Vocational School Modifies Hands-On Learning in the Face of COVID-19

Vocational School Modifies Hands-On Learning in the Face of COVID-19
by Will Andronico

BOSTON, MA — Learning by doing for the thousands of vocational and
technical high school students across New England became a struggle due to
school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vocational high schools are
different from the traditional public high school because they focus specifically
on in-person, hands-on training for specific career paths ranging from
engineering to gastronomy.

The Atlantic reports that Massachusetts alone is home to 56 vocational and
technical programs that prioritize practical learning alongside academia.

However, schools’ doors have closed and online learning has begun, and it’s become more difficult for educators to give students the direct, practical experience they would normally receive.

Nevertheless, one Boston public school worked to bring that hands-on
experience to students’ homes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or
MIT, and Madison Park Vocational Technical High School developed the Cardinal
Works Program in which students use programming skills to learn to control
battery-powered cars from home, the school wrote in a May 20 press release.

MIT committed to train teachers, provide educational materials, and give to
Madison Park the parts necessary to build the programmable cars.

As a result of the curriculum collaboration, students at Madison Park
continued their practical education as well as academia this past semester, and
the program is expected to continue this summer and in the fall.

“We are committed to finding creative ways to continue students’
education, despite new challenges, and we are… thrilled to implement the
Cardinal Works program at Madison Park” said Kevin McCaskill, the executive
director of the high school.

Madison Park has been a consistent innovator in education among
Massachusetts public schools. This year, their dual enrollment program allowed
for two students to receive associate’s degrees at local colleges just weeks
before their high-school graduation, according to the school’s press release on
May 21. The Roxbury Massachusetts Advance Post-Secondary Pathways
program, or RoxMAPP, permits students to enroll in courses at local colleges
while attending Madison Park. RoxMAPP allows students to save money on
future college courses by getting ahead in high school.

“RoxMAPP helps students expand their horizons and experience a taste of
what’s possible if they work hard and take advantage of all Madison Park has to
offer,” McCaskill said.

The two students, Javon Graham and Melanie Sola, will receive their
associate’s degrees from Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and Bunker
Hill Community College, respectively. Both will enroll at Northeastern University
this fall, Graham for health sciences and Sola for civil engineering.

Both students explained that the head start provided by their Madison Park
education was invaluable.

“No other high school in Boston could have given me this opportunity,”
Sola said.