By Emma Wulfhorst |
RUMSON – It’s not every day a school becomes a bustling hub of entrepreneurship.
But sellers recently packed the Forrestdale School’s cafeteria where over 60 student vendors set up shop, displaying everything from shark’s-tooth necklaces to ornaments to original artwork for the school’s first ever TREP$ Marketplace.
The market was the final step of the TREP$ program, a curriculum developed for schools in which fourth- through eighth-graders learn everything they need to know to start their own businesses. Maureen Gordon, a Forrestdale enrichment program teacher, brought the program – short for “entrepreneurs” – to the school after learning about it through an email. “I knew it would be something students would just love to do,” Gordon said. “I know how much they love to create and build.”
Gordon approached the Forrestdale administration and asked for permission to make TREP$ a part of the school’s enrichment program for gifted and talented students for the 2017-18 school year. “They said yes right away,” said Gordon and she began the class in September. The TREP$ curriculum was developed in 2006 by two New Jersey mothers after their sons attempted to create their own small business.
Forrestdale’s program was open to all fourth- and fifth-grade enrichment students, as well as any sixth-grade students who were interested. The class met one hour a week for the fourth- and fifth-grade students during a regularly scheduled enrichment class. But the sixth graders had to sacrifice a lunch and recess period two times a week in order to participate.
“They learned concepts and skills in school through workshops,” said Gordon. During the classes, the students were taught key business skills and terms, including profit, expenses, marketing, brainstorming and creating a plan, all part of the TREP$ curriculum.
“A lot of work was also done at home,” said Gordon. Students physically created their products entirely on their own time using their own money or borrowed from their parents to produce the items. However, if students borrowed money, they were required to write up a contract with terms for repaying the loans. Any profits students made could be used to satisfy the loans. If students did not turn a profit, they had to present written explanations of the different lessons they learned during the program.
“Most of them really worked on it themselves,” said Gordon about the students’ creation of their products, “but there was a lot of parental support.” Gordon said some of the students even paid their siblings or friends to help them produce, market or sell their goods.
According to Gordon, about 95 percent of students made a profit. While most kept the money as a reward for themselves, some chose to donate it to various organizations.
Amanda Harmon, a fifth-grader at Forrestdale, made a profit of $150 by selling her beach-themed ornaments, chalkboards and picture frames. “I loved it when people walked by my stand and saw my product and they loved them,” she said. “It really made me feel good to have people enjoy what I made.”
“She was focused on doing something beach-themed and using sand,” said Amanda’s mother, Tara Harmon, also the publicity coordinator for Forrestdale’s TREP$ program.
In total, 16 sixth-graders, 28 fifth-graders, and 21 fourth-graders participated in the program, but Gordon expects a bigger enrollment when she runs the program again. “I already ordered more workbooks for next year,” she said. “I’ve had seventh- and eighth-graders beg me to do it again.”
Gordon is overjoyed by the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the entire Forrestdale community. “I received numerous emails form parents thanking us, telling us what an amazing learning experience it was for their child,” she said.
As a parent, Harmon relished TREP$. “I thought it was pretty awesome,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for the kids to use their creativity and see how a business works.” Harmon is also excited for her daughter to participate again. “She and her friends are already planning what they want to sell next year.”
This article was first published in the Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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