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Heart of MCA event success for students and instructors

Vermillion Elementary School students recently had their first peek into the Maize Career Academy when they opened sheep hearts with health science instructors, used virtual reality to glance inside human hearts, learned about the heart of the community through stories told by Maize Police officers and firefighters, cooked up aPhoto of fourth grade student cutting a strawberry with the help of a Maize culinary student. heart-healthy snack, and learned to have a heart by writing thank you cards to first responders. 

Some eager fourth grade students wanted to start taking high school courses the next day.

In an effort to implement more work-based learning, the Maize Career Academy and Vermillion Elementary School collaborated on the first “Heart of MCA” event earlier this month. Instructors and high school students assisted the fourth grade students through rotations focused on hearts at the Maize Career Academy, which opened its doors in 2017, and is home to unique and hands-on learning opportunities for students at both Maize High School and Maize South High School. 

Last school year, Maize Career Academy Director of College and Career Readiness Dr. Lindsay King and Robotics and Engineering teacher and 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year nominee Zack Helgesen started planning ways to implement work-based learning in the district’s elementary schools. The goal was to allow young students to learn about different career options and pique their curiosity about the Career Academy from an early age. 

The perfect opportunity emerged after Maize Career Academy leaders heard Vermillion Elementary School fourth grade teachers present at the September Maize Board of Education meeting on the use of their new Wit and Wisdom Curriculum. Inside their classrooms, they have been teaching students about literal and figurative hearts. 

To prepare for the event, Dr. King met with the fourth grade teaching team at Vermillion to determine what supplies were needed and built the rotation schedule. Dr. King’s goal was to include volunteers, students, and teachers to showcase their facility. 

Inviting Vermillion Elementary School to the Maize Career Academy is part of Dr. King’s greater vision for the space. 

“It’s important to expose students of all ages to as many career fields as possible before they enter into high school,” Dr. King said. “You can’t dream of your future career if you don’t see it in person. I want this space to be for every student and every community member and hope they feel like they belong here.” 

Overall, the first Heart of MCA was a success for both the fourth graders and the students demonstrating their passions. 

“The event was a success, because each fourth grade student had their own experience and takeaways,” Helgesen said. “Some loved the police, others were excited about the culinary art stations, and many talked about the health science rotation. Our high school students demonstrated leadership and passion throughout the event and enjoyed watching the fourth graders excited to learn.”

With the success of this event, the Maize Career Academy hopes to invite other elementary schools to their space for similar rotations.