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Castaic students take on the business market

Posted: December 16, 2008 9:47 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2008 12:30 p.m.

Sixth-grader Kim Tsuda made paper lanterns using eggshell and origami figures to sell as part of Castaic Middle School's math marketplace.

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Castaic Middle School's outdoor covered lunch patio looked like an authentic old-world marketplace Tuesday: lots of talking; lots of yelling; lots of activity.

Student merchants stood on tip-toe behind three lunch tables that brimmed with homemade wares, waving their hands in a bid for attention.

The kids were from one of Carrie Pena's math classes. Students in all three of the classes learned how to conceive, analyze, build and produce a real business product.

The climax of their semester-long work was a lunchtime student marketplace, one of which was held Tuesday.

At one end of the three-table marketplace, a sixth-grade boy yelled at students to guess how many purple chocolate Kisses were in a jar.

When he got no takers, the same boy pleaded that "donations are accepted," another fruitless effort.

At the other end of the marketplace several boys sold scarves for the cold winter day. In the center, a gaggle of girls hung over a corner table as they made customized bead jewelry.

Origami cranes, homemade Frisbees and hand-cut felt scarves were offered for sale. Kids pulled out dollars and quarters faster than their student-sized mouths could move. Big spenders sat back and calmly produced twenties.

All this activity occurred amidst a flurry of words no adult could possibly understand, except for the occasional misuse of common language that drew laughter of a nearby teacher or lunchtime supervisor.

When lunch was over a few origami pieces were left; a scarf and a few extra bookmarks decorated the tables.

Student merchants filed into Pena's sixth-grade math class with gallon bags of cash, enormous smiles and lots of tales about the profit they did, and didn't, make.

Alex Green, 11, ran into a customer at the end of lunch who bought one of his scarves, then lost it.

Green, who didn't know the location of the lost scarf, decided to make a good-faith business move and gave the bewildered student his last unsold scarf. The move drew smiles and kudos from his math teacher.

The lost scarf was recovered by a good-hearted student and given back to Green after the sale.

Green, partner Joe Simpson, 11, and another boy teamed up to create the scarf business.

The cold, swirling lunchtime breeze helped sales soar.

"I knew (when we had the marketplace) that it would be close to Christmas," Simpson said. "I knew it would be cold and I knew kids would buy scarves because they would be cold."

The boys cut the scarves from long strips of felt and decorated them in different designs.

"Everyone kept asking if we had any more pink ones," Green said.

Nick Brooks, 12, and his three-man group scanned the Web for just the right idea.

"My mom helped me look on the Web, and she said that kids would like something to play with," Brooks said. The boys gathered foam plates and glued them to cheap flying discs, painted them and sold out the discs at Tuesday's marketplace.

Kim Tsuda, 11, Maiko Bracken, 11, and Alisha Rae, 11, worked together to create a mini-store. Instead of focusing on one group project, the girls each contributed individual offerings, which were very popular.

Tsuda created paper lanterns made out of blown-out eggs, decorated and made into ornaments.

The kids' teacher said the business-plan project was intended to allow her math students a real-world experience interacting with math.

Sometimes the subject of math gets a bad name: boring.

"Some students come in thinking that, but I'm hoping once they experience my math class they have a different opinion of it," Pena said.


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