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The lesson of the armadillo and the Expo

Mykal Brown, a freshman at Auburn High School, was at the annual Academy Expo to learn about careers. Who knew he’d end up teaching his fellow students?

As it turned out, Mykal was a natural. When Kim Nelson, Rockford Public Schools Executive Director of Early Childhood, asked for volunteers in the expo booth to teach a lesson about physics, Mykal volunteered. Nelson explained that the lesson had to be tailored to 3- and 4-year-olds.

“Ok, I got this,” he told her.

Mykal Brown of Auburn (second from right) teaches an early childhood lesson about physics. Kim Nelson, executive director of early childhood for RPS 205, explains the lesson to Mykal at a booth in the Academy Expo.

Mykal Brown of Auburn (second from right) teaches an early childhood lesson about physics. Kim Nelson, executive director of early childhood for RPS 205, explains the lesson to Mykal at a booth in the Academy Expo.

As he surveyed the experiment — an adjustable wooden slant board and a stuffed toy armadillo on a skateboard – he started to explain to the other freshmen in the booth about slope and surface and the ABCs of making predictions. Then the students placed small square tokens where they thought the armadillo would land on a plastic mat beneath the board. The armadillo, with miniature safety helmet strapped on, went sailing down the board.

The early childhood teachers in the booth agreed Mykal showed a true gift for teaching. And Mykal, for his part, admitted he had considered teaching as a career.

Such discoveries are the point of the Academy Expo, which was held Oct. 15 at the BMO Harris Bank Center. At the Expo, freshmen students learned about careers as they cruised among 150 booths. The booths were staffed by industry experts and arranged by high school academy—BAMIT (Business, Arts, Modern World Languages and Information Technology), EMITT (Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial and Trades Technology), HPS (Human and Public Services), and HS (Health Sciences). There were about 2,000 freshmen from RPS 205 in attendance; another 1,000 freshmen came from Belvidere, Harlem and Hononegah.

Such a massive undertaking is possible only because of the support of Alignment Rockford and 900 community members who donate their time and talent to the event.

They know that career exploration can be unpredictable. What students discover they don’t like to do can be as important as discovering what they do.

Jamal Barnett, a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, is a senior at Jefferson High School who was doing guided tours of the Expo. He said he wanted to be a lawyer when he watched the TV show “Matlock” as an 8-year-old.  Then, as a freshman in high school, he found out how much reading is involved in law. Now he is interested in a career in business or finance.

Every RPS 205 freshman makes his or her academy choice in January. Here’s hoping Mykal Brown picks the education pathway in HPS.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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