Junior Achievement & what’s right in education…


images (1)The last time I broke out into a sweat and got nervous speaking to a group was just yesterday… I had volunteered earlier in the year to assist with Junior Achievement and the time had arrived.  Eighteen 4th graders were mine to educate for a total of about four hours over three days.

I was a little disappointed that my time volunteering was limited to the last week of school when 4th graders are expected to be the least receptive.  Even the brief training that was provided indicated I should try and go through the five sessions anytime other than the last week of school.  But, I didn’t have a choice there.  And, I’d hesitate to say the kids weren’t into it. In fact, it was just the opposite.

My anxiety over teaching kids was that they wouldn’t get it and/or they just wouldn’t care.  Why would I assume kids would care about starting their own business, how the stuff they buy is made, or other cool stuff like that?  Wrong…

Let me just say that these kids knew what was up!  Before I even got started, the discussion in class regarded the economy and how supply and demand affects pricing. They were using tourism and how it’s changed over the last few decades as an example.  And, there was more than one hand up to answer some of the more challenging questions.

I have to give a huge amount of credit to Junior Achievement for providing such engaging and organized materials for volunteers.  The activities applied the concepts perfectly and required very little instruction.

Key takeaways for these ten and eleven year-olds included:

Successful Entrepreneur Traits that we discussed and they evaluated themselves on include:

  • Determined
  • Creative
  • Self-Confident
  • Ambitious
  • People-Person
  • Experienced

Groups of three to four students brainstormed and started their own business using regional resources (human, natural & capital).  Many groups even came up with fun company names, like Cozy Cook where they would prepare frozen meals and distribute them throughout the U.S. and abroad.  Their regional resources included fish and shipping boats in this example.

We played a game in groups where we used the following business tasks to determine the effect on revenue and expenses associated with owning a hot dog stand:

  1. Pay for the resources you need for your business.  These are your expenses.
  2. Get the word out about your product through advertising (JA, please see my note below)
  3. Set your price and sell your product.  The money you get from your sale is your revenue.
  4. Treat your customers well. (Wooooo…)
  5. Make tough business decisions as they arise.
  6. Carefully track your expenses and revenue so that you will know if you make a profit or have a loss.

Oh, quality professionals will love this… The kids got a Problem-Solver bookmark that goes through some steps we’re all too familiar with:

  1. Clearly describe the problem.
  2. Brainstorm a list of possible solutions.
  3. Make a list of the risks & rewards for each solution.
  4. Weigh each decision to see which one has the most rewards & the least risks.
  5. Make a decision that has the most rewards and the least risks.

We even took a journey through the supply chain of a computer and I got to share some fun factory adventure stories. Fun stuff, I’m just saying.

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Overall, what an amazing experience!  You could center an entire school around these themes and spit out some wonderfully innovative and creative thinkers.  Isn’t that what we need?

Despite all of this goodness, the real win was that my son said that the kids had fun, and he made sure to give me a hug before I left the class each day.  That was kind of awesome.  Oh, and he said the teacher said I was “peppy,” which did make me giggle a little.

Note to Junior Achievement: I would change the use of “advertising” to “promotion” and that’s just me.  Promotion is equally as easy to understand and incorporates advertising and other forms of informing people about your product.  To me, Promotion = Advertising, Sales Promotion, Public Relations and Personal Selling.  

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