Learning Outdoors and Connecting with Partners

On Friday, April 23, MACS’ Business Advisory Council and a number of special guests, including Representative Kyle Hall, gathered around the newly constructed outdoor classroom to learn how the school seized the opportunity to get students outside during the school day during the pandemic. The group also learned of the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project (C4) that aims to engage 10th-12th grade students in real-world learning experiences in construction, manufacturing, quality control, engineering, marketing, and business through a partnership between Carport Central and MACS.


The outdoor classroom sparked the partnership and was funded in part by the NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council through the North Carolina Schools Go Outside (GO) Grant that was designed to eliminate the main barrier to getting kids outside during the school day. This outdoor space creates a dedicated space for students to explore and learn in a hands-on environment. MAHS was awarded a $15,000 grant that provided a 20 x 30 shelter and tables for the space. Carport Central donated the majority of the concrete, $100 for plants, and were available to execute the project before the December 31st deadline. The MACS Board of Education granted $1,500 to provide a wheelchair accessible table and internet connectivity. The goal for this space is an outdoor classroom during the day and area for students to complete work after school hours. The newly formed Technology Student Organization (TSA), designed and worked on the space and will sponsor it in the future. 


As the district worked with Carport Central to create this outdoor space, ideas began to develop on how to produce students ready for the workforce locally. C4 was then developed and is guided by three primary goals:


  1. Increase student interest in engineering, construction, design and logistics sectors of industry through the lens of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  2. Increase student achievement by providing a local learning environment with a wide variety of career exploration and project-based learning opportunities 
  3. Motivate students to pursue STEM-related career pathways (especially under-represented populations) and to assist with retaining local youth who will be future community leaders. Within the partnership’s programs, female students and those from ethnic/racial communities underrepresented in STEM will be targeted for recruitment to engage in STEM pipeline activities.

Accountability and Career and Technical Education Director Olivia Sikes noted, “We are excited to expand our partnership with Carport Central with the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project. This innovative partnership will provide opportunities for students to gain internship and workforce development experience in an industry that supports employment opportunities in several career clusters.”


For decades, Mount Airy City Schools has enjoyed business and community partnerships that have allowed students first-hand experiences in potential careers. Even in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, MAHS continued to offer internships and work-based learning for students. The NextGen program, led by Polly Long, provided 50 students with paid internships, job placement, Surry Community College (SCC) tuition, and met other needs of students. Through CTE thanks to Catrina Alexander, 61 students enjoyed internships with many being paid allowing them to earn money and discover if the career path they were on was the right fit for them. This year’s newly formed Surry-Yadkin Works, a collaboration between Elkin City Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools and Surry Community College, also provided paid internships for four students at MAHS along with SCC tuition, apprenticeships, and job placement. Thanks to Krystal Tyndall, Safer Surry Career Development Facilitator, nine students have been identified to the newly formed Public Safety Program.


Activities that will be included in CONNECT4  project: 

  • Career and Technical Student Organizations will have the opportunity to visit the industry
  • Technology Student Association members and construction students visiting Carport Central 
  • Mentors working closely with C4 interns posing real-world problems 
  • CTE teachers and Carport Central leading the C4 project and engaging students in project-based learning
  • Interns from high school traveling on a consistent basis to Carport Central to work closely with STEM experts in the field
  • Programming through Career and College Conversations at the high school and the Career Cafe at the middle school to bring in guest speakers
  • Families engaged in the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project attending after-school club meetings, traveling to Carport Central with their students, attending parent meetings, and engaging with industry experts and counselors to set a path for their student in STEM education
  • Summer and yearlong programming allowing C4 students to engage with industry for internships and apprenticeships to solve problems and create projects to share out solutions to these problems to the community and their families

Students participating in this partnership will have many hours of being mentored by STEM teachers and STEM industry experts. The 2021-2022 school year will begin with five interns and grow as large as 20 interns in one year. These internships will be paid and have possible opportunities for students to receive tuition funding to continue their education needed for certifications and more.

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