Educational programs that extend beyond the classroom

04/01/2012
Educational Travel

An engine roars to life and the energy in the room becomes electrifying. A group watches closely, eyes widening with excitement and curiosity. The group is made up of high school seniors and educators standing in the middle of a classroom; but this is no ordinary lesson – it is a Field Trip at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI). It’s not unusual for high school students to visit a college campus, but UTI Orlando offers an experience that goes above and beyond the standard campus tour.

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High school students start the day exploring the heart of a machine, tasked with the challenge of working together to create a pulsing, human engine. Then they move full steam ahead into interactive discussions and demos on how energy is created. Problem solving is exercised during a hands-on lab that explores the inner workings of circuit building. The excitement is heightened as the group watches UTI students work on a variety of cars, boats and motorcycles. This is a unique experience for them because Marine and Motorcycles studies are specific to the Orlando campus, and not available nation-wide. Throughout the program, students will take an in-depth tour of the campus, interact with various instructors and receive scholarship information.

This unique, interactive program was designed exclusively for UTI, in partnership with Field Trip Factory (FTF). FTF is a company dedicated to bringing educational lessons to life for over 19 years, partnering with retail locations across the United States to bring specialized learning opportunities into local communities. Everything from program development to scheduling and customer service is handled by FTF. The goal for both FTF and UTI is to ensure that every program is not only easy to execute, but educationally relevant to real life experiences.

UTI is dedicated to executing their program with two major standards in place. The first is that the tour is focused around the importance of continuing education after high school, whether they choose follow an automotive career path with UTI or not. “The best part of the activity was the use of real applications as it applies to the workforce and post-secondary education,” reported Victoria Cano, a teacher who took her twelfth grade class on the field trip. Though the experience takes place on a campus that is specialized for the automotive industry, the message to the participants extends beyond that.

The second standard is to ensure that the educational lessons embedded throughout the entire experience expand students’ thinking about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). After taking her twelfth grade class to UTI, teacher Glenda Vidal reflected on the value of the tour saying, “Strong emphasis has been placed on STEM learning lately. During the tour, the application of STEM was emphasized and therefore reinforced with my students.” With that in mind, Vidal plans to continue utilizing this trip as a valuable resource for future classes. “I will bring future classes out at the beginning of the year so that they can actually see STEM in action, which will give them better understanding and dedication to learn their courses.” Vidal is one of many educators tasked with delivering lessons that expand her students’ thinking about STEM subjects.

A major statewide STEM focus has come to fruition in the Florida education community. In the 2011 Florida STEM Strategic Plan, President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, Dale A. Brill, Ph. D., outlines the state’s educational initiatives, with innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education as the highest strategic priority. New end-of-year testing and heightened graduation requirements have already been implemented in Florida high schools to ensure that high school students are well educated in STEM subject areas upon graduation.

The importance of STEM expands far beyond the Florida border, having gained increased national attention over the last several years. For people involved in the movement, a STEM Summit will be held in Dallas this June over the course of three days. U.S. News editor-in-chief, Mortimer Zuckerman commented on the importance of the event, “There is much good work being done in different parts of the country, but it is essential to bring the best people and the best practices together.” The goal of the Summit is to create a greater awareness of the importance of STEM education as it applies to different demographics.

During an April 2011 town hall event in California, President Obama stated, “Emphasizing STEM education — especially to girls and minority students — is one of the most important efforts the United States can make if it hopes to produce college- and career-ready students.” It is with this shared viewpoint that UTI and FTF came together to develop a field trip program that achieves just that — an experience that delivers STEM lessons and resources while helping students prepare for life and learning after high school.

“There has got to be a shift in American culture, where once again we buckle down and we say, ‘This stuff is important,’” Obama said. “We’ve got to lift our game up when it comes to technology, and math, and science.” The support for educators to take charge of this initiative is growing, and the resources are available. Experience it for yourself and for your students — at UTI Orlando.

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Issue 18.3 | Winter/Spring 2017

Southeast Education Network

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