by Pat Crocker
The excitement in the cafeteria of Founders Memorial School in Essex on the second to last day of school was palpable. The day that the children had been looking forward to had finally arrived. It was “Enterprise Day”. The children in the 4/5 multi-age classes of Paula Dorfman, Karen Jeffrey, and Stacy Mead had been working hard for several months. Children in these classes had been earning “money” (tickets) for hard work, good behavior, and an assortment of other positive qualities. Simultaneously, they had been working hard on an “Enterprise” that involved making a “business plan”, presenting that plan and a sample product to the class and teachers, and making that product on their own and with a little help from parents, if needed. But Thursday was the “big day”. The children had their tables set up and were more than ready to “sell” their products to other children, teachers, and parents at the school.
I entered the cafeteria and the children were busy talking up their product and exchanging tickets. There were an assortment of “products” made with duct tape. There were stress balls made from balloons filled with flour. (Who knew there was that much stress in their school?) There were origami products, birch bark boxes, birdhouses, and beaded jewelry. My son Caleb had chosen to make duct tape wallets. He had a poster board with prices listed. The “boy’s wallets” were more expensive than the “girl’s wallets” and the”limited edition wallets”, (made with newspaper comics covered with translucent duct tape) were priced the highest because there were only a few of them. He “sold” one of the limited edition wallets immediately after opening his booth and, realizing that it would be a hot item, he quickly crossed off the price on his poster and raised the price. I was a bit miffed that he had priced the girls’ wallets lower than boys wallets. I asked him his logic in doing so and he stated that he thought the market for the girls wallets would be less because the style of the wallets was more like a boy’s wallet. He wanted to make sure that he would still sell the girls’ wallets. Apparently, he had done some ‘informal market research”. The energy was vibrant. As I walked around the room, children were haggling prices, checking out their competition, adjusting prices based upon the demand, and purchasing objects they desired. There was a free exchange of ideas and products and all the children were being very industrious. Several students had not “sold” as much as other students, but instead of being overly sad, they were already planning on how they could improve their product in the future. I was witnessing a brilliant lesson plan and perfect example of “free market” principles in action. I was pleased that these teachers had chosen this project. It was integrated learning at its finest. These teachers had designed a lesson plan that was motivating to the students and it was obvious that the students had learned a lot, without even realizing it. This was a model of excellent teaching. Students had to be creative. They had to use math and writing skills. They had to hone their public speaking abilities, and they learned a bit about hard work, competition, cooperation, and life in the business world. This was a “life lesson” in action that I wish many adults and politicians would learn.
The scene in the cafeteria at Founders Memorial School reminded me of a trailer to a video that I had just watched called, “The Poverty Cure: from Aid to Enterprise “. A trailer for this 6-part series video, is here http://www.povertycure.org/ It describes how we could reduce poverty and improve individual self-worth by providing a hand up instead of a hand-out. It describes how free markets can help everyone prosper and see the true dignity of every individual, no matter their station in life. I couldn’t help but wonder if more people could learn the lesson these children at Founders Memorial School were learning, that there would be less poverty in this world. In the end, I knew that the lesson was successful, because my son proclaimed that he wanted to sell more of his duct tape wallets. The lesson did not stop with the class assignment. He has set up his own business called “Caleb’s Creations” and he plans to sell them to friends and stores who would be willing to sell them. He plans on setting up his own website or store on Etsy.
You can get more information on Caleb’s duct tape wallets by e-mailing him at CalebsKreations@gmail.com