Global Entrepreneurship Week and my invitation to join GEW-Israel partners have inspired me, among other things to hold an entrepreneurship workshop in my youngest son’s class of third graders. It was an amazing experience.

I’d like to share this report so you can take this workshop to your class, whether you are a teacher or a parent.

I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this: what knowledge do the kids have to begin with? Those are 8-9 year old kids, from various socio-economic backgrounds, some are new immigrants or born here to new immigrant. How would language and culture differences affect their entrepreneurial skills??

Still, I came with one assumption: that all kids are born with entrepreneurial skills. Certainly in the 21st century, when in fact, anywhere you look, entrepreneurial skills are probably one of the utmost important set of skills needed for survival in their future.

I started by asking what entrepreneurship is and was rather surprised to hear a very precise definition: “to get an idea and do it”. Then we started to talk about where do ideas come from, and pretty soon they recognized problems, needs and wants. We agreed to refer to all of those as “problems which need solutions”. Then we started to talk about identifying such problems. I asked the children to think about problems in their classroom, at school, at home, in the country, in the world. The first student who spoke amazed me when she said the major problem in her eyes is “All those wars around the world”. The second student said he was “worried about the hole in the ozone layer” (A girl was startled and asked in shock “Is there a hole in the ozone layer?”). The third one (that’s mine) said that “animal extinction is a serious problem, especially the hunting of whales”. We went through other problems too – like kids who fight in the classroom and losing pencils. All very valid problems.

We started to discuss world peace. I wanted the kids to see that knowing of the problem is not the same as understanding the problem or approaching a solution. So I lead them in a discussion about what do classroom fights and countries fighting have in common. It was a great discussion leading the kids to pinpoint “communications” as the core of this trouble. Then we started to discuss various means of communications – to understand that different means are used to solve different types of conflicts. They agreed that “sometimes you need to talk face to face, and sometimes written communications are better.”*

We also talked about the hole in the ozone layer and preservation of the environment. The kids seem very aware of that. We discussed Shai Agassi’s “Better Place” as a fine example of entrepreneurship.

For the second part of my visit I have prepared two types of tasks. The kids divided into groups of 4-5 kids. Each group received 2-3 cards, each with a problem, a want or a need, and they had to discuss between them possible solutions. I didn’t want them to write it down, which was odd to them. I wanted them to concentrate on the thinking, but the kids, who are used to deliver some physical product, were handed papers by the teacher and developed unnecessary arguments about who’s going to write, which was a disappointing distraction in my opinion.

After they finished with this exercise I moved to the second one. I brought along a bunch of clippings from the daily newspapers of the last several days. I made sure I bring some from each section of the paper – including sports, arts, literature, health, hi-tech, education, finance and politics. On a one of the desks I placed cards with sentences depicting problems and or solutions. For example: “Public hospitals in Israel don’t have enough money”. “People love to play games and are willing to pay for it”. “Traffic jams are horrible, how can we solve it?”. “We have to study the earth to understand climate changes”. “We need entertainment”. “We like beautiful things”. I handed 2-3 stories to each group so they discuss it and try to recognize what was the problem and what was the solution. I thought for a next phase to develop the question of “is this a good solution? Are there any more solutions?”. After discussing the stories they were allowed to go check the solution cards to see if they got it or to find help to understand the context of the story they read.

The conclusion was lead by the teacher, who invited the kids to share their impression of the workshop. It seems like what the kids have enjoyed the most is to work in groups. The collaboration was exciting. I expected it. Which leads me to a problem I’d like to solve: lack of collaborative work in school and homework. But that’s a separate page.

*More About Communications and Facebook

During the conversation about communications I asked the kids to raise their hands if they have Facebook. I believe almost every one of the 30 students raised their hands. I asked them who had registered on their own, who had used the help of an older sibling, who used the help of a parent. About half of the kids registered with the assistance of a parent. A third used the help of an older sibling. The rest either did it themselves or with the help of a class mate. These are 8-9 year old kids. Most of them are registered for a year or more. When I asked one of the kids how he registered himself he said “that’s easy, just invent some email, pick a birth date that’s 100 years older then you and you’re in”.
After pointing out that communications is one of the biggest obstacles on the way to solve conflicts we talked about different methods of communications and discussed oral vs. written. At third grade seems like most kids initially don’t like to write. It’s slow and tedious. However, when I asked them about sending messages to each other on Facebook they woke up. All are using it. And other chat programs too. One student jumped ahead and stated “I never chat with strangers”, which got everybody’s approval (to my satisfaction). “Who are you chatting with?”, I asked. “My class mates”, she said. “But why chat with them in writing when you can talk on the phone or in the classroom?”, I asked. “It’s different; I can chat with many kids at once for example”. So we did a little demonstration. I picked a group of 5 kids to the center of the class and whispered to them “When I give you the sign you immediately start to talk about wearing a hat in the sun”. I gave the sign, they all spoke together and when I asked the other kids to tell me what the group spoke about – no one knew. I then told them and asked if this was in writing – would you know what the group was discussing? That got them to agree that in some cases written communications can be useful. “But if someone is angry with me and they remove me from friends on Facebook then I can’t chat with them”, said one child. His friend said: “So talk to him in the classroom”.