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4runner

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Hi Fastlaners,

I've been hired by a local high school (grades 9-12) to take their Business Department to the next level!! I've been tasked with deciding what classes are taught, the curriculum, special projects, field trips, etc (basically everything).

As all of us here know, "formal education" often teaches "the Script," and what these kids REALLY need is some Unscripted/Fastlane education!

So I've got this "lump of clay" I want to mold into a business department that will produce graduates educated in the "ways of the Fastlane..."

My question is: WHAT does this department look like, what are the components/features/qualities, etc? After that's determined, then I'll focus my energies on the HOW...

Here's a few specific questions I'm currently thinking about:
  1. Currently we offer Economics, Accounting, Sports Management / Marketing, International Business, Entrepreneurship, Personal Finance, Business Law, and Business Technology (Excel, PPT, Databases). What classes need to be added/subtracted?
  2. What should the classes we offer focus on (curriculum for each class)? How do we shape our curriculum in all our classes into more student-centered, project-based, hands-on learning instead of lecture-based learning?
  3. Project ideas to enable students to " learn by doing"?
  4. What order should the kids take the classes we offer (what classes should be prerequisites to others), or does it even matter? Maybe younger students learn business "nuts and bolts" and older students focus more on application/projects?
Any input you offer regarding this venture I've undertaken is GREATLY APPRECIATED!!! I CAN NOT do this alone, and am largely depending upon the wisdom/input from business professionals who want to make an impact in high school business education. I REALLY appreciate your time and consideration, and I look forward to seeing some great ideas! Thank you so much!!!
 

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ApparentHorizon

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Currently we offer Economics, Accounting, Sports Management / Marketing, International Business, Entrepreneurship, Personal Finance, Business Law, and Business Technology (Excel, PPT, Databases). What classes need to be added/subtracted?

Public speaking.

Programming. Math. (These wire your brain in a way an MBA does not)

What should the classes we offer focus on (curriculum for each class)? How do we shape our curriculum in all our classes into more student-centered, project-based, hands-on learning instead of lecture-based learning?

"How do we grade outside of the box thinking."

By definition you can't.

What the students will do is, evaluate the box, and constrain their efforts to meet the criteria.

How do you grade and define failure?

Maybe you can get some inspiration from how PhD programs are run:
  • Find a specific problem to solve (self defined project)
  • Learn the fundamentals of that field (classes)
  • You're "graded" on your ability to approach the problem. Doing the research. Brainstorming. Coming up with unique ideas. Taking an old idea and adapting them.
... sound familiar?

And in my hypocrisy, your biggest challenge is getting the lecturers/professors to not shoot down ideas from students.

Kids are naturally curious and exploratory. Teachers crush that.
 

Tiago

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Hey @4runner , I absolutely love this. Thank you for tackling this challenge, and helping our next generation get off the slowlane.

As soon as I read this, an email I received from Peter Diamandis, author of Abundance and BOLD, came up to mind.

He talks about the future of school, and some guiding principles he would follow if he had to build a school for his kids.

It's a very long post, but incredibly valuable. Here is the link to it: Back-to-School Thoughts: Future of Education

Hope this helps you.
 

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1) Whatever the kids learn it has to be taken to the application level, not just learning and regurgitating facts and theory.

2) There should be some business analysis class that will examine current businesses and compare them to CENTS.

3) The students are money focused, of course. They need to be trained to look at the "need" that each business idea solves. The focus should be getting the students to recognize needs that need to be solved and the process to efficiently reach that resolution.

I did work with HS kids for a semester. My students did not have the background that yours do. The kids talk a big talk with dollar signs in their eyes. When given a challenge and the support to solve the challenge I was disappointed at the lack of follow through. I hope your students will hang in there and show us all how it's done. Good luck.
 
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George Appiah

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Just a gentle reminder: if you're going to succeed at this, don't ignore the politics. You want to be sensitive to where many of the teachers and school execs are, so you don't swing the pendulum too far beyond their ability to comprehend... and invite a revolt.

