With the right supports, career exploration can begin at any age. From videos to workbooks to journalling exercises, these resources can help school counsellors, educators, parents and other caring adults engage elementary school students in career exploration.
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Activities, books, programs and tools
All About Me grants children from kindergarten to Grade 6 access to a variety of tools that introduce them to the world of work. Whether exploring a new environment and the careers that inhabit them or trying a fun job match mini-game, students broaden their knowledge of future possibilities.
These programs give young people opportunities to strengthen and acquire new skills, test their abilities and enhance career readiness. Programs for children include Discovery Lab, a program that connects science to real-world contexts, and Kid Tech Nation, which teaches children digital skills, coding concepts, internet safety and computational thinking.
The third edition of this publication, written by Jennifer Curry and Amy Milsom, will be released in January 2022. The book focuses on helping readers translate theoretical knowledge into practice, addressing career development and college readiness by grade level in prekindergarten-12.
This 100+ page document offers a detailed at building an elementary school curriculum for career development, including activities and assessment tools. It also outlines curriculum outcomes.
Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators (Association for Middle Level Education)
This Playbook – which has a PDF available for free download – aims to provide educators with a roadmap for creating effective career exploration programming. It includes implementation guides, case studies and program sustainability resources.
Tools such as learning maps and journals, as well as picture books and educator resources that can help students in kindergarten to Grade 5 expand their awareness of their personal interests and strengths and explore different types of careers.
Specific objectives of the workbook include the concept of self-knowledge, the development of a basic understanding of interests, likes and dislikes and how to interact with others. The various activities are also designed to raise awareness of the relationship between work and learning, how work relates to the needs and functions of society, and the interrelationship of life roles.
CareerGirls.org is a free, video-based career-exploration tool for girls. It has a collection of 10,000 career guidance videos focusing on diverse and accomplished women, including many who work in STEM fields. The website also offers a career quiz and a space to explore career clusters.
This website features numerous collections of paid resources educators, guidance counsellors and parents can use with students and youth to help them learn about career development. For instance, the “Career Exploration” collection includes books, DVDs and a game to guide children through career exploration.
This resource aims to help professionals who deliver career supports apply CERIC’s Guiding Principles of Career Development in meaningful ways with youth. Part of a series of six resources – each focused on different demographics – the youth edition offers starter questions, practical interventions and fun exercises to apply.
This Government of Alberta resource aims to help teachers guide students in Grades 4-6 through exploring the world of work and learning. It includes activities tied to specific learning objectives, such as relating personal interests to various occupations.
A series of lesson plans for each grade from K-12 to help schools establish a career education program.
An activity book for facilitators to help students in Grades 3-5 understand careers. It is based on the four-part LEAP curriculum: 1. Youth discover and work with 12 foundational skills; 2. Youth learn about entrepreneurship; 3. Youth delve into the career fields; and 4. Youth design their own Learning Experiences Action Plan (LEAP).
The Early Years: Career Development for Young Children – A Guide for Educators and A Guide for Parents/Guardians (CERIC)
Based on CERIC-funded research conducted by Memorial University’s Dr. Mildred Cahill and Dr. Edith Furey, these guides explore the influence that educators and parents/guardians have on the career development process of children ages 3 to 8. The guides provide practical tips, activities and examples to help children develop a healthy sense of self in the early years and enable them to reach their full potential.
You can also watch a free webinar recording presented by Dr. Cahill on “How Parents Can Support Their Children’s Early Career Development.”
Xello is a digital platform that helps students discover the pathway that’s right for them using an investigative, discovery-based learning process. Students can identify their interests, skills, favourite career clusters, personality style and much more. They can save careers, schools, programs and experiences to form a visual roadmap that’s easy to update and share.
This article offers steps to a comprehensive approach to career education that goes beyond “Career Day.” It outlines an example of using the Career Compass tool with students, which helps students organize their research, opportunities and list achievements for each career they are interested in.
