BRANDON — Marcus Parker leaned in close to study the sales information posted in the window of the pearl-colored Murano SL.
"What does that mean, SL?" the Riverview High senior asked.
The answer wasn't what someone would typically hear at a car dealership. But Parker wasn't there to shop. He was on a class field trip.
The saleswoman at Autoway Nissan explained that the SL is coding for trim, which can add to the sticker price. "You wouldn't know that as a customer," she acknowledged.
Chalk it up as one more life lesson from a course named "senior survival,'' which aims to teach exactly that. Credit ratings, budgeting and saving, interview skills, loan applications — all are among the topics covered.
The course is the latest manifestation of a subject once known — and often derided — as home economics. In addition to senior survival, the lineup for family and consumer sciences includes lessons on fabric construction, personal and family finance, child development, and nutrition and wellness.
"When I grew up, it was the Leave It to Beaver generation, when Mom stayed home, and her job was to raise the children and have dinner ready for Dad when he got home," said Joyce Conner-Eary, who supervises the division in Hillsborough. "If we don't move forward as the needs and times change, then we'll be left in the dark ages."
Senior survival, which enrolled one in seven Hillsborough seniors this year, is a model of how to stay relevant at a time when students have more academic requirements and elective options than ever.
At Riverview High, teacher Judith Alarcon-Gaspar took the class on field trips to the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College, where they learned about college admissions and financial aid.
In another project, students created professional portfolios for mock interviews with local businesses managers. Some left with part-time jobs.
"I do a really good job of reaching out to students who don't really have any interests in mind for what they are going to do post-high school," Alarcon-Gaspar said. "My goal is to see them leave with at least two to three options."
She includes a heavy dose of nutritional analysis in the cooking unit and keeps floor mats on hand for the occasional yoga session. Each lesson is designed to come back to smart consumerism.
The budgeting sessions helped Christina Roman see that moving into her own apartment when she starts at HCC wouldn't be wise. And that she couldn't afford the monthly payments, gas and insurance on a 1998 Mustang convertible that a family friend wanted to sell her.
"When you're a senior, you want to go out and be an adult," the 18-year-old said. "Then you start seeing all the bills and you're like, maybe not."
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.