Open for Business: Second Grade Entrepreneurs in the Making

Open for Business: Second Grade Entrepreneurs in the Making

On Thursday, April 11, the Trustee Seminar Room was transformed into a thriving hub of commerce as the second grade class hosted their first ever pop-up marketplace. After weeks of learning about the principles of economics and creating their own business ventures, the students unveiled their products for sale, which included homemade bath bombs, body scrubs, pet journals and postcards, friendship bracelets, paintings, stuffed animals, as well as pet betta fish and photo booth pictures with unique backgrounds. The bustling market was a huge success and the girls made $1,357 in profit in just two and a half hours. It was also the culmination of a brand new, comprehensive and interdisciplinary unit on financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Second grade teacher and RPCS alumna Sarah Pope, 2006, created the innovative curriculum after her fellowship last summer at Columbia Teachers College Klingenstein Center. “I am so thrilled that RPCS has given me the opportunity to turn my vision into reality for our students,” said Mrs. Pope, who previously worked as a marketing consultant. “Since the teachers were excited about this, the children were too. Supportive parents also played a huge role in making this unit successful.”

At the end of January, Mrs. Pope and fellow second grade teacher and RPCS alumna Ms. Haley Venick, 2011, kicked off the three month unit with a lesson on classroom economy where students started earning credits and debits to their own accounts during the school day, with a goal of earning $20. Mrs. Pope and Ms. Venick proceeded to integrate their new lesson plans into most of the second grade subjects to allow the students to dive deep into the unit and make it interesting and fun. Specifically, the financial literacy and entrepreneurship unit covered:

  • Literacy: Throughout February and March, the second graders read the novel Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins. In the book, 10-year-old protagonist Naima lives in present-day Bangladesh. She is the best Alpana (a type of colorful art specific to Bangladesh) painter in her village and wants to use her artistic talent to help earn money for her family. One of Naima's frustrations is that she can't help her father drive his rickshaw because she's a girl. Naima ends up becoming an apprentice for a woman-owned rickshaw repair business that has been funded by a microfinance loan.
  • STEAM Project: During Lower School STEAM Immersion Week in early February, the students designed, laser cut and constructed model rickshaws.
  • Visual Arts: In Mrs. McAslan’s art class, the students created large format Alpana designs to honor International Mother Language Day. They painted canvas cloths with brown and black acrylic paint to re-create the look and texture of wood and then drew designs on the cloth to resemble white, native “rice flour” paint used in traditional Alpana designs. This project reinforced the art concept of radial balance, utilizing a circular symmetrical format. The students also used enamel paint pens to decorate the small replica rickshaws they created for the STEAM project. They were inspired by the traditional Alpana designs  of Bangladesh, but altered each one making it their own.
  • Science: At the end of February, the girls had the chance to ride on a real rickshaw throughout campus, courtesy of DC Pedicabs! They heard a short lecture on the basic mechanical functioning of the pedicab and how it’s powered with bio-electricity from food that a driver eats. They also learned how the pedicab business is a worker-owned outfit, where each driver is his or her own boss.
  • Math: In the classroom economy portion of the unit, the students used math manipulatives and maintained a wallet and personal record to keep track of their credits and debits.
  •  Social Studies: After learning the basics of economics, including wants and needs, supply and demand, and cost versus price of goods and services, the girls were able to flex their entrepreneurial muscles by forming their own business ventures. In groups or on their own, the girls brainstormed ideas, developed business plans and received $20 microloans from the chief financial officer at RPCS as seed money to help get their companies off the ground. They also met with several local business consultants to seek advice and implement feedback.

“To get ahead, it’s important to raise your hand and share a new idea,” advised consultant Mrs. Duffy Weir, former vice president of Retail Marketing and Specialty Leasing at the Rouse Company for nearly 26 years, who established the Weir Family Endowment for Leadership Development here at Roland Park Country School. The girls also heard from and met with Peggy Swain, lawyer and entrepreneur; Cate Goytisolo, 2006, senior brand manager at Under Armour; and Kathryn Werthman, 2006, digital marketing designer at Stanley Black & Decker.

The second graders had many great new ideas to share. The co-founders of the Animal Habitat Photo Booth, Evi and Bryndi, originally planned to start a pet grooming business, but after realizing that their idea was not aligned with the scope of the project, they decided to create a photo booth where people could have their pictures taken with one of five exotic backgrounds, including swimming with dolphins or exploring the Grand Canyon. “We picked this idea because we knew we couldn’t sell out of what we were offering,” said Evi. For the girls who started Bracelet Buddies, the best part of the unit was creating the jewelry for their business. “Our tagline is ‘Bracelets, Friendship and Fun’ and that’s what our business is all about!,” said Tennybelle, one of the founders.

The girls were introduced to a variety of digital marketing strategies and learned how to create custom presentations, advertisements and websites. Using the Junior Innovation Lab, students also designed and produced commercials using the green screen. Students reviewed apps available to them through the lower school 1:1 iPad program and made calculated decisions about what apps to use to produce the materials needed to gain the most from their marketing efforts.

To promote their businesses and the market, the girls gave presentations to the entire student body at divisional morning meetings. The pop-up marketplace on April 11 was open to RPCS students, employees and parents and drew a huge crowd. “My favorite part of this unit was the market, because we got to talk to so many people and show them what we made,” said Chloe, co-founder of Bright Scrub. “Everyone was having so much fun at the market,” agreed Livvy, the founder of Dream Art, who sold one-of-a-kind paintings made from melted crayons.

To celebrate their profitable business ventures and wrap up the unit, the girls took a field trip to the Mouth Party Caramel manufacturing facility and the trading floor of T. Rowe Price for tours and lunch. Proceeds from the market will be contributed to a fund for future second grade entrepreneurs and donated to charity.