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.

"We wanted this to be available to all the students and not become something for just the 'gifted and talented' kids," Williamson said. "A pilot program had been successful in Tampa and it led to an after-school program, so I went into this understanding that third graders could get this."

Still, kids at such a young age can be unpredictable. Ellis admits that the introduction of the program to her kids represented a "leap into the unknown."

"I'm generally pretty structured, and while there is a structure to Noble Impact's process, much of the work was left up to the kids," she said. "They were thrilled when they saw the high school students from the Noble Impact class. They really served as mentors to guide our third graders through the process of establishing a company, identifying a real life classroom issue, and attacking that issue with a solution. From the first day, I had parents emailing me to say that their children were talking about their 'companies' at home."  

The third-grade program emphasized students' learning to pitch their personal stories, develop their ability to listen, and tell stories. Their goals were to identify issues within their classrooms and then work toward solutions. "Really, the Common Core standards of speaking and listening," Williamson said. "That was a key component."

Students were divided into teams of four with each team identifying an issue that needed a solution and working on a team pitch. Each team developed a company name, logo and colors, and even a tagline. Sample company names: Crate Captains, The Dragon Engineers.

Team pitches included a greeting, an introduction, the story, statistics, the idea for a solution, and a gratitude-based closing. Each member of a team was responsible for a section of the pitch.

"I had a group of students that noticed a problem with organization in the classroom," Ellis said. "They took the initiative to present their suggestions to their classmates. As a class, we voted to implement their ideas and their supply crates were kept tidy for the rest of the school year. I barely had to manage the process because the kids really owned it."

Students were evaluated based on their teams' final pitches using a rubric adapted from Noble's high school curriculum.

"They were given the rubric early on so that their teams could reference it as they developed their pitches," Ellis said. "Before the final pitches, each group practiced before their classmates, who used the rubric to offer feedback on the presentations. It was affirming to see how my students have grown this year in their ability to give constructive criticism in a positive way and how that affected their classmates to make improvements in their pitches."

Williamson said Noble is talking with school officials about how the program could be implemented at different grade levels. He wants to make sure it can be delivered "with as much quality as possible." For now, Noble is included officially in the eStem High curriculum, but more expansion at eStem's lower grades is a real possibility.

"The teachers have been energized by this," he said. "We're giving the content, and the teachers are delivering it. That's especially how it would be in the elementary setting. It's cool to see the content delivered in different ways."

Williamson wants to provide professional development for teachers to implement the Noble program in their classrooms, and that training could take the form of seminars held at the Clinton School.



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