and fixed all of my dog's ripped toys!'' all the while jumping up and down and smiling ... talk about learning life skills.
Seventh-graders work quite a bit in developing managing their personal resources, learning good consumer skills, managing their money, some basic nutrition and ending their program using a sewing machine to complete a basic project as a pillow, back pack, shorts, hats or pants. Many students after this class have asked for sewing machines for Christmas or birthday gifts, or are getting out that sewing machine that has been sitting around the house.
Since studies have shown that many students did still not know what to do after graduation, our aim for the seventh grade has been more centered on career exploration. This past year working with the guidance department, students complete career assessments and their career research paper will now follow them through their years in the high school to help them schedule future classes, as well as the high school guidance having a base to use with each student. It will also help them schedule various college visits as well as student shadowings, and bringing in speakers of various technical/trade schools and businesses to the high school. Along with these assessments, the eighth grade is introduced to the world of work, becoming aware of aptitudes/relationship to careers, career exploration and researching a career that coincides with their assessments. Each student is given the opportunity to shadow within the community in the area they have researched, and the marking period ends with a class entrepreneurship project. The class develops a ''business'' by creating the name of the business, and the items they will be promoting/selling. They then interview for and are assigned an actual job within that business. This project is a favorite among the kids as they develop work-related skills and investigate their importance for particular careers. The most current business was named Winter Wonder Food.
All in all, many changes have been incorporated over the years, as well has continuing to maintain some basic life skills in the area of Home and Career Skills. The students and staff look forward to constant changes within the department, and enjoy educating the students to learn to be more competent, confident and responsible in their personal, family and career lives.