- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - When Deana Schreck and Bethanie Miller tell people they’re family and consumer science teachers, they’re typically met with a question.

What is family and consumer science?

“You say family and consumer science and they’re like, ‘What the heck is that?’ “said Schreck, who teaches the subject at Norfolk High School. “But if you say home-ec., they say, ‘Oh, so you teach sewing.’ “

Not quite.

That might have been a focus of home economic classes of the past, but the classes have evolved to become much more. Hence its updated name - family and consumer science.

“I think there’s more options for students,” said Miller, who splits her time teaching the subject between the high school and junior high. “It used to just be that home-ec was sewing and cooking. That was it.”

Now, between Miller, Schreck, and Lisa Kowalski - another family and consumer science teacher at the high school - classes in child development, food and nutrition, fashion, relationships, financial literacy, human sciences and health sciences are among the options available to students. All the classes, except one for sophomores, are taken as electives.

What’s more is that the department is a part of Norfolk High School’s new career academies. The department will be rolling out academies in culinary and early childhood education in the 2017-2018 school year. Plus, the health sciences academy, which was made available already this school year, starts with Kowalski’s Intro to Health Sciences class.

“Even before the career academies, (our classes) have gotten more career-oriented because we are career and technical education classes anyways,” Schreck said.

In fact, most of the family and consumer science classes taught at the high school include a unit on careers, and a lot of them include instruction on how to build a resume, the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/2lIcegE ) reported.

But with the addition of the career academies, students interested in careers covered by family and consumer science will be that much more prepared for their next step after graduation.

Students in the early childhood education academy could graduate and get a job at a daycare, or pursue further education to become a teacher - though they could also just as likely go on to a non-education-related career that happens to deal with children, Schreck said.

Students in the culinary academy will take courses that include culinary safety and entrepreneurship, which could allow them to pursue jobs in restaurants or test kitchens.

“They’re going to know how to use knives properly, they’re going to know how to use all your equipment properly,” Schreck said.

An additional bonus with family and consumer science classes is that they can serve as a dose of reality for students as they prepare for life after school.

For example, a recent project in Schreck’s Child Development I class focused on the cost of raising a child. Students were assigned careers, income and insurance levels, a relationship status and a number of children. Then they were asked to create a budget.

They were also dealt a scenario from “a good day” bucket and “a bad day” bucket and required to financially deal with that situation.

When asked by students if they could “re-pick,” Schreck offered up a lesson - “Do you get to redo life? Do you get to rewind on a bad day?”

“That’s also one of the reasons our classes are so important,” she said. “They teach life skills.”

Students can attest to that as plenty of the costs associated with raising children were a surprise.

“If you don’t have insurance for delivery or postnatal care or prenatal care, it’s a lot of money,” student Alex Sotelo said. “It’s like $4,000 for prenatal care. “

It’s this kind of information that made student Graciela Villarreal wish she had taken a class like this when she lived in Texas.

“Now I have a kid, so if I would have known all this information it would have been easier for me to calm down because I was so stressed out about how am I going to do this?” she said. “How am I going to pay for child care? How am I going to handle if my daughter’s sick?”

That project in Child Development I is only one of many examples of valuable life lessons offered across Norfolk High’s family and consumer science classes. Plus, ultimately, Schreck and Miller said they see family and consumer science classes as a way to show students how what’s taught in other subject areas can be applicable to the real world.

“Like, ‘Why is math so important?’ ‘Well, because you need it to budget.’” Schreck said. “‘Why is English so important?’ ‘Well, you need it to write a good letter to an employer,’ or things like that. So it’s showing them why all these things they learned in other classes are so important. (It) just really brings everything together.”

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