Taking students out of their classrooms - and out of their comfort zones - is a key way that Mason City Schools challenge students to grapple with real-world problems and get prepared for life after high school.
This school year, Mason launched a new experiential learning program
: eMpowering You. The program was the dream of Debbie Gentene
- an influential MHS business teacher with experience in the corporate world who also manages the Comet Zone, Mason High School’s student-run store whose $150,000 a school year profits are all donated to charity.
"I really believe that experiential learning allows students to bridge classroom instruction into meaningful experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. Our students are hungry for these experiences, and we are grateful for the support of our business community who is helping us meet this need!" Gentene explains.
Experiential Learning allows students to see the connection between the classroom and the workplace. This includes bringing in guest speakers, going on site visits, job shadowing, or participating in an internship.
During the 2015-2016 school year, more than 2,000 MHS students have attended guest speaker events put on by the program, and 424 students have attended lunch-and-learns or the ‘Empower Hour,’ which is held once a month. There have been 83 students attend manufacturing and business field trips, and 121 students have applied or interviewed for job shadowing opportunities. There are also 70 job shadowing positions currently in progress, and more than five area businesses have partnered with the MHS Experiential Learning program.
On February 23, Gentene and two Mason High School seniors presented the program to the Mason City Schools Board of Education.
“This past summer I participated in an internship where I completed clinical rounds at West Chester Hospital. The internship was two weeks long from 8:00am-noon, and each day I got to shadow a different specialist in different departments of the hospital,” shared MHS senior Megan Slater. “I was even in the operating room where I got to witness live surgeries, I shadowed a nurse in the emergency department and also a respiratory therapist.”
The students emphasized that the program not only gives students the opportunity to see what they like, perhaps more importantly it gives them a window into what they don't like, too.
“This past fall I worked as a product development intern at Assurex Health,” added MHS senior Jeet Shah. “I had actual responsibilities while I was there, including designing a website and creating prototypes. I also worked with management of information systems, which relates directly to what I want to do in the future, which is data analytics. I can confidently say I will be pursuing computer science next year in college after performing financial analysis the first week and realizing that I don't like business as much - I learned 'Oh Man, this is not for me... I need to code!'"