I'm reminded of a story in 2005 when Paul Graham was blocked from speaking at a high school where we had been invited to speak. Probably someone with a Fastlane thinking thought PG could wake up these kids to the SCRIPT and invited him to speak... but then the school authorities must have read some of PG's essays and concluded he was a threat. So they vetoed the invitation. Here's the talk that never was: What You'll Wish You'd Known

(For those who may not know PG, he was a co-founder of Viaweb, acquired by Yahoo way back in 1998 and became Yahoo Stores. PG also co-founded YCombinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator with big hits like Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Reddit, Firebase, Quora, Coinbase, Zappier, Zenefits, GitLab, Heroku, Docker, Twitch etc. )

Good luck!
 

NMdad

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This is a great challenge & opportunity.

Speaking as someone who's worked with & designed/delivered experiential education to kids ages 2-18, you might want to consider the following:
  • How much time will you have with each kid? E.g., a 1-hour session vs. 6 weekly 1-hour sessions vs. 1 full semester or year class vs. a full departmental redesign. The less time you have, the more hyper-focused the program/session design.
  • Likewise, what are the core elements you want kids to take away? CENTS? Business model canvas? Basic financial literacy? Consistent hard work over time = results? Growth mindset? A sense of personal agency & responsibility? Producer vs. consumer?
In my experience, hands-down the best way to install life lessons was through tangible experience. To do that requires a fundamentally different way of designing educational programming--i.e., like 20% intro lecture, 60% experiential doing stuff, followed by 20% discussion/reflection. Each session builds on the previous session. Even following that framework, not all experiential ed programs are great; I've volunteered with Junior Achievement, and while some of their ed sessions are good, others are lacking--especially the entrepreneur-focused ones.

Remember: Not all kids will go into STEM, or business, or sports. Your goal should be that they ALL get a taste & excitement about what you want them to learn. Even if they a theater kid, you want them to come away the lessons & ideas & mindsets you want to impart.

My hunch is that the kids will be involved with the department at a variety of levels--maybe take a 1-session seminar, or just 1 class, or maybe 3-4 semester classes. So, carefully consider what themes you want to infuse through all the kids' experience.
 

4runner

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Public speaking.

Programming. Math.

Great suggestions. Maybe for the public speaking class we could also cover communication and emotional intelligence. For programming, maybe they could learn python and build an app or build a product using arduinos/raspberry pis.

You're "graded" on your ability to approach the problem. Doing the research. Brainstorming. Coming up with unique ideas. Taking an old idea and adapting them.

I don't have a lot of experience with "non-traditional grading", and I'm sure our teachers in the business department don't either. I'm sure I can find some books/articles about this online - this will be something I'll have to explore. It seems like a great idea, but I understand it's going to involve some "deprogramming" of traditional ways of doing things.

And in my hypocrisy, your biggest challenge is getting the lecturers/professors to not shoot down ideas from students.

Kids are naturally curious and exploratory. Teachers crush that.

I believe you're mostly right on this. Unfortunately by the time they've made it to high school, they've already been beaten into passivity from a young age and trained that grades are all that matter in school. Obviously I'd like things to be different for our business department. I'll be looking for books that focus on how teachers can provide a more student-centered learning environment, and will have all the faculty read them and start instilling this into our faculty culture.

Hey @4runner , I absolutely love this. Thank you for tackling this challenge, and helping our next generation get off the slowlane.

As soon as I read this, an email I received from Peter Diamandis, author of Abundance and BOLD, came up to mind.

He talks about the future of school, and some guiding principles he would follow if he had to build a school for his kids.

It's a very long post, but incredibly valuable. Here is the link to it: Back-to-School Thoughts: Future of Education

Hope this helps you.

Thanks Tiago, I'm blessed to have been given the opportunity! I will definitely check out that post - thanks for sending!

Whatever the kids learn it has to be taken to the application level, not just learning and regurgitating facts and theory.

