A “quick” backstory: Several years ago, I wanted to shake up my Entrepreneurship course to give my students a real hands-on learning experience. My students had been creating business plans but they were too abstract for them to fully grasp. The plans could have required $1,000 or $100,000. It was simply more money than they could wrap their brains around. I decided to bring it down to a smaller scale. I wanted to have my students run a real small business in class. Over the years, I won grants from several organizations to provide seed money to help offset expenses. Students pitched ideas to classmates, designed products, commissioned vendors, developed marketing plans, served as the sales force, and analyzed their finances. They ran their own class businesses semester after semester! When all was said and done, they donated their proceeds to a local charity of their choice. Eventually, we also started making microloans to aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries through Kiva.org. By the end of the 2016-2017 school year, my students had donated $7,500 to local organizations and made microloans to entrepreneurs in 14 countries!
To commemorate the achievement of each class, I frame the first dollar from their first sale. All students sign the document and it is proudly displayed in the front of my classroom with the amount of the class donation and microloan. Students have become very competitive over the years and love to taunt each other over their own success. This photo is old and not of great quality but it was all I could find at the moment. It gives you an idea of what I do. The frames now extend the full length of my whiteboard at the front of my classroom. It is a fantastic display of pride and everyone notices it when they walk into my classroom!
This project could not get any better . . . or could it?
Then I got the itch to make another change! I wanted my students to feel a stronger connection with the products they were selling. A lightbulb went off! I decided to take it a step further and merge my budding makerspace with my Entrepreneurship class. I won an Edcamp Impact Grant that allowed my students to purchase the tools and materials that would help them build and create the products they’d sell! Students continued to pitch their business ideas to each other, Shark-tank style. Then we figured out how many projects could be funded with the grant money we were awarded. Throughout the year, we purchased a collection of tools and supplies including a sewing machine, metal stampers, a blender, a microwave, a burner, pots, and 2 knitting machines.
Students sewed scrunchies, mixed up their own “hand sauce” (lotion) and lip balm, created Christmas ornaments and Mansfield magnets from clay, hand-poured soy candles, made stamped necklaces, assembled wristlet keychains, and knitted hats and scarves! They made donations to the Mansfield Animal Shelter and Prayers for Eddy. After this year’s projects, our grand totals are now:
- Charitable donations: $9,254
- Countries supported on Kiva.org: 18
- see the details here
I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of my student makerpreneurs and philantropists! They are engaged learners. They are giving back to their local community. And they are supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. I am looking forward to hitting some major milestones in the upcoming school year. I just know that we will surpass $10,000 in donations and 20 countries supported. So stay tuned!
Here is a sampling of the products that my Entrepreneurship students created this year in their makerspace: