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A middle school enrichment initiative 

Hamburg Middle School student Hamburg seventh-grader Ava Pierce operates a crane as part of Erie 1 BOCES’ GRIT initiative.Anna Reagan can say she has operated construction equipment.

The seventh-grader joined some of her fellow classmates last May for a field trip to Operating Engineers in Lake View, where they tried their hand at picking up dirt in a backhoe tractor and manipulating a crane.

“It was cool that we got to use tractors because it’s not something I would normally end up doing,” Anna said, adding she may consider her experience when she decides on a career.

Anna and the other Hamburg students had the hands-on experience through Erie 1 BOCES’ Girls Rising Interest in Technology (GRIT) program, one of several middle school initiatives offered by the Career and Technical Education (CTE) division. GRIT provides middle school girls the opportunity to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

While school district officials can sign on to the individual GRIT program, there are other immersive opportunities they can consider. This upcoming school year, three Erie 1 BOCES component districts will participate in many of those opportunities (plus more) throughout the year as part of an enhanced, bundled approach called “TECHsploration.”

“We’re excited to offer TECHsploration to our districts because it will combine all of the exciting aspects of many of our enrichment programs currently in place, boosting their impact and complementing the current middle school curriculums in technology, family and consumer science, art and health,” CTE Associate Director Anedda Trautman explained.

The 2018-2019 TECHsploration pilot will include Hamburg, Akron and Tonawanda schools – one school for each CTE center. The program may open its doors to other districts with the potential for full aidable service in the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition to GRIT, TECHsploration will fuse together the already established Taste of Tech and Middle School Modules (or Mods). Thousands of Western New York students participated in these programs in 2017-2018 alone.

Middle School Mods puts a collaborative twist on a unit lesson, with schoolteachers and Erie 1 BOCES CTE teachers teaming up to “co-teach” a lesson. Mods include Cupcake Wars, Pizza Palooza, Minecraft and Heart Healthy.

Taste of Tech invites students to explore programs and hands-on activities offered at the three CTE centers. A student chooses three programs of interest.

TECHsploration will also package five additional initiatives together:

• TECH Talks will bring real-world industry leaders and business partners into the classroom to talk with students.

• STEM TREK will give students the chance to tour STEM-related career sites.

• A student speaker series will place high school CTE students in a middle school classroom to share their experiences with their younger peers.

• As part of a career fair, CTE teachers and business partners will be on hand at a school’s marketed event (e.g. open house).

• Virtual Job Shadow licensing will be provided to teachers, who can use an interactive website to enhance career plans.

To learn more about TECHsploration or any of the other middle school enrichment initiatives, contact Trautman at (716) 821-7076 or

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