News

When students become entrepreneurs, real learning happens

By Jason Braddock
April 16th, 2015

Some students get engaged with cross-curricular, large-scale project-based learning

entreprenur-pblHere in eastern Ohio, some of our students are embracing their entrepreneurial spirit right at school, engaging in a style of learning that helps make lessons come alive.

The students, spread throughout nine districts, are working with my organization, the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, which provides educational opportunities—including this foray into project-based learning—to thousands of regional students.

In one recent project, student teams were assigned a region of the United States, and they were challenged to plan and design a self-sustaining restaurant in that area. Nearly every subject was involved as students researched the demographics of their region to determine what kind of restaurant would make sense for their customer base, and identified the renewable energy sources they could use to cut costs and reduce the carbon footprint of their restaurant. Teachers in almost every subject gave up part of their class time to let students work on their projects. In math, they calculated the optimum prices to charge for dishes. In English class, they had to develop a pitch to investors. And in music, they wrote an advertising jingle to promote it.

Designing authentic, performance-based tasks like this can be challenging. But the teachers in these nine pilot districts are getting help from an online service called Defined STEM, which offers project-based curriculum for students in elementary through high school, based on real-world problems or scenarios within the context of an actual career or industry.

Next page: What projects look like