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Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

Entrepreneurship1

You won’t find a lot of people suggesting we need fewer opportunities for creativity in our schools. That said, often people are slow to make the link that efforts around entrepreneurship are really creativity initiatives.  Discussions around improving student learning often focus on core academic areas, and yes, these are important, but we need more than that.

I have been very taken by discussions about entrepreneurship.  I know I held a traditional view of entrepreneurship, that the area of study was really about creating people for the world of business.  And yes, this is important, our schools are about so much more around the skills and qualities we want and the citizenship we want to foster.  My views around entrepreneurship have shifted.  I am persuaded by Yong Zhao, for example, who argues, “Bold entrepreneurs, bright new ideas and world-class colleges and universities . . . are what every country needs and more importantly, what the whole world needs to succeed.”  Zhao and others link closely the notion of creativity with entrepreneurship.  And it makes good sense.

Over the last couple of years, we have introduced three specific new opportunities that link young people to entrepreneurial opportunities:

Early Entrepreneurs:   In this program, participating classrooms each get a $100 micro-loan as startup capital, and asked them to raise funds for charity. Rather than running typical fundraisers such as asking for pledges, these classes used the money to start their own small businesses such as building bird houses to sell at a local market, selling green smoothies on Fridays, and creating family friendly events. These students were using their own creativity and imagination to turn our initial $100 loan into thousands of dollars for charity link to other established programs.  There is a great story of this at work at Lions Bay and their loan that turned into almost $1800 raised for building a school in Kenya through Free the Children.

Entrepreneurship – Ignite Your Passion:  We offer a number of programs for grade 6 and 7 students after school hours taught by secondary school teachers that allow these young learners to explore their passions in areas often not covered in-depth at the elementary grades.  One of the very successful offerings has been entrepreneurship.  As the course outline describes, “This course will empower the next generation to explore their interests in business, leadership and innovation. Students will have the opportunity to engage in topics such as leadership, communication, marketing, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship; culminating with developing their own business. Entrepreneurship students will gain real-world, leadership, and public speaking skills plus a confidence to take risks while exploring their interests and passions.”  One day I was there, I learned about Free Kicks – a soccer camp that was being run by a grade 7 student at Gleneagles Elementary School for younger learners at the school.  It was an amazing example of real world leadership at work.

YELL (Young Entrepreneurship Leadership Launchpad):   I have said in a number of venues, that the future of schooling looks like YELL.  It is real world experience for our high school students that does not just simulate real-life but is real-life. The program is “a hands-on, experiential accelerator for high school students interested in gaining knowledge and developing experience in all areas of business and entrepreneurship. In addition, YELL helps students interact with others across the school system with like-minded individuals, helps to build a community based framework to enhance innovation and provides a learning and development structure to foster innovation and advancement for future generations.”  The program is offered for students in grades 11 and 12.  It started in West Vancouver two years ago, spread to Coquitlam and Richmond this year, and is looking to grow to other school districts in BC and beyond over the next few years.

From Early Entrepreneurs with students as young as kindergarten, to Ignite offerings at the end of elementary school to YELL with our passionate senior students we are being far more explicit around entrepreneurial skills.  These on top of already established programs in these areas that continue to thrive.

It is not just about building business leaders but about the crucial skills we are seeing in these programs – we see our students gain confidence, collaborate and solve problem together and grow as leaders.   The types of skills we need to be highlighting for our students as they enter a world that is changing so quickly.

To come back to Yong Zhao, as we move forward, “We will need a lot more entrepreneurs and creative talents to develop new industries, new products and services and new solutions to the many challenges facing humanity.”

Finally, here is the slidedeck for my latest presentation, “Why we need entrepreneurial kids”:

(If you receive this by email you may need to open the website to view the slides)

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I write about the changing nature of learning and school quite often, but I would also like to credit district staff and the community, that when offered something different, they take the jump and sign-up.  In the West Vancouver School District, there is a lot of change occurring  within the traditional school day. To be sure, there is an emphasis on inquiry, social-emotional learning. digital access, but not as many examples challenging when learning takes place.  Generally, our schools operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m,  Monday to Friday, September to June. And, while some students take online (Distributive Learning) courses from other school districts, we don’t offer these in the district.

