By Casey Hans
A recession, you say? You’d never know the country has been in an economic slump by visiting Market Day at Ann Arbor’s Burns Park Elementary School.
It looks more like a stock market trading floor, as fifth graders market and peddle their handmade wares to staff, parents and other students who get to do some shopping with Burns Park dollars.
Fifth-graders learned all the ins-and-outs of business during an economics unit taught by Sharon Pryce.
“There’s a lot of buzz going on,” said parent Doug Forman, whose daughter was working in a booth selling hand-made robots. “They get a sense of what it takes to plan and run a store. It’s pretty neat.”
The optional Market Day has been going on at Burns Park for more than 10 years, and it is wildly popular, Pryce said. Some 58 of her 72 students took on the project, which teaches them soup-to-nuts skills of developing an entrepreneurial spirit and learning about the economy, the stock market and basic money management.
Students do all of their research and work on their products at home, on personal time.
“It’s a big thing here,” said Pryce, who was serving as banker, handing out between $10 and $20 of Burns Park dollars to each student to keep the economy moving. “I don’t push it a lot – it sells itself.”
She said because many of the Burns Park parents are already entrepreneurs, it’s a natural for many students to pick up the concept of running a business.
This year’s Market Day had dozens of booths including bottle cap magnets (students went to Red Hawk, which donated the caps), fruit smoothies, colorful tennis shoes decorated with duct tape, a Harry Potter shop selling wands and spell books and even young artists doing face painting. Pryce said some students do raffles and others tried silent auctions this year to boost sales. One group of entrepreneurs recorded and sold their own CD.
“We didn’t think we’d sell this many,” said fifth-grader Grace, who was in business with classmate Bess selling the bottle cap magnets. Their trade secret: Grace explained that they put decorative materials and then filled them in with Modge Podge.
Students must tally their sales numbers and teams with the best sales earn a prize, Pryce said. “They develop business plans, so I know what they’re doing, and we encourage them to be great recyclers and reuse materials,” Pryce said. Students worked individually or in groups of up to three.
Pryce said the day is a spin-off of a yearlong mini-society program that was whittled down years ago due to increases in mandatory grade level content expectations from the state.
Casey Hans writes and edits this newsletter for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
E-mail her or call 734-994-2090.