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How To Use Local Businesses To Inspire Your Students

Examples, models, and steps are things we love to have when trying something new. The Simple StartUp workbook was created to meet the needs of teachers, parents, and enterprising youth who wanted to try something new, but needed a little guidance on how to do it. Your students are no different. If anything they might need even more help. You may have to break down some mental barriers regarding their own ability, creativity, attitudes, and beliefs. Local business owners can really help here!

I tried something new this year. Covid-19 had driven us all home in the middle of our Simple StartUp projects. I got the sense that student engagement was slowing down (I’m sure you experienced something similar at some point). I attributed a lot of this to our missing classroom community that we got to build prior to the shutdown. My students thrived on sharing experiences and ideas with each other.

Normally, I would ask my students to share what was challenging them in their business, and then the class would try to come up with ways to solve their problem.

This had 2 huge benefits:

  1. The group with the problem got the advantage of a large amount of brainpower all working on their challenge.
  2. The rest of the class got to practice solving a problem that didn’t directly impact them. So there was no stress on the class to come up with a solution, which often led to great solutions popping up!

The digital discussions weren’t getting me the same end result though, so I invited 2 local business owners to share what their business is, how they got into it, and a challenge they were facing in their business.

Check them out:

Piece O’Cake Bakery

Wes The Barber

My students were then challenged to try and propose a solution to the business owner’s problem. Naomi needed to grow her sales, while Wes needed to find a way to pivot and add new income streams to his current model. Each owner was gracious enough to offer a prize for the best suggestion that they got, and I really was blown away by some of the creative ideas that came out!

So what can you do to get started?

Take a look at your network. Who do you know that owns a local business, or could connect you with a business owner? What are the businesses in your area that you admire and want to support? You want someone who is going to have a positive message for students. Someone who will be responsive to you when you want to record or have them come in to speak to your class.

In return for their help, I posted the videos all over my social media and asked local friends to share it. Positive PR is easy to come by when you are volunteering your time with kids, and I wanted to highlight how awesome these two were for sharing their time with us. I also sent it into the local newspaper and hopefully they pick it up and run a story on them during a slow new week.

Have you done anything like this with local businesses in your area? Please share the story in our Facebook Community where over 100 like-minded teachers are looking to share and collaborate on ideas!

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