Derby Ridge Elementary hosts entrepreneurship, finance day

Monday, November 25, 2013 | 5:23 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — It was Monday morning, and Sasha McRoberts, a program manager at IBM, stood in front of a class of about 13 elementary school students.

Brent Wade's fourth-grade class had just gotten back from a break at about 11 a.m., and the kids were restless.

"Five, four, three, two, one — give me five," Wade said.

The students all put up five fingers and quieted down.

"What's an entrepreneur?" McRoberts asked the class.

Two students raised their hands.

"Something about a resume," one of the students said.

The next student had a different idea.

"An entrepreneur is a businessperson who uses natural resources to make stuff," he said.

"That's good!" McRoberts said. She moved to her next PowerPoint slide, about profits and losses. It was a tough sell in a roomful of 9- and 10-year-olds, so she moved on to a game meant to provide insight into what it's like to own a business, such as a hot dog stand.

McRoberts was one of about 30 volunteers who taught classes on financial literacy and entrepreneurship at Derby Ridge on Monday. The elementary school implemented curriculum from the Junior Achievement program in classrooms throughout the school.

Usually, the Junior Achievement program brings a volunteer from the local business community to teach five lessons about finance and business in one classroom over the course of a few weeks. This time, volunteers came to Derby Ridge for the entire day to teach all five lessons.

Carol Allbritton, the Junior Achievement district manager, said it was the first time the organization had tried to do so much in a single day in a Columbia school. 

"I love the format of it," Wade said. "I would be an advocate for doing it again."

The Junior Achievement lessons supplement each grade's curriculum and take the material even deeper, assistant principal Rachel Mazzocco said.

"So many of the ideas are about, 'Look at the world around you, look at the businesses around you," Mazzocco said. "'You could own these, someday.'"

Wade said that though it was tough at times to give up the reins of his classroom to a volunteer, having McRoberts in his classroom helped the students make a real-world connection.

"The hope is really to get people that are in the business community because they do bring in vast knowledge," Mazzocco said.

For example, the hot dog stand game helped illustrate concepts like revenue, profits and losses.

"It's different when they do bare-bones problems and when you put it into context," Wade said. "That kind of threw them for a curve."

To give the students even more hands-on business experience, Mazzocco hopes to send the school's fifth-graders to BizTown in St. Charles, Mo., next year. BizTown is a Junior Achievement program that simulates a city for students to run.

"They build a kid city — there are mayors, there's a Build-a-Bear, a radio station, a TV station." Mazzocco said. "The kids literally run it."

Until then, Mazzocco hopes to continue the "JA in a day" program next year if the teachers agree they like it.

Wade said he would participate in the program again. He said the kids seemed to enjoy it.

"I even heard one of the students say, 'Man, the time's flying by today,'" he said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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