Career Exploration Activities for Elementary Students

Children in elementary school enjoy exploring different careers.
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While it is common for older students to begin thinking about a career and to make decisions about college or other training, young children should also have opportunities to dream about the future. Providing career exploration in the elementary grades opens up a new world of ideas for youngsters to consider. Helping children understand from an early age that choosing a career can greatly affect their lives will encourage them to think about education and job choices as they grow up.

1 Career Posters

Have students brainstorm ideas of interesting jobs. Make a list and display it in the classroom. Then have children think about the job they would enjoy most and why. A child who loves pets might be interested in becoming a veterinarian, or one who likes to cook may dream of being a chef. Ask them to create posters about a preferred career. For primary-grade children, encourage them to draw pictures on their posters to represent their career choice. Intermediate students should add words and details in addition to pictures.

2 Career Reports

Ask the school librarian for career-themed books of various reading levels. Allow students to select books of interest to them, and provide time for them to read the books in class. For young children, provide dress-up clothes or other props, and have them demonstrate their chosen career to the class. Ask older students to write a report about the career, including expectations for the job and required schooling or training, and then share the reports in pairs or with the whole group.

3 Careers in the Community

Take children on a walk around the neighborhood, pointing out various places community helpers work. Examples might be the local grocery store, the fire station, the doctor's office or even the school. When you return to class, talk about the different jobs and how they are important to the community. On a large sheet of butcher paper, have small groups of students work together to create a map of the neighborhood, highlighting areas where community helpers work. Depending on the grade level, you may need to provide additional support or help in the layout of the map.

4 Career Day

Complete the unit on careers with a career day. Invite people from various fields to share with the students. Asking parents or community members to volunteer for this is a great place to start. Set up stations throughout the school and have classes rotate through. Encourage presenters to bring props or other items to increase engagement. For example, a firefighter might bring a uniform and show how to prepare for a fire, or a dog trainer might bring a pet to demonstrate tricks. At the end of the day, ask classes to write thank-you notes to the presenters.

Billie Wager has been a public school teacher since 1998. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction, both from Ottawa University. Wager is licensed to teach kindergarten through ninth grade in Kansas.