That said, there are three offerings for the upcoming school year I would like to highlight for their unique partnerships, flexible schedules, and for the amazing interest each have generated.  From Honours Choir, to Basketball and Entrepreneurship — the adage is “if you build it, they will come”, and it seems to apply nicely.  At the time of each offering, I wondered if anyone would sign-up; in the end, the happy problem was more sign-ups than supply.

Honours Choir

Music is a key component of each school’s program, and West Vancouver Schools proudly boast  music specialists in each of our elementary schools — a rarity in BC schools.  Until this year, we had not considered offering music beyond the school level because there are often opportunities for students within the community.  This year, the Board of Education approved an Honours Choir course offered on Wednesday evenings.  Many worried we wouldn’t have the 20-to-25 student enrollment required to run the course.  In the end, over 100 students signed up for auditions and the one choir opportunity became two. These students are required to be part of their own school choirs, and will now extend and challenge themselves every Wednesday night,  pursuing a passion and earning school credits while training with singers from all schools in the district.

Premier Basketball Academy

West Vancouver has been well invested in sports academy programs for a number of years, from soccer to hockey and tennis to baseball. However, basketball is unique in that it is predominantly a school sport.  So, the district has created a unique opportunity open to Grades 9 to 11 boys and girls from all three schools. This course allows students to earn credits while continuing to play for their “home” school, and to receive additional training in the mornings as well as other times outside of the school timetable. This will allow better access to the course for students from multiple schools.  Similar to the Honours Choir, students can pursue a passion in greater depth while not having to leave their school to attend the program.  One other key element of the program is we are  partnering with Basketball BC, who will be providing the curriculum and expertise to support the program.  Again, demand has exceeded capacity.

Entrepreneurship 12 / YELL

Entrepreneurship 12 is a Ministry of Education course offered in schools across the province.  A challenge we often face with these type of  specialty business courses (and other senior electives) is that about 10 to 15 students sign-up in each school,  but not enough to offer a course block in the timetable – leading to course cancellations.  Some creative thinking around format and scheduling has changed that.  The course has been rebranded YELL (Young Entrepreneurship and Leadership Launchpad) and partners business teachers with community resources which currently include Rattan Bagga, General Manager of Jiva Organics; Amit Sandhu, CEO of Ampri Group; and Punit Dhillon, co-founder, President and CEO of OncoSec Medical.  The course is offered after school, so students from all three schools can attend; students will connect with top entrepreneurial talent and participate in a business venture challenge — traditional business course meets Dragon’s Den.  Earlier this week, when I attended the information session in the West Vancouver Secondary Library, it was jam-packed with over 150 interested people.  Again, families are ready to embrace ‘different’.

So, what are some of my takeaways:

  • The idea of connecting with community resources is a partnership we are just beginning to figure out, and the community is willing and interested
  • There is a real interest  in depth and specialization to pursue passions
  • There are opportunities to go across-schools for collaboration outside of the timetable
  • We can find more options for students to stay at their home school for the majority of their program
  • Each of the three new offerings are guided by passionate teachers
  • The lines of school/non-school activities are becoming increasingly blurry

The creation of these courses has been an interesting journey, more so that my internal pessimist has been proven wrong with all three offerings. While I wondered if they would gain traction, all three are booming with interest, which makes me also wonder, “so, what is next?”

Finally, my thanks to the outstanding teacher leaders: Suzanne Fulton (choir), Greg Meldrum (basketball) ad Jo-Anne McKee and Shawn Anderson (Entrepreneurship) who are leading the way with these offerings. I am looking forward to seeing their progress and success in about 12 months from now as we slowly open up more opportunities outside the traditional school day.

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