K-12 institutions should see themselves as an integral part of the community they serve. As educators, we are responsible for equipping students for a fast paced, constantly changing environment within which they will have to navigate successfully. We are told that people will lead longer working lives, and possibly have as many as three careers over that period.
Schools who integrated themselves fully into their communities seek to avail themselves of opportunities to expose their students to professionals in a wide spectrum of employment. Since we do not truly know where the passion will come from for any particular individual, exposing children to the thinking and ideas of adults outside the school community can only strengthen the overall educational experience. Ideas for sourcing such interactions could be parents, local businesses, or institutions of higher learning. Students benefit greatly from collaborative experiences with professionals in the community. If, for example, students are preparing an advertising project, requests could be made to local advertising firms to participate in evaluating work from a professional perspective. Community members are often more than happy to contribute to learning in this way.
Mutually beneficial relationships such as community service ideas, involvement in scientific research or other opportunities could quite conceivably grow from this outreach. Operating exclusively in academic isolation limits opportunities for students who would certainly thrive through interactions within a larger sphere of influence.