Preschoolers explore careers through education

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Vernon Township’s Walnut Ridge School preschoolers clambered into school buses on Jan. 18, ready and eager to embark upon a field trip to Vernon Township High School for an exhilarating, fun-filled day of learning. The high school outfitted its gymnasium and cafeterias with workshop tables, technical equipment, and tangible props in preparation for the students’ entrance into a reimagined Career and Technical Education (CTE) space.

Modeling the practical and problem-solving skills of their elder peers, the Walnut Ridge students immersed themselves within the various Career and Technical Education Programs that Vernon Township High School offers. From restaurant and salon simulations to engineering and construction workspaces, the little learners tried their hands at “doing what the big kids do.”

Likewise, the high school students were delighted to have the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences, and passion for their career-driven specializations with this young, wide-eyed population. Honored to introduce the three- and four-year-olds to CTE’s world of exploration, the Vernon high school students demonstrated basic concepts and skills from their respective fields of study and encouraged the preschoolers to participate in activities alongside them.

Walnut Ridge School Principal Joseph Piccirillo observed, “The older and younger students were learning from each other.” Piccirillo, in addition to his preschool principalship, also oversees the Career and Technical Education Programs for Vernon Township School District, adding, “I am so proud of our CTE Programs and our preschool students. Seeing them come together is just incredible.”

With Vernon’s high school students becoming career-ready and its preschoolers becoming student-ready, Piccirillo stated, “Vernon’s public schools are preparing students for their academic lives.”

The Walnut Ridge School begins this trajectory with a comprehensive early childhood education curriculum that follows the state-approved Tools of the Mind Program and encourages students to use their cognitive, social, and emotional skills, or “tools”, to explore and learn about the world around them. Age-appropriate yet academically challenging, the Tools of the Mind Preschool Program develops and strengthens early learning skills to prepare students for direct entry into Vernon’s Kindergarten grade level at Cedar Mountain Primary School, and beyond.

Marveling at the enthusiasm and excitement of their preschool helpers, the Vernon Township High School students watched the young students actively engage in self-directed play at each CTE station. By introducing a new world of discovery and imagination to the little learners, the high school students were able to revisit their rigorous Career and Technical Education programs through the eyes of a preschooler.

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