Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Apprentice TV Show goes to school

Think learning about economics is too boring?You're fired.A fifth-grade teacher at Price Laboratory School turned her students' obsession with the reality TV show "The Apprentice" into a hands-on lesson about how the business world works.
Amy Lockhart's students had watched the show, where young entrepreneurs square off to win the favor of New York City mogul Donald Trump."We had talked about Trump, and that got me thinking," Lockhart said.Both classes she teaches picked a product to create and sell. Students weighed factors such as start-up costs and desirability. Surveys were used to determine which products would sell, and at what price."You wanted to find something that was useful and unique --- something they could make for themselves, but it might be too hard," student Raquel Williams said.Ultimately, one class selected memo boards (fabric-covered boards that display photos and notes), while the other class chose pillowcases that were personalized with sewn-on names or messages.The parent-teacher organization helped pay for materials, and other parent volunteers also helped.Once the materials were purchased, students started making the products in teams of two. One carried out the work, while the other watched to maintain quality.Student Andrew Stone had never used a sewing machine before, but quickly mastered the necessary skills. But with 80 pillowcases to make, the work eventually became tedious."Some people were getting bored and lazy," he said. "They stopped pinning the sides (before sewing), and their lines just weren't straight. They weren't thinking about the customer; they were just thinking about getting done."Meanwhile, the class making memo boards was having quality-control issues as well. To make the 25 final products, students split up the tasks such as cutting the under-board and affixing the fabric coverings and ribbons."Some people were better at putting ribbons on, and some people kept burning themselves with hot glue guns," Williams said."If you're going to burn yourself with a hot glue gun," student Ally Bachman added, "even if that's what you want to do, you should find something you are better at, so you don't ruin the product that you're selling to other people."With the manufacturing complete, marketing and selling came next. Signs were posted in the hallways. Williams noticed that timing was often key to making the sale."A lot of it was just if they wanted a certain color, and you had that color," she said.Lockhart, the teacher, said students put many skills to use during the six-week project."With the measuring and the cutting, they learned that math and fractions really do come into play other than in math class," she said.By the end, the two classes had amassed $300 profit. That money was split among favorite local charities, including the Cedar Valley Food Bank, where the students volunteered last fall.Despite all they learned, kids weren't confident they would match up well against the grownups on "The Apprentice.""You have to learn a lot before you just walk on there," student Christian Ford said."(But) if it was just kids on the show, we'd win," student Corbin Dayton added. "We'd be millionaires."


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