Totally agree.

2) There should be some business analysis class that will examine current businesses and compare them to CENTS.

3) The students are money focused, of course. They need to be trained to look at the "need" that each business idea solves. The focus should be getting the students to recognize needs that need to be solved and the process to efficiently reach that resolution.

Great points. I think in all our classes students need to be reminded of the "big picture" - that businesses exist to solve problems/needs, and that all the different "components" of business work to support that mission. You gave me an idea: maybe an exercise for them could be that each student is assigned 10 companies off the INC5000 list, and they must identify what problem/need the business is solving, and how specifically they are solving that problem. Thanks for your input!

I did work with HS kids for a semester. My students did not have the background that yours do. The kids talk a big talk with dollar signs in their eyes. When given a challenge and the support to solve the challenge I was disappointed at the lack of follow through. I hope your students will hang in there and show us all how it's done. Good luck.

Yes, unfortunately it seems that traditional schooling often does not create people with strong critical thinking and problem solving skills, because often the students that are "successful" are the ones who were best able to memorize/regurgitate on a test (which does not necessarily relate to what it takes to be "successful" in "real life").

Not having a system that puts a huge emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving skills is bad enough, but even worse, I believe technology/internet/social media is having devastating effects on young people. I call it "tech-crack." The majority of kids I've interacted with know all about the all the things that DON'T MATTER (for their success) and basically nothing about things that ACTUALLY DO MATTER (for their success). BUT this is the case for society in general, and I'm sure many of us are guilty of it to some degree ourselves (I indulge in YouTube a lot...) It just seems especially worse for kids who have literally come out of the womb with a screen in their face because they don't know anything different... I guess to help students with this issue is to talk with them about it, to educate them on how technology is literally designed to exploit their psychology, and to make them reflect on what really does matter to them in life, for example maybe have them visualize where they would like to be in 10 years and then breaking down the specific things they need to do and determine the qualities they need to have to achieve that vision...

Just a gentle reminder: if you're going to succeed at this, don't ignore the politics. You want to be sensitive to where many of the teachers and school execs are, so you don't swing the pendulum too far beyond their ability to comprehend... and invite a revolt.

I'm reminded of a story in 2005 when Paul Graham was blocked from speaking at a high school where we had been invited to speak. Probably someone with a Fastlane thinking thought PG could wake up these kids to the SCRIPT and invited him to speak... but then the school authorities must have read some of PG's essays and concluded he was a threat. So they vetoed the invitation. Here's the talk that never was: What You'll Wish You'd Known

(For those who may not know PG, he was a co-founder of Viaweb, acquired by Yahoo way back in 1998 and became Yahoo Stores. PG also co-founded YCombinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator with big hits like Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Reddit, Firebase, Quora, Coinbase, Zappier, Zenefits, GitLab, Heroku, Docker, Twitch etc. )

Good luck!

GREAT point and one I definitely needed to hear. This department can not be changed in one school year - I think it'll take at least 3-5 to really see it start to be shaped into what I envision it to be. Instead of rocking the boat super hard, I'll chisel away one piece at a time so it's a smooth progression into the final product. Thank you for this point and for that video - will check it out!

How much time will you have with each kid? E.g., a 1-hour session vs. 6 weekly 1-hour sessions vs. 1 full semester or year class vs. a full departmental redesign. The less time you have, the more hyper-focused the program/session design.

Most of our classes are semester classes, however a few are full year. Most classes have 15-25 students. What in your opinion would be the ideal class length - semester classes? It seems like full year classes could lose focus / students would get bored. And it's difficult to fill up every single day with high value activities for students! This is something that I want to make sure our department is very good at - maximizing value of student time in the classroom. One big challenge I've had is it's very hard to find good business curriculum. I've searched for business curriculum online - there's not a lot out there that looks very good... Definitely some business opportunities there! It seems to me like most of the class value will come from the teacher and his/her creativity in developing meaningful projects/activities that connect the class content to "real life"... Do you have any thoughts on that?

