"What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?": A Capstone's Storybook Approach to Career Education

Martha Krebill, Nikia Reynolds, Anna Peterson, and Melanie Gagen stand in front of the Franke GLI Logo

     Franke GLI’s capstone presentations kicked off Tuesday evening with four groups explaining their proposals. The proposals addressed a variety of topics, from coding education for elementary schools to mental health surveys to social media conversations about sex education. One group’s proposal incorporated a variety of elements for addressing inequalities with career stereotypes .

     Martha Krebill, Melisande Slater, Anna Peterson, Melanie Gagen, and Nikia Reynolds designed a storybook project called “What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?” This storybook is aimed at elementary students between 4th and 6th grade with the goal of broadening ideas of what counts as a successful career. The group explained that often children are only aware  of the careers their parents or role models have, and not much else. They also noted that many jobs have persistent gender stereotypes attached to them, which may discourage children from viewing the pursuit of certain fields as possibilities. Because of this, the storybook will feature a variety of career options, both blue and white collar, which avoid reinforcing stereotypes.

     The storybook centers on an animal that faces the question of what to do when it grows up. Throughout the book the creature will meet people of differing professions who will explain what they do and how they got there. To make the book more appealing to the target age range, “We want to get an artist involved with this,” Anna said. This artist will provide pictures of the animal’s journey and the people it meets, making sure that the pictures don’t automatically depict nurses as women or firefighters as men, for example. The choice of an animal instead of a boy or girl was also intentional, so the animal’s perspective appeals to all genders. As Martha explained, “We want to make sure we aren’t perpetuating gender stereotypes […] we want to address [that] inequality.” The pictorial aspect of the book matters because “it’s important to get kids excited [and] art is fun and interesting,” Anna said.

     To gather career stories, the group will conduct interviews with professionals in Missoula and France. While the focus leans toward people who work in Missoula because this provides information close to home for kids, the group will place emphasis on people who started their careers elsewhere before coming to Missoula. These people will provide perspectives from other regions and countries while still representing opportunities within the local community.

     The storybook will combine artistry, personal communication, career development, and global perspectives to assist in the reduction of restrictive career stereotypes that feed gender and class inequalities. Though the group is still reviewing publishing options, the storybook will become product at the end of next spring.