English Class third graders, under the direction of their teacher, Ms. Riina, have been learning about enterprise for one lesson per day for a couple of weeks. In class they discussed how commodities ultimately end up on the shelves of shops and stores. Then the third graders gathered materials and empty packaging for the purpose of establishing shops. Once the materials had been amassed, some time and effort went into pricing the items and setting the classroom up to function as a shopping centre.
In planning the project the class worked in small groups where they shared ideas and discussed goals. In addition to a grocery store, the third graders decided to have a florist or flower shop, bookstore, a store selling phones and a shop selling pharmacy and toiletry items.
Once the shopping centre was up and running, scheduled classes of visiting pupils were given 30 to 50 euros of play money which they could spend as they wished. The third graders practiced calculating the totals of purchases and making change. The shop personnel learnt how to talk to customers and how to help them to find whatever they might be looking for.
The third graders also set up two venues that sold lottery tickets, as well as an art gallery. It was possible to actually win prizes on the scratch lottery tickets.
For younger pupils in other classes who came to shop, it was excellent practice in learning to keep track of spending money using euros. When older pupils came to shop, price tags were changed to include cents as well, thereby making the activity more challenging.
The third graders calculated how much they had actually earned after all the visiting shoppers left. The shopkeepers learned that enterprises are not always successful. For example, one of the lottery venues had too many “win” papers and they hardly made any money at all. The other lottery venue had to shut down because they ran out of lottery tickets. Together pupils needed to think of ways that might have helped to make them more profitable. Suggested solutions were, for example, to introduce more non-winning lottery tickets. The bookstore, which was assembled rather quickly, was also not that successful. They learnt that it takes lots of effort for a shopkeeper to select books and games that interest people and actually sell well. Pupils also learned the importance of displaying items nicely. The artist who ran the art gallery chose to give away the artwork.
Lots of satisfied customers left the shopping area during the course of this project. Even more important is the fact that necessary life skills were practiced in very real and meaningful ways. Educational experiences like this foster a progressive development of skills which can be utilised in everyday life.