If there’s one thing I’ve learned about teachers, it’s that the most passionate educators are some of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve ever met. Whether they’re trying to acquire school supplies for their classrooms or seeking out community partners for student projects, good teachers are willing to go to bat for the betterment of their students.
That sentiment was evident this weekend at the Hawken School Educators Workshop for Entrepreneurial Studies, which was attended by 29 educators and administrators (including Noble Impact co-founder Chad Williamson and myself, Noble’s latest recruit as VP of Product) from 20 schools across America. The educators I met were fired up to teach their students life skills — such as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills — that will serve them not just for the short-term, but also throughout their lives as engaged students, workers, and citizens.
I saw educators like engineering teacher Tom Dubick of Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, North Carolina advocating for rapid prototyping technologies in the classroom, so that students can learn by doing, iterating, and launching. And there was Talia Sukol, a middle school teacher from Cleveland with a background in fine arts looking to build an entrepreneurship program for middle schoolers, to kickstart creativity at a younger age. I was blown away by teachers like Jesse Downs of Providence Day School — also in Charlotte, North Carolina (maybe there’s something in the water?!) — who facilitated a “Paperclip Project” with his students in which they traded up a paperclip to more valuable items in order to create long-lasting good in their communities. The projects and stories these educators were working on were impressive, inspiring, and downright impactful.
The workshop featured opportunities to build, discuss, and question and was organized by Doris Korda and Tim Desmond — director and assistant director of entrepreneurial studies, respectively, at Hawken School, a primary and secondary school in Cleveland, Ohio that’s been making headlines (here’s a piece in the Wall Street Journal) for its inventive methods and content.
The workshop kicked off with a lecture by Korda, followed by the “Wallet Project,” an exercise developed at the Stanford d.school that employs design thinking to design the “perfect wallet” for a given user. They were also challenged to tell the story of a company using the Business Model Canvas, invented by strategist, writer, and speaker Alex Osterwalder. Not to mention, attendees are asked to take Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad online course prior to day one of the workshop, which is billed as 24 hours of engagement on average.
The educators I met are dedicated to launching and sustaining programs that make a difference in their students’ academics, to say the least. They, too, are collaborative individuals, looking to soak in best practices and work with people from all walks. In fact, there was no greater collaboration over the weekend than between the educators and students, a handful of which traveled from Hawken School to facilitate various exercises with the attendees.
My favorite event was the “Fever Pitch,” in which attendees were tasked with pitching wild startup ideas, such as an invisible couch, a silent vacuum cleaner, and scented sunscreen. Presented and run by students, the event showcased just how skilled the students were at communicating and leading, and it also gave educators the chance to practice the lessons they may soon be teaching.
The gathering — held at leading entrepreneurial university Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts — was one of two Hawken School workshops to occur this summer; the other is to take place next week in California.
If the second is anything like the first, massive opportunities for collaboration and continued engagement will arise. All I can say is I’m excited about what our team and those of our colleagues do from here!
Are you a teacher of entrepreneurial studies? If so, what’s your best advice for educators launching entrepreneurship programs at their schools? Share your ideas in the comments below.