Arts and Entertainment

Intro to Market Economics

When Hyla Middle School teacher Chris Johnson tells students to “mind your own business,” her authority isn’t Miss Manners – it’s Adam Smith.

Hyla students who signed up for her class “Mind Your Own Business” are learning math by selling their own products at the “Holiday Market” at the Pavilion.

Johnson’s experience creating her own quilting business inspired her to offer a class to help students become entrepreneurs.

“Starting Sew-Journs showed me how easy it is to turn business owner,” Johnson said. “It seemed like one appropriate approach to math for middle-schoolers.”

Johnson’s 10 young entrepreneurs at the holiday market at the Pavilion offer wares ranging from jewelry to Christmas cards.

Sixth grader Don Cawley sells a unique conflict-resolution product he calls “Life Solutions.”

Cawley’s solutions are suggestions to resolve family conflict written on slips of paper and neatly packaged in small jars and tins.

“Say you get into an argument with your father,” Cawley said. “Instead of continuing to fight, each person draws a card from the can.”

The slips of paper prescribe alternatives, such as: “Twice a day for three days, tell that family member what you like about them.”

Another card reads: “Surprise your parents by doing something nice within two days.”

Like the other young entrepreneurs, Cawley began by developing his concept, which was inspired, he says, by Hyla teacher Kris Van Gieson’s class in human relations.

Johnson’s students then worked out business plans. “I asked students to set goals,” Johnson said. “Having a plan helped them to determine pricing for their products.”

The students, with Johnson’s guidance, then applied for business licenses, purchased names for their enterprises and printed business cards.

Part of planning, Johnson says, was deciding how to spend profits.

“This class wasn’t specifically about capitalism,” Johnson said, “although that is a by-product.”

Hyla eighth grader Molly Carroll, who will give 15 percent of her earnings from handmade Christmas cards to Helpline, says that sales are brisk.

“Business is pretty good,” Carroll said. “I thought it would be a lot slower.”

Like the other students, Carroll has found that running a business can be as much about interacting with customers as it is about presenting a product.

“We talk a lot about interfacing with the community,” Johnson said. “I told them that they would need to pull in people who stand at the perimeter.

“People are shy about approaching a business. They would need to make those people feel comfortable about approaching.

“The end result might be a sale – or simply giving someone information about the product.”

Having students create and run their own businesses is a way of showing adults what young people can accomplish, Johnson says.

“As I entered the Pavilion,” Johnson said, “I overheard two women talking about Nash Reignen’s jewelry.

“The one said to the other, ‘You should see the jewelry that young man made. I can’t believe a kid could make such beautiful jewelry.”

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