New: 6-8 Career Plan

screenshot of cover of 6-8 Career Plan from Smart Futures
We've got something special for the grade 6-8 students next year. 

In addition to the five new activity modules in grades 6-8, SmartFutures.org also is releasing a special My 6-8 Career Plan.

Although the SF K-12 career plan satisfies compliance, we felt that middle school students deserved something special, especially because the creation of an individualized career plan is specifically mentioned in Pennsylvania's Career Education and Work Standards.

The 6-8 Career Plan is automatically generated upon completion of the four primary 6-8 surveys:

  • My Interests 
  • My Work Values 
  • My Career Clusters and Pathways 
  • My Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Here are the details around this thoughtful, graphically beautiful document:

  • Fully illustrated, four-color 
  • Written from the perspective of a caring career counselor 
  • Customized to the students survey results and favorite careers Nearly 30 pages

You'll definitely want to email this one to the parents. Check it out.

See Sample

Inclusion of Military Careers, Certifications, and Apprenticeships

By request of some our most passionate educators, SmartFutures.org now contains a complete set of military career cards within its Favorite Careers Folder and Careers Card Resource Center. 

Students can now add both civilian careers and military careers as "Favorites." Military career cards show the branches the career is offered within and even align to students interests and cluster favorites.


Summer 2020 Curriculum Updates

Three (3) Revised Grade 9-Adult Activities

We are pleased to announce key updates/replacements to three of the 9-Adult activities.

  • Activity 4: Preparation for Careers
  • Activity 8: Experiencing Careers While Still in School
  • Activity 9: Selecting your Career Goal

Watch Experiencing Careers video

These updates are currently integrated and can be seen by logging into your student account at https://smartfutures.org.

Five (5) Activities added for Grades 6-8

We are pleased to announce these new activities to the 6-8 curriculum:

  • Activity 12: My Learning Style
  • Activity 13: The Changing Workplace
  • Activity 14: My Business Plan
  • Activity 15: The Economics of Jobs
  • Activity 16: Tour of My CTC

Watch My Learning Style video

These updates are currently being integrated into https://SmartFutures.org now and will all be available soon.

Thank You to the Summer 2020 Curriculum Team

We had an amazing summer with this year's group of interns from Carnegie Mellon University leading the way with their creativity and hard work.


Meixuan (Lucy) Li
Kevin Wang

Suzette Oberhol-Schultz

Thanks also go to the volunteer mentors who coached and supported the intern superstars as they created the 8 new activities this summer. Serving as coaches were Ginny Barrett from Central Bucks, Karen Smith from Newport SD, Michelle Dubbs from Shippensburg Area SD, Jackie Jaros from Dear Lakes, education consultant Chris Herman, and Alice Justice representing herself. Jackie and Alice even authored their own activities. Great job!

Virtual Learning Tips for Parents

This fall, going back to school isn't likely to look like the normal that any of us expect. While we may acknowledge that "normal" is not the safest option at the moment, trying to figure out how to best prepare our kids (and our selves!) for virtual learning can be a challenge. Here are some tips for parents to make virtual learning the best experience for everyone:

1. Establish a routine

Having a routine will make it easier for your kids to get back into the swing of things, and will help make the eventual transition back to the classroom easier. It's not necessary to copy the schedule they would have in the classroom, but having at least some structure will help. Keep a designated start time, and break for lunch and snacks at the same time every day. 

This also means things like making sure they get dressed every day (or only allowing pajamas on designated days) and making sure they have a healthy breakfast first. This will help them to establish the difference between being at home and being "at school" which will help them focus on their learning and tasks better. 

2. Set up a designated workspace 

Just like a designated routine helps students focus, so does having a designated place to work will help your learners focus on their work, too. This can be simply a desk or work surface in a different room from toys and other distractions. Talk with your kid(s) and see what kind of work area they would like. If you have more than one student at home, discuss with them whether or not they want to work in the same area or in different spaces.

Getting your kid(s) involved in the setup might help them to get more excited about what going "back to school." Just like picking school supplies like pencils and notebooks and pencil cases, if your budget allows, allow your kid(s) to pick decorations or accessories for the area, such as a new chair or pencil holder for the desk space.

3. Keep open communication with your child(ren)'s teachers

It will be important for you and your child(ren)'s teacher to have open communication channels with each other to ensure your child(ren)'s success. Make sure you know what assignments are due when, and how to reach the teacher if your learner has a question about the material or how to complete an assignment. 

