2nd Grade Startups with a Global Impact: A Pay it Forward Project

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iPad Based Business Project Benefits Children in Africa

It is far too often that education simply consists of students taking in and regurgitating information, which does little but display retention skills.  What is oft overlooked is how each student is developing as a person.  So what if you could tie school work and kindness together in a way that teaches 21st century skills?  That’s what the educators at St. Vincent’s Catholic  School in Salt Lake City are doing.  Their Pay it Forward project aims to both educate students about venture capitalism while also tuning up their social conscience by letting needy students in Africa be the beneficiaries of their profits.

St. Vincent de Paul students multiply their blessings - Photo from Intermountain Catholic
St. Vincent de Paul students multiply their blessings – Photo from Intermountain Catholic

How does Pay it Forward work?

The idea is exceedingly simple.  At the start of Spring 2010, educator Rhea Hristou, project creator, gave each of her second graders five dollars.

“The children were asked to use that $5.00 as “seed” money to begin [their own startup] – some type of business venture that will turn the $5 into at least $15.00. Over one month, they could use the money for ingredients for cookies or lemonade for a food stand, posters for a garage sale, beads for jewelry to make and sell, or whatever they choose. At the end of that month, students do a presentation displaying their venture.”

Hristou then assisted the students in taking the profits and using them to gain entry for three children in Africa to a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame Mission in Uganda.  Pretty cool, right? The project doesn’t stop there.

Integrating iPads

Hristou also requested ten iPads for technology center in her classroom to allow her students greater access to information about the children they were benefitting. Describing the benefit of these devices, she noted how many learning opportunities arose: “…apps to learn about the geography, cultures of Africa, a newspaper app to look up African current events, Math apps to help with funding and money collection, tools like Skype or email to communicate with the children in Uganda, and use presentation apps to help students present their ideas to the class.” The class based set of iPads were made available not only to the second grade, but also after school for other projects.

How can you replicate this program?

While ten iPads may seem like an expensive purchase for a school, they were lucky to find an independent donor to match five iPads if they were able to come up with the remainder. Remember, iPads aren’t necessary to begin teaching your students about business while also filling them with a social conscience.  Using resources like those available through Pay it Forward Day, the charity chosen could be anywhere in the world.

When students know that they are making a tangible difference in their world, it fills students with a sense of pride while also bolstering their motivation to succeed at their task.  If real lives are being affected, then the effort must be greater.  An important lesson for any student.

This project started in 2010, so where are they now?

Student created startups were varied and ran the gamut from dog walking to making and selling pot holders to bake sales but the results were astounding!  While only aiming to make a ten dollar profit on each student, Hristou was filled with pride to receive back an average of sixty five dollars a student. The iPads also were a hit, both for the teachers and the students. It allowed them unprecedented access to their African counterparts, while also providing tools and resources that expanded and shaped their world view.

The “Pay It Forward” model is an obvious success.  Educating students while also giving them a more worldly view of their planet and filling them with a social conscience.  In an increasingly globalized world these skills cannot be emphasized enough. For more information on the ideas in this project, please visit the websites below.

Further Reading:


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