When I taught elementary and middle school, I made it a priority to ensure my students were able to connect the information they were learning in class with the real-world. At the time, teaching in this manner was not widely accepted. However, I knew that if my students couldn’t take what they learned in class and apply it to their daily and future lives, I was not doing my job as an educator.
Looking back at those days, some of the strategies and lessons I taught may have been considered unnecessary by colleagues and school administrators. However, due to technology, learning was changing at a rapid pace. I took it upon myself to make sure I exposed my students to areas such as entrepreneurship, innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Teaching, modeling, and engaging students in entrepreneurship opportunities, not only falls in line with many state curriculum standards, but also helps to prepare youth for future opportunities.
For example, entrepreneurship teaches students about money, investing, business strategies, loans, and creating budgets. At the same time, students can learn critical life skills such as problem-solving, brainstorming ideas, taking risks, facing failure and getting up again, setting goals, working together, and feeling comfortable to work individually.
Also, with the many unknowns in the future job market, it’s crucial to teach students about opportunities they can build for themselves. There are many ways teachers can begin to shine a light on these skills within their curriculum. Instead of teacher-focused learning, students become drivers in their own education, and teachers become guiding passengers.
Some students will demonstrate different talents in one area over another. Allow them to shine within their given abilities and talents, while adding in business elements.
If you are a teacher, here are five strategies you can easily use in your classroom to encourage life-long entrepreneurship skills.
Brainstorm Bins: Set up a box in your class for brainstorming business ideas. You can use brainstorm bins as a way to kick off the school year’s most significant project. When you introduce this project early, you are telling your students that you believe in them, their ideas, and that their voices matter. You are also encouraging self-confidence while providing them with the space to own their learning. Brainstorm bins can be the catalyst for creating and sharing ideas in a safe place while encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They can also help students to see the bigger picture because you can teach them how to set goals for a specific period of time. Every Friday, for the first month of school, go through their ideas together. As the year progresses, choose one entrepreneurial goal each month that can guide them toward presenting their final business projects at the end of the year.
Solution Boxes: Sometimes, students will find things to complain about in school. Rather than encouraging them to complain, set up a way for students to present their problems and to come up with solutions. Encourage students to brainstorm ideas and present ways to fix concerning issues. Solution boxes help students to speak up and create solutions rather than complain about them. Diving into these solutions can also cultivate stronger relationships among students, provide a boost to their self-esteem, and encourage problem-solving instead of complaining.
Shark Tank for Kids: If your school allows it, let students watch some episodes of Shark Tank, especially episodes with younger entrepreneurs. If you do a quick Google search for the term, “Shark Tank kids,” you will find various Shark Tank videos with young people pitching their business ideas to the Sharks. Watch some of these videos with your students, discuss them, and then build your own Shark Tank competition at school. In addition to learning many crucial entrepreneurial skills, your students can learn about investing, equity, creating products and services, building the perfect pitch, and presenting in front of a large audience. Focusing in on these skills and presentations can also encourage the love of life-long learning.
Genius Hour: According to the Genius Hour’s website, Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions while encouraging innovation and creativity in the classroom. This time provides students with a choice in what they want to learn about or work on during a designated hour in school.
Google also implements Genius Hour into the workplace. These same genius hour principles are applicable in the classroom. As an educator, if you have time in the day, you can set up a certain amount of time for your students to work on passion projects.
You can also let them use this time to explore new things, take on a project, or focus on areas outside of the classroom they may want to discover.
Your students may be confused at first because this puts them in charge of their learning, rather than teachers telling them what to do. If they struggle at the beginning, you can brainstorm topics with them to get their imaginations brewing. You can also spend time researching different ideas before they start creating. Prepare them to share their findings and projects with other classes, schools, and even in approved digital venues. Throughout the process, you act as a facilitator of projects to ensure they stay on task.