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It’s business time for students

Elementary school children say they feel prepared for the real world

Posted: April 1, 2009 1:30 a.m.
Updated: April 1, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Students and families examine hundreds of GATE business displays constructed by elementary students.

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Look out, menacing economy - elementary students are gearing up for some serious business.

Sixth-grader Tyler Cole, of Fair Oaks Ranch Community School, spent months learning what it takes to own a game store.

"'Game Star' is a game company - we sell games and systems, you can also rent the games and sell them to the store," said Tyler, who has his business pitch down pat.

Tyler is one of hundreds of Sulphur Springs Union School District's gifted and talented students who presented group-researched and -structured business plans to a bustling crowd of impressed parents and proud teachers Thursday night at the Fair Oaks school.
This year's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program theme, "Business," gave high-achieving students from the third to sixth grades, the opportunity to understand how entrepreneurs and business owners succeed.

Student presentations were complete with mission statements, advertisements, competitor evaluations, unique logos, floor plans, resources, financial proposals and more.

Presentation mediums ranged from PowerPoint and standard commercials and portfolios to sample products, business cards and poster-board displays - all of which took months for the students to prepare.

"I felt like I was getting prepared for the real world after school," said Tyler.

Tyler said he learned the importance of presentation after he and his group struggled to come up with the perfect logo - the word "Game" leading to a star symbol.

Laura Cole, Tyler's mother, said the project opened the eyes of both of her sons to the realities of having a business. Her son Austin designed a record store with his group.

"They definitely learned a lot about their different corporations - what it takes to make a business, get it started and keep it running," said Cole, of Canyon Country.

A pet-rescue business, a doll store, a hotel on the moon and creative food services are just some of the business presentations that filled four classrooms.

"The best thing about being a teacher is giving the students time to go with (an idea) and seeing them come up with things I would never imagine," said Stephanie Wolfe, a Fair Oaks sixth-grade teacher.

One group of students created a candy business that would donate 50 percent of its profits to needy families, said Marianne Hamor, the district's categorical programs administrator.

"They hit every business aspect - how to get a business loan, surveys to see if their product would be needed," Hamor said. "Every aspect was really thought out so (they) had something viable and related to the real world."

When fourth-grader Caitlin Gutierrez's group members discovered they had three business ideas in mind, their instructor led them through a compromise. That's how the vision for C.E.C. Catering was born.

"We all wanted to do something with food. Emma wanted a pie shop, I wanted a buffet and (another student) wanted a restaurant," said Caitlin, of Canyon Springs Community Elementary School. "We thought a catering business would fit in with everything we wanted. We could serve foods of different varieties and Emma could serve her desserts."

Caitlin said her group researched catering competitors in the valley and scoured Web sites displaying business tips.

"You have to make the place feel like home otherwise it's too ‘out there,'" she said. "The most challenging part was researching different ways to get all the supplies. You have so many choices and you want the best one."

Talented Education Students in Maureen Teague's Canyon Springs fourth-grade class did a lot of self-editing, talking about ethics and exploring the ways in which new knowledge relates to the ideas of the past.

"These kids have a greater understanding of the world around them than I did at their age," said Teague, who is also a Talented Education co-coordinator at Canyon Springs.

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