Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Breaking the Ice

Friday, November 14, 2014

So far in my discussion about teaching economics to middle school students (or anyone) in a camp (like State Farm Summer Business Camp), workshop or classroom setting, I have discussed getting buy-in and rules. This blog will talk about playing games to get the program started. Since this is group work, the group will need to get to know each other. Here are some fun games to get things started.

These are not random games chosen because they are fun (although they are), but they are teaching opportunities. Some of these I borrowed from Lions Quest. Some I borrowed from a former intern who used them when he was helping to prepare American students to stay in Japan for the summer. I have to say I do not remember the name of the group he was working with. Of course, I had to modify!

Game #1: What I Like

The object of this game is to get participants to introduce themselves to others in the camp. There needs to be a big open space in which to play this.

I’m short, so I stand on a chair or a table to play this game. I have all of the participants and adult helpers stand in a big group facing me.

n  Round 1: From my perch on the table I say “Everyone who is a morning person please move to my left. Those who are most awake in the middle of the day stand in front of me. Those who are night owls, please stand to my right.” Make sure that each of the groups has space between them.  Then tell each person within a group to meet all of the other people in their group. There will be more “night owls” than anything else if you have a bunch of kids.
n  Round 2: “Everyone who likes English class most move to my left. Math class to the right. And Science in the middle.” Repeat the process of having everyone introduce themselves to everyone else in their group.
n  Round 3: “Everyone who likes to read for fun to my left. Watch TV in the middle. Play on the internet or video games to the right.” I think you get the idea. 

This particular breakdown of questions will help you discover the different interests and strengths of the individual students. You should ask these questions on a written questionnaire at the orientation so you, as the camp organizer, can use this skills information to break the kids down into groups, but this game lets everyone in on skills information.

Game #2: Common Ground

For this game all participants get in a big circle with the camp director in the middle. Each person takes off their shoes and put them behind them to mark their spot. It is somewhat like musical chairs. There will always be one set of shoes too few, as the person in the center at the beginning has no shoes to start with.

The center person will say “I have common ground with people who like to go shopping (for example).” Anyone in the circle who likes to shop has to run in into the middle of the circle and then find a space that is free in front of someone else’s shoes. They cannot just step to the right or left of where there were. They have to go into the center of the circle. This gives the person who was in the center a chance to run for an open spot. Whoever is left is now “it” and will start over again with the statement “I have common ground with...” adding their own end of the sentence.

It is a very popular game and I usually let it go on for a little while to give the kids time to run off some energy, and to get to have fun with each other.

Game #3: Idea Exchange

Based on a game for two people called “dialectics,” I throw a bunch of random partial statements and quotes on strips of colored paper up in the air in the middle of the circle of students. Starting with me, I go into the middle of the circle, pick up a piece of paper and complete the sentence on that scrap. Everyone gets to pick up one piece of paper. You go around the circle clockwise.

Here are a few sample 'questions" to put on the paper scraps. You can create your own. I try to make all of the questions related to what is being taught in some way. Make sure that you have twice as many questions as you have participants.

Sample questions:

1.     I think that in business “return on investment” means …
2.     If I was the CEO of a company I think my duties would be …
3.     What do you think this means?
“Sales arecontingent upon the attitude of the salesman - not the attitude of the prospect.”                                                W. Clement Stone
 When you are done with these games, the participants will have had a chance to get to know a bit more about each other and themselves. Knowledge of the talents and interests of those on a team will help during the next part of the camp -- learning all about business plans and deciding what kind of business to create.

TN Distillers Find Common Ground With New Executive Director Appointment

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Distillers’ Guild is ready to pour its energy into achieving the goal of making high quality spirits in Tennessee and supporting the growing interests of distilleries.

The Guild, formed in early 2014, includes many of the state’s newer, small distilleries, as well as Tennessee’s older, more well-known distilleries, Jack Daniel's, George Dickel and Prichard’s.

In its first major step toward cohesion and a unified voice, the Guild has hired Jill Talbert as executive director.

With her strong background in government relations, Talbert will be able to work with all parties involved to move forward on common ground towards the development of new tourism opportunities, a better atmosphere for creating top shelf products throughout the state, and the branding of Tennessee as the “go to” state for fine spirits.

"We are so pleased to have Jill on our team. She has excellent credentials and the right temperament to navigate through many large personalities and issues as we work to build Tennessee brands," says Guild president Billy Kaufman, owner of Short Mountain Distilleries.