Likewise, what are the core elements you want kids to take away? CENTS? Business model canvas? Basic financial literacy? Consistent hard work over time = results? Growth mindset? A sense of personal agency & responsibility? Producer vs. consumer?

These are great questions, and those are some excellent examples of valuable takeaways. Each class we offer has a syllabus, so I need to get them all together and see what needs to be added/subtracted and then discuss with the teacher.

In my experience, hands-down the best way to install life lessons was through tangible experience. To do that requires a fundamentally different way of designing educational programming--i.e., like 20% intro lecture, 60% experiential doing stuff, followed by 20% discussion/reflection. Each session builds on the previous session. Even following that framework, not all experiential ed programs are great; I've volunteered with Junior Achievement, and while some of their ed sessions are good, others are lacking--especially the entrepreneur-focused ones.

I like those percentages, that seems to make a lot of sense. The most challenging thing is determining what the specific projects will be that will fill the 60% experiential part.

Your goal should be that they ALL get a taste & excitement about what you want them to learn. Even if they a theater kid, you want them to come away the lessons & ideas & mindsets you want to impart.

Great point! A lot of that will come from the teacher, so it's really important our teachers are bought-in to what they are teaching.

My hunch is that the kids will be involved with the department at a variety of levels--maybe take a 1-session seminar, or just 1 class, or maybe 3-4 semester classes. So, carefully consider what themes you want to infuse through all the kids' experience.

Yes, we will have some kids take all the classes and "graduate" from our Business Department, and many kids take at least one class in the department. Great point - will be thinking about these themes. I think the main theme/idea that every single student should REALLY understand is what a business IS (that it exists to solve problems/needs - to create VALUE) and the importance/potential benefits of entrepreneurship. And also learn/practice the skillsets/qualities needed for entrepreneurship, which would make every person a more valuable citizen regardless of whether they own their own company or not. Thank you for your comment!

I appreciate everyone's comments so far and I look forward to hearing others' thoughts! Hope everyone is having a great day!
 

splok

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Currently we offer Economics, Accounting, Sports Management / Marketing, International Business, Entrepreneurship, Personal Finance, Business Law, and Business Technology (Excel, PPT, Databases).

It sounds like the existing program is trying to emulate a business undergrad program, and that makes me think that it's not going to be acceptable to really give the program the overhaul it needs. How much of that content is really relevant to someone in high school? Maybe 10-15%? (especially if you want to turn them into entrepreneurs instead of middle-managers)

What's the biggest hurdle separating them from entrepreneurship? I bet it isn't a lack of business law or accounting knowledge.
Instead, I bet it's that they don't think it's possible. They can't imagine a concrete path from where they are now to becoming a successful entrepreneur without some big, nebulous excuse in the middle. "Sure, I'll open my business in 6 years after I finish my business degree, or maybe after my MBA!"

Most people, adults included, don't really have a good mental model of how to go from nothing to a successful business. People may be able to reason through it intellectually, but that's not the same as seeing it as a reasonable and viable option. Once someone realizes that something is possible, not just in theory, but truly, actually possible for them, the other details can fill themselves in because they'll be actively seeking answers to their own problems. But until they make that leap, nothing you can teach them will matter anyway.

Of course, closing that gap probably isn't easy, but concrete case studies about finding and fulfilling needs come to mind, the more local and smaller scale, the better. The book "The $100 Startup" would probably be great material for this, anything that minimizes the barrier to entry.
 

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1. Decide on the principles you’re going to be referring to all year, the itemized list of points that is always on the board. They need to know a solid framework. CENTS is genius but obvi those aren’t the only tried and true principles of business.

2. Real stories sink in WAY FASTER than facts. I would share, in my own words, a biography of a famous entrepreneur every week. Invite the kids to read the full story in their own time if they want. Make it interesting and entertaining but don’t give the whole story away. You’re salting the oats, (so the horse’s get thirsty) not cramming regurgitated food down their throat.

