Real-world training

Krystle Wagner • Oct 26, 2015 at 8:44 PM

About 80 middle school students are getting firsthand experience in the business world this week.

The seventh- and eighth-graders split into a dozen teams to work alongside teachers and businesspeople to answer real-world challenges for local companies. Later this week, the groups will present their solutions to businesses and a panel of judges through the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s futurePREP’d program called IChallengeUth.

Some businesses involved in the program include Brilliance Audio, GHSP, Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller and Holland Hospital.

Earlier this week, Brilliance Audio challenged one team to find a way to make audiobooks relevant to teenagers and young adults. The group toured the Grand Haven-based business and learned what it takes to make the product.

Through the program, students have asked questions and started investigating about what has been done and brainstorming ideas of what could be done.

Riley Street Middle School student Kehan Batt said it isn’t every day that he has the chance to see boardrooms and inner workings of companies.

“I feel rather business-like,” he said.

Spring Lake Middle School teacher Bree Breuker said she didn’t have any formal training in project-based learning before getting involved with IchallengeUth. Breuker said she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity since the program offers the chance for professional development while working with students.

Breuker said the students take control of their learning by experimenting with different approaches to answering the question.

“They’re allowed to be free,” she said.

When school resumes in a few weeks, Breuker said she plans to implement the methods she’s learned about project-based learning.

Lakeshore Middle School student Tess O’Leary said the experience has deepened her appreciation for products and workers. The 12-year-old said she didn’t know how much work went into making a product that would appeal to customers.

Another Lakeshore Middle School student, Eliza Taylor, said she signed up for the program because she thought it would be a good experience. The experience has been fun, the 12-year-old said, and it has opened the door to new career paths she wouldn’t otherwise consider.

“It will help when we are trying to find a job in the future,” Taylor said.

Related stories:

Sundae School lessons

Local students work to solve real-world problems


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