An article in Louisville Business First stated that what is actually firing up the interest in Tennessee Whiskey is the ever increasing sales in the entire category of North American whiskey. Fanning the flames is the ever-increasing growth of small batch distillers with recent changes in the Tennessee liquor laws allowing distilleries to be established in 41 additional counties. For many years, the law limited the distillation of drinkable spirits to just three of Tennessee's 95 counties- Lincoln, Moore, and Coffee.  As a result, only a few short years ago there were only three distillers in the state. There are now almost thirty.                    

What people are drinking is changing, too. Interest in craft beer, wine, and liquor brought on by the farm-to-table and “maker” movements have loosened the grip of the “old school” hard liquors like gin and scotch, making it an international phenomenon. And younger drinkers’ continual desire for something new has created a mixology craze. American whiskey makes a much smoother mixed drink.

Growth of craft distillers and the desire for standards to insure Tennessee Whiskey quality across the state inadvertently created a heated legislative debate over the legal definition of Tennessee Whiskey. Regardless of the final decision state lawmakers reach for the definition, all parties agree that only with a quality product will Tennessee distillers be able to compete in the global contest for customers, which means more jobs in the state.

With this huge opportunity for growth for Tennessee Whiskey, Talbert will quickly put into action her experience representing various clients in the state legislative, executive, and regulatory arenas when she steps into her new position. She is a licensed attorney who has spent the majority of her career in trade association representation. Among other duties, Talbert will primarily serve as the Guild’s lobbyist in Nashville.

“The exciting growth of Tennessee distilleries provides a strong link to our state’s famous heritage and a promising tourism boost for Tennessee’s future. I am proud to represent the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild and am energized by the opportunities ahead. We will all move forward together to help our distillers thrive and enhance Tennessee’s international reputation for producing superb spirits,” says Jill Talbert. 

Whiskey photo by

Beyond the Lemonade Stand: Guiding Rules (Part II)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Out of all of the blogs I have written about teaching business and economics to kids, the article that has had the fewest readers is my first one about my Biz Camp rules.

People don’t like rules. Especially tough ones with consequences. And yet, when we work for a company there are always rules to follow. Rules give context. They give structure. They define the boundaries. And they give a foundation. If you can’t live within the rules of the company you are working for, you probably don’t belong there.  I have found this to be too true.

You will see, as I continue these blogs, that the kids participating in the Biz Camp had a lot of flexibility once they started exploring the different aspects of business, but they had to have some place to start. As a matter of fact, as the camp went along, many of the kids wanted more rules. But, there are some parts of business that just don’t have cut and dried answers, which was the point of the whole exercise. So, the rules they did receive at the beginning became more important.

So, here are my other four rules:

Rule # 5: Be on time. Be on time. Be on time. Business people donate their time to teach these classes. And businesses donate classroom space. There is an old saying that time is money. It applies here. We do not want to waste anyone’s time, as there is a cost applied to it. Nothing is totally free. Participants will need to learn to be on time for when they work, when they get older.

Rule #6: Listen to what people are talking about at the different businesses you visit. You may think that what is being said is boring, but trust me, it will apply to your life in the future. If you do not understand, ask questions. And you will need all of the information for your final project. The more you hear, the better that final business plan will be.

Rule #7: Keep a list of words that are new to you. Business has its own language, as if it is a foreign country. Each part of business – finance, marketing, human resources, management and sales – has its own language. And each industry has its own vocabulary. It is kind of like Americans and the English speaking the same language, but it is different. Or talking in text-speak to your parents. Only when both the sender of the message and receiver understand the vocabulary being used is there actual communication. As the nubie, it is up to you to learn the business language, not for the people already there to use your way of communicating.

Rule #8: Take notes! If you do not know how, ask questions about what is important to write down. Notes are important for two reasons. First, you are getting a ton of information, a lot of it completely new concepts. You cannot remember it all. Second, you will be referring back to it on your final project. That final project will kind of be like an open book test, but a lot harder. 

Okay. I am done with the rules.

Next up, a few fun games to get the party started, before learning all about writing a business plan.

Lee Rennick is a freelance writer, former Vice-President of Marketing and past Executive Director of the Business Education Foundation of Rutherford County, TN. She shares her interests and knowledge about working, learning and living at This is blog is part of a series about how to teach business and economics to middle school students based on her time developing and coordinating the State Farm Summer Business Camp in Rutherford County, Tennessee for 10 years.