3. How does that story connect to the principles? Let them talk. And talk. And talk, and talk some more. Ask them to create a list of questions. (You decide how to guide this) Forming the questions themselves forces them to consider the situation in new ways.

4. Can you recreate the situation or business using lollipops? Candy? T-shirts? Could you sell this to a person in your class? Budget? Then have them recreate the experiment.

5. What problems did this solve? Give each group the opportunity to limit their competitors in class with a clear problem. How will they solve it?

6. Every 2 weeks they have to have a business. Start easy, then go complicated. First project they have equal parameters. Cash, product, sales, network.

Then make the same thing harder. Give each group of entrepreneurs a different budget, different set of problems, for the same goal. One group gets $5, 50 decent lollipops, a poster board (but no marker) and has to make a 30% ROI and another gets a marker, $10, 4 expensive lollipops, (but no posterboard) and has to make a 30% ROI. The third group gets a marker, a poster board, $7.50 and 100 gross cheap lollipops and has to make a 30% ROI.

ROI is based on the cash you have given them, not the product.

They have until _____ to complete it, they can only sell lollipops to ppl during lunch, at school. (Make sure you have approval to do this, obviously.)

Who is gonna be the leader? The CFO? The salesman? The product negotiator?? (Because of course, they could use their money to buy from their competitor.) Who keeps inventory? What’s the tax? Etc, etc.

There is no education but self-education. Give the kids an idea, let them discuss it, hold it, mold it, and accomplish it. The more time they get to talk about any of it, the better off they’ll be.

HTH
 

4runner

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It sounds like the existing program is trying to emulate a business undergrad program, and that makes me think that it's not going to be acceptable to really give the program the overhaul it needs. How much of that content is really relevant to someone in high school? Maybe 10-15%? (especially if you want to turn them into entrepreneurs instead of middle-managers)

Correct. It's a college prep school, so basically the goal up to this point has been to expose students to business content that they are going to see in college to give them an academic leg up on their peers. You're right, maybe the school wouldn't go for me totally changing it into a completely "Fastlane" program, but rather a hybrid of Fastlane (entrepreneurial focus) and college prep... Some of it is very relevant for real life skills, such as our personal finance class that has a budgeting simulation and a stock market investment simulation. Others classes are more "textbook" business nuts and bolts with some projects/presentations thrown in.

Of course, closing that gap probably isn't easy, but concrete case studies about finding and fulfilling needs come to mind, the more local and smaller scale, the better. The book "The $100 Startup" would probably be great material for this, anything that minimizes the barrier to entry.

I think you're totally right: the kids don't think it's possible. Most kids probably have never heard an entrepreneur tell his story about starting a company. Most likely the idea of starting a company to these kids is so huge that they think it's absolutely unattainable. I think your advice here is great - to expose them to stories like the ones in the 100 startup or to make them find case studies of teenagers making money (I remember reading a story of a teenager doing $1M a year selling socks with goofy patterns on them). When they see that it can be done and hear the stories of how someone their age overcame the obstacles, maybe it'll register in their minds that starting a company can be attainable for them...

1. Decide on the principles you’re going to be referring to all year, the itemized list of points that is always on the board. They need to know a solid framework. CENTS is genius but obvi those aren’t the only tried and true principles of business.

Great point - I need to list these out for every class we teach.

2. Real stories sink in WAY FASTER than facts. I would share, in my own words, a biography of a famous entrepreneur every week. Invite the kids to read the full story in their own time if they want. Make it interesting and entertaining but don’t give the whole story away. You’re salting the oats, (so the horse’s get thirsty) not cramming regurgitated food down their throat.

Wonderful! Will absolutely be doing this :smile2:

3. How does that story connect to the principles? Let them talk. And talk. And talk, and talk some more. Ask them to create a list of questions. (You decide how to guide this) Forming the questions themselves forces them to consider the situation in new ways.

