Josh Cheney and Cheri Russell and our grade 8 team of 125 students have worked for the past 2 months on our Entrepreneurial Adventure (a program supported through The Learning Partnership). Together with our local business partners Bob Sweeney and Amanda Daigle from SIMCorp, we put our own spin on the program and held our culminating B2C Marketplace showcase and sale at our local Garcelon Civic Centre. The 70 student businesses raised over $6500 with many of the businesses selling out of product. Some students decided to take orders after selling out and will go back to work in their various home workshops and deliver to their customers.
This inquiry-based project provided ample opportunity for 21st century skill development including: problem solving and critical thinking at all stages of the business creation process, creativity, along with various forms of communication such as phone calls, emails, and face to face conversations. Students used a wide range of technology--hardware and software, public speaking, healthy risk-taking both financially and emotionally, and further developed their citizenship and character as they worked diligently, coordinated schedules, researched, and wrote for a variety of purposes including the completion of a real-life business plan model. Together we faced our individual and collective fears ranging from contacting charities, seeking help, overcoming frustration and disappointment, insecurities revolving around personal confidence levels and social anxieties.
The gifted students had no glass ceiling to bump into in this self-directed, yet scaffolded, no-limits learning environment, and the modified students found their success by showcasing their strengths instead of being defined by their limitations. The inclusive nature of inquiry-based learning was showcased to the town on Mar. 30 with hundreds of shoppers representing myriad demographics such as: the parents and grandparents who faithfully supported their children through this process, fellow students, teachers, local entrepreneurs, town council members, politicians, Chamber of Commerce and Future St. Stephen committee members, charity representatives, and even the curious townsfolk who just wanted to be part of the excitement.
The staff at St. Stephen Middle School widely supported this student endeavour and offered extra help to students at various points of business creation, production, and promotion, often using spare minutes and extra hours to provide resources and time to students. Local radio and newspaper ran stories, interviewed students, and offered further promotion of the program and marketplace event. Provincial radio also interviewed various students and Josh Cheney, the program coordinator/grade 8 teacher at SSMS. The local hockey organization, the ACES, featured SSMS students during their last playoff game by promoting the marketplace on the front cover of the evening's program, allowing 10 students to hand out over 1000 invitations, and providing 1st intermission promotional time for a dozen kids, Cheney, and town council represented by Mayor MacEachern, as student Emily Brown spoke to well over 1000 fans from centre ice.
The response from parents and townsfolk was unabashed pride of the students, their quality of product and character, achievement, and the appreciation for demonstrated real-world skills. There was a sense of hope and pride from local entrepreneurs who believe the way forward for St. Stephen and New Brunswick is through entrepreneurship, specifically small business.
There was no lack of smiles, sales, and goosebumps on this day. And for good reason, this was a demonstration of what education can be when school and community work together for the academic, personal, ethical, and social development of our children.
A feel-good day.