WINTERSVILLE — Learning about capital, production and labor costs sounds like something a student might encounter while taking a college course, but for fourth-grade pupils at Hills Elementary, those terms are all but unfamiliar.
Seven years ago, Janet Maxon, fourth-grade teacher at Hills, first introduced a program to her pupils called Kid’s Inc. Through a month-long course, pupils are taught the processes of opening and running a small business, as well as the importance a small business can play in the local community.
On Wednesday afternoon, a presentation was held in the school’s gymnasium to celebrate a record-breaking year in which pupils earned $3,344 from the product they designed, Sweet ‘n Salty Shakers.
During the first step of the course, pupils partnered up to design a business using the skills they learned about entrepreneurship in their math and social studies classes.
The entire class then combined to create a new product to sell to the rest of the school and the community.
“It totally consumes us,” Maxon said. “Once they learn the material, they design the project. Everything is very diplomatic.”
Maxon added that from beginning to end pupils vote on everything from the product they choose, its name, how to market it and how much employees of the business should be paid.
To get the project off the floor, pupils step out into the community to seek investors who provide donations. This year, they raised an all-time high in investors’ money totalling $1,000.
Other investors, such as Kroger, Burger King, Arby’s and McDonald’s, donated production supplies as well.
Once the product is decided and a name is chosen, the pupils then come up with ways in which to market it to the school. This year, the pupils formed small bands of three to five students and wrote 30-second jingles all to the same tune.
“It’s funny. The students notice the younger students singing their jingles in the hallway,” Maxon said. “It teaches them how advertising affects their product. We really dive into the entire aspect of this project.”
Pupils throughout the school were given the opportunity to visit Maxon’s class during specific times twice a day to purchase the product composed of kettle corn, M&M’s, chocolate chips, raisins and mini pretzels.
Pupils also could purchase a shaker for a friend to be delivered, free of charge, to other classmates as a surprise during the day.
“They found that it increased their sales,” Maxon said.
Another tactic used to increase revenue was the inclusion of a special golden ticket. Pupils who purchased a shaker with the ticket inside were allowed to use it as a buy-one-get-one coupon the next time they went through the line.
When the pupils set out this year, their goal was to surpass the money raised the previous year of $1,550. If they succeeded, they were promised a special treat.
“Since the students raised $3,344 this year, the female teachers have agreed to dress like men and the male teachers will dress like women,” Maxon said, adding that a deal is made each year as in incentive.
Last year, teachers did cartwheels across the gymnasium stage, and Maxon styled her hair in a mohawk and dyed it rainbow colors.
To date, the pupils of Kid’s Inc. have raised a total of $9,184, and each year, the profits are donated to two community organizations.
This year the profits were divided between Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Jefferson County and the Fourth Street Health Center. During the celebration, each received a check for $1,672.
“Every year it gets bigger. I never dreamed it would get this big,” Maxon said. “Our goal is to reach $10,000 by year 10.”
Also awarded during the celebration were the top three pupils who raised the most in investor’s money. Sandy Higgs and Mark Indovina each raised $110, and Lauren Marracino raised $97. All three received $10 gift certificates to the Fort Steuben Mall.
“My goal is for (the students) to understand how important it is to build a business in the local community,” Maxon said. “It only takes one person to make a difference.”
(Sadler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)