Bringing the world of work to schools Program that provides career information may grow in Baltimore Co.


Eight-year-old Timothy Scherer wants to be a football player when he grows up, or maybe a soccer player.

Last week, though, he got a taste of a different career -- as part of a new program that could spread to all Baltimore County schools. The Fifth District Elementary School third-grader and his class worked with a volunteer, a retired engineer, perfecting model cars they had built for a competition.

The goal: a car safe enough to keep an egg intact even after a run down a steep wooden track that ends abruptly in a wooden wall. Gesturing at the vehicle, with its cardboard body, soda bottle cap wheels and balloon air bag, he said, "When we made it, I got to know more about how cars work -- how they are designed before they are made."

The car-making at Fifth District, on Mount Carmel Road near Falls Road, is a model for a career-oriented school program -- one that could get a big boost tonight.

The County Council is scheduled to vote on accepting the first installment of federal money for a Career Connections program, which would bring the world of work closer to students.

The state-sponsored program aims to increase contacts between working adults and students, and to add career information throughout curriculums so that by 11th grade, students would have focused on a line of work. If the council approves, the program will begin first in northeastern county schools, then spread to other schools over four years, officials say.

The idea, officials say, is to show youngsters that what they learn in school is useful in life, and to give them a better idea of potential careers.

The program also is connected to local economic development efforts to build a better-skilled work force and a more prosperous state, Gloria Sandstrom, the county's youth employment manager, says. Employers with openings for skilled workers often can't find them, and unskilled people can't find meaningful jobs.

At Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, another of those already practicing the new philosophy, Principal Ken Burch says some lessons have been learned. "We finally figured out that every kid in high school is there for a career, not just technical students."

The program, which would get $1.4 million to carry it for the first 25 months if the council approves, hopes to spread the new techniques countywide. A second phase of funding -- $905,000 to cover another 11 months -- depends on congressional approval this year.

At Fifth District, Richard Dum, 68, a retired industrial engineer, helps students solve problems related to their model cars.

Dum, whose grandson Taylor Cunningham is in the class, explained that the gold-painted egg carton car made by Taylor, Amanda Jones, David Wood and Jessica Bourquin used to tip over, rear end flying in the air, when it hit the wall. "We put weights in the back," they all said, explaining how they solved the problem.

That's what Dum wants to teach them. How to work as a team, and how all the teams can work together to solve real problems.

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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