Elementary school offers inspiration

It was the day that I had been waiting for. My fourth-grade teacher passed around the large packets filled with lists of activities and choices for the upcoming special day. I scanned through the options, circling the words that jumped out to me the most on the page. Baking. Forensic science. Firefighting. I ranked my top activities and submitted them to my teacher.

The purpose of these thick, white packets was for High Interest Day, an event in elementary school where instead of going to classes, we went to different classrooms where adults discussed what they did for their careers. I remember attending one session at which veterinarians discussed how they heal and treat animals. I learned how firefighters put out fires and rescue people from burning buildings. I played pickleball outside with a real coach. My favorite course was the baking-in-a-mug course, which, funnily enough, was one of the only courses that didn't mimic a career. I liked it anyway because I got a sweet treat in the end.

This day was one of the experiences I knew I would miss most after graduating from elementary school, because I had a feeling I wouldn't get to participate in an opportunity like this again. And I was right. Not to say that my high school and middle school experiences haven't been great (minus a portion occupied by a certain global pandemic...), but I think we could take something from the elementary school playbook.

We have never had a day quite like High Interest Day in high school so far. Now that I am a junior and have to think about my future, it would be nice to have a day of learning what majors and careers actually mean and what people do in their jobs. One of my favorite posts that I saw while scrolling on Reddit was someone saying that even though they are an adult, they still don't know what engineers do. I relate to that; I myself am not 100 percent sure what their work really entails. What I do know is that a day dedicated to learning such information would be helpful in figuring that out.

Or we could go the route my fifth-grade class took and have to participate in a mini-economy with taxes and rent and, of course, fake money to experience budgeting. We could even implement elementary school classics like Field Day, Halloween parades, holiday parties, and other fun events. Elementary school may feel childish, but I really think we could find inspiration in (albeit, age-appropriate inspiration) and learn from its events.

If we ever have a High Interest-esque day, I may finally learn what engineers do. And, hopefully, bake something in a mug, too.

- Leah Packer, a junior at Hinsdale Central, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].