Regardless of whether they discuss it in school, children are learning about careers. Involving schools helps ensure that career learning is less random, less partial, more equal, more accurate and more able to challenge young people’s implicit stereotypes and assumptions, writes Tristram Hooley.
Careering magazine – multiple articles
- Applying universal design as a pathway to inclusive career education: Tricia Berry shares how New Brunswick’s Future Ready Learning K-12 strategy aims to meet needs of all learners
- Career development will help equip children to take on climate change: Stefania Maggi explains why helping young people think critically about how employment and the environment intersect can shift their sense of fear to a feeling of empowerment
- Community connections foster k–12 career exploration: Heather McIntyre and Sean Jones share an overview of the Edmonton Public Schools’ Community Marketplace initiative, which weaves career development into the curriculum by engaging with community partners
- Current approaches to career education risk impeding students’ exploration: Josslyn Gabriel examines how thinking we know what is best for youth without considering their lived experiences can inhibit their visions of their future selves
- Making career development ‘stick’ in k-12: Adriano Magnifico explores why the career development gap in schools can only be bridged by prioritizing and scaling programming
- Principles in Action: Elementary career education equips students to navigate complex world of work: Ed Hidalgo explains how the Cajon Valley Union School District uses a process called “World of Work” to provide every child with career development that is integrated within their classroom curriculum
Starting early – the importance of career-related learning in primary school (Education and Employers)
This article discusses why career-related learning matters for children, including its impact on tackling stereotypes and broadening career aspirations. It also shares hallmarks of success of career education in primary schools and activities for children.
“Children are doing their best to understand and organize the world of work that they see, and at times that means they are forming ideas about who can and cannot do certain jobs based on identity characteristics such as gender, race and/or ethnicity,” write Kimberly Howard and Stephanie Dinius. They examine ways to talk about work with pre-school to early elementary-age children in ways that are developmentally appropriate and that support their early career-exploration efforts.
Note that some of the following may require a log-in or request for access to download.
- Early intervention career development for children and adolescents: Topics explored include career exploration, family and parental influence, school/guidance counsellors, and race and gender.
- Parental involvement in career development: Topics explored include gender stereotyping, self-employed parents and adolescent personality development.
- Infusing career development into K-12 curriculum: Topics explored include career exploration and guidance for elementary students, parental involvement in student career planning, benefits of career counselling programs for students and K-12 career competency building and implications.
Social-emotional learning and career development in elementary settings (British Journal of Guidance and Counselling)
A holistic approach to youth development suggests that, given the interconnected nature of development in the domains of career development and social-emotional-learning (SEL), children and youth are better supported when education in both domains is provided in an integrated way. This paper integrates a model of SEL with models of childhood career development competencies and career-related reasoning.
What works? Career-related learning in primary schools (Education and Employers Research and The Careers & Enterprise Company)
This paper provides evidence of the benefits of career-related learning (CRL) for children in primary school, as well as on the effects of CRL on primary-aged children’s decisions, aspirations and attitudes. It maps key actions being taken by primary schools to support children’s transitions to secondary school and beyond.
- Can Minecraft really help you build a career? (BBC)
- Career ambitions ‘already limited by age of seven’ (BBC)
- Career exploration curriculum for elementary school-age kids (Michigan State University)
- Career Exploration for Elementary Students: Considering it for your Classroom? (Xello)
- Early in the Story: Career Curriculum in Elementary Schools (NCDA)
- Ed Hidalgo: ‘Every child should know there’s a place in the world for them’ (CareerWise)
- How can we foster lifelong learning attitudes in students? (OECD)
- How to get girls interested in entrepreneurship (CareerWise)
- Supporting Early Career Development of Transgender and Gender Expansive Children in Elementary School (NCDA)
- Tips for Parents: 8 Ways to Help Your Child’s Career Development (Career Key)
- The World Of Work – In Elementary School (Forbes)
- 5 podcasts to help kids start learning about careers (CareerWise)
- 5 resources to help parents support their children’s career development (CareerWise)
This blog was originally published on CareerWise Nov. 26, 2018 and was last updated in September 2021.
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