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Testing the Waters

Duckling testing the water

Duckling testing the water (cribea, iStockphoto)

Duckling testing the water

Duckling testing the water (cribea, iStockphoto)

Lisa MacPherson

How does this align with my curriculum?

Students learn about how to gain experience and be exposed to, or “test the waters,” of careers that align with their personal occupational goals.


  • Students will explore the types of experiences that can be engaged in to support exposure to occupations and experience in industries.
  • Students will reflect, research and consider the types of experiences and activities that align with their personal goals and ideas.

Setting the Stage

In career planning, experiential learning is critical! By gaining first-hand experience, students can learn about different industries, occupations and most importantly learn about their own strengths, interests and other career preferences. Selecting opportunities thoughtfully and with consideration for their career interests is important. The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to the idea of tailored experiences and to start to consider the types of experiences they could engage in according to their occupational ideas. 

Materials & Preparation

  • Download reproducibles for the group activity. Print 1 copy of each per group.
    • Testing the Waters: Occupational Headers Placemats Reproducible [Google doc] [Word doc] [PDF]
    • Testing the Waters: Matching Activities to Occupations Cards Reproducible (printed, shuffled and distributed equally among members of the group) [Google doc] [Word doc] [PDF]
  • Download the Testing the Waters: My Experience Brainstorm Reproducible [Google doc] [Word doc] [PDF] provide as a paper or e-copy, 1 per student .

What To Do

  • Teachers could introduce this activity by talking about the importance of experience in learning about oneself. For example, you learn what you don’t like to eat by trying different foods. Experience can also help students learn about their career preferences and to learn about occupations. 
  • Teachers can also discuss the importance of experience in an industry to employability and building a robust resumé. Teachers may share personal stories about how experiences helped them build relevant skills or shaped their career paths or decisions to enter a specific field (or provide examples for someone they know). 
  • Teachers could use one or more Career Profiles, where advice and examples are featured re. experiential learning, to help clarify this point. For example, teachers could refer to the “My Advice to Others” sections of the following profiles: 
  • Teachers could ask students to identify and discuss the relevance of the experiences described in these profiles. 
  • Teachers could engage students in the activity Testing the Waters: Matching Activities to Occupations:
    • Students work in small groups (i.e., 4 or 5 students) to determine which activities/cards best align with each of the 5 occupations described. 
    • Set up: shuffled cards can be distributed equally among members (i.e., each student has 5 or more cards in their pile). Each group will also need the Occupational Headers Placemats. Students work together to discuss the placement/matching of each card.
    • Teachers should encourage students to talk through each example. They may feel that one activity fits under more than one occupation (which, in reality, it could). 
  • At the end of the activity, teachers should review the matches. Where there is disagreement, teachers could lead discussions on which activities best matched each occupation. Teachers should explain that any single activity can provide valuable experience for, and exposure to, many types of occupations. In line with this, each activity also has the potential for individuals to build multiple transferable/foundational skills.
  • Teachers could have students determine which activities align with their specific occupational ideas/plans. They may brainstorm and research in pairs or groups. Students can use the reproducible My Experience Brainstorm.
    • Teachers can encourage students to research using the following resources:

Extension Activities

  • Students could interview current volunteers or workers, volunteer coordinators or hiring managers at organizations that connect with the activities relevant to their goals. 
  • Students could also inquire about opportunities and conduct informational interviews to learn more about roles and organizations. 
  • Students could interview people working in occupations of interest, being sure to ask for advice about the experiences they would recommend and what experience they completed to get where they are and/or that helped them decide or increase confidence about entering the field. 
  • To further explore topics related to this lesson, teachers may wish to have students conduct one or more of the following related lessons: 

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the work and contributions of Lisa MacPherson, University of Manitoba, in the development of this lesson.

  • Teachers observe student thinking and participation during the group activity.
  • Teachers can collect and review the My Experiences Brainstorm reproducible.


  • Teachers observe student thinking and participation during the group activity.
  • Teachers can collect and review the My Experiences Brainstorm reproducible.