Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

GEAR UP Student Kickoff (Classroom Version)

Lindsay Hawkins, Susan McHale, Lacy Pennington | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center

Essential Questions

  • What are benefits to earning a postsecondary degree?

Learning Goals

  • Students will gain an understanding of how post-secondary opportunities increase career options.

  • Students will determine which of the top 10 benefits matter most to them and pose with those props.

  • Students will create a dream poster applying what they understand from the top 10 list.

Materials List

  • Note to my future self stationary, pens, and envelopes

  • GEAR UP banner

  • Top 10 Benefits of Continuing your Education posters

  • GEAR UP buttons

  • Photo props and camera

  • Teacher slides

  • Sticky notes

  • Rapid Feedback evaluation forms


Once class begins, ask students to get out a sheet of notebook paper and fold it hot dog style. The fold creates two columns. Have students label the first column "High School Graduate" and the second column "Post-Secondary Degree Graduate." An example of the format of the notebook paper is on slide 3 of the Student Overview teacher slides. Tell students that today they are going to talk about their future--a future after high school.

Show slide 4. Ask students what it means to be a Post-Secondary Degree Graduate. As you continue to click on the slide, the following answers will appear: someone who earned a degree at a community college, someone who completed training at a career technical school, or someone who earned a degree at a four-year university. Tell students that they will look at careers today and determine if a high school graduate can do certain jobs and if a post-secondary degree graduate can do certain jobs or careers. Show slides five through fifteen. Students are to write the career in one column or both columns based on the questions on the slide.

You can do the first career together with the class as an example. Ask the questions on slide five. Can a high school graduate do this job? Can a post-secondary degree graduate do this job? Answer: Yes a pharmacy technician requires only a high school degree so the high school graduate AND the post secondary degree graduate could do this job. Because the answer is yes for both, the students should write the career name under both headers.

Continue showing the careers on the following slides in this manner, letting students guess what the correct answer should be and writing the career name under the appropriate header or headers on their paper.

After all 10 careers are decided upon, give students five minutes to discuss and compare their columns with Elbow Partners.

Show the correct answers on slide fifteen and let students check or correct their lists. Ask students who has more career choices, the high school graduate or the post-secondary degree graduate. Call on volunteers to answer. Answer: The post-secondary degree graduate has more career opportunities because some careers require more education than a high school diploma.


Explain to students that having more career choices gives you career independence--that is the ability to use your degree for more career opportunities. This is one of the benefits of continuing your education after high school.

Show slide sixteen. Ask students if they can think of another benefit of continuing their education after high school. Allow time for students to think about their answers. Pair students together and have them share their benefit ideas with their partners. Have multiple pairs share their answers with the class. This is a K20 Strategy called Think, Pair, Share.


Tell students that we will explore 10 benefits that researchers suggest are benefits of earning a post-secondary degree. Hang the posters provided around the room. Read aloud to students each poster and answer any questions that they might have about the explanations. These benefits are also listed on slide 17.

Pass out two sticky notes to each student. Ask students to number the sticky notes 1 and 2 and then write their names on both sticky notes. Students are to choose the two posters that they feel are their first and second most important benefits for earning a post-secondary degree. They will place the sticky notes beside these posters. Once all students have placed their sticky notes, ask for volunteers to explain why they chose the posters that they did.

Tell students that everyone can have all 10 benefits of continuing their education because THIS school has been awarded a GEAR UP GRANT! Display the GEAR UP Grant poster and explain the benefits of the grant. These benefits are also displayed on slide 18. The benefits are: a seven-year grant that continues with the students through high school to support their post-secondary goals, increasing families’ college and career awareness, college campus visits, and preparing students for success after high school.


Brainstorm with the class behaviors that students can do this year to increase their opportunities for a post-secondary degree in the future. List any ideas on the board. Answers will vary but responses could include: coming to school every day, studying, keeping up with homework, staying organized, keeping their lockers organized, participating in sports or clubs, and participating in music, choir, band, drama or other activities that increase their creativity.

Display slide 19. Ask students to choose one or two behaviors from the brainstormed list and write a note to their future self. Stationary and envelopes are provided in the attachments. Explain to students that these notes will be returned to them at the end of the year to see if they kept their promises to themselves. Ask students to include one of the benefits of continuing their education and why it is important to them. Ask students to put their names on the envelope.

Pass out the student checklist to all students. Tell the class that to demonstrate further that they will support the GEAR UP grant and its goals, they will participate in some GEAR UP activities. Display slide 20 for a list of the activities. The first thing students will do is take a class photo of the future graduating class of 2024 (7th grade) or 2025 (6th grade). A camera and an SD card are provided for that activity.

Students should also sign the GEAR UP banner. This signature is their commitment to participate in GEAR UP activities and to work on positive behaviors that help them on their education path. They may add their graduating class year along with their signatures.

Show photo props and ask students to compare them to the posters of the 10 Benefits. Which photo props are symbols for which posters? Ask small groups to choose photo props and take photos of students with the props in class.

Give everyone a GEAR UP button for completing and participating in this lesson. Tell students that they can collect future buttons at other GEAR UP activities. Their goal can be to collect as many GEAR UP buttons as they can throughout their seven years with the grant.

Pass out the Rapid Feedback form to each student. The form should take students five to seven minutes to fill out. They are to evaluate this lesson, what they learned, and all activities. Use the evaluation form as students' exit ticket for the class.


The Rapid Feedback form will serve as the evaluation of this lesson. All students should complete the evaluation as the last activity of this lesson. Providing this feedback is a grant requirement, and students can expect to offer feedback at future GEAR UP activities as well.

Research Rationale

There are various advantages to higher education and gaining a college degree that can bring benefit to students throughout their lives. Some of the benefits are financial, while others are social or personal. One way to categorize the benefits is to use a four-quadrant framework for measuring college outcomes proposed by researchers at the University of California (Sutton, 2017). The four quadrants are personal economic good, Public economic good, Personal social capital, and Public social capital. The literature identifies numerous benefits of college that we can classify using these four quadrants.