Entrepreneurship in Education: Building the Next Generation of Thinkers and Doers
Are you a fan of Shark Tank? On this show, hopeful entrepreneurs present their product or service, which they believe could be the “next big thing”, to a panel of Sharks—successful CEO’s and business icons. The goal is to get this panel of Sharks to buy a piece of their company to either boost sales or help grow their company.
While some ideas may seem like a great fit for a specific market, some end up being total flops. With shows like this and entrepreneurs like Gary V, entrepreneurship has been creeping more into the mainstream conversation. And thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, we see entrepreneurship being pushed as a lifestyle and not just something relegated to the uber wealthy. But what if we introduced entrepreneurship to our students and taught the power of ownership in creating ones future to our own classrooms?
What effect would it have on our students and their learning? Let’s explore how you can incorporate different aspects of entrepreneurship into your lessons and to get your students to start thinking about taking control over the direction of their lives.
Entrepreneurship in Education
According to Mirriam-Webster, an entrepreneur is a person who, “organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise” (Merriam-Webster). While this is a simple definition of entrepreneurship, educators need to tap into how entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking can benefit how our students learn and how we teach. When it comes to K-12 education, Hess argues that entrepreneurship is more than learning about corporations and business plans. Educators need to look at it from the viewpoint of what entrepreneurs actually do, which is creative thinking and creating economic opportunity. This type of mindset can be replicated in the classroom to push how students think and learn (Hess, 2016).
Similarly, Rodov and Truong (2015) argue that teaching entrepreneurship changes the landscape of K-12 education by encouraging students of diverse socio-economic backgrounds to think bigger and nurture real-life skills that are not normally taught in a traditional school. For example, Building School 2.0 is a model of an entrepreneurial school because it encompasses a learning environment where students put their ideas into action. At these types of schools, students are encouraged to generate ideas that they can carry out and are actively involved throughout the learning and decision making process at their school (Paterson, 2017). This goes to show that entrepreneurship in K-12 education goes beyond corporate America, but rather has the potential to transform how students think and learn, which engages them on a whole new level.
Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking
When implementing entrepreneurship in K-12 classrooms, design thinking seamlessly works within that setting. Design thinking is a strategy that incorporates an innovation mindset that pushes learners to apply what they learn into a real world setting (CreatEdu, 2013). Design thinking uses a process to guide students to solve problems and bring solutions to life.
The five stages of this process include:
1)Empathy, looking at the target audience that will benefit from your solution
2) Define, redefining and focusing your questions
3) Ideate, brainstorming as many ideas or solutions as you can
4) Prototype, building a model of your ideas to serve as drafts
5) Test, testing your ideas through trial and error and feedback with your target audience and revise as needed (CreateEdu, 2013).
This process promotes risk taking, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking skills among learners while allowing them to take ownership of the learning process. Students can also repeat any steps in the process as they see fit in order to reach their desired goal or solution.
Getting Started with Entrepreneurship
With the rising need for entrepreneurial skills and mindsets in education, it is important to be selective with what resources to utilize as you embark on this journey. Always keep in mind your students’ interests and strengths, but at the same time make sure you expose them to different learning experiences that will challenge their thinking. Formats such as design challenges or even the design thinking process may be overwhelming for some students at first, but if you create an environment where risks and failure are welcome, your students will gain so much more. The following resources offer a starting point to explore entrepreneurship across different class settings.
BizKids: This website looks specifically at the ins and outs of starting and managing a business. Educators will enjoy the engaging videos that introduce different concepts such as marketing and how businesses can give back to the community. This resource is excellent for those educators who need a simple and immediate way to introduce basic concepts of entrepreneurship that requires no login to a platform.
Venture Lab: This is an entrepreneurial curriculum for grades 1-12 that can be implemented in a classroom, after-school program, or library. Teachers can create a free account to be used for non-commercial purposes in order to access the resources and lesson plans that promote entrepreneurship for young learners. This robust program also uses the design thinking model to implement ideas among learners. Another advantage of this program is its range, because it’s one of the few that starts introducing entrepreneurial concepts to young learners. Finally, this is an excellent resource because can easily access lessons, which in turn can be implemented without any experience with entrepreneurship.
Real World Scholars (RWS): This is a non-profit program that connects with classrooms or schools to assist in startups created by students in grades K-12. Through their initiative EdCorps, RWS assists classrooms or schools with operating the financial aspects of a student startup so that learners can apply real-world entrepreneurial skills and create change. Their mission is to support young entrepreneurs into making their ideas come to life to create businesses that matter to them and their communities. Their website also hosts the EdCorps Marketplace, where visitors may view and purchase items from businesses that were created by students. If you are interested in connecting with EdCorps, you must contact them on their page and submit a proposal for your student/classroom startup.
EntreEd: If you feel your school is ready to become more involved with entrepreneurship, America’s Entrepreneurial School’s Initiative sponsored by EntreEd may be the program for you. This mission of this initiative is to bring entrepreneurship education to every child via a school-wide event, lesson, or classroom project. Once a school enrolls in this program, EntreEd provides support via in person professional development training, online resources, a podcast hosted by entrepreneurial educators, and by assigning a representative. Once schools meet their goal of providing an entrepreneurial experience to every single child at their site, they can receive national distinction.
This program is the most involved yet also the one that ensures that all learners will have an opportunity to explore entrepreneurship. The initiative does a great job at providing activities that are developmentally appropriate and that challenge students to solve problems using the design thinking process. To get a sense of the possibilities under this initiative, check out the Lesson Kickstarters page, which provides a summary of activities for elementary to secondary students.
Gray Matter Experience: Gray Matter Experience is an entrepreneurial 12-week program aimed towards serving high school females in the West and South Side of Chicago. Its mission is to expose adolescent females to concepts of entrepreneurship as well as provide internship opportunities with local businesses so that participants may apply and develop real world skills to start their own business. Throughout the program, participants attend interactive field trips across different industries in the city of Chicago and work alongside entrepreneurial educators and professionals that can offer real-world advice and support. Although this program is location specific, it is worth mentioning because it successfully demonstrates how business resources can be used to invest in youth that can further impact specific communities. Those interested in attending must submit an application online.
Entrepreneurship, along with design thinking, is the necessary direction if we intend to produce the next generation of thinkers and doers. Traditional education is lacking in providing learning experiences that have students apply real world skills and outside the box thinking. By incorporating design thinking with entrepreneurship, students have the opportunity to take risks, fail, try again, and take ownership and drive their own learning. This not only helps students elevate their thinking beyond the present day testing culture that exists within many schools districts; it introduces students to a world of possibility and teaches them how to build a better future for themselves and possibly their communities.
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