It’s no secret that financial based curriculum in the public school system has historically been next to non-existent, but I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a brand new financial literacy program being implemented in some of our local schools.
Our oldest son came home incredibly excited and announced that his class would be participating in the Power Play Entrepreneur program. He explained to us that as part of the program he would need to come up with a product idea, conduct market research, develop a business plan, obtain materials, and ultimately, create the product.
All of his efforts would culminate in a market sale where his entire school and invited guests could peruse and purchase items from all the participating entrepreneurs. Not only was he pumped – so were Mike and I. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to have some extended discussions about funding a business, expenses, wages, profit margins and so much more.
The entire project turned out to be exactly that, and a lot more. Having now gone through the entire program with him, I felt it was deserving of a review.
The program is offered by Power Play Strategies, a company local to the Vancouver area. The companies founder, a man by the name of Bill Roche, has spent the last couple of decades involved in the development of financial literacy curriculum resources for children. Roche, along with his partners, designed the entrepreneur program in an effort to provide schools with a ready to use product that gives students a hands-on, real world experience of the development and implementation of a small business.
With an included request for all participating entrepreneur’s to donate 10% of their profits back into a local charity, the program is designed not only to increase the student’s financial literacy and promote entrepreneurial thinking, but to develop their awareness of social responsibility. Structured for delivery to Grade 4-8 students, the Power Play program was launched last year, and thus far has been met with enthusiasm by educators, students and parents alike.
The program includes a structured booklet which lays out the objectives and work requirements in six well-defined lessons delivered over the span of a six week time frame. The first lesson focuses on business idea’s and goals, the second on market research and business operations, the third on money plans, the fourth on marketing, the fifth on market sale preparation, and the sixth as an opportunity for evaluation and reflection.
The structured booklet included with the program helps to ensure the content and concepts are delivered in a consistent manner, regardless of the educator or parents own financial acumen.
Along with a secondary pamphlet specifically for parents, accompanied by a host of online resources, the program more than adequately provides parents with sufficient content to ensure they also understand the concepts being delivered and to support meaningful discussions between parents and students throughout the program.
The development of a business plan, discussion of market research, itemizing total costs, completing calculations to identify a cost per item to assist in pricing models, and building a marketing plan all generated outstanding opportunities to stimulate financial discussions with our son. And because he had a direct application for the information, with an outcome of his very own cold hard cash, he was notably more curious and engaged when having these conversations.
The program was designed in a manner that was simple enough for a Grade 4 student to complete all aspects, but could also easily allow for the introduction of more complicated concepts and requirements in order to challenge a Grade 8 student as well.
As a result of the product selection being left up to the student (with some restrictions on content as set out by the school), each student was able identify and take advantage of skill sets or resources that were available to them individually in order to bring their product to fruition.
Because the program also requires students to sell their product in an open setting, the importance of of pressing strong product knowledge and displaying confidence during client interactions were also highlighted and experienced first-hand by the students.
The request for students to contribute 10% of their profits to a local charity was also an excellent feature of the program. Our son’s class elected to collectively choose 4 charities, with each entrepreneur able to select which of the four they wished to donate to. This gave the kids the additional opportunity to assess each charity and give ample consideration as to who and why they wanted to donate.
Frankly, I really only saw one “con” with this program, and that was in the amount of hours required by parents and the student to complete their assignments at home. Including the purchasing of product materials, making the product, and preparation of marketing materials, the vast majority of this program required the work to be completed at home and/or with parental assistance.
I would estimate that Mike and I spent a total of 30 hours working on this with our son over the 6 week time frame, and he invested about 40 hours himself. I know that amount of time could be difficult for a lot of people to fit into their schedules, which could make this program seem, at first glance, more burdensome than beneficial.
Having said that, our son was quite ambitious in his product selection, which required a lot of assistance from us in purchasing materials and utilizing various tools etc. So depending on the product selection, the time necessary could definitely be reduced, and depending on your child’s age/abilities, they may be able to complete their project with less parental assistance.
While I’m listing this under “con’s” because I know it could pose a problem for some schedules, I’ve put it in quotations because like anything worthwhile, you get out what you put in. And in this case, the learning opportunities for our son were absolutely worth the time invested.
The second con was not the fault of the program, but of the teachers at our specific school. They heavily encouraged the kids to be “aggressive” in their sales tactics. Without further explanation of they meant by “aggressive”, or much discussions on appropriate sales approaches, this resulted in a gym, with about 150 entrepreneurs in it, of which about 100 or so were actively yelling at customers to come to their table and buy from them. This made for a chaotic scene.
It further made it difficult for the entrepreneurs who were speaking with potential clients to be heard over the mayhem. Personally I also found it discouraged me and other parents from wanting to go and peruse the market and talk to the other entrepreneurs. Rather than being proud to discuss and engage about their product and decisions, they were far too focussed on pushy sales tactics. I would have much preferred to see the teachers encourage the kids to be confident, behave professionally, engage with customers by making eye contact and having a friendly demeanour, and garner sales by demonstrating excellent product knowledge. Practicing those skills would have been much more useful to the kids, and much more appealing to their potential clientele.
Overall I would highly recommend this program to any educator looking to add a financial literacy component into their classroom. Whether you are a parent homeschooling your children, or the teacher of a Grade 4-8 class, this program provides opportunities for financial growth and development for each individual child, regardless of their current knowledge base.
The program is available to order online, and includes a teachers workbook, all lesson plans and modules, online videos and tutorials, and a number of other features for $240.00 (CAD). If you are homeschooling your children, or simply want to do this program as an extra-curricular activity, you can purchase just the student workbook, which includes a copy of the a parent information booklet, for only $5.00 (CAD). Frankly, both are an excellent value for the included content and the discussions it will promote with your child.
If you are homeschooling your child or looking to do this as an extra-curricular activity, you can easily replace the final sales market by signing up at a local craft fair, or even just allowing your child to present and sell to friends and family members. Our son presented and sold to a dozen family members before the market sale ever took place, and ended up selling so much that he had to unexpectedly make more product!
Although I’ve included the time commitment as a potential con for some, if you have the time to invest in your child’s financial literacy, this program is chalk-full of opportunities to have an extensive dialogue with your child about a wide range of financial and business topics. The return on time invested makes it well worth it to set aside ample time to fully engage in this with your child.
You can check out further details on the program, and it’s founders here.