By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
As part of the curriculum of the 4th graders of Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., 35 students organized their own entrepreneurship fair on April 12 to showcase dream businesses they created for the Hyde Park neighborhood.
The idea for the class came from 4th grade teacher Niki Turley, who had her students participate in a social science unit focusing on financial literacy and entrepreneurship where the young scholars learned about topics like the importance of financing, developing business ideas, and overcoming real-world issues.
“During our financial literacy unit, where we where studying how we can be responsible citizens and how we contribute to the community and the world, we also took a look at what their parents do for them, from managing budgets to getting hit by real-life events like a flat tire and having to pay bills,” said Turley, who has been teaching at Bret Harte for four years.
As part of the eight-week program, students were introduced to financial literacy concepts like making spending decisions when choosing an apartment, managing spending plans with groceries and paying bills. Some students even ran into pretend financial hiccups like getting sick, or experiencing car troubles, which they had to resolve in the classroom.
“Students were assigned their own budgets and received an income every two weeks,” said Turley. “By explaining financial responsibility to help them manage their income and daily activities, we learned the steps to be financially responsible adults.”
The goal of the project was to have students learn about earning money and meeting financial goals by developing their own business. In class, students talked about who their ideal consumer would be and the importance of location.
“We had a motto during the program,” Turley said. “I told my students if you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs.”
Projects included a wide range of topics from “Just-Bee-U! Inc. Apparel & Merchandise” which was “founded” as a means to provide social and trendy solutions to school-aged bullying which is a major problem worldwide; to “John’s Scarves,” which sold hand-made scarves with eco-friendly dyes and stains; and “Get On Your Feet,” which helped homeless residents rehabilitate into society.
“One of the things that is really important in my classroom is that we talk about life. If we’re building the next generation of leaders, they need to know the issues we have in Chicago,” said Turley. “We talk about diversity, and how our school doesn’t represent the actual community. These are things that we constantly talk about. How can we fix it, how can we address it, what can we do as scholars to change this; and how can we change people’s thinking so they can learn this is a school that is wonderful.”
As part of the project in previous years students presented their ideas to the class. This is the first year that the 4th graders went the extra-mile and organized the entrepreneurship fair, so the school and parents could be a part of the initiative as well.