We all understand the relevance of growth in the world. When you google “growth” the word that appears in many of the synonyms is process. Let’s agree that growth is the process of expanding, developing and maturing. It’s about helping our students move beyond their starting point in their skills, knowledge and personal attributes. What does this process then look, sound, and feel like within an EdCorp?
This year, the DireLights team has expanded from 10 to over 20 student employees and shown a lot of growth and success specifically in the areas of marketing and branding. Evidence of the company’s growth can be seen in the student work which started by developing a consistent brand through the DireLights style guide, which then influenced DireLights social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
Our mission is to promote personal wellbeing, honest innovation, and hands-on education through the student creation of handmade soy wax candles.
In order to create a cohesive brand that aligned with the mission, students identified what they already know and what they needed to learn. They worked to identify next steps like creating department goals, seeking out feedback from experts, and building positive company culture.
Thinking of growth as the process of maturing means it is critical to help students reflect on their own learning. We can do this by simply asking the right questions, giving them time and space to answer them, and then being willing to model what it sounds like to communicate out loud our thoughts and feelings. One student, Kailey, said, “Direlights has helped me realize that I want to be a part of a collaborative work environment.” Another student, Zoe, shared, “I think it has improved my accountability, creativity, and communication skills. The opportunity to self-reflect on my entrepreneurial skills allows me to more clearly progress in my personal and academic life.” These and other student “ah-has” only get articulated when we as the facilitator ask and give space for these powerful reflection questions. Reflection truly does translate experience into meaningful learning.
Reflecting back on the journey of the past couple of years, we can pull out several applicable lessons. First, use simple tools to make the growth of your student-run enterprise organized, visible, and fluid. Second, areas we grow in are the areas we measure so be intentional about teaching and assessing student agency throughout your EdCorps. Lastly, remember to have fun and take time to reflect on and celebrate the process. So I leave you with this challenge, how can you use your EdCorps to build agency in yourself and your students?
By Dr. Jenny Pieratt
Crafting a business from scratch is a rewarding endeavor that fosters essential skills for the 21st century. While an entrepreneur is typically profiled as an established business mogul, students are changing the status quo by launching businesses from as early as kindergarten through 12th grade. As more and more startups are booming nationwide, schools have tapped into the value of empowering students to initiate, manage or lead local enterprises. From thriving soap business to car washes to candle companies, students are contributing to their local landscapes all while building their skills in research, planning, financial management, negotiation and communication– all while fostering a tight knit learning community.
Why Teach Entrepreneurship?
Teaching entrepreneurship educates students how to think outside of the box and helps broaden their view of the world; core entrepreneurial skills such as critical thinking, design thinking as well as financial literacy can be tied to existing pedagogy and serve as powerful reinforcements as students engage in rigorous, project-based learning curriculum as well.
The experience of initiating or simulating a real business in a safe, mentored environment inspires students to explore existing passions, discover potential strengths, and potentially identify their own future start-up possibilities. This is the case for student Matthew Richardson of Central Coast New Tech who, given the chance to run a real start-up business under teacher supervision, discovered how to apply his graphic design interest into a successful candle-making business. Jennifer Stillittano, teacher at Central Coast New Tech, stresses how entrepreneurship “foster(s) a strong sense of agency and collaboration” between the students, and has shown increased interest and participation in their learning.
Financially Responsible Students Become Financially Smart Adults
In order to create a successful business, it is important to understand basic financial literacy. As math class is often deemed boring and theoretical by students, with little application to everyday life, learning math through entrepreneurial training helps students gain a deeper appreciation for the practical application of math. For instance, the Wicked Soap Company, an initiative started by a 10th grade class at High Tech High, describe their founding students as “young stakeholders” who “are responsible for every aspect of the design, planning, creation, packaging, sales and proceeds.” Developing these financial skills enable students to understand the weight of responsible economic decisions, in business, and even more so in their personal, day-to-day life.
