Editor's note: CNN's Schools of Thought blog recently took a look at the high-tech return of high school shop class.
(CNN) - By day, Scott Loeser works from home for a company based in Hong Kong, selling stationery and school supplies to American big-box retailers.
In the afternoon, he rides a bus about 30 minutes from St. Paul, Minnesota, to a studio where he makes small leather goods by hand in the hopes of one day selling them for his own company. Before he can do that, though, he figures he needs to know how to use a sewing machine and make a scalable product.
"I want to be the guy selling stuff to Asian companies instead of selling for them," said Loeser, 35, whose background is product development, sales and retail branding. "I want to make a name for myself, but even if I have a product that's successful and great, how cool would it be if I could also say that I sew my own product?"
To get closer to his dream, Loeser enrolled in a "sewing and production specialist" course at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, where he'll learn the basics of sewing in an industrial setting and the production process.
The program includes on-the-job training and a paid internship with a company in the Twin Cities region that could lead to a full-time job. Upon completion of the 22-week program, which began in January, he'll earn a certificate in industrial sewing through Dunwoody.
It may not sound like the sexiest gig ever, but Loeser is one of 18 students who see the program as a ticket to a brighter future. Ranging in age from 18 to 64, their reasons for joining are as varied as their backgrounds. Some are lifelong Midwesterners, but nearly half are legal immigrants from as far as Somalia, Myanmar and Mexico. Some of them want to make use of a skill they utilized in their homeland or find a steady job that keeps them off their feet; others, such as Loeser, see a path to entrepreneurialism.
That the class exists is a testament to the growing demand for a trade considered nearly obsolete in the last decades of the 20th century. The last time Dunwoody offered a cutting and sewing class was in the 1940s before it was dropped because of a lack of industry demand, said Debra Kerrigan, dean of workforce training and continuing education.
Fast forward six decades and the demand for a skilled cut and sew industry has returned to Minnesota, home to about 8,000 manufacturing companies, many in desperate need of a workforce trained in trades lost in an era of outsourcing and automation.
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Editor's note: Check out CNN Living's story about a college program creating jobs by training students to revive a 'dying trade.'
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - You can almost hear the old shop teacher asking - so, how is this going to work?
In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama talked about redesigning schools for a high-tech future. He gave a shout-out to a technical high school in Brooklyn, and to 3-D printing. In a moment of seeming agreement, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio mentioned incentives for schools to add vocational and career training.
But long gone are the days of shop class, or even "vocational training," said Stephen DeWitt, the senior director of public policy for the Association for Career and Technical Education. For many years, he saw career and technical education cut by shrunken budgets or "literally and figuratively left in the back of the school, separate from academics."
What's emerging in schools now is something tougher to pin down. In one district, it might be a fancy new school dedicated to teaching tech. In another, an apprenticeship program. Some schools design career and technical classes to line up with college-prep courses that guide students to become engineers, chefs, CEOs or doctors. Almost 80% of high school students who concentrated on career and technical studies pursued some type of postsecondary education within two years of finishing high school, the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2011.
"We’re hearing policy makers talk about it more often. Certain districts are looking at career and technical education as a way to reform schools," DeWitt said. "The focus on project-based learning, how to get students engaged more, is something that’s caught on."
That might mean more maker spaces sprouting up at schools, too.
Students helped build out the maker space at Analy High School.
They are exactly what they sound like - a space to make things. The workshops and warehouses have taken off in communities around the country during the last few years, but the push to add them to schools is still fresh.
"Maker spaces aren't in schools and they need to be," MAKE magazine founder Dale Dougherty told a crowd at Maker Faire in Michigan last summer. "Not just a summer camp, not just an after-school program."
MAKE secured a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the "hacker spaces" in schools - a move some criticized because of its military ties. The money helped to launch maker spaces at a handful of Northern California schools this school year.
The goal: more than 1,000 by 2015.
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By Laurel Bongiorno, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Laurel Bongiorno is director of the master’s degree program in early childhood education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She is working on a book on the value of play in early childhood development.
(CNN) - Parents want to buy the best toys for their children - the educational toys that will make them grow faster, read earlier and solve math problems faster.
Toy manufacturers often market high-priced toys that play by themselves (no child needed!), are connected to movies and television shows (no imagination needed!) or have just one purpose in mind. Once played with, they go in the closet.
On this last weekend before the Christmas gift-giving commences, parents should go back to basics when toy shopping for their young children from birth to age 8. Children are complex people who need holistic opportunities for development, learning, health and happiness.
Blocks, dramatic play clothes, art supplies, messy play opportunities, books and games are the stuff they need for the holidays. And, parents don’t have to break the bank to afford them. The local dollar stores and thrift stores have many of these materials.
Consider a 4-year-old building a highway with the blocks. She sorts, sequences, maps, plans, predicts, estimates, counts and compares. The 7-year-old might create bridges and ramps, using basic physics concepts. Blocks are open-ended materials that the children don’t tire of and retire to the closet when they are done. Parents can add to block-building fun by supplying play props such as cars, dinosaurs, animals and many other options. Math isn’t the only benefit derived from blocks; children use their small motor skills, build their vocabulary, play cooperatively with others and gain self-control and patience.
By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
(CNN) - An 11-year-old from Michigan said he was really going to wow his schoolmates with the "coolest" show-and-tell item anyone's ever brought to the sixth grade.
After all, it's not every day you get to show off a 13,000-year-old mastodon bone you and your cousin found in a stream behind your backyard.
"I thought it was a rock at first, but a couple minutes later I looked more at it, and I didn't think it was a dinosaur bone, but I wasn't sure," Eric Stamatin of Shelby Township Michigan told CNN on Thursday.
He and Andrew Gainariu, 11, from Troy, Michigan, were hunting for crayfish in the stream that extends from the middle branch of the Clinton River, as they often did, when they "got bored" and decided to build a dam.
They made an extraordinary discovery that June day.
John Zawiskie, a geologist and paleontologist at the Cranbrook Institute of Science confirmed in early November that what the "kids just being kids outside" discovered was not a rock at all, but an axis, a specialized second vertebrae behind the skull in the spinal column of an American mastodon.
"These animals have been extinct for 10,000 years," Zawiskie told CNN.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org