Home economics evolves beyond cooking and sewing in NJ schools
Do you have a needle and threat at home? Even if you did, how likely are you to sew something? A number of New Jersey school districts are coming to that realization with home economics courses and have made dramatic changes to reflect the changing times.
In Toms River, sixth-grade students at the middle school level are given a 10-week life skills course focusing on cooking, nutrition and reading food labels, according to John Coleman, the director of curriculum for the district.
"In the second year, it has a lot to do with sewing, making of clothes, consumer credit, basic sewing techniques, safety around the machines," Coleman said.
Students in eighth-grade focus on career exploration and career selection as well as financial literacy during home economics classes. Coleman noted how dramatically different the course has become at the high school level.
"It's called Interior and Fashion Design Technology, and it's really a course to introduce students to the latest technologies on designing home interiors and fashion," Coleman said. He added that students who want to pursue a career in the field also learn how to put together a portfolio.
Expecting high school students to just sew with a needle and thread is unrealistic in 2014 and that's why the Toms River District has replaced it.
"If you look at the careers back 15 or 20 years ago, people used to be able to sustain a family. Telephone operators, bank tellers, toll collectors - a lot of these jobs are starting to disappear because of technology," Coleman said. "We've got to keep current in the changing society, the demands and the careers that are available. So, as society changes, as careers start to change, we have to update our curriculum to keep our students in line with it."
In some New Jersey school districts, home economics classes have been eliminated altogether.