At a Glance
Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) offers tours of their facility and programs to fifth grade students from all of their sending districts to introduce them to career and technical education. This profile showcases how the LCTI team organized and facilitated tours in the second semester of 2021 running over two weeks with morning and afternoon sessions.
Lehigh Career and Technical Institute’s school leaders and staff recognize the importance of engaging students at an early age to increase awareness and understanding of career and technical education (CTE). A key practice was the development of tours of LCTI for fifth grade students to create awareness about career education and generate an interest in attending LCTI at a younger age/grade level. Traditionally, recruitment initiatives have been targeting eight grade students with the primary focus to secure applicants. It was determined that since LCTI’s programs start in ninth grade, eighth grade was too late to get students interested in enrolling in CTE. The LCTI team set the goal of raising future enrollment in both half day CTE programs and the full day Academic Center, as well as Camp LCTI, a summer program for students in fifth through eighth grade. Fifth grade is an important year in math instruction for sending schools, therefore a specific focus was on STEAM and math integration during the tours.
LCTI invited fifth grade students from 36 middle schools in Lehigh County to tour the facility and programs. Over 200 Student Ambassador tour guides and lab guides led 3,200 students, making up 160 tour groups over 10 days of tours. A focus was put on STEAM in each of the labs’ demonstrations and presentations. As fifth grade students toured the building, they stopped at STEAM stations set up by the CTE programs throughout the building. These stations were run by student lab ambassadors from each program and included posters, demonstrations, and interactive activities. Lab ambassadors presented to tour groups and answered questions about their programs and LCTI. Fifth grade students were given an informational activity pamphlet that included an Exit Ticket that could be completed and submitted as an artifact for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education’s Career Education and Work standards.
Surveys were sent to Lehigh County elementary schools at the end of the 2020-21 school year to determine the interest level of fifth grade student tours. LCTI’s School and Community Outreach Coordinator visited each fifth grade class, to promote registration for the tours beginning in January 2021. The tours took place throughout the weeks of March 14th and 18th 2021, with morning tours the first week and afternoon tours the second week. Each school counselor was provided with a tour roster template in Google Sheets. This enabled LCTI staff to collaborate with the sending schools in real time to generate attendance lists for each tour guide. Tour guides were supplied with their attendance list, campus map, talking points, and the program brochure for each guest in their group.
STEAM stations included medical displays, a student developed game show, a display on the chemistry of hair color, a molecular gastronomy demonstration, an equivalent measurements display, an interactive “which shape is strongest” station, a mini lesson connecting the cartesian coordinate system to machining and much more! The 5th-grade students’ eyes were opened to all of the possibilities of CTE.
The greatest challenge was the lack of transportation available for elementary schools throughout the county. This was addressed by allowing schools to schedule tours as late as the week before they began to allow every opportunity to secure transportation. Tour guides and lab ambassadors in the Academic Center also missed some academic class time, which became necessary to help conduct tours. This was addressed by making sure responsible students were selected as tour guides and ambassadors and making sure these students consistently connected with their Academic Center instructors and completed make-up work. Each 5th grader received an informational activity pamphlet and a pair of LCTI sunglasses. These expenses were paid from the marketing and printing budget. Lab supplies needed to create the STEAM stations were covered by each lab’s budget.
The fifth grade tours were meaningful for both elementary and LCTI students. The fifth grade students gained knowledge and interest in CTE, while the student tour guides, and lab ambassadors gained experience in communication and presentation skills. The lab ambassadors especially grew exponentially in their interactions and engagement with the fifth grade tour groups. The Camp LCTI registration has already seen an increase from this same timeframe in previous years as well.
As with any large-scale event, advance planning by the LCTI was essential. Recommendations for replicating the fifth grade tours include organizing tour/lab guides is critical to creating successful tours. Referrals should be obtained by faculty/staff for qualified student ambassadors and adequate training should be provided to the tour guides and student ambassadors. Advance notification to the CTE teachers should be obtained early in the process so they have time to implement a demonstration, activity or display. Examples of tour routes, attendance rosters, registration (sign up) information, tour guide schedule and other supporting materials are available for replication upon request.