Monday, August 25, 2014

The Nifty Notes Company: 1st Grade Entrepreneurship

Source: ASIDE, 2014
We introduced the concept of teaching first graders about entrepreneurship three years ago and never looked back. This spring, our young entrepreneurs completed their third successful year building the Nifty Note Company.

This interdisciplinary project-based learning unit reaches across subjects, including media, design, branding, and economics. When these first graders go into production, printing, designing, and packaging 1000 note cards from start to point of sale, it is mind blowing.

We learned this project at a presentation at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference from the first grade teachers at the Collegiate School in Virginia. We modified and expanded their Critter Creations unit to brand our own company called Nifty Notes. It not only easily connected with language arts, math, and social studies, but it also could be expanded to include other components such as media literacy to broaden the learning concepts.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

It opened opportunities for the students to show off their creativity as well as make decisions about what designs would be best to maintain quality and consistency. Their inventive nifty characters (above) are something to behold.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
At the start of the project, each student gets an employee manual with the history, vocabulary, and job descriptions and qualifications for production. We use a host of resources to teach them about wants and needs, supply and demand, quality over quantity, etc.

Through stories such as Little Nino’s Pizzeria by Karen Barbour, the students learn about natural, capital, and human resources. These ideas are continually threaded throughout the entire process that believe it, or not, is completed within three-to-four weeks.

The multiple layers built into this project in addition to the actual production include doing a market survey, applying for a job in the company, filling out a job application, collecting data, creating the advertising for the school community, running the store, counting money, and issuing receipts. For samples of some of our handouts for this project, click here.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Perhaps one of the most valuable takeaways the students learn is charity. Each year the first graders make a charitable donation with a portion of the profit from the sale of the note cards to an organization of their choice.

Source: One Hen Inc.
A go-to book that's perfect for helping young children know the importance of giving is One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference by Kate Smith Milway.

The One Hen website also provides lots of addition material and ideas for teachers, and the non-profit organization, Kiva, lists opportunities for individuals to lend small amounts of money to help others around the world.

Our library has a strong collection of resources, including books at the primary level, for teaching economics with titles such as Do I Need It or Do I Want It from the Exploring Economics series, and Lemons and Lemonade: A Book About Supply and Demand from the Money Matters series. In addition, there are some excellent children’s picture books that we use to talk about money, opportunity costs, and marketing.

Teacher collaboration makes this project work. When first graders manufacture, market, and sell a product to real customers as a class business, the experience is priceless!

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Project Materials: colored cardstock, white envelopes, cellophane bags, mailing labels, inkpads, and Sharpie markers

For more resources, please see:


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