Noble Impact Introduces Entrepreneurship Program to eStem Third Graders

by Mark Carter  on Friday, Jun. 13, 2014 11:23 am  

Mandy Ellis, a third grade teacher at eStem Public Charter Schools in Little Rock, practices a model pitch to her students participating in the Noble Impact program.

After successfully introducing its student entrepreneurship program to Little Rock's eStem Public Charter High School, Noble Impact decided to take on third graders.

Noble Impact, the nonprofit organization that partners with the Clinton School of Public Service to engage students at the "intersection of public service and entrepreneurship," was integrated into the eStem High curriculum this past school year. Noble co-founder Chad Williamson last summer helped start a prototype program with students in grades 3-5 at a school in Tampa, Fla. It was a big hit, and that experience convinced him to test the Noble program with eStem third graders.

The overall Noble Impact program was introduced to eStem sophomores last fall (Noble 101) and will be expanded to juniors and seniors in the 2014-15 school year (Noble 201). The following year, a "Noble 301" will offer internships and match students with community partners and at some point, an "Introduction to Noble" class will be offered to freshmen.  

Williamson, who led the "Noble 101" class at eStem, saw his students exceed expectations. In their first year, the Noble students participated at Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas, where they created a startup and won prizes, and at the inaugural High School Startup Weekend, where eStem teams won prizes.

Plus, Noble student Sydney Brazil, 16, successfully launched her own startup, a gourmet donut “holery” called The Hole Thing that’s partnered with Little Rock's Copper Grill and now appears on the restaurant’s dessert menu.

Based on his experience in Tampa and with eStem sophomores, Williamson felt comfortable expanding it to elementary school. School officials were happy to oblige. John Bacon, eStem CEO, has been a vocal supporter of the Noble program and believes it can one day be implemented at all grade levels.

"Our students are becoming career ready," he said. "We love seeing their hard work pay off. Noble Impact has done great work, and we love that eStem students are leading the change in how we look at education."

Noble introduces students to public service via entrepreneurship, and it uses the portable Lean Canvas startup model to do so. The "social good" aspect of launching a business that Noble stresses was not watered down for the third graders. Williamson said eStem’s third graders took to the concept without a hitch.

"All the 'companies' created by the third graders were socially driven," he said. "They addressed issues that were classroom issues, and even did customer validation working through the Lean Canvas approach."

The program was administered over two weeks in late May. Williamson sat in on classes while two of its third-grade teachers, Mandy Ellis and Faith White, ran the program. Meanwhile, Noble students from eStem High including Brazil crossed Third Street each morning of the program to serve as mentors.

"I loved watching the third graders work through the Lean Canvas," Brazil said. "They solve problems in the most creative ways. These third graders have shown me that the next stage of entrepreneurs are not only going to be high schoolers but also elementary students."

That's a point Williamson is happy to evangelize. He believes kids can accomplish much more than many adults are ready to concede. All they need is a nudge in the right direction. All 98 third graders at eStem were given that nudge through Noble, which received rave reviews from students and their parents.



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