Most people visit the Ontario Science Centre to interact with the exhibits. But this year, over 1,800 grade eight students went behind the scenes to interact with the people who curate, maintain and manage the facility.
“Quite honestly, we lucked out that the Ontario Science Centre was a willing and able partner in this project,” says Matt Johnston. He is one of five elementary guidance counsellors with the Toronto District School Board who were looking for a dynamic venue to host their Career Day event.
The grade eight students were from East Region 12 and 13 of the Toronto District School Board. Career Day began with five Ontario Science Centre employees speaking about their very different jobs. Speakers included a biochemist, a cabinet-maker, a zookeeper, and an administrator. Students were surprised to learn about career opportunities for people without a science background.
“Students learned that the Ontario Science Centre employs more than just scientists,” says Johnston. “We want students to view organizations with a different lens because within those organizations there are many layers with different opportunities.”
Students were also sent on a scavenger hunt to identify different things that speakers had talked about or find specific information about careers. The Ontario Science Centre kept some of their staff available to interact with students and answer questions.
Ontario Science Centre staff spoke about the necessary skills for different types of jobs, and the importance of keeping options open. Some staff introduced students to the idea of “transitional jobs” which are different from “forever jobs” because they are experiences for the next career step.
Students used Career Cruising before the conference to explore their own interests. After the conference, students will continue using Career Cruising to research a career of their choice and present it to the class. The goal is to have students thinking about career options in a positive way before high school registration in June.
The feedback from parents and educators who attended the conference has been very positive. Even more importantly, the students appeared engaged at the conference and left with a broader sense of how many career opportunities exist in a large organization.
When asked how other school districts might mimic this career conference, Johnston thinks for a moment and then says that almost any school trip could be used to explore career opportunities.
“The Ontario Science Centre is a large organization with multiple careers represented,” says Johnston. “But there’s no reason why you couldn’t walk through a zoo—or anywhere—and brainstorm different types of occupations that make the organizations run, then go back and research them.”