WARREN, NJ - There were soil samplers, environmental inspectors and even a corporate polluter at Mt. Horeb School on Jan. 13 as 4th and 5th graders acted out a scenario, receiving hands-on career experience from hydrogeologist Cecilia Fontana.

Fontana was one of five career professionals (some of them current or former Mt. Horeb parents as well) who took part in the school’s Career Expo, now in its fourth year.

“Research has proven that career education at the elementary level helps students achieve a vision of the trajectory they wish to follow in terms of making a significant contribution to the world in which we live,” says Wendy Piller, teacher of the Reach enrichment program. “Knowledge regarding specific careers also provides a connection between knowledge taught in school and its practical application.”

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The 40 students in attendance chose two career presentations in advance. Depending on the workshop attended, the youngsters learned how to market a popular toy with marketing/sales expert Cherie Krebs, tested their mathematical/technological know-how with software engineer Andrei Bergners, or honed their powers of observation with police detective Louie Ducceschi.

They explored ways to break down a complicated math lesson with Seton Hall University professor Dr. Mary Mueller and donned protective white jumpsuits with geologist Fontana to study the distribution and quality of groundwater in soil and rocks.

“Do you study the rock in its natural form or do you dig it up?” 5th grader Chelsea Fernandes asked the hydrogeologist.

Piller, who organized the event with the help of other teachers and staff, says that “unlike a career fair where presenters congregate in one large room and address students who randomly visit different booths, a career expo allows presenters to create a hands-on lesson which requires student participation and the application of problem-solving skills.”

As keynote speaker, Superintendent Dr. Matthew Mingle spoke to parents about the Whole Child approach to education, which seeks to ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

“One of the tenets of a Whole Child approach is that each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment,” says Mingle. “Events like the Career Expo provide students with exposure to ideas and possibilities that may spark an interest that blossoms down the road.”

Principal Scott Cook echoes that thought. While he says he did not have the benefit of a career expo in his elementary years, “I was inspired by my 5th grade teacher,” he told the students at the start of the evening. “Perhaps tonight or in the future, you’ll get an idea of what you might want to do.”


PHOTO #1 – Hydrogeologist Cecilia Fontana (center) conducts a workshop on Jan. 13, as part of Mt. Horeb School’s 4th Annual Career Expo. (L-R) Edward Walker, Grade 4; Misha Patel, Grade 5; Reach teacher Wendy Piller; Ryan Sapoff, Grade 4, Fontana, Christopher Kolb, Grade 4

PHOTO #2 – Mt. Horeb 4th and 5th graders receive hands-on experience from software engineer Andrei Bergners at the Career Expo on Jan. 13. (L-R) Aaron Fernandes, Grade 4; Kenneth Miller, Grade 5 (back); Sophia Lader, Grade 5; Olivia Holliday, Grade 5; Anton Bergners, Grade 3; Andrei Bergners

PHOTO #3 – Superintendent Dr. Matthew Mingle speaks to parents about the Whole Child approach to education at the Mt. Horeb Career Expo on Jan. 13.
PHOTO #4 – Mt. Horeb 4th graders Megan Li (L) and Esther Mokhor explore life as a college math professor with Seton Hall professor Dr. Mary Mueller.