On a 93-acre parcel of land sits a bright red barn surrounded by pastures where cows, sheep and llamas graze. Each week, high school kids arrive to study the animals in their surroundings.
But this isn’t rural Michigan. It’s the heart of suburban Bloomfield Hills and the students are part of a unique new Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Professional Pathway at Bloomfield Hills Schools to prepare them for successful experiences in college and, eventually, careers in Michigan’s substantial agricultural industry.
Back on the Bloomfield Hills Schools campus, their peers in the Biomedical Professional Pathway are collaborating with medical professionals and college students to study disease transmission, bioethics and data analysis. Close by, students engaged in the Media Arts Professional Pathway create digital interactive content, direct films and investigate the role of popular culture in media.
These students are not engaged in career technical training, but developing an understanding of the issues tackled in real workplaces in real industries, says David Reed-Nordwall, Associate Principal with Bloomfield Hills High School.
Through a national program called Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), students are fully immersed in professional culture as high school juniors and seniors. Bloomfield Hills High School is currently the only CAPS school in Michigan.
“Our Professional Pathways program is trying to get kids to understand the world in innovative and interesting ways,” explains Reed-Nordwall. “Students in classrooms may know specific information about chemistry and biology, but by learning to tap maple trees or helping to birth goats or understanding how milk separates, this is how our students make real-world connections.”
One choice for Bloomfield Hills High School students
The Professional Pathways program joins the existing AP Pathway and International Baccalaureate Pathway to allow students to select and individualize their Bloomfield Hills High School experience. In this first year, about 200 students are participating in the three Professional Pathways and Reed-Nordwall expects the numbers to grow. Each Professional Pathway must have college and industry partners, but the curricula are written by high school teachers with student input.
From freshman year, interested students are introduced to the concepts of what it takes to run a fully functioning, industry-standard radio station, a farm or a biomedicine research facility. “We ask our students: What is interesting to them? What prepares them for the future?” Reed-Nordwall says. Student collaboration is key to developing the curriculum for each program.
The Professional Pathways program allows students to apply skills learned outside of the traditional classroom or lab environment so they can build early connections between classroom concepts and industry applications. And, they become more self-aware in the process.
“These kids get the chance to understand who they are as students and what they are interested in before they go to college,” Reed-Nordwall says.
Prepared for college with a purpose
Because colleges are so critical to Professional Pathways, students quickly get an understanding of what college-level work and expectations look like. “Stepping on campus as a college freshman isn’t the first time a student in the Pathways program knows what a college looks like,” he says.
And, because students in the Bloomfield Hills Schools Professional Pathways are suitably challenged and busy developing real-world skills, they often bypass senioritis, Reed-Nordwall says.
“These students are still engaged and excited. They’re gaining hands-on experience solving real-world problems. They’re engaging with the world and still learning what they need to learn in a way that sticks. That chance to be engaged is what kids and parents ask for,” he says.
“When you come to Bloomfield Hills Schools, your child will be shoulder-to-shoulder with students who are dreaming big, plus industry professionals and colleges who are looking for future talent,” says Reed-Nordwall about the Professional Pathways program. “When kids graduate from college and enter jobs in the industries they are already familiar with, they are six years ahead of their peers. This is something that is right for our students — and it’s right for the industries in our state.”
Learn more about Bloomfield Hills Schools at bloomfield.org.