Incorporating Entrepreneurship in Existing Curriculum
So how do we incorporate entrepreneurship into our existing school subjects or project-based learning curriculum? With these CraftED ideas, students can become entrepreneurs no matter the class or competency required. For example, students can replicate writing real business proposals, where they explore persuasive and informational writing with real world application. In Social Studies, students can use the standards to look at how businesses first started in their local communities and how they give back. To improve communication and presentation skills, students may simulate a “Shark Tank” business proposal, where they explore emotional rhetoric, charisma and code-grooming, as well as think critically about sales and marketing tactics. In rehearsing for a sales pitch, students also learn how to effectively provide feedback to their peers in a professional setting. From as early as 2nd grade, students can use Canva templates to create graphics for social media campaigns that help scaffold skills for public exhibitions and showcases. No matter the grade level or subject area, entrepreneurial skill building translates seamlessly to the classroom.
A Return to the Local Community
Student businesses tend to be small and local initiatives aimed at capturing the interest (and economic input) from their direct community. A great example of students giving back to their communities is the student run business Milkweed for Monarchs, initiated by a sixth-grade class at Calavera Hills Middle School. The students hope to re-establish the butterfly population in San Diego by selling milkweed to help stabilize the population of monarch butterflies, whose larvae eat only milkweed. This is a perfect example of how students can fill a felt need in their own community.
While community-based projects can bring positive, long lasting effects on the local economy, teaching entrepreneurship to students in general will similarly spread positive influences lasting a lifetime. By fueling student passions, teaching financial responsibility or encouraging linguistic skill building, the benefits of students’ learning as entrepreneurs is more than evident. Besides, with booming student businesses, knowing where to buy candles for Christmas or soap for birthdays is a no-brainer!
5/12/2021 1 Comment
Like most classrooms across the country, Jennifer Stillittano's high school entrepreneurship class found new ways to collaborate this year. DireLights, a student-run business in Nipomo, CA, produces handcrafted soy candles and focuses on giving back to their school and community.
With the COVID-19 school shutdowns, DireLights' operations team took matters into their own hands... and took operations home! The team set up shop in Nathan's garage and got straight to melting, pouring, and producing DireLights' unique candles.
Recently, DireLights senior, William, paid the operations team a visit. He reflects on his experience below:
"This week I decided to switch things up a bit. We only had one day of class this week so there isn't much to talk about, but the day we did have class, I decided to go work in person with the operations department. I have been working in the tech department since last year and during class, I got to observe all the other departments, but I don't really get to see what's going on anymore. With this in mind, I wanted to join the operations department during class and watch and help make candles.
The setup at Nathans's house is cool since we aren't able to use the classroom at school. He has tables and all the equipment setup in his garage and has his team come over to work there. He opens up the garage doors and has chairs to sit around by the candles and tables for all the equipment and computers. The day I went, we made several candles over the course of the class. I was checking the temperature every couple minutes as we were listening to Ms. Lackie present. It's a pretty fun process to be a part of. We got to hangout with each other while making the candles, watched the presentation/talk with the class, and had some food. Overall, it was a fun time and I'm glad I decided to take a break from tech for a day and work with operations. I also got to talk to them about the candle production and scents to get some of the info I needed for the catalog. In addition to this, they are part of my team for the business project that we started so I will most likely be going over there a bit more frequently to work with them on my business design."
To learn more about William and his entrepreneurial journey, check out his blog here.
DireLights is a student-run business at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, CA.
Check out their website: www.direlights.com.
Follow DireLights at Twitter and Instagram at @DireLights
The production team created a video to show customers exactly what goes into each product:
To listen to my conversation with Jon Hinthorne on the 6th episode of the Unconventional Teacher Podcast, Click Here or Play Below.
