Life 101: Learning the everyday essentials

MVRHS students prepare for independent life with hands-on experience.


It can be said that one merit to education is getting prepared for the realities of everyday life after school — you mature, you make mistakes, you learn, you improve.

Maybe you want to be a writer, a teacher, or a biologist, so you take classes in high school that provide that knowledge and those skill sets. But there are some things in life that school doesn’t normally teach you: things like doing your taxes, folding your laundry, planning your meals, or even writing a thank-you letter. 

At the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), Justine DeOliveira teaches her students the value of everyday tasks, and prepares them for life on their own. “We bring in local experts and try to get the kids out in the community to learn these specific skills,” DeOliveira said.

With a diverse group of 20 students, the class is split in half, and each student must make a presentation based on a skill or task of their choosing.

Some things like “having fun on the weekend,” or “learning from failure” are more broad, while other skills are specific, like how to deep-clean your bedroom, or how to reduce waste and recycle. 

DeOliveira said Life 101 aims to “provide life skills to help students navigate situations that they encounter in their everyday lives.”

“Things like how to interview for jobs, self-advocacy, and cooking — there are so many little things from day to day that we don’t always think of, but they are really important for living well and being happy,” DeOliveira said.

Certain students gained more from certain topics, like Larissa DeOliveira, who said organizing her email alleviated some of her stress and made her feel more confident.

Tech teacher Chris Connors helped students prioritize their emails, and showed them other useful email hacks.

“I organized my email into folders, so I can see which ones are more important and which ones can wait,” Larissa said. “It helped me a lot.”

Another student, Julianne Joseph, said tidying her car was satisfying, and encouraged her to keep it clean. “It felt so good to clean my car. I know it seems like a little thing, but it’s nice to form good habits,” Julianne said.

Local experts like the folks from the Vineyard Conservation Society also helped the kids on their path to independent living. Signe Benjamin and Samantha Look showed the class how to properly recycle, how to conserve electricity, and how to choose environmentally friendly products.

“It was a real treat to have VCS show the kids how to conserve and be conscious of their choices. Sustainability is so important today, it’s a very valuable skill to have,” DeOliveira said.

Student Amanda Moraes said meeting with VCS gave her a new appreciation of just how much plastic gets thrown away and sent to landfills. “You don’t really understand or realize how much plastic you use every day. Things like reusing plastic bags, or even choosing more eco-friendly makeup products, are good first steps,” Amanda said.
Another reality students prepared themselves for was having to shop and cook on their own time and their own dime. The students did an exercise where they had to choose food items to buy for an entire week, with just a $50 budget. “That was really hard,” Amanda said. “Food adds up really quickly, so you need to decide what you need and what you just want.”

The class also worked with the culinary department to cook their own nutritious and budget-friendly meals. 

At the end of the course, students created posters and interactive presentations for fellow students to participate in. Some topics showed students the proper way to remove different types of stains from clothes, while others shared tips for dealing with anxiety, or paying for college.

DeOliveira highlighted the importance of core curriculum classes, but said that the skills learned in Life 101 are essential to success and happiness after high school.

“The more experienced and prepared you are for college and everyday life outside home, the better,” DeOliveira said. “These kids are getting hands-on experience with skills they will use every single day for the rest of their lives.”