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Aptitude tests will help Durango students identify hidden skills, pave career paths

YouScience program uses brain games to build personal profiles
Dylan Connell, Durango School District 9-R’s curriculum director, said the YouScience aptitude program is a fun way for students to engage in brain games to build a profile that illustrates the “science of themselves,” that lists possible career avenues and the kinds of professionals they might interact with in those fields. (Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R is engaged in several career pathway programs to provide its students with the knowledge and skills they need to become successful young adults with jobs in fields they love. Among the district’s Portrait of a Graduate project and the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative, the district has added another tool to its figurative belt.

The program is called YouScience. It is being used for eighth grade students this year with plans to expand to at least grades 9-12 soon. It uses brain games to test students’ skills, gauge aptitude as well as interest, and gradually build a profile for each student who completes the program.

Dylan Connell, district executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said in a written statement YouScience is supposed to give students a way to take ownership of their high school course selection and pursue what subjects inspire them. He said the program empowers students with self-awareness.

In an interview, Connell said he took the program to see what it offers and found the things it can reveal about oneself are fascinating. Results can challenge one’s assumptions about oneself.

He said his results indicated he would have made a good architecture teacher and that his math skills were stronger than he gave himself credit for. Where his skills were pretty evenly distributed across subjects, he said some of his coworkers had the majority of their skills piled into one or two more specialized areas.

He said the district has built lesson plans for teachers who are working with students on their career paths.

“It’s like, shine this light on the greatness that they are, and what unique skills and talents that they have that are going to fit really well for them,” Connell said.

The main types of brain games offered to students are under the categories of numerical reasoning, sequential reasoning, idea generation, inductive reasoning, visual comparison speed and spatial visualization.

In numerical reasoning, brain games might present students with a string of numbers, tasking the students with identifying the number pattern presented and what number should come next. Another game might present another string of numbers six to eight digits long with the challenge of identifying which number doesn’t fit in the sequence.

In spatial visualization, students have to look at a one dimensional model and perceive what it would look like in three dimensions, or vice versa.

“It also asks questions about your time frame orientation,” Connell said. “Are you a ‘futurist’ or ‘historian?’ (What is) your personal style, your vocabulary and your work approach?

“Are you a specialist or a generalist, or a liaison between those? It really builds a pretty comprehensive profile,” he said.

Connell said he could tell how engaging the program was for students based on his son’s experience with it. He said his son’s excitement with YouScience was comparable to when he is playing video games.

“That exasperation: ‘Oh, come on!’ Connell said. “They were doing that during the session. To me, that was a cool sign they are engaged with it. And a little bit of banter. ‘What are you doing on that one?’”

The opportunity for students to discover parts about themselves is a cool facet of the career pathway programs the school district is trying to develop, he said. And the program doesn’t have “high stakes” or an overbearing feeling for students – it’s more about self-discovery, he said.

Superintendent Karen Cheser said the program can help students realize they might be better in certain subject areas than they realized. She said the program can help girls and minority groups that are generally underrepresented discover career fields they might not have considered before.

After the brain games, which take about 90 minutes to complete but can be done in individual sessions, students are provided with interactive charts and data about their aptitude and interest results with a list of possible career options they might want to more closely consider.

“And they are really 21st-century careers,” Cheser said. “They include the kinds of careers that we didn’t used to have but now we do.”

Connell said some of the latest careers that appear in the aptitude program’s suggestions are aerospace engineer, cloud computing, computer and information scientist, remote sensing scientist, logistics engineer, wind energy engineer, video game designer, multimedia artist, and database administrator.

The profile also contains a personalized downloadable guide that student advisers at Durango High School, Miller and Escalante middle schools can work with students on to develop their own career paths.


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