Yes! I think this is SO valuable and will be a great critical thinking exercise. Reminds me of a quote I heard recently, "The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions."

4. Can you recreate the situation or business using lollipops? Candy? T-shirts? Could you sell this to a person in your class? Budget? Then have them recreate the experiment.

5. What problems did this solve? Give each group the opportunity to limit their competitors in class with a clear problem. How will they solve it?

6. Every 2 weeks they have to have a business. Start easy, then go complicated. First project they have equal parameters. Cash, product, sales, network.

Then make the same thing harder. Give each group of entrepreneurs a different budget, different set of problems, for the same goal. One group gets $5, 50 decent lollipops, a poster board (but no marker) and has to make a 30% ROI and another gets a marker, $10, 4 expensive lollipops, (but no posterboard) and has to make a 30% ROI. The third group gets a marker, a poster board, $7.50 and 100 gross cheap lollipops and has to make a 30% ROI.

ROI is based on the cash you have given them, not the product.

They have until _____ to complete it, they can only sell lollipops to ppl during lunch, at school. (Make sure you have approval to do this, obviously.)

Who is gonna be the leader? The CFO? The salesman? The product negotiator?? (Because of course, they could use their money to buy from their competitor.) Who keeps inventory? What’s the tax? Etc, etc.

There is no education but self-education. Give the kids an idea, let them discuss it, hold it, mold it, and accomplish it. The more time they get to talk about any of it, the better off they’ll be.

These are great ideas - this is hands on learning! Thank you for coming up with this project idea! I agree with you about the self-education part. Basically everything I've learned that has really mattered, I've learned it on my own (not from a classroom lecture). I think the more we can get the students working on projects on their own, and actually intrinsically motivated to do well at that project, then that's what's going to make them REALLY learn. For example, I've had the idea of a project where the students design t-shirts or other clothing items / accessories to be sold in the school's apparel store, then have them market the products to other students, determine all their key accounting numbers (sales, expenses, profit, etc), and figure out how to maximize profit (maybe have a profit goal for them to reach)...

Thanks everyone for more great ideas.

Question:
Economics is an important class in our Department because every student at the school is required to take it. This means that our Econ class could be the only exposure to business the student has in high school. It's a semester class, and currently the class is set up to cover the principles of Micro and Macro, and connect these principles to current events in economics. What other things should we be covering / doing in our economic classes besides textbook econ nuts/bolts and current events discussion? This class is educational, but can often feel like Ferris Bueller's Econ class - not many highschoolers are super interested in supply/demand curve shifts or calculating CPI... If possible, I'd like our Econ class to get kids excited about business and how the economy works, with the goal of increasing enrollment in our other business classes. I'm just not exactly sure how to close the gap between what we're doing and what we need to do to make that happen.

Thanks for your input!!!
 

Primeperiwinkle

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I’m so glad you liked my suggestions! Yay!

There’s a FREAKING PHENOMENAL tiny lil book called Whatever Happened To Penny Candy? It is PERFECT for High Schoolers. (Or really any adult that doesn’t get economics.)

It’s basically the best book on economics ever. Lol. Well, except for Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt.
 

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MJ DeMarco

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I think your advice here is great - to expose them to stories like the ones in the 100 startup or to make them find case studies of teenagers making money (I remember reading a story of a teenager doing $1M a year selling socks with goofy patterns on them).

Maybe not showcase the big famous stories, but I'd focus on some local community folks who aren't famous, but are living the dream as entrepreneurs.

If you showcase the Elon Musks of the world, they will think the same thing: Oh, it will never happen to me, I have to get lucky, etc. etc. If they see *normal* people in their area who are killing it, it can change their perspective.
 

4runner

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There’s a FREAKING PHENOMENAL tiny lil book called Whatever Happened To Penny Candy? It is PERFECT for High Schoolers. (Or really any adult that doesn’t get economics.)

AWESOME, I'm going to buy that book now! Thanks for the recommendation!!

