When the 7:25 bell rang this morning, instead of heading inside to Howard, I got on the bus to the Applications Research Laboratory or ARL for short to spend a few hours checking out the incredible things our students are doing over there each day. If you’ve never heard about the ARL, the basic gist is that it’s the “career and technology” high school for the county, a place where students from all 12 high schools and Homewood can attend to enroll in one of 13 career academies to gain some unique curricular experiences that can’t be replicated at student’s “normal” high school and to earn industry certifications and/or college credits.
As a graduate of a Science & Technology Magnet High School, I was totally geeking out at all the cool things I saw at the ARL. But it was so much more than just the STEM fields being represented. Although the majority of the academies are related to careers in STEM, there were also options for the Academy of Finance, the Automotive Academy, and the Hotel & Restaurant Management Academy (but to be honest…technology has become such an integral component of so many careers these days that these academies were also very “STEM-centric!)
The ARL certainly answers the age-old question that students pose–“when are we going to use this?” And the response is typically “RIGHT NOW” because students are constantly applying the skills and information they are learning. Whether its creating a video game using 3D animation skills or building a car or mock-investing in the stock market, students are learning by doing. They get immediate feedback on how they’re doing by run throughs, test runs, and class reviews of performance. Sometimes the product takes weeks and even months to complete, but the learning happens every day.
Many of the teachers at the ARL are experts in the field who have jobs in addition to teaching or they teach at HCC or other local colleges. In addition, they recognize that the best way to learn about various careers are from people in these fields–the FBI agents, structural engineers, graphic designers, chefs, nurses, and every other career under the sun that connects to the knowledge and skills students are learning. Students truly benefit from the diverse number of “teachers” who guide them on their career path.
I spent a morning there, but I could have spent a whole day or even a week checking out the amazing facilities, hearing the teachers beam with pride about their programs, and seeing the students engage in real world project-based/problem-based experiential learning. Check out the ARL’s site and maybe even go to the ARL yourself!