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Published: Wednesday, 12/13/2006

Class learns ins, outs of business success

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fifth-grade boys and girls are learning to rake in the big bucks, placing special care on keeping revenues high and expenditures low, in a social studies class at Douglas Road Elementary School.

Perhaps, they say, this business savvy will help them create the best lemonade stand on the block.

The three fifth-grade classes have each created their own "mini-society," which has its own national currency, flag, and businesses.

The project is meant to teach students about finances, marketing, and general social, interpersonal dynamics.

"Overall, though, we try to make the kids be as creative as possible. Creativity is the key," said Roger Manning, the fifth-grade social studies teacher who is heading up the project.

One of this year's nations is Penguin Wonderland.

"It's kind of about penguins just hanging out and having fun in their habitat," said Mallorie Sampson, 11, one of Penguin Wonderland's founding citizens.

"We thought, because it's winter, penguins just kind of made sense in the Christmas spirit and all."

Mallorie is making penguin and polar bear magnets for the school-wide market next week, where the students' wares will be sold off to fellow students.

Every student will be given the opportunity to exchange a genuine U.S. $1 bill for $25 of student-created currency.

For example, in return for a bill with George Washington's historic mug, students could receive $25 in Penguin Pesos to be spent on various products in Penguin Wonderland.

All of the real money collected from the students will be given to a charity of the fifth graders' choosing.

Katelyn Trombley, 11, drew the penguin with bowtie that adorns her nation's currency, and she penned its inscription, "In Penguins We Trust."

During market day, Mr. Manning will use this pseudo-environment to teach everyday business practices and concerns to his mini-entrepreneurs.

"Like if the kids are going to leave their store, I might suggest they put up a sign telling others when they'll be back," he said. "Or, perhaps, they could pay somebody a little something to run their store when they're gone."

Jake Nyers, 10, said this made sense, because, after all, Penguin Wonderland can be a dangerous place (especially when it comes to the coveted penguin magnets, practically a national symbol).

"Yeah, I mean, someone could steal your stuff and run," Jake said.

Mallorie pointed out another way to avoid a possible penguin felony.

"Well, to be safe, you'd have to pick someone you trust to watch the store for you or that person might steal from you!" she said.

Mr. Manning said for these reasons it's important that his students keep inventory and a record of their expenses and sales.

Christine Stanton and Katelyn Trombley, both 11, are in business together.

They're working on greeting cards.

"And ornaments," said Katelyn.

"For trees," said Christine.

"Of course for trees," said Katelyn.

In the past, students have sent out marketing surveys to gauge demand and pricing for their products.

They've made food products - puppy chow has been a popular choice - held raffles, offered services like fingernail painting, and sold arts and crafts, such as jewelry, bird feeders, and lava lamps.

But Christine and Katelyn have found one commodity so "hot" that it might take their wonderland by storm, making tycoons of its two purveyors - mini-Napoleon Dynamite posters.

"He's my heartthrob Not!" Katelyn said.

Christine said that she and Jon Heder, the lead actor from the film Napoleon Dynamite, share the same birthday, Oct. 26.

"So, we're, like, connected," she said.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at: babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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