Jennifer Stillittano is known widely by her peers, students and others as a Project Based Learning (PBL) guru. Her knowledge about all things related to Project Based Learning is vast, and what is most impressive is how she implements that knowledge with her students each day. She discusses her willingness to take risks in her teaching in this podcast in relation to her entrepreneurship class. This class actually started its own candle making business and is still in business four years later. Beyond this, Jennifer plans and facilitates the adult learning at the school where she worlds, Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, CA. She is extremely thoughtful in her work and a powerful figure in her field.
Check her work on PBL out at her website: www.pbllab.com for more details.
Lastly, go check out her student run candle making business out called Direlights at www.direlights.com and order a few hundred of their handmade and scented candles! All proceeds go back into building their business on campus.
Central Coast New Tech High School Information: www.ccnth.org
New Tech Network information: https://newtechnetwork.org/
Episode Highlights: Asking for Feedback (Checkout our Podcast blog here on this theme) 5 Whys Protocol Entrepreneurial Mindset in the Classroom: Student-run business: Direlights Real World Scholars: Grant given to Jen and her class to start and run their business
Host: Jon Hinthorne
Podcast Editor and Producer: Jon Hinthorne
Social Media: https://instabio.cc/anunconventionalteacher
Website and Media Designer: Nina Telthorst
Graphic Designer: Gracie Bonwich
Podcast Available on: Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, Breaker, and Overcast
5/12/2021 0 Comments
By Emma Kauffman, Digital Marketing Intern
“After six years of designing and facilitating projects at Central Coast New Tech, I have never had a more engaging and authentic experience with my students,” Central Coast New Tech teacher Jennifer Stillittano said. The Direlights: Let Some Light In project was facilitated by Stillittano, and was created to give students the ability to run a real start-up business using an entrepreneurial mindset. One of three projects in a dual enrollment course, students created a business plan and canvas for a candle-making business which culminated in a visit to Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship where they pitched the business plans to local entrepreneurs.
Stillittano tried to, as she put it, “foster a strong sense of agency and collaboration” while planning the project. By assigning students benchmarks like creating a project calendar and task list, students learned the importance of setting goals and working ahead in order to be proactive in business rather than reactive. There was also a personal connection to the project as students were assigned tasks that aligned with their own interests. Matthew Richardson, a student in the course, had an interest in graphic design – he was encouraged and “hired” to explore the role of the graphic designer in a business and also apply his skills to further the project, even creating the DireLights logo.
“One of my passions is graphic design and this is the first time I had the opportunity to apply that to a business. It combined my passion with my schooling.” Richardson said.
Throughout the project, experts served as guest speakers – talking to the students about various aspects of the Entrepreneurial Mindset needed to start and run a successful business. Learning from industry professionals allowed for community connections and real-world collaboration skills. There were also regular team meetings to track student progress and reflect on learning in order to identify next steps to project need to knows.. Stillittano intentionally created obstacles for her students to overcome, focusing on how a business mindset means that students need to be able to grow and adapt to change. This allowed for their projects to be business models, adaptable to possible challenges in the future.
Thanks to financial and logistical support from Real World Scholars, Direlights.com is a fully functional, student-run artisan candle company.
Stillittano is excited to start another year, having already secured community connections. “My students have successfully started a profitable company that is leaving a legacy for next years class to continue to build and grow,” Stillittano said.
Read the Business Model Canvas , DireLights Company PlayBook, and DireLights Pitch Presentation Slide Deck used when pitching the business to real Entrepreneurs at the SLO HotHouse , part of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
View an example of one student’s Blog Posts on the Entrepreneurial Mindset
To view pictures of the candles, check out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Central Coast New Tech
Teacher: Jennifer Stillittano
Course: Entrepreneurial Mindsets
Driving Question: What makes a business work?
