Monday, December 5, 2011

Can Schools Raise Entrepreneurs?

Source: ASIDE
"Entrepreneurial thinking" is the mind's measure of risk and reward, of creativity and motivation. Young children thrive in this mindset, developing into entrepreneurs through an encouraging school climate. Amid an environment of earned success, they can attain life-long learning through invention, originality, and occasional failure. By fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, educators can inculcate financial literacy and media savvy in students. Specific, teachable skills can fuel initiative and innovation. In our own Kid Entrepreneurs project, we try to build these skills through hands-on, self-directed activities.

Source: Sprinkle Lab
One good, beginning resource in entrepreneurship is Sprinkle Lab's "Now I Know" series. These three-minute videos from business leaders offer crisp, candid insights about successes, failures, and lessons-learned. Some of the voices are famous, but many are lesser known. With their brevity, they are easy narratives to layer into daily learning.

Even more helpful for classroom teachers is Cameron Herold's mesmerizing March 2010 talk at TedxEdmonton. Titled "Let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs," Herold paints a compelling portrait of adult actions that would nourish future leaders. A self-described attention-deficit, "low achieving" student, with natural gifts directed in unnatural ways, Herold founded the mentoring firm BackPocket COO after serving as COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and VP of Corporate Development at Ubarter.com.



In feisty terms, Herold argues that most parents and teachers do little to nurture self-reliance. For example, he claims that "allowances teach kids the wrong habits," by making them expect a spoon-fed job and a regular paycheck. Instead, parents should teach their children to look around the house for jobs that need doing. Then, they can negotiate the appropriate payment. Looking for opportunities becomes the essence of entrepreneurship.

Herold gives teachers and parents strategies toward raising independent thinkers. He suggests that parents force a habit of saving on young children who don't yet feel the pain of money. He recommends reading stories to children on some nights and having them tell their own stories on other nights. He urges kids to stand up in front of family friends and stage skits.

Source: Grasshopper
At the end of the clip, Herold links to a Grasshopper video that we've shown several times in our classes to excite young entrepreneurs. The conversations on the TED site beneath Herold's video are also worth plumbing. For example, one thread features interesting comments around the question: "Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?" In our classes, we want our students to picture themselves as entrepreneurs, and we use infographics to help them visualize these traits. (Hat tip, by the way, to Jason Henrichs for promoting Herold's video.)

A recent guest post at the Creative Education blog offers thoughtful answers to this overall question: "Should schools encourage pupils to be more entrepreneurial?" The write-up includes ways to teach creativity, finance, organization, and communication skills that all yield successful do-it-your-selfers.

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