Teaching small business

Saturday, March 15, 2003

While Jefferson Elementary School fourth-graders deliberated on the most efficient approach to launching their own businesses, the biggest debate for four students was what to name their imaginary clothing company.

After dismissing Tommy Hilfiger and Fubu, classmates Devin Rowett, Riena Maracci, Rodney White and Dominique Haynes finally settled on Phat Farm and began listing some necessary resources for starting their company: delivery trucks, sewing machines, cotton.

"We're getting to make our own business, and learn about new stuff," said Haynes. "It's kind of neat."

As part of the fourth-grade lesson about production of goods at Jefferson Elementary, Jay White, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, asked students to choose a good they'd like to produce and list all of the resources they'd need to produce it. White holds a master's degree in business administration.

As part of Junior Achievement Inc., a not-for-profit international organization, White and other local community leaders visit elementary school classrooms to teach five-week lessons aimed at increasing student interest and knowledge of business and economics.

This year, 2,800 elementary students in Cape Girardeau County school districts will participate in the program, which is usually implemented between February and April because the curriculum ties in with the Missouri Assessment Program standardized testing administered every spring.

The 21 students in Susan Ayer's fourth-grade class, excited to see a new face at the front of the room, listened intently as White explained the difference between capital, natural and human resources.

"I love it. It's a great community project and I'm proud to be a part of it," White said. "These kids are so needful, and they respond very well."

In the bank

At Orchard Elementary School in Jackson, First National Bank branch manager Brenda Bono taught her first Junior Achievement lesson to a group of 45 third-graders this week.

Bono demonstrated how to correctly fill out a deposit slip and answered questions about her job as bank manager.

Students said they appreciated the change of pace from their regular class work as well.

"I think it's great that we're learning stuff we'll need to know when we get older," said 9-year-old Lydia Tyler of Millersville. "Junior Achievement is nice because it's not just our teacher talking."

Counselor Marcia Clark organized this year's Junior Achievement at Orchard Elementary. Orchard's program, which incorporates students in kindergarten through third grade, began in February.

"This program is great," Clark said. "It's career-oriented, and anytime you can get community members into the classroom it makes a difference."

Junior Achievement provides schools with lesson packets including posters, activity books and instructional guides broken down by grade level. Kindergarteners study "Ourselves"; first-graders study "Our Families"; second-graders study "Our Community"; third-graders study "Our City"; and fourth-graders study "Our Region."

Jefferson counselor and Junior Achievement organizer Mary Lou Bass said she feels the program addresses an often-neglected subject in elementary curriculum: economics.

"There aren't a lot of resources for teaching economics at these grade levels," Bass said. "And yet it's something that is tested on our state tests."


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