Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Educating Entrepreneurs: A Little Maker, A Whole Lot Of Genius

Source: ASIDE, 2014 - RPH Recycle Water Bottle Holders
While we think highly of incorporating maker education “back into” the school environment, leadership should never have let it go to begin with for the sake of test preparation. We lock up or throw away the blocks in kindergarten or cancel a kindergarten performance so kids can focus on college prep. Who are we kidding? We know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens.

Even in the May issue of Leading and Learning With Technology from ISTE, almost every article on maker, flip, STEM, and coding justifies these teaching approaches with a qualifier that kids who have access to these programs do better on standardized tests. Is that what matters? Are all programs to be judged on how well they perform on standardized tests, or do we want programs that demonstrate raw critical thinking that pushes kids out of their comfort zones to engage with material, design what they want, and try to market it to the hilt?

Source: ASIDE, 2014 - Stress Squishy
For the last four years, we’ve witnessed the entrepreneur program run in the fifth grade do just that. It’s tough at first. Ideation does not always come easily for kids, and working through honest criticism on par, but not quite as intense, as the famed television program “Shark Tank” can be tough on our praised youth to swallow. We’ve seen partnerships split up, but not friendships; parents who want to help, but can’t; and kids so frustrated they want to quit, but we won’t let them. So what’s the take away?
Source: ASIDE, 2014 - Point Protection

Well, it’s one of the highlights of their middle school years, because we allow them to time to develop their genius. No, not the genius we often associate with intelligence, but the one that Rick Ackerly refers to in his book, The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity, and Creativity in Children. It’s when we partner with our learners’ genius “to create conditions for self-actualization.” The sky is the limit as long as you can justify your idea and cost, and build a prototype to make sure it works.

Watching these kids go out on limb and take a chance on their ideas is a critical skill not only for this project, but also for life. Some of the highlights are scattered through this post, and many of these young entrepreneurs were determined to bring their ideas to market their way. Make or lose money, their determination can be fierce. For these young entrepreneurs, it did not matter if they had it wrong. It’s all part of the process, and we've yet to see passion not win out. Seeing it all come together at the entrepreneur fair is the most rewarding, and sometimes emotional, eureka moment. They get it.

Source: ASIDE, 2014 - Smart Soap
We’ve watched the program grow over the last four years. It was no surprise that the final products for this spring were beyond our expectations, and it was not just the items at the fair. It was the enthusiasm of the student visitors moving up in grades talking about ideas, and the upper classes reminiscing about their experiences. The supporting for their peers was overwhelming.

Source: ASIDE, 2014 - E & V's Stylish Stands
It’s that moment when the school community, including administrators, parents, and teachers, hear from these young entrepreneurs, see the extraordinary amount of work these kids put into their ideas, and realize this project is genius at work. The seeds of “I can be entrepreneur” are real, and the stimulation in seeing young minds believe in themselves is pure joy.

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