The children of Grade 4 watched in horror as the sight of thick smoke and smog filled the screen. They were watching YouTube clips of the rainforests in Sumatra that were being destroyed by forest fires. One of our animals lovers had wanted to share these clips with the rest of class, to initiate a discussion on how to help the animals whose habitats were being destroyed.
The class was studying a unit on economic activity, production, exchange and the consumption of goods and services. As their teacher, I wondered how to make this unit more trans-disciplinary, authentic and engaging for the children – to do something with them that was stimulating, would push them just beyond their comfort zone and to create new understanding while having loads of fun. So, I challenged them to plan, organize and run their own businesses of selling products and services so that they could get first hand experience of how things are organized in the real world.
During the brainstorming session that followed, some of the children came up with the idea of organizing a fun fair in which they would run businesses and invite the whole school and their parents. This way, they felt that they could raise funds to help save the animals and forests of Indonesia that had suffered from the fires. The students voted to donate the money earned to two organizations – WWF and Greenpeace Indonesia, both of whom were involved in protecting the forests and wildlife in Indonesia.
The children formed different ‘companies ‘and came up with many creative business ideas for selling products or services. After designing a survey they went around every class using a show of hands to collect data, to see which businesses would be the most popular.
A question then arose, “Where are we going to get the money to buy the raw materials and other things needed to start the businesses?”
After much thought, they approached the primary principal to ask for loans for their various businesses. He asked them to come up with business plans that included budgets. They also had to convince him that their plans were sound, could make enough money to repay the school AND that they would have to agree to pay the school back a ‘charge’ of 10 percent interest (this was mainly an exercise to integrate lessons on percentages).
The groups worked on their ideas and budgets and nervously presented their business plans to the principal. Luckily for them, he eventually ‘approved’ the loans and the children were at last in business!
Every child contributed to manufacturing, packaging and pricing the goods. Costs were calculated (10 percent added on to repay the loan) and profit margins added. It was decided that all the items that did not get sold were going to be sold at discounted prices in order to recuperate costs.
The businesses included a food court, with restaurants selling sushi, baked goods popcorn and juices, games, a gift shop and an auction – all organized and produced by the children themselves with marketing strategies to make the businesses more attractive and competitive.
And now the question arose – how were they to advertise the fun fair? The students made posters that they put up around the school and put in a blurb in the school weekly news bulletin to let the school community know about the upcoming event.
At the end of the fair the children calculated the gross profit and the net profits and were delighted when the primary principal did not charge the 10 % interest they ‘owed’ the school but allowed them to add it to the profit margin!
The students’ hard work paid off and they raised the amazing sum of IDR 11,400,000 (about USD 870) for WWF Indonesia and Green Peace Indonesia. They received certificates from both organizations and were proud to have made a small but important contribution to help save the rainforests of Indonesia.
What else did the students gain from this project besides a feeling of self-satisfaction?
By being motivated, challenged and actively engaged in tasks that were authentic, relevant and significant to them, the students developed amongst other qualities, the profiles, attitudes and skills of having empathy and integrity, being principled and reflective inquirers, creative problem solvers, being responsible, communicating and cooperating with one another, group decision making and adapting to different roles. In short all the attributes that promote compassionate action as well as the confidence and belief that they can make a difference in the world.
Grade 4, Classroom Teacher
Bali Island School
(Formally Bali International School)