Mary B. Austin Elementary School has just been awarded the national designation as one of America’s Entrepreneurial Schools by the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education (Entre-Ed).
Elementary, middle and high schools that bring entrepreneurship education and activities to every student in their building during a school year are eligible to receive this prestigious national designation. Mary B. Austin Elementary is the first school in Alabama to earn this honor.
“At Mary B. Austin, we strive to expose our students to a wide variety of experiences that cultivate learners who are innovators, problem-solvers and collaborators,” said Mary B. Austin Elementary Principal Dr. Amanda Jones. “I am proud of the work my staff and students have accomplished to earn the distinction of America’s Entrepreneurial School. Thanks to partnerships with local entrepreneurs and innovators, our students are being exposed to 21st century and life skills that prepare them to become outside-the-box thinkers ready to take on future careers that in many cases have yet to be invented.”
Mary B. Austin Elementary serves about 500 students in grades kindergarten through five and is a National Blue Ribbon School. Students there call themselves “Austin Innovators.”
Dr. Todd Greer, dean of the University of Mobile’s School of Business and founder of Exchange 202, supported Mary B. Austin in achieving this designation.
“As the speed of business continues to increase, exponentially, it is important for our students to understand and cultivate entrepreneurial thinking skills as early as possible,” Greer said. “Mary B. Austin Elementary under the guidance of Dr. Jones has become a shining example of a community school that is both responsive and innovative. Their recognition as one of America’s Entrepreneurial Schools by the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education just provides further validation that we are cultivating the right opportunities for our students here in Mobile.”
To receive the award for the 2016-17 school year, Mary B. Austin Elementary students participated in a project-based learning (PBL) unit during their third quarter that included an emphasis on entrepreneurial skills as follows:
- Kindergarten students created mock “food trucks” during a study of continents and “sold” food items from around the world to raise money to donate to a hunger organization. A food truck entrepreneur visited students on campus to talk about entrepreneurship.
- First-graders studied sound and created mock instruments from around the world to “sell.” They also learned the principles of supply and demand through their study of world continents and were able to visit two local music businesses during their PBL study.
- Second-graders studied fairy tales, folk tales and fables culminating in a Fairy Tale Market Day as their public product. They also visited local companies including The Exchange 202, The Fuse Factory and Mobile’s iTeam to learn about empathy as it relates to innovation, pitching their businesses, working in teams and diversity. Students designed and printed 3D logos in the school’s emerging technologies lab as part of this experience.
- Third-graders learned about advertising and created their own commercials for a national park that they collaboratively researched in PBL groups through an integration of various standards.
- Fourth-graders learned about past and present innovations and researched notable inventors from around the world. Students created various communication lab products to build upon this experience (flip books, stop motion videos, etc.).
- Fifth-graders researched ways to protect and conserve ecosystems. They worked in PBL teams to create products that would benefit our environment. Fifth grade extended their project over two quarters and hosted a “Shark Tank” style competition to pitch products.
- In addition to the aforementioned units, every grade level welcomed a guest speaker during entrepreneurship week and a “kidpreneurs” elective was offered during the school day.
Entrepreneurial experiences and mindsets prepare students for whatever their futures bring whether they go into business for themselves or for someone else. An entrepreneurial foundation sets students apart from their peers and teaches them to see and create opportunities for themselves and others, persevere through challenges, and become self-reliant. They learn to add value to their lives and find joy and motivation in learning. Entrepreneurship helps students cultivate their own strengths while also learning to value strengths in others and work as a team to capitalize on collective assets.
“In this age of educational accountability through standards and assessments with only one right answer and success measured by test scores, we need to keep young minds open for alternative ways of thinking…teach students not to get a job, but create one,” said Dr. Gene Coulson, Executive Director of Entre-Ed.
Schools achieving the America’s Entrepreneurial Schools Designation receive: National recognition and press around their stellar programming; a banner presentation by The National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education; support during the year from regional coordinators, as needed, to implement programming; and access to resources through Entre-Ed.