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First Graders Picture Themselves in Their Dream Careers!

Join first graders at English Village Elementary School as they explore their dreams. Technology, including word processing and programs such as Paint Shop Pro and PowerPoint, has enabled the students to see those dreams move one step closer to reality. Education World writer Sherril Steele-Carlin talked with the teachers and technologist who created this unique class project. Included: Links to the class project and other online career projects.

Image In so many ways, English Village is a typical K-2 elementary school. This year, however, one first grade class at the Rochester, New York, primary school put a lot of effort into creating a decidedly atypical end-of-year program. Co-teachers Amie Pettifer and Molly Meath came up with the idea and, with the help of Greece Central School District techno wizard Jerry Taylor, they put their Career Project online to share with family, friends, and others.

"The initial inspiration for this project came from the song 'I Believe I Can Fly,'" teacher Amie Pettifer tells Education World. "The song is about believing in yourself. I thought it would be wonderful to teach to my students."

Pettifer and Meath built an entire project around the song. They had the children dream about what they'd like to do when they grew up. Then the children created a book full of illustrations of themselves in their chosen professions. The book also included the students' written descriptions of their jobs and job duties.

From magazines and newspapers, the students chose pictures of people who work in the selected careers and scanned the photographs. "Then [we] took digital photos of the students, asking them to 'pose' with their heads in the approximate positions of the people in the photographs they brought in," explains Taylor, one of Greece Central's technology integration teachers. "Next, we used Paint Shop Pro and 'cloned' each student's face into the background [photo] so it looked as if the student was already involved in the career he or she chose. The pictures came out great!"

Those photographs, the students' colorful illustrations, and the students' typewritten descriptions were used to build a PowerPoint presentation, Taylor adds. The resulting Web page also includes the students' voices as they read their stories aloud and sing "I Believe I Can Fly."


The best part of the Web page is the knowledge the children show about their chosen dream jobs, the teachers comment. The project helped students develop an understanding of the duties they would perform as veterinarians, doctors, teachers, and more than a dozen other jobs.

How did the teachers get first graders to do such deep thinking about career choices? Pettifer and Meath created a graphic organizer to challenge students to think and to help them organize their thoughts about the responsibilities of their jobs. That graphic organizer included four questions:

  • Why do you want to do this career?
  • What will your duties be?
  • What tools will you need?
  • What is the best part about this career?

Pettifer and Meath also involved parents in the project. The parents talked with the kids about possible careers. They helped the kids find photos that depicted adults in those chosen careers too.

At the end of the school year, families and friends were invited to come to school and listen to the children read about their careers. The children read their stories on stage. The stories were compiled into a book, which every student signed. Then the entire class sang "I Believe I Can Fly." Computers were also available for the families to view the Web presentation.

"Our superintendent came, too. Everyone loved it," comments Taylor.


"The project took a lot of personal time," Pettifer tells Education World. She and her colleagues did most of the Web page work. In spite of a few kinks along the way, "We were very pleased with the outcome," Pettifer adds.

"I personally do not know a lot about creating Web pages, but I know Jerry [Taylor] said he probably wouldn't have used PowerPoint if he had known the ultimate goal was to have it on the Web," Meath explains to Education World. "The site tends to be slow downloading the sound."

One thing the teachers almost forgot was that they weren't supposed to publish the children's last names on the Web. They had to change the PowerPoint presentation before it could be posted for the world to see.

The children and families were also very happy with the page. "We have heard so many positive comments from parents," says Pettifer. "They were thrilled that it could be shared with family and friends who do not live close by. Parents also commented on how happy they were that we had exposed their children to the technology."

"The students were very pleased with the project. It was great to see their faces when the final page was done," adds Meath.


As you view the Web page, it's easy to see that the kids enjoyed this project and that the teachers put in a lot of hard work. Included below are links to some other online career projects plus some ideas for creating your own projects to bring the world of careers into your classroom.

  • Art and Technology Project
    In addition to the first-grade project, Jerry Taylor created a career project for high school students. The students illustrated their careers with oil paintings. The Web site includes details about the project.
  • Career Projects: A More Complete View of What Growing Up Is All About
    A sixth-grade math, science, and journalism teacher at Legg Middle School in Coldwater, Michigan, gave his students the challenge of creating their dream career. A real-life budget is included!
  • Career Projects, Grade 8
    Joanne Herrmann, a gifted-education teacher at Indian Hill Middle School in Cincinnati, created this Web page to showcase her students' career projects.
  • Career Trail
    Students can follow the Career Trail to find 10 Steps to Life Planning and a lot more!
  • Role Model Project for Girls
    This site features descriptions of jobs by actual professionals. Students can use the descriptions to learn more about many different careers.
  • Career collages and project-based learning
    This article about two teachers who included a career collage as part of their lesson plan.
  • Mapping Your Future
    At this Web site, students can research occupations and learn how to develop career plans.
  • BLS Career Information
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers this site geared toward kids and careers. It also has a special section just for teachers.

Article by Sherril Steele-Carlin
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

Updated 02/02/2005