Photo by Johnny Jackson
Woodland High School eighth-grader Matthew Bower, 14, received assistance from school counselor, Shari Ponder, during the school’s annual “Life 101” exercise Thursday.
Austin Robinson and Ty Carter plan to be civil engineers when they grow up. So, the 13-year-olds were delighted to pick engineering occupations Thursday, during Woodland Middle School’s annual “Life 101” exercise for eighth-graders.
“I was pleased with mine, [but] I would like to have had some more money,” lamented Carter. “You’ve got to be smart with what you have.”
Carter and his friend were participants in an annual exercise designed to give students a hands-on education of such real-life responsibilities as personal financing, health care, and household management.
Youngsters were introduced to different professions and home lives, and had to manage situations within the parameters of those randomly assigned professions and home lives. They were given the average monthly pay for their respective careers and told to visit different booths set up inside their school’s gymnasium.
Each booth represented a service or product, from paying for health care, beauty care, and household utilities, to buying a new car, or home. The students were asked to budget and navigate those services and products to provide for their families, within their means.
“I learned a lot about managing my money,” added Robinson. “I learned what my parents have to go through.”
School officials have touted “Life 101,” as a crash course on life as an adult for those just entering young adulthood.
“You learn a lesson,” said Carter. “But it changes your view on life.”
Woodland Middle Principal Terry Oatts described the Life 101 Program as an opportunity to bridge gaps between the traditional classroom experience and hands-on learning.
“We’re supporting and extending the existing curriculum, “ said Oatts. “The goal is to — in a very practical, real way — orient students to what they will experience post-secondary.”
Oatts noted the program’s objectives in producing financially conscious and responsible citizens.
“Why middle school? Because it needs to start here,” he said. “If we’re going to be successful, we can’t wait until high school.”
The principal singled out members of his staff — school counselor Shari Ponder and graduation coach Kate Whitley — as the ones who came up with the increasingly popular local version of Life 101.
Ponder and Whitley said they developed the Life 101 Program from a similar program demonstrated to them during a workshop in North Carolina in the spring of 2008. They have coordinated their version of the program, with fellow school counselor, Katie Havens.
Whitley said the Life 101 Program has evolved over the years to be more sophisticated, adding some aspects of adulthood less prevalent in the traditional curriculum.
She said the school added a “tax deductions for charity” component to this year’s Life 101 exercise. And next year, students will be introduced to “financial investments.”
Thursday marked the fourth year she and her colleagues have conducted the Life 101 exercise. Whitley said the exercise, now, is thriving as an integral addition to middle school curriculums throughout Henry County. Dutchtown Middle School, for instance, plans to host its Life 101 exercise on May 12.
Woodland Middle incorporates its exercise as part of a week-long focus on careers, called College/Career Week. The week involves each of the school’s more than 700 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders.
Sixth-graders participated Tuesday in a “College Speakers” symposium, designed to expose the students to their post-secondary options.
“A lot of kids think of college as a four-year experience,” said Whitley. “Some don’t realize that there are many, many options for them.
“I think there is a much more focused effort and a more deliberate effort to expose students to college and careers,” she continued. “By the time eighth-graders leave here, they will have a five-year plan.”
On Wednesday, seventh-graders at the school took part in a “Career Day” seminar with local professionals.
Eighth-graders are scheduled to undergo a mock interview process today (Friday), putting their newfound job search skills to the test in simulated interviews with community leaders and employers. They also will hear from representatives from Wells Fargo, on Monday, about financial literacy.