Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Classroom
Inspire critical thinking and facilitate collaboration with opportunities for entrepreneurial innovation!
By Andrea Ferrero
The United States is known for its entrepreneurial spirit. This concept of developing an idea into a thriving business underlies the ambitions and dreams of many children and adults. Through an in-depth analysis and exploration of free enterprise, our future leaders can develop critical life skills while meaningfully engaging in class activities.
Innovators in Action
Business owners and organization founders, past and present, provide strong examples for the impact creativity and imagination have on careers and industry. Researching, interviewing, and dialoguing with and about these figures, supports real-world connections to core-content areas.
Biographies of change makers are a thrilling invitation into the lives and companies of many of the most prominent innovators and thinkers of our times. Possible subjects could include notable names such as:
- Steve Jobs
- Bill Gates
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Oprah Winfrey
- Steven Spielberg
- Vera Wang
- Sam Walton
- Paul Orfaleo
- Warren Buffet
Online news and archived articles provide a wealth of examples of inventive business leaders young and old. Pieces highlight their journeys, triumphs, and challenges as they explore new possibilities. Investigating online resources also presents the chance to weigh the value and credibility of sources.
Inviting business owners from the community to speak fosters a sense of local pride, while providing powerful context for interviews and discussions. Many local stores also welcome pre-arranged field trips. In the past, my class found water purification plants and bookstores to be the most fascinating. We shared expectations and developed questions before heading out to tour each business. I was amazed at the insight and depth of students’ queries and comments.
After each of these explorations and activities, my class and I took time to talk about:
- The characteristics the entrepreneurs exemplified (examples may include initiative, spirit of adventure, ability to negotiate risk, or strong communication skills).
- What skills or strengths aided in making someone successful in bringing an idea to fruition?
- What challenges were commonly faced?
- How the visits or readings inspired them?
Exploring the World of Opportunities
Opening the door to enterprising adventures sparks interest in bringing a business to life. There are a myriad of ways to empower learners to imagine and explore the possibilities in the classroom and beyond:
- Dreaming Big: i.e. - the next Facebook. Journaling or creative writing prompts allow writers to brainstorm and record musings for the next product, service, and idea. Some of my class favorites included:
- If you owned Facebook what new features would you include?
- If you were to create an app, what would it be and what would it do?
- What businesses do you find most interesting and why?
- Imagine you are creating a new service for your community, what would it be? How would it serve others?
- Going Green: After brainstorming green ideas to improve the school or community, the class can create an action plan and divide into small groups with varying roles (marketing, sales, etc.). Successful classroom ventures could include growing plant or vegetables for sale, or making beeswax candles for fundraisers.
Imagine the possibilities for classroom creations with more great entrepreneurship lessons below.
Collaborative small groups design rich business plans that convey understanding of the steps and risks involved in forming a venture. As part of their work, each group builds a physical model of their business and prepares a presentation to obtain funding.
Through a thoughtful exploration of national business press in the U.S. today, young innovators build an awareness of entrepreneurship. They use this foundation to organize and prepare an interview of a local businessperson. Using their findings as inspiration, partner groups then form their own business idea to be shared with the whole class.
Although created as a means for Boy Scouts to earn merit badges, this thorough questionnaire would allow any young learner to express their thoughts and discoveries about entrepreneurship. The range of short answer questions cover foundational knowledge as well as imaginative application ideas.