When you walk into John Potter’s residential construction or residential electricity classes, they are filled with students in grades 9-10 who have an interest in potentially enrolling in a career and technical education program their junior and senior years with the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES. But while still in Queensbury schools, students are exposed to hands-on, project-based workplace skill development. For 15 weeks this school year, 18 of Potter’s students worked on building two ready-for-sale sheds from the ground up. Potter took them through the basic fundamentals and taught them about foundation work, weather-proofing, wall systems, and roof systems. The end-products were entirely built by students as young as 14 years old.
“These students can walk out of high school and get a job making a significant amount of money either going into an electrician’s union, going into a carpenter’s union or working for a construction crew,” said Potter. “Having something here at Queensbury that gives them an opportunity to see what they are capable of will certainly open doors for them in the future.”
Potter says the sheds were built with the same tools that would be used on professional job sites to make students’ classroom experiences applicable to the outside industry.
“It was cool that what was just a pile of lumber at the beginning of the school was made into this finished project,” said tenth grade student James McGuire. “This project gave me a lot more insight on how to build things and how to make them last.”
Since 2016, the district has continued to highlight the importance of getting students on the right pathway early-on for college and career. The pathways initiative moves away from the one-size fits all model of education, and offers choices, setting the foundation for students to successfully enter the workforce, earn an industry certification, or complete an on-time graduation from a two or four-year college.
“Choice is a powerful motivator,” said Superintendent Douglas Huntley, Ed.D. “We continue to make changes in our curriculum to help prepare all students for careers and college–whatever pathway is best for them. When students get to choose a graduation pathway they become more committed to it.”