Project SnapshotThis project, DireLights: Let Some Light In, allowed students to explore the entrepreneurial mindset while creating their own real start-up business proposal for a candle company. The duration of the project involved a number of steps such as creating a business plan, a timeline for the project’s outcome, and interviewing real experts who do the jobs the students were simulating in their course. The project also highlighted why each aspect was crucial to how a successful business would operate in the real-world. The project finished with the students presenting their findings to local entrepreneurs at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, allowing students to have their work recognized by professionals.
Student ProductsStudents were happy to be able to express their own personal skills with this project. From students who want to be anything from politicians to graphic designers, they expressed that they enjoyed learning relevant skills for their future. Delanie Tilema, a senior in the course, talked about how this way of learning helped her to overcome setbacks with a new way of thinking. Other students talked about how this type of project allowed them to do things in order of importance and manage their time accordingly.
More about the Project:
To listen to my conversation with Professor Tim Green on the 10th episode of the Educator to Educator Podcast, Click Here or to access from the iTunes store Click Here.
Project Based Learning is the focus of session 10 with Jennifer Stillittano, a graduate of the Ed Tech Program. Jennifer shares her experience with Project Based Learning at Central Coast New Tech High School. She provides an overview of the steps of PBL and how PBL is implement by the staff at Central Coast New Tech High School. We talk about passion projects and how they fit into the curriculum. Jennifer shares advice for those new to PBL. Jennifer Stillittano is a New Tech Network Certified Teacher and Trainer and founding staff member at Central Coast New Tech High School. She is a Project Based Learning and EdTech geek who believes education is the core of progress and happiness in our world. She is passionate about creating meaningful, real world scenarios that challenge herself and her students to practice using the 21st century skills needed to thrive in today’s world. She holds a BA in History from California Polytechnic State University and an MS in Educational Technology from Cal State Fullerton. You can visit Jennifer’s webiste at PBLLAB.com Jennifer has given listeners of the Educator to Educator podcast the opportunity to receive a free copy of any project guidelines or the interactive project planning toolkit by using the contact form on PBLLAB.com and mentioning the podcast in the note. Jennifer has shared other resources. Jen’s Essential Elements of PBL Cheat Sheet Her school’s website: Central Coast New Tech High School New Tech Networks website: New Tech Network #PBLCHAT on Twitter: Edutopia Article about #pblchat Buck Institute for Education: BIE
As teacher designers in our project-based world, we know that in order to create a meaningful and deep learning experience we need to begin with the end in mind. Well, if we backwards map from our ideal student doesn’t so much of that involve starting with the ideal teacher who will be the one in direct contact with that student?
The Story of Central Coast New Tech
Our journey of creating a public school with passionate and dedicated teachers and students that our community would be proud of started about five years ago and our team worked to clearly define the answer to this initial question: What do we want our students to know and be able to do by the time they graduate from Central Coast New Tech High School? From that driving question we created and have continued to refine why we do what we do, how we do it, and the culture that supports our shared vision. We have now achieved a major milestone by graduating our first class of students and have transitioned to a new director and welcomed many new, talented facilitators to be part of our New Tech family. Our mix of fostering a positive, trusting and respectful school culture with technology-rich and relevant project-based instructional strategies has been proven to produce happy, healthy, and engaged students and staff members which can be seen in the results of numerous formal and informal data points from NTN.
Inspiration for the PD Revolution
We are now beginning the next phase of our school development journey by asking ourselves a different driving question, how does my role as an individual impact the academic and cultural success of our school? The Learning Team at CCNTH, which is comprised of a small group of teacher leaders that work with our director to strategically align professional development and supports for the whole school, was deeply inspired by Tom Vander Ark's keynote speech this past summer at the New Tech Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. We took his message about the power of personalized and project-based learning experiences to heart and began a series of deep conversations about the future of our school and the implications of designing structures that would support deeper learning for not just our students, but our staff. Afterall, we are learners, too! We are the models of what it means to be lifelong learners so shouldn’t we apply the strategies we are using for our students with ourselves...maybe even first?
