Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Teaching Economics to Pre-Teens

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer and lemonade just go together. That sweet and tart mixture poured into a tall ice filled glass tastes like frozen sunshine. It’s thirst quenching on a sultry day, when you don’t want to do anything more than watch the sweat build on the glass and then run down the side in small rivulets. When I was a kid, there was nothing like fresh lemonade from a neighborhood stand on such a day.

I had a very successful lemonade stand when I was eight or nine. From it I learned the basics of business. As an adult, I have worked for small businesses and for corporations. I found that everything I needed to know about the basics of business I had learned from running that lemonade stand.

For the last twelve years I have had the pleasure of sharing these basic concepts with Rutherford County, Tennessee middle school students through the State Farm Summer Business Camp. The eleven to fourteen year-olds who participated took everything they learned during the camp and created imaginary businesses far beyond a simple lemonade stand.

These kids, in just two weeks out of their summer, created full-scale business plans for everything from a “simple” coffee shop to a complex manufacturing plant. The goal of the program is to teach financial and economic literacy, but the students end up receiving many life lessons as well. This is because camp participants learn how to connect classroom curriculum to real world activities. When asked by a school administrator if they preferred the camp or school, participants said that they worked a whole lot harder during the camp, but they preferred it to school. The campers added that they learned more from the camp because it was hands-on and it challenged them to work through problems and to think in different ways.

While I was coordinating the Business Camp, I had many calls and emails from teachers, colleges, and chambers of commerce wanting to know how they could recreate what we did. My goal, through this blog, is to share information with others about how to do just that. How to teach economics to kids beginning at a young age. I will share games, activities and exercises that can be used at home or in the classroom. I will share what I learned from a lot of wonderful business people in Rutherford County who passed their knowledge on to these kids. I will share Internet resources. And I might even share some pretty tasty lemonade recipes.

So stay tuned to learn what lies beyond the lemonade stand.

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