By Andrew Cluley
Ann Arbor Public Schools highlighted some of the great hands on learning opportunities the district offers students for the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber’s Leadership A2Y Education Day. Current and emerging leaders in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area got to tour the Health Science and Project Lead the Way programs at Huron High School, and visit the Homebuilding program’s construction site.
Students in the Health Science program are currently in their clinical placements, serving two hours a day, four days a week at the University of Michigan Health System, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, the V-A Hospital and in private practices across the area. Teacher Lynn Boland says over 200 mentors work with the 50 students in the program. Boland says passion for the work is huge in the health sciences, so sometimes a good outcome from her class can be one that initially appears disappointing for a student. “I’ve succeeded if in getting through the class they decide health care isn’t where they want to be,” Boland says. “Parents can send me thank you notes because I’ve saved them a lot of money.”
It’s not just in health care that AAPS students can get hands on learning. Every high school, middle school, and several elementary schools offer Project Lead the Way classes. These classes focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, or STEAM. At Huron High School teacher Michael Sumerton has turned a room filled with old scrap metal next to the auto shop, into a high tech workshop with Computer Aided Design workstations, a robotics lab, and more. Students have even helped shape the facility by participating in the grant writing process that’s leading to the funds necessary to upgrade the classroom.
Teacher John Birko’s classroom isn’t located in a school at all. He leads the homebuilding class, that is based out of a construction trailer and in the home the students are building this year on the north side of Ann Arbor. This is the 46th year for the program, and the home that will be offered for sale later this year will be the 46th home built by Ann Arbor Public Schools students. Birko says the program is a unique partnership between the district and the business community.
Birko says with a shortage of skilled labor, all of his kids will have job opportunities in construction by the end of the school year if they want one. While they learn these valuable trade skills, Birko says the class is really about leadership training, teaching them to look people in the eye, show up to work on time, and other soft skills that will serve students well in whatever field they choose.