The one constant at the Center for Education over the last 10 years has been its ability to change. From expanding from one classroom to nine, to making community trips part of the curriculum or integrating technology to help students develop communication skills, the ChildBridge Center has always changed its environment to meet students’ needs. 

And this year, the school received the hands-on learning experience it has pursued over the last few years — the PAES Lab. PAES, which stands for Practical Assessment Exploration System, is a multi-layered lab that offers simulated experiences in computer technology, construction and industrial jobs, consumer services, processing and production and more. 

The lab consists of dozens of boxes that each hold materials needed for project simulations. Students take a work card, locate the box and can practice the job described. Students are able to explore nearly 300 different job types and have their skills assessed on a detailed level that will show their strengths and weaknesses and where they may be able to improve. 

Whether it is organizing files, computer work, industrial work like measuring and using tools or food service work like sorting silverware and folding napkins, the lab is designed to make sure students are exposed to as many potential jobs as possible at different skill levels. 

“It’s going to be a very engaging experience for the students and the staff and will help them develop and discover skills in a whole new way,” said Phil Siegel, school principal. “Hands-on learning is very important and this will give students that sensory work and experience they need.” 

Valerie Keane, who installed the lab and led training, said the curriculum has been used by hundreds of schools and organizations across the country. Its versatility is what allows students of all abilities and skill levels to develop while it also serves as an equally important assessment tool for teachers who can better match skills with potential jobs. 

“This allows staff to see exactly where a student may be struggling and where they can improve or what job they could try that better fits their strengths,” she said. “And students get to find what they may enjoy doing. You can find a match that can really allow students to thrive.” 

Phil said the goal is for all students to use the lab this year with a focus on the students who are nearing the age of transitioning to adult programs.