Monday, May 20, 2013

Project-Based Learning: Entrepreneurship, Finance and Design


Source: PaperStopper, ASIDE, 2013
Our third fifth-grade Entrepreneur Fair just ended, and we could not be more thrilled with the diversity of ideas by these young minds. It came as no surprise that so many of them paid close attention to every detail of their companies. From their initial business plans to their final presentations, the students worked to bring their ideas to fruition.

These young entrepreneurs took on this project-based learning assignment with great enthusiasm. They worked through problems in the design process to come up with solutions, often revamping their prototypes again and again. Equally rewarding was watching the “ah-ha” moments when they realized they were on to something.

Source: Tree Bark Edibles, ASIDE, 2013
Perhaps the toughest part for them was figuring out how to finance their ideas. Francine Wisnewski, who is one of the lead teachers for this project, worked tirelessly on the financials with the students in math class. Many quickly realized that the cost to make their products exceeded what they could realistically charge to make a profit. Occasionally, too, some had to scrap their ideas and start afresh.

Source: Lights: Out, ASIDE, 2013

The final phase of the project was marketing their goods, complete with brand messaging, packaging, and display. It’s where we hoped all the lessons in media literacy they’ve learned through the years would come together. They did not disappoint us either. To help advertise their wares, they wrote jingles in English class with their teacher, Barbara Thomas, and recorded them in GarageBand with the technology teacher, Leslie Gulbransen.

Two of our most innovative ideas that tried to solve real problems were Lights Out and PaperStopper. Some displayed incredible handiwork in crafting their products, such as Spark Accessories and DnA Bows. Still others, such as Tree Bark Edibles, took a snack recipe and packaged it with an environmental note. Each entrepreneurial idea carefully thought out the packaging, logo design, and branding that showed a continuity worthy of any business. 

Source: DnA Bows, ASIDE, 2013
The pride in what they had accomplished was evident on the day of the fair. They were beaming with joy, and all the practice shined through in their customer service. As teachers, it was an emotional high for us to see it come together. These young entrepreneurs learned far more than they realized, but most importantly, they learned they could do anything if they put their minds to it.

Source: Spark Accessories, ASIDE, 2013
Project-based learning that brings together multiple disciplines allows students to work through ideas, encourages risk-taking, and engages kids on multiple levels. It integrates financial and media literacy into the process and challenges kids to think like designers. It’s more than just a project; it’s a life lesson. All of this is done with a network of dedicated teachers collaborating with one goal in mind, learning.

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