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In Marina, California, educators are linking learning to careers through a “college and career” model that introduces middle school students to career paths.

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The Linked Learning approach caught the attention of Stephanie Herrera of Los Arboles Middle School, when she attended conferences researching how that college and career model would look in the classroom.

“It was about bringing real world experiences into the classroom and a way to expose students to different industry sectors and different careers,” said Herrera, who is in her second year as principal. “I thought those are really important pieces of student education, especially at the middle school level.”

The Linked Learning Alliance is a group that advocates for education being relevant to students, and believes that part of that is having students see how lessons apply to chosen careers.

Herrera is piloting the model with three teams of two teachers each. Each team works with approximately 65 students and has a different focus. One group of sixth graders focuses on youth empowerment, another on social justice, and seventh graders are focusing on textile and fashion design.

The six classrooms have been turned into three big rooms, with walls removed. Each of the groups will learn English, math, science and social sciences through blended learning. They will apply the concepts they learn in one subject area to other subjects.

“I’m proud of my teachers, it’s a lot of risk to implement a new way of teaching in a new classroom environment,” Herrera said. “That’s not easy to do, especially if you’ve been teaching for a long time, for 20 years and in the standard typical way of direct instruction with students sitting in rows.”

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