Friday, February 20, 2015

Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Students as Entrepreneurs

Should students be taught entrepreneurship in schools? Absolutely, yes. 

Teaching students about entrepreneurship promotes a growth mindset, immerses students in real-life learning, promotes collaboration and can position students as social innovators making chance in their communities. As a judge for Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh this weekend, I am looking forward to seeing teams of innovators narrow close to fifty ideas down to a top few ideas that will be developed in "hackathon" style and presented in 54 hours to a panel of judges and peersStartup Weekend is a global movement of entrepreneurs who learn the basics of founding and launching successful startup ventures. 

At the event four key things happen: 

  1. Pitch: Anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback
  2. Form: Teams form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) 
  3. Build: A 54-hour frenzy of business modeling, coding, designing, and validating
  4. Present: A presentation in front of local entrepreneurial leaders 
This model could be replicated in schools to promote transdisciplinary learning, co-taught and designed by teams of educators from different disciplines that provide students with the knowledge, skills and mindsets needed to become an entrepreneur. Students could learn "out and about" in their communities to gain empathy for end-users and develop valuable innovative thinking skills. Practical application of content learned across the disciplines will be put to real use.

In our Global Leadership x Design class, a three-hour block course for all juniors, students learn to become leaders and form a team, get a basis of the global landscape through simulations and primary research projects and then become social entrepreneurs, identifying and solving problems for others in developing countries through the use of human-centered design. Students get "real clients" and mentors like our local Pittsburgh startup incubator, Thrill Mill and meet with venture capitalists. They build skills in being resilient, managing time, public speaking, critique and "failing up" all while helping others.

An entrepreneurial mindset exists in all students, it just needs to be cultivated. Allowing students to explore entrepreneurship, whether integrated into an existing course, added as a new co-taught, transdisciplinary course or a part of after-school programming, will help students build creative confidence, become agents of change in their communities and build on their strengths. This sounds like a no-brainer to me?

I am eager to report back after judging the ideas pitched and selected and Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh and even more excited for the opportunity to scale the model of Startup Weekend Education down into secondary education so that youth can be change agents that can build a better world.

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