Archive for Thursday, February 5, 2004

Students learning life’s lessons

February 5, 2004

By the time a student graduates from high school, he or she can likely balance a chemical equation, graph a parabola, or explain the symbolism in a Shakespearian play. However, tasks seasoned adults take for granted -- like understanding car insurance premiums or how to dress for a job interview -- can seem more challenging than last semester's government final.
"I made so many mistakes in college just learning how to be an adult," said Eudora High School teacher Peggy Claggett.
Through classes in the Family and Consumer Sciences department, Claggett is hoping to keep students from making the same mistakes.
"I thought my parents took pretty good care of me, but they don't talk to you about health insurance and car insurance," Claggett said.
Eudora High School senior Josh Snyder is in the Independent Living class, which recently heard about interviewing skills from a Vatterott College speaker. Snyder said he hoped the class would come in handy next year.
"Balancing a checkbook and how to use credit cards wisely...I need to know how to do that once I get out of high school," he said.
One thing Snyder learned in the class rather than by floundering on his own was the different types of insurance available.
"Uninsured motorist -- never knew anything about that," he said.
Beginning with the freshman Family and Consumer Sciences class to the upperclassman courses like Independent Living, Claggett is introducing students to basic life skills -- from how to rent an apartment to how to invest money for retirement -- in an academic area usually thought limited to cooking and sewing. By having speakers talk about how to buy insurance or how a checking account works, Eudora High School students are learning skills teenagers would ordinarily learn on their own.
"They still will, but at least it won't be a big shock," Claggett said.
Teaching students subjects like parenting skills, money management, credit cards and general wellness is something schools have been doing at least since the 1970s and 80s, Claggett said, but she also added her own touch to Eudora High School's curriculum, like having a lawyer talk to students about wills.
"(It's) things I think they should know before they get out," Claggett said.
Through the parenting class, Claggett said students learned how parents related to each other, about the birthing process, and child discipline, among other skills. In the future, Claggett said she hoped to offer a child development class as a successor.
Even the foods and sewing classes, once a staple of then-called "home economics," have changed during the years. Claggett said the focus of sewing classes had shifted.
"It used to be when you sit down for sewing, you spend four or five months sewing clothing items," she said. "Now I teach students to repair clothing items; how to go to the store to buy them; how to do laundry; how to take care of them."
Foods classes had changed, too, as Claggett said many students were used to a diet of macaroni and cheese and frozen pizzas.
"I get them to try new foods; to expand their horizons," she said.
That lifestyle change meant teaching students how to prepare nutritious meals with convenience foods, like baking mix.
"(Now) I'm more worried that kids know how to do something besides cook it in the microwave," she said.

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