Monday, May 23, 2011

Taking Care of Business

What do Bill Gates, Jay Z, and Martha Stewart all have in common? They’re all highly successful people who started with an idea, raised capital, and grew their own businesses and brands. In short, they’re entrepreneurs.

The United States has a long history of entrepreneurship, and it currently ranks third in “entrepreneurial friendliness” behind Denmark and Canada, and just ahead of New Zealand and Australia. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses in the U.S. generate more than half of our nation’s gross domestic product, currently employ more than half of the private workforce, and create more new job opportunities than large businesses each year. If entrepreneurship, then, is so important to our nation and to our students’ futures, why does it receive so little attention in the classroom?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Schools are continually pushed to do more with less, and limited budgets, reduced staff levels, and the increased focus on test scores all contribute to the time crunch and academic subject squeeze felt in many classrooms. Entrepreneurship is usually integrated into social studies lessons at some point, and often not until the middle or high school grades. That’s a shame, because at its basic level, entrepreneurship is about innovation, creative thinking, and calculating risks – all skills that students should start to learn early on. We live in a world that is increasingly driven by efficiency- and innovation-driven economies, and the skills taught by the study of entrepreneurship helps students to navigate more confidently through them. In studying entrepreneurship, students can more fully imagine what it would be like to be a business owner, a venture capitalist, or an inventor. Through hands-on entrepreneurial exercises, students learn time management, interpersonal and organizational skills, and leadership – all qualities that are highly desirable to employers and essential components to being a productive citizen.

My picks this week focus on entrepreneurship lessons for a range of grade levels, and all include a hands-on activity or real-world component to help connect the students to the material. Students are much more engaged in learning if the material seems relevant to real life, and entrepreneurial education can certainly fit that bill. As always, please be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages, as we’ll be featuring several new lessons, activities, and other resources on entrepreneurship each day for the entire week.

I Want to Be an Entrepreneur
Subjects: Economics, Business
Grade: 3-6
In this lesson, students will create and advertise a business while learning the meaning of the words entrepreneur, advertise, profit, and loss. Students will also film commercials to advertise their business. This resource is from Digital Wish, a non-profit that seeks to modernize K-12 classrooms and prepare students for tomorrow's workforce. On the Digital Wish web site, teachers can create wish lists of technology products for their classroom. Donors then connect with their favorite schools and grant classroom wishes through online cash or product donations.

Could You Start a Business?
Subjects: Business, Economics, Math
Grade: 7-12
This lesson plan will teach high school students about the importance of financial management for a small business. It will help students learn the concepts of business costs, positive cash flow, credit, and proper financial management in running a business. Students will learn the tools for basic financial analysis, and will investigate why the business in the video segments was not successful. As an extension activity, they can brainstorm ideas for a model new business, given what they have learned about the financial needs of a new business. This lesson was produced by Thirteen Ed Online, the educational Web component of WNET, PBS's flagship station in New York. This free service features everything from standards-based lesson plans and classroom activities to a multimedia primer, online mentors, and reviews of curriculum-based Web sites.

Business Ownership: How Sweet It Can Be!
Grade: 9-12
In this lesson, students research the three basic types of business organization: sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. Considering the advantages and disadvantages of each, they function as consultants offering advice on which form of business is best suited for different business scenarios. The case studies all feature real- life entrepreneurs who started businesses producing chocolate candy and cookies—they all result ultimately in “sweet” success stories. Once students have made their recommendations, they are provided the identities of their clients and asked to prepare reports that tell the rest of the story—what happened to each founder and business.
This lesson is from the Council for Economic Education, an organization that advocates for better school-based economic and personal finance education at the K-12 level. The Council also offers K-12 economic education programs, which focus on the basics of entrepreneurship.

~Joann's Picks - 5/19/2011~

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