PGCPS Technology Field Day Gives Fifth Graders Hands-On Experiences with Advanced Technologies, Career Paths

March 26, 2024

With Spring Break on the horizon, Prince George County Public Schools' fifth graders spent their final days of March deeply engaged in the realm of technology, gaining hands-on experience and opportunities to collaborate with classmates and teachers during the division's annual Technology Field Day.

Tech Field Day

Fifth graders at Middle Road Elementary School use Spheros devices on a mini soccer stage at the programming-focused stations of the district’s annual Technology Field Day event. (PGCPS Photo)


Hosted on March 21-27, 2024, Technology Field Day brings Career and Technical Education (CTE) and advanced technology educational opportunities directly to the district's elementary-aged students during interactive, day-long sessions at each of PGCPS' elementary campuses, with a mission of increasing enrollment in the division's Career and Technology Education courses and creating life-ready graduates. Programs like Technology Field Day also support the division's 2022-27 Comprehensive Plan as Prince George County Public Schools aims to introduce new pathways to expand student opportunities for Career and Technical Education courses. The initiative also supports the expectations outlined through the Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE) Profile of a Virginia Graduate and fosters an environment of deeper learning through project-based activities.

"The jobs of tomorrow are not the same as the jobs of today, and as traditional career paths change, it is important that as educators we change similarly to prepare our students to be productive, global citizens in a 21st-century world," PGCPS Coordinator of Educational Technology and Innovation Christine Carr said. "Technology Field Day allows students the opportunity to practice life-ready, hands-on skills that are in demand in today's job market while exposing students to what the career paths of tomorrow may look like."

During a school's individual Technology Field Day event, fifth graders rotate through stations developed and staffed by Prince George High School CTE students, with each station focusing on the 21st-century learning skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship, and creativity. Each station features coding, engineering, design, and maker-based challenges, using some of the latest instructional technology tools to give students insightful and engaging experiences. 

In the "Maker Space," students explored different career paths that involve the use of emerging technologies, including 3D printing and biomedical engineering, drones and structural engineering, and robotics applications in biomedical engineering and space exploration. 

Tech Field Day

North Elementary School fifth graders learn about robotics with custom-built devices provided by Prince George High School students during the school’s Technology Field Day event. (PGCPS Photo)

Through various programming-focused stations, students were able to think critically and solve problems through coding challenges using user-friendly Ozobot and Spheros devices to navigate both physical and printed obstacle courses. These stations helped students develop an understanding of what a programmer does and get a sample of different career paths within the field. 

Engineering stations allowed students to take part in a building challenge, partnering with classmates to develop a structure that solves a specific problem. They also learned about the diverse number of engineering specializations available to them as potential careers.

One of the more unique stations added for this year's Technology Field Day focused on the growing and consistently in-demand cybersecurity career path. Throughout the five-day event, the students were introduced to the basic principles of cybersecurity and careers tied to the field. They then received opportunities to collaborate with classmates to solve puzzles using coded messages, acting both as hackers and cybersecurity engineers.

"Not only is Technology Field Day intentional in its design and purpose, but it is also offered at a strategic time in our students' school careers. In middle school, or sixth grade, students first experience choice in their courses," Carr detailed. “Throughout elementary school, their courses are prescribed and picked for them, but middle school opens students to a whole new world of opportunities. This event shows Prince George County Public Schools' offerings of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that students can begin taking during their middle school years. Our hope with this event is that students are introduced to one new concept or idea that sparks interest in learning more and inspires them to select a CTE-based course as part of their middle or high school career."

Highlighting the valuable participation of Prince George High School's CTE students, marketing-focused stations offered a deep dive into the power of branding through a mini-lesson exploring Nike's history, holders of one of the most iconic logos in the world, The Swoosh. From there, the students worked to design their own shoe brand and create a marketing plan for the design, working alongside students in the high school's marketing career paths. The high school students also showcased hands-on manufacturing using the heat press to create Technology Field Day towels for each student during their visit to the marketing station, tying in concepts of manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

Tech Field Day

Prince George High School students demonstrate the heat press machine they use to manufacture spirit wear at their school, bringing a cross-sectional lesson on manufacturing, marketing, and entrepreneurship during Technology Field Day. (PGCPS Photo)

"As a former fifth-grade teacher, I can confidently say that fifth-grade students are often hyper-focused on their peers and the social landscape of their environment," Carr said. "They often look to older students as role models, and they emulate the behavior of older students, which is essential in understanding the significant impact of having Prince George High School students come to Technology Field Day and teach their younger peers. Our fifth-grade students pay close attention to their older peers' every move, and often, if they see an older student take an interest in something they like, they are more likely to continue exploring that field of interest. Technology Field Day would not be the same event without the participation of Prince George High School students."

In 2023, PGCPS' Technology Field Day was recognized by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) through its annual Excellence in Workforce Readiness Awards. The Excellence in Workforce Readiness Awards program was created in 2018 by the VSBA Task Force on Workforce Readiness to highlight exemplary programs in Virginia's Public Schools focused on preparing the state's future workforce. 

"Technology Field Day both gives our elementary students valuable hands-on time with potential career paths, and our high schoolers essential, in-demand skills sought by Virginia employers, including work ethic, teamwork, and creativity, among others, through this homegrown initiative," Carr said. "As a division, we can confidently say that we are preparing students for an ever-changing world when we expose them to the technologies of the future; after all, these technologies will shape their careers and futures."