Streetsboro Fourth-graders learn about regional influences on business decisions from Junior Achievement

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

Streetsboro -- Determining what kind of business to start in a given area can be challenging to seasoned professionals, but fourth-graders at Henry Defer Intermediate School are learning about the kinds of variables one must factor into that decision.

The fourth-grade is participating this fall in Junior Achievement's "Our Region" program in which students "examine regional resources, supply chains, and solve problems by weighing risks and potential rewards. JA classroom volunteers show how resources are combined to create goods and services that individuals, businesses and organizations provide to consumers," according to Junior Achievement's website.

"JA is driven by volunteers in the community who come in and teach it," said Linda Valenti, a fourth-grade teacher at Henry Defer Intermediate School. "This is something driven by the business community."

Valenti said 11 volunteers from Geis Co., including President Fred Geis, Jen Dotson, Sam Messina, Warren Richardson, Andy Meermans, Greg Seifert, Christine Reinsel, Jesse Power, Him Hrubik and Brandon Kline visit the fourth-grade classes weekly for five weeks to deliver new "Our Region" lesson.

"Each day you focus on a different topic," said Kline. "Yesterday, we talked about how different regions are going to have different resources available to them."

The lesson helped students realize that businesses need to be based on the natural, capital and human resources available to them and that some businesses are more likely to succeed in a given location than others.

Usually, one or two volunteers visit a single classroom, said Valenti.

She said the program integrates well with the state and local curriculum, as well.

"Economics is part of the standards in fourth-grade," said Valenti. "Junior Achievement is a nice addition."

While the regular fourth-grade economics teaching unit doesn't take place at the same time as JA, which was scheduled with Geis Co.'s schedule in mind, as well as teachers' plans, Valenti said exposing students to the information is still beneficial.

"Now, when we do the unit, they've already been exposed to all the terminology in a relevant, real world kind of way," she said.

Just having business leaders from the community teach the unit is helpful, too, she added. Having a professional from the community lead the class is an exciting change of pace for students.

During one JA lesson, students played a board game which included making decisions necessary to start up a hot dog stand. At different stages, students incurred various expenses -- buying hot dogs and advertisements, for example -- and revenue streams. At the end of the game, they had to total their revenues and expenses and calculate a profit (or loss).

"I like how they always have fun games or fun activities to do," said Allison Hoffman, a student in Valenti's class.

Several students said they enjoyed the hot dog stand game, because, in the words of Valenti's student Jack Lewis, "it taught me how to run a business."

Other students, like Samantha Miller, enjoyed other portions of the program.

"It's fun learning about new stuff like capital resources, human resources and natural resources," she said.

Kline, one of the volunteers from Geis Co., said he enjoys the opportunity to serve the community.

"It's a great opportunity to help young students figure out and understand procedures and goals of entrepreneurship," said Kline following a lesson. "It's always good to give back to the community and to young people."

Or, in the words of Valenti's student Jordyn Hartley, "JA is very cool."

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