Implementing Revolutionary Adult Learning
The Learning Team then began to design a staff project around this driving question, called Showing Up: A self study of active engagement & personalized professional development at CCNTH thus embedding our project based learning structures within our own professional development. We rolled this project out in the beginning of the year and just completed our mid-project reflections. After hearing the staff’s feedback and thoughts, it has been so exciting to see teachers taking ownership over their own learning! Some CCNTH teachers are completing the NTN Certified Teacher Badge Pathway, while others are furthering their learning through educational book studies. Teachers are moving in the same direction but at differentiated levels and content areas. We believe we can personalize professional development by using the Showing Up project as a structure and guidelines to make sure we are achieving the results we desire; continuous positive growth and improvement of our practice.
Here are some things we know that is guiding our personalized PD project:
Some of the things we still need to know:
Central Coast New Tech High School is part of the national New Tech Network, a group of 200 project-based schools in 29 states.
Collaboration. We know this word as a 21st century skill and something that is essential for facilitating deep, authentic experiences within project based learning. Undoubtedly, the ability to work in a team to create and produce is one of the most important traits desired by today’s world. As we create generations of students that need to be prepared for the unknown and rapidly advancing technology, teachers must discover ways to manage the collaborative process.
One of the first things we learn as practitioners of project based learning is the idea of the team contract to help facilitate effective collaboration and prevent problems from arising between team members. While team contracts are a fabulous start, we need to remember that they are simply that, a start. The real collaboration happens, or doesn’t happen, during the middle phases of the project when students are working to answer driving questions and create final products and presentations. One way to reduce frustration and the breakdown of team dynamics is to take time to pause and reflect upon the project as a process for learning. Allowing ourselves as teacher designers to build in time to guide students towards the real world applications of the content will establish, through example, the importance of collaboration as a skill that with effort and practice can grow and develop.
As facilitators of deep learning on levels beyond just content, we must help our students learn to identify problems they are experiencing. Only after we do this can we begin to expect them to work through and create solutions to their own challenges. The same way we need to regularly revisit the classroom norms we set up to build the culture of our class in the beginning of the school year, we need to help students reflect on the norms they set up in their team contracts at the beginning of a project. Allowing students to have space to create team norms at the beginning of each project is saying to them that they each matter. It helps students think about their own abilities when joining a team and can be a powerful way to help them build self confidence. One of the best ways to mindfully revisit norms set in the team contract and to manage the project process is through the use of protocols.
The most effective protocol I have found for facilitating collaboration in a deep learning environment, is the Problem Solving Protocol by the recently launched CraftED Curriculum. After using project based learning for the past 5 years as my instructional strategy, I have personally discovered the importance of building in time for student teams to meet and reflect on the way they are collaborating and managing their tasks. Just providing this time is not enough, but teaching students a structured way to communicate about the problems and challenges they are experiencing in the project is a step toward fostering true teamwork. This protocol draws on the strengths of each individual by allowing them to express concerns and then work together to identify what potentially caused the issue in the first place. The teams are asked to discuss and brainstorm potential solutions to these self-identified challenges. These solutions then turn from ideas into actionable next steps for students to follow.
In well designed, authentic projects the process of learning how to learn begins to surface. To effectively teach collaboration, we must understand it and model it for our students. We as 21st century educators do not just teach content or skills in isolation but as ingredients for humans to connect and create. Effective communication and true teamwork are key ingredients to living a happy, healthy, engaged life. When we can truly accept and internalize that our actions as teachers and role models speak louder than our words, we can begin to tap into the power of protocols as tools for teaching the process of learning. Protocols help to empower students; they take the need for the teacher to control and manage and put it in the hands of our learners. Let’s practice what we preach in project based learning and model what it means to be an effective communicator and collaborator. We learn best when we do it! Let’s be amazing facilitators of collaboration by practicing it ourselves. Leave a comment with an idea you have for what it will look like for you to really model effective communication and collaboration on your school campus.