Maybe not showcase the big famous stories, but I'd focus on some local community folks who aren't famous, but are living the dream as entrepreneurs.

If you showcase the Elon Musks of the world, they will think the same thing: Oh, it will never happen to me, I have to get lucky, etc. etc. If they see *normal* people in their area who are killing it, it can change their perspective.

Great point MJ, you're exactly right! I'll reach out to our Alumni who have started their own businesses and ask if they would come by the school and talk to a few classes about their entrepreneurial journey. They will be able to tell the kids they were literally in their exact same seat years ago, which will be especially meaningful to them! Thanks MJ, and just FYI, I may not even be doing what I'm doing right now with this school if it wasn't for you. Your books have had a large impact on my life, and I recommend them frequently.

Another thing I'm working on is developing relationships with the local community - basically to break down the walls of the classroom and create a bridge between the school and industry. My goals in doing this are to kickstart our students professional development, get them connected with entrepreneurs and business professionals working in areas they may be interested in, as well as potentially getting internship/mentoring/shadowing opportunities. I think there's mutual benefits here: the students get professional development, and the business community is able to fill their candidate pipeline with fresh talent, or at least impart a positive brand exposure to younger generations...

Do ya'll have any thoughts/feedback on the community partnership component of our business program? Does what I've mentioned here sound good - or am I forgetting anything important, such as other benefits our students could bring to the professional community that I'm not thinking of? THANK YOU!!
 

splok

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If possible, I'd like our Econ class to get kids excited about business and how the economy works

Imo, it's all about tossing out the abstract and explaining the concepts through concrete examples that the kids care about (or at the very least, examples that they're very familiar with). Is there a business nearby that the students commonly use, restaurant or coffee shop that people go to for lunch or after school maybe? Take a field trip for coffee at lunchtime, count the customers. Extrapolate for the rest of the day. What % are students? What's the coffee price range? What did the students spend versus what non-students spend? What would happen to the coffee shop's numbers if the school moved or when it's closed for the summer? Is there anywhere to get cheaper coffee? What does it cost to actually make/provide the coffee? What about the cheaper version? What if the school started providing coffee for free? What if the school provided soda/energy drinks for free instead? What if the coffee shop doubled its prices?

For local businesses, you could probably even poke a manager to get some real numbers, though it doesn't really matter. In one afternoon chat about coffee, you'd (potentially, depending on the skill of the teacher of course) be able to pull the students through the thought process so that they realize the principles on their own. Just from the questions above you could cover supply/demand, elasticity, equilibrium, floors/ceilings, luxury goods, substitutes, etc. If they've already nailed down CENTS, then you could discuss each point from that perspective too.

After doing the above, it would be great to do the same for whatever video game they're all playing, could really drive home the advantage of scale and the implications of near-zero marginal cost.

You could probably also do something similar with Craigslist or Ebay (which might be nicer since you can see the final sale price and whether or not something sold, though it might seem less approachable than Craigslist). In the fall semester, you could point at the hyped toys that get like 500% markup at Christmas in secondary markets, then enjoy the show when a couple of the hustlers make a few $k :) This would also be a great way to subtly show how the media forces the script down out throat and how much of an effect it really has on people.
 

NMdad

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I did an activity with 10-year-olds that they really got into & helped them conceptualize businesses in a simple way:
  • First, I briefly introduced the business model canvas, and showed them how a couple businesses they're already familiar with (e.g., breakfast restaurant, landscaping business) could be deconstructed onto the canvas.
  • Next, I broke the class into groups of 4-5 kids, and assigned each group a specific business to deconstruct onto a canvas.
  • Last, I had each group talk through their canvas with the rest of the class.
So, for installing unfamiliar concepts, this worked really well.

