Oak Knoll Lower School Celebrates Career Week

Ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, students in Oak Knoll’s Lower School spent their social studies classes talking about what they want to be when they grow up and drawing inspiration from adult volunteers who recorded videos about their own careers. 

From flying planes, to fighting fires and flying drones, Oak Knoll students listened to engaging videos about what other people do for a living. 

During social studies classes this past week, students in pre-K through second grade learned about flying planes from Cpt. Mark Loeben, a retired Major General US Air Force and American Airlines pilot; how to coach from Oak Knoll’s fencing and track coach Lincoln Lawrence; and what it’s like to be a firefighter from deputy chief of the Elizabeth Fire Department, Drew Vignali. 

Grades 3-6 heard from one of the only female presidents at a pro sports league – Rachel Jacobson, Drone Racing League president; scientist Marcus Weldon, Ph.D., and the 13th president of Bell Labs; Darren Shimwell, Summit Soccer director of coaching; Greg Loeben, Ph.D., professor of Medical Ethics and Public Health at University of Montana; and Meghan Prentiss, Neurosurgery Physician’s Assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

On Thursday, Lower School students in pre-K to grade 5 wrapped up Career Week by dressing up as their favorite career. As part of the sixth grade economics curriculum – which centers around wants vs. needs – students dressed up as an assigned occupation and over the course of two weeks, had to configure a monthly budget, including rent, utilities, food, transportation, and furnishings.

Dr. Marcus Weldon, Ph.D., answered questions asked by his son Luke Weldon ’28. Dr. Weldon’s video, shared with OKS students during career week, discussed technologies that Bell Labs scientists invented, including the transistor device that forms the basis of all digital devices we use today, and also described how they used the Holmdel Horn Antenna to verify the ‘Big Bang Theory’ of the origin of the universe, both of which earned Bell Labs a Nobel Prize.  

“Through my job, I have been able to work with super smart people and amazing inventors,” said Dr. Weldon, whose children Rory Weldon ’24, and Luke currently attend Oak Knoll School, with Hugh Weldon ’20 graduating from the Lower School last year.

Rachel Jacobson, Drone Racing League president, discussed what it’s like to work at the 5 year-old professional league that races drones in cities and events across the globe. 

“I work with the most amazing team,” said Jacobson, who spent 21 years with the National Basketball Association before joining Drone Racing League last year. “We teach kids and adults about STEM either by flying drones live or on Xbox or Play Station and our best years are ahead of us,” she said. 

Lower School counselor Melissa Nelson organized Oak Knoll’s Career Week because research shows that career development should begin as early as pre-K and continue through high school into college. 

“I was excited to create this Career Week for the Lower School students because I think it is a fun and exciting way for the kids to learn about many different careers and also identify their interests and abilities in a way that connects school and the world of work,” said Nelson. “Discussing careers provides opportunities for the students to develop the mindsets and behaviors necessary to learn work-related skills such as resilience, perseverance, a positive attitude toward life-long learning, and a strong work ethic. Normally, Career Week would involve professionals coming into the school to talk to the students in person, but since we are following safety precautions for COVID, I asked the volunteers to make a video about their career that the students can watch. I am so grateful to all the volunteers! Their videos are amazing, and the kids have absolutely loved them!”