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Physical Distancing and Virtual Education Hasn’t Stopped Milton Hershey School’s Hands-On Approach to Learning

Milton Hershey School’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, and its 12 career pathways, prepare students for college or career. In fact, this curriculum has been ingrained in the school’s history for more than 110 years.

In the spring of 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MHS CTE teachers had to quickly redesign their courses for remote learning. Then at the start of the 2020-21 school year, the CTE teachers had to pivot again to accommodate in-person—but physically distant—instruction.

Since CTE classes rely on hands-on instruction, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge for teachers; however, at MHS, during exceptional times, our staff step-up to be exceptional leaders.

Below are examples of how our CTE teachers used different instructional methods of education to create unique learning opportunities.

Videoconferencing Technology

MHS Public Law and Safety Students videoconferencing

The goal of the Law, Public Safety and Security pathway is to teach students the various aspects of law and law enforcement careers and equip them with an understanding of the legal system that is viable to their interest in these careers.

Recently, the class met virtually with Jason White Director of Safety and Security with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (HE&R) along with Danielle Kauffman, Assistant Director of Safety and Security, to talk about security investigations. They spoke about how they execute events that happen at their properties—a concert, a Presidential visit, etc.—and how they develop their event security plans.

“We do threat assessments of every event,” said White. “We’re in the information business. We are trying to collect information and have enough time to take the information and turn it into actionable intelligence. Once we have intelligence that we can act on, we can create plans around that.”

White used the concept of a dart board to help students visualize how they manage events. He said the center of the dart board—the bullseye—is the sacred item they are trying to protect. If it’s a concert, it might be the stage where the artist is going to perform. From there, they create rings of security so the closer you get to the bullseye the tougher the security.

Each month, White and his team from HE&R invite a different speaker to join the class virtually to discusses a difference aspect of the Law Public Safety and Security pathway. The collaboration is part of the Hershey Project Pathways Program. The program matches MHS students and staff with HE&R employees to facilitate hands-on learning opportunities and real-life experiences for students.

Using Drones to Teach Outside the Virtual Classroom  

MHS students using drones for AEE

Last year, students in Milton Hershey School’s Agriculture and Natural Resources career pathway planted an herb garden at The Hotel Hershey as part of the Hershey Project Pathways Program. The herbs from the garden were used by chefs at The Hotel Hershey.

This year, given the challenges of the pandemic and physical distancing, the group worked together to plan this year’s herb garden using virtual technology and a drone. While in virtual class, MHS Coordinator of AEE, Jesse Yonkovich, used drone footage to give the students an aerial view of the herb garden to begin the planning stages.

“Students choose to take the Agriculture and Natural Resources Career Pathway because it is hands-on. During a time when we cannot be as “hands-on” as we would like, it is important for us to do whatever we can as teachers to make classroom life as normal as possible,” said MHS Agriculture and Natural Resources Teacher, Nick Isenberg. “With the help of AEE and its drone, we could bring The Hotel Hershey Herb Garden to the students.”

Interactive Learning and Engagement

Electronic Media students learning about social media

MHS students in the Electronic Media & Journalism career pathway gain skills in writing, research, production, time management, and shooting videos.

Working in partnership with businesses in the local community, students get to learn from and develop connections with industry professionals who serve as mentors. One of these connections is with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.

Recently, the class met virtually with Kathleen McGraw, Director of Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (HE&R). She spoke about the power of social media and how HE&R uses its more than 45 social media accounts as informational tools, awareness, customer service, entertainment, and to create buzz when they are launching a new attraction.

“I learned so much about the power of social media promotion from Ms. McGraw,” said MHS senior Makeda Wilson. “She really opened our minds and created an atmosphere of learning. It was a really helpful presentation!”

“I learned a lot about the idea of posting [on social media],” said MHS senior Lydia Dieppa. “I also learned the importance of how you can use social media for more than just entertainment. She opened our eyes to the possibility of future jobs.”

Focusing on Core Workforce Skills

MHS business students learn from The Hershey Company

The value of a hands-on education is in the preparation it provides students for life after graduation. That’s why building foundational skills while in high school is so important for students to adapt to a rapidly evolving 21st-century workforce.

Recently, Jordan Scarcella, The Hershey Company’s Manager of Learning and Development joined the Business/Financial Management & Accounting CTE class virtually for a discussion on the fundamentals of giving a powerful and effective presentation.

Scarcella broke down everything from how to give a presentation, design tips, how to be compelling and persuasive, how often to practice, how to present virtually, what sets a good presenter apart from everyone else, and the power of pauses.

“During the presentation, you’ll want to have water on hand, this is important for those who get thirsty when nervous, but you can also use it to pause and emphasis a point,” Scarcella said. “You’ve probably seen speakers do this where they’ll say something profound, they’ll sip their water, and what does that force you as the audience to do? It forces you to reflect and take in what they just said or what they might say next. It draws you in.”

At the end of the year, the students in this class will be incorporating the tools Scarcella spoke about into their own final presentations.

MHS partners with industry professionals—like HE&R and The Hershey Company—to serve as mentors and guest speakers to help students understand the bigger purpose beyond the classroom and provide added exposure to potential careers.

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.