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More than home ec

Marjorie Lane teaches students in her sewing and textiles class about different fabric types. (photo by Jen Moore)

SOLON– Right now, Marjorie Lane’s students are doing a little bit of wedding planning.
Some are trying to decide if their budget affords a destination wedding while others are planning a more intimate hometown affair. They’re drawing up their budgets and figuring out if they can do without that fancy photographer and lavish flowers.

Just a typical day in Lane’s Personal and Family Relations classroom.
“I’ve been really impressed with what they’ve come up with,” Lane said. “They’ve had so much fun and they’ve been really attentive. It’s been great watching them.”
Personal and Family Relations is a part of the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program in Solon. The program encompasses 12 classes that teach students everything from basic sewing skills to how to plan and stick to a monthly budget.
Originally, FCS went by the more commonly known name, home economics. But in the 1990s, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences changed the name in order to more accurately reflect what the classes taught.
The name “home economics” often brings to mind socially conservative images of female students learning how to become wives and mothers. But according to Lane, who has taught FCS in Solon for 12 years, the program has evolved to become much more than that. Now male and female enrollment is fairly even as the field strives to meet the needs of today’s students. She feels it has become more about improving the quality of life both in the immediate future and in the long term.
“There are so many things students can take and automatically apply. When I was growing up and taking classes, what would constantly go through my head is, ‘where am I going to use this? How is this relevant?’” Lane said. “I love it when parents tell me students are doing their own laundry or preparing dinner for the home now.”
Bryn Hayes, one of two FCS teachers at Clear Creek Amana, has also made changes in her curriculum to keep the program relevant.
“We’re teaching so many valuable life and communication skills, which students aren’t always learning” Hayes said. “One focus is just those interpersonal skills so they can go out and get a job and sell themselves to be successful in whatever career they chose.”
Both high schools have partnered with local community colleges to better prepare students looking for careers in FCS. Lane and Hayes have worked with Kirkwood Community College to figure out what basic competencies it looks for in incoming students. These include basic knife skills and cake decorating in the food programs and textile and apparel design in sewing classes.
“Getting them hooked to and interested in FCS careers would be major goal,” Hayes said.
Curriculum is now more heavily involved in the fields of science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because of the greater importance placed on those skills.
Often, students utilize those fields without even knowing. Lane likes to use the example of baking bread to demonstrate this.
“You’re going to look at chemical reactions of the leavening agents and how it makes the bread rise. You may use a computer to find out omissions, to figure out substitutions and proper use of equipment. You’re fixing problems and troubleshooting using engineering. And all your measurements require math,” Lane said.
She feels that when students realize how STEM fits into their FCS projects, they get more out of it and are more excited to apply what they’ve learned to real life scenarios.
In Clear Creek Amana, Hayes uses STEM in her sewing and textiles classes, teaching students how engineering plays a role in fabric manufacturing and production.
“We’re doing more career awareness because of that stigma that we are just home economics,” Hayes said. ”We incorporate STEM so students see there’s more potential in the future.”
Lane and Hayes have both watched their programs grow by leaps and bounds in the past years. This year Lane is seeing one her highest enrollments in the program and Hayes is teaching five sections of her introduction to foods class.
“The popularity of food and culinary sciences has increased,” Hayes said. “Students are watching things like Food Network or baking shows so there’s more awareness with TV about food service jobs. Some looking at potential careers in food service, others are looking to cook more at home.”
Collaborating between FCS teachers has been key to the program’s growth and popularity. Now, teachers have more opportunities to meet and share curriculum ideas to create a more uniform program between districts and to make sure no one is missing any gaps. Hayes and Lane often bounce ideas off of one another to help their students get more out of their teaching.
“I really look forward to getting more insight into what my other FCS colleagues are doing. It just helps with consistency across the board and helps with providing opportunities for students,” Lane said.
The biggest takeaway Lane and Hayes want their students have is the ability to confidently enter the workforce with the skills they’ve learned.
“It just gives them a sense of self and teaches them critical skills and competencies,” Hayes said. “They’re walking out the door with something valuable.”