4. Try to stay positive

Kids often reflect the attitudes and emotions they see in their parents, so it's important to your child's success to make sure they see you keeping a positive attitude about the temporary virtual learning. Every family will have their own challenges to face with regard to virtual learning, and each school/school district and teacher has their own challenges to navigate. While everyone wants a return to the normal and the familiar, we must also learn to adapt to changes. When kids see their parents and caregivers staying positive and adjust to changing situations, it helps the kids to learn how to do that as well. 

5. Be patient -with everyone

This isn't the back to school that anyone anticipated this fall, but it is the one we have. Many schools, teachers, families, and kids are adjusting to new routines and requirements. Don't expect everyone to get it right the first - or even the second - time. Be patient with everyone - including yourself - as we all navigate the changes and find which routines and environments work best for us. 

For more information on this topic, here's some resources we like:

Smart Futures info for Parents

SmartFutures.org is an online career planning and career portfolio platform that many school districts and charter schools in Pennsylvania use to 1) meet the new requirements for Career Readiness Indicators that are part of the Future Ready PA Index, 2) integrate career education and social emotional learning curriculum to our students from grades K through grades 12, and 3) provide each student a personalize career plan and portfolio upon graduation.

Future Ready PA Index has prompted school districts and charter schools to meaningfully engage students to develop skills needed to become “Future Ready” workers in the 21st century. Districts  purchase an annual subscription that assures all students are engaged in an ongoing process to develop a concrete and personalized plan for their future.

Background: Pennsylvania is the first state in the U.S. to provide a solid framework for career
education benchmarks and mandate its delivery for all students throughout K-12. SmartFutures.org is
a part of our district’s plan to satisfy the career readiness indicators within the Future Ready PA Index
and to comply with federal accountability requirements. SmartFutures.org is directly aligned to
Pennsylvania's Academic Standards for Career Education and Work, and the requirement to establish
an online career plan and career portfolio. SmartFutures.org is portable. All work that students do travels with them should they leave the district and their plan and portfolio follows the student after
graduation.

The SmartFutures.org Solution: Smart Futures has engaged with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to guide the development of SmartFutures.org, an online career planning and portfolio platform built specifically to help schools fully implement the Future Ready PA Index benchmarks into their classrooms. Unlike other off-the-shelf solutions, SmartFutures.org uses the Pennsylvania
Academic Standards for Career Education and Work as its curriculum blueprint.

How Parents Can Help: Ask your student(s) to login to SmartFutures.org and show you their completed work and progress towards their plan and portfolio. Check out completed activities within each of the 4 grade bands: K-3, 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12. You will see interesting insights about “Who Am I” as well as “I CAN” statements that summarize the ways your student is being empowered by Future Ready PA. Review the career plan which documents the students’ interests in careers, career clusters, programs and majors and post-secondary schools and colleges. And help to expose them to career pathway experiences that they can document in their career portfolio.

New Gradebook now available

What good is having students complete their Career Education activities without being able to easily track and review their progress?



The new Gradebook feature makes it easy for teachers to track students' work in ACTIVITIES (including reflections), SKILLS completion, and PORTFOLIO items (uploads).

Thanks to Boyertown SD for asking for it and then putting a team together to help us design the Gradebook. It has become a favorite tool in the teacher admin application.

Free Online Future Ready Courses Now Available in the SmartFutures.org SKILLS section!

While we've been working remotely too, it hasn't stopped us from partnering with another great non-profit to bring more valuable Future Ready resources into our SKILLS section.

edX.org is the trusted platform for global online learning with free courses from some of the the world's most respected colleges and learning providers. Smart Futures has worked with edX to identify courses specifically related to both the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Career Education and Work and the Pennsylvania Career Ready SEL Standards.

The current courses are targeted to high school students and adults. We are working on identifying courses for younger students. Courses fit into 3 categories: Career Ready, Information Technology, and Test Prep (AP test prep). Examples of current courses include:

  • Teamwork and Collaboration from Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Becoming an Entrepreneur from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Understanding Technology from Harvard University
  • AP Physics from Rice University

These courses can be used by teachers to provide high quality, dynamic Future Ready content within their classrooms. For example, a rural district with little access to IT resources in their area could offer an Introduction to Computers course using Harvard's famous CS50 Understanding Technology course for content and highly engaging instruction.

Students can audit classes for free. For a small fee, students or their parents can opt for the paid Verified track and receive a certificate from the university or provider that they can upload to their portfolio or LinkedIn profile. Note: Students will be asked to create a separate edX account the first time they begin a class.

Courses will be available in the SKILLS section next week.