When Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) students begin choosing next year’s courses on Feb. 1, they’ll have important new tools to prepare them for their futures: Pathways and expanded Capstone experiences.
Pathways are suggested course progressions that reflect five high-demand career fields. They are geared to provide a focused but flexible framework that can guide students as they select their coursework and even their extracurricular activities.
“Pathways create a learning progression that can help teens and families see the progression and the connectivity in their coursework,” said Robb Virgin, who is Eden Prairie Schools’ executive director of personalized learning as well as a former EPHS principal.
Capstones are individual courses for juniors and seniors that draw on student experiences leading to that point. They are designed to transform the traditional classroom experience to give students practical, real-world knowledge needed for a career in that field, Virgin said.
Students who complete a Pathway or Capstone will have it noted on their high school transcript.
The five Pathways students will be able to choose from are:
- Business and management.
- Human and public services.
- Natural and applied sciences.
- Engineering, technology, and manufacturing.
- Communication and Arts.
Completing a Pathway will help students become qualified for fulfilling careers that are also matched with the country’s predicted future job needs, Virgin said.
“For instance, students interested in the healthcare field will be well-matched with current and predicted future worker shortages. This is a fit for the Natural & Applied Sciences Pathway, where students can take classes in anatomy, for instance. We are also planning to add a medical terminology class and more,” he said.
To build the program’s momentum and ensure its success and relevance, Virgin said the district is working with advisory teams to create best practices and stay up to date on industry needs.
“As we build out this infrastructure, we’re establishing community advisory teams for each of the Pathways that consist of community members working in that space, teachers that are teaching in that space, and students,” Virgin said.
A couple of these committees are already set up and the rest will be launched by the fall, he added.
“That’s been really valuable,” he said. “We have one going right now for engineering, technology, and manufacturing. We’re hearing from them, ‘Here’s the equipment we’re actually using in the field. Here are the skills gaps we’re seeing.’”
Virgin said these committees help the community get engaged, facilitate the sharing of important industry knowledge, and allow students to begin career networking.
Capstones and supporting courses
To complete any of the five Pathways, students need to earn 10 credits in that Pathway by taking at least one of the designated Capstone classes, plus specific supporting courses. Many of the Pathways courses will fulfill graduation requirements, Virgin said.
“Next year there will be 10 Capstone experiences that will allow kids to get a whole lot closer to experiencing what that career field is like, than traditional school does,” Virgin said. “Across those 10 Capstones, we think there is something in there for every junior and senior.”
The Capstones for next year are: Entrepreneurship, Integrated Marketing & Analytics, Education Capstone, Civics in ACTION, Science Research & Design, iOS App Development, Advanced Woodcrafting, Principles of Engineering, Gallery Studies & Exhibition Creation, and Multimedia Story Production.
An Aeronautics Capstone will be added in the 2024-25 school year.
“In each of those Capstones there are hallmarks,” Virgin said. “You’ll have guest visits from industry professionals. You’ll have site visits and mentors. The assessments will reflect what people in that field do.”
Virgin said a student taking the Multimedia Story Production Capstone would be evaluated similarly to someone working for a media organization. “People who work at KARE 11 don’t have multiple choice tests,” he said. “Capstones get you closest to how professionals in that field are behaving.”
Hear from students and staff talking about the Pathways and Capstones experience in this video.
A Capstone class is a required part of completing a Pathway, but students can also take Capstone classes without completing a Pathway.
Pathways supporting courses include many Advanced Placement (AP) and Postsecondary Enrollment (PSEO) options, which also offer students the chance to earn college credit. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to earn certifications and credentials from area colleges, professional organizations and more.
Students will also be encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities related to Capstones and Pathways, in order to add another layer to their experience and enrichment, Virgin said.
“What we’re really trying to do is show students how they can piece together a learning plan across their whole school experience that will set them up for what they want to do after graduation, and also set them up for a meaningful experience here in Eden Prairie Schools,” Virgin said.
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