I did another activity where each small group of kids chose a different kind of restaurant to open (e.g., Italian, food truck, pancake restaurant, etc.):
  • They had to decide a location, menu, pricing, & how they'd get customers; then I had them explain the rationale (to the entire class) for their decisions.
  • I doled out play money (as seed funding) as each group told me their rationale for each decision.
  • Then I had them spend their money on whatever they needed to start up (rent, food supplies, flyers/advertising, employees, etc.).
  • To simulate being in business, a random dice roll determined how many customers they'd get each day. They could determine their gross & net revenue from # of customers x avg. meal price.
  • After a few rounds, I'd ask what they'd change (about their marketing, menu, pricing, etc.).
  • I could throw curveballs into each business (what if your rent increased 15%, or your customers decreased 20%, or if the office park where your food truck usually sits prohibits you from parking there, etc.), & have them brainstorm options, & decide what they'd do & why.
Since I was limited to a couple 60-90 minute class sessions, these were a good starting point.

But what'd be REALLY cool is to have kids take action in the real world & actually build a business. Talk to prospects/customers, deliver a product/service, figure out how to get past hurdles they encounter, etc. All the stuff that real-world entrepreneurs have to do.
 

4runner

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For local businesses, you could probably even poke a manager to get some real numbers, though it doesn't really matter. In one afternoon chat about coffee, you'd (potentially, depending on the skill of the teacher of course) be able to pull the students through the thought process so that they realize the principles on their own. Just from the questions above you could cover supply/demand, elasticity, equilibrium, floors/ceilings, luxury goods, substitutes, etc. If they've already nailed down CENTS, then you could discuss each point from that perspective too.

After doing the above, it would be great to do the same for whatever video game they're all playing, could really drive home the advantage of scale and the implications of near-zero marginal cost.

That's a great idea to have them break down all those numbers over a specific business - that'll really get their "business mind" going. And making them do that for a video game they're interested in - that's even better!

I did an activity with 10-year-olds that they really got into & helped them conceptualize businesses in a simple way:
  • First, I briefly introduced the business model canvas, and showed them how a couple businesses they're already familiar with (e.g., breakfast restaurant, landscaping business) could be deconstructed onto the canvas.
  • Next, I broke the class into groups of 4-5 kids, and assigned each group a specific business to deconstruct onto a canvas.
  • Last, I had each group talk through their canvas with the rest of the class.
So, for installing unfamiliar concepts, this worked really well.

I did another activity where each small group of kids chose a different kind of restaurant to open (e.g., Italian, food truck, pancake restaurant, etc.):
  • They had to decide a location, menu, pricing, & how they'd get customers; then I had them explain the rationale (to the entire class) for their decisions.
  • I doled out play money (as seed funding) as each group told me their rationale for each decision.
  • Then I had them spend their money on whatever they needed to start up (rent, food supplies, flyers/advertising, employees, etc.).
  • To simulate being in business, a random dice roll determined how many customers they'd get each day. They could determine their gross & net revenue from # of customers x avg. meal price.
  • After a few rounds, I'd ask what they'd change (about their marketing, menu, pricing, etc.).
  • I could throw curveballs into each business (what if your rent increased 15%, or your customers decreased 20%, or if the office park where your food truck usually sits prohibits you from parking there, etc.), & have them brainstorm options, & decide what they'd do & why.

Your business model canvas activity is excellent - simple and effective! And the restaurant idea - awesome! Having them run a little "simulated" business and think through all the pieces required to run the business is some high quality project based learning. I've written these down as activities to include in our program. Thank you so much for your input!!
 

NMdad

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Your business model canvas activity is excellent - simple and effective! And the restaurant idea - awesome! Having them run a little "simulated" business and think through all the pieces required to run the business is some high quality project based learning. I've written these down as activities to include in our program. Thank you so much for your input!!
Sure thing! Those simulated activities should--hopefully--get them excited about doing a business in the real world, which would be the next step for them.
 

Tiago

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There's also a book called Chronicles of a Heroine by Ray Kurzweil. It's a bit of a tale on how a young woman uses intelligence and technology to solve the worlds greatest problems.

Could be a good book to inspire young people on how to think and solve challenges.
 

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