Schools are teaching kids about entrepreneurship and finances. Here’s how kids can benefit, writes Sheryl Bennett-Wilson
Entrepreneurship, finances and understanding economic systems are all part of the learning curve that students can apply to the real world. Numerous schools across the city have programs that not only promote financial literacy and great learning opportunities, but that are fun for the students.
“At Bishop Hamilton Montessori School, we include a micro-economy element as a way to understand business and entrepreneurship,” says school director Renette Sasouni.
Every year Grade 7 and 8 students are involved in a marketplace. They learn how to develop a business plan, make their own product or service and sell it, says Sasouni. “Marketplace is a learning unit for the adolescent program, and students learn everything from the ground up.” Sasouni says the students meet with her to sign a lease for their display area at the Marketplace and she discusses their business plan. Students learn that signing a contract is binding. In addition to paying rent, students pay taxes. The rent and taxes collected support programs in Lesotho, South Africa. Sasouni commented on how innovative the students can be and cites an example of one student vocalist who recorded a CD to sell at Marketplace.
Students also develop advertising campaigns and promotional videos to promote their respective businesses. “Marketplace is a great experience for students and a massive learning opportunity for students who look forward to keeping the profits from their business venture.”
Even the yearly music production at Bishop Hamilton Montessori School is turned into a learning opportunity. “Our staged musical production is not only highly entertaining, but gives our students an opportunity to experience how the arts world works,” says Sasouni. “We take applications for roles such as lighting and sound technicians where students interviewed for the position.” The students learn that they have an important responsibility, they must be committed and reliable or the production could falter.” Sasouni says that one enterprising student suggested reserving the first five rows at the concert and doubling the price of tickets. It turned out to be a great marketing opportunity as all proceeds from the musical go to the music program. “It’s a very different world now as far as entrepreneurship and future jobs,” says Sasouni. “We really are helping students develop 21st century skills that they can apply in the real world, along with responsibility and accountability.”
The Ottawa Catholic School Board, like all schools in Ontario, provides a Careers+ course for all Grade 10 students. “This is an excellent course where students not only learn about different career pathways, but budgeting, entrepreneurship, renting vs. buying a house, costs to live on their own, (and) leasing vs. buying a car vs. using public transportation,” says Angela Harrison, vice-principal at Lester B. Pearson High School. Harrison says that financial knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, and economic knowledge are sprinkled throughout all the different subjects. “Our Grade 8 history students learn about the financial realities and economic factors affecting British North America at the time of Confederation. And in Grade 7 geography, they look at energy resources and financial concepts,” says Harrison. She says that even in science class, students learn the financial implications of energy and the environment. “By having these concepts embedded in the entire curriculum, it helps students see how everything is connected,” says Harrison.
All students have access to myBlueprint (a Canadian education planning website designed to help with secondary school course selections and career planning) in Careers class. It helps them search for careers and how to plan a future pathway. Senior students can use the OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) estimator to choose university and college courses to discover tuition costs. “This helps them calculate interest and payments after graduation,” says Harrison. “It’s a valuable tool and a real-world wake-up to the cost of college and university.” Grade 11 and 12 students learn about the stock market by choosing stocks (with pretend money) and tracking how they do over a two-month period. “Our on-site business – Star Kitchen – helps our inclusion students learn how to grocery shop, compare prices and buy food to make for Breakfast Club and staff meals,” says Harrison. “The inclusion students also run a coffee, tea and muffin service for staff and collect money. On Friday Soup Days, students collect money from staff for their soup lunches.” As Harrison points out, this practical information has to be taught, it doesn’t come through osmosis. “Helping students plan for the future and figure out the world is key for us at the OCSB,” says Harrison. “We make them aware of understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of how finances and economies work and how to apply it to the real world as useful concepts.”