Academics, Middle School

Learning the Economics of Small Business

Sixth grade students recently tackled math, economics, and the rigors of running a small business through the annual Microloan Project.

Working individually or in small groups, students begin the project by requesting up to a $15 loan (per person) for the project. Then they design a business that will cover the cost of the loan, plus pay back 10 percent interest. Students choose a charity or organization to donate a portion of their proceeds, with the rest of the proceeds going to an organization that lends out microloans.

"Students learn how to use a little bit of money to do a lot of good in a concrete way through this experience," says Middle School Dean of Students Maria Moses. "With only $15 you can make more money and give back to more people."

This year, the products ranged from homemade toffee to mason jars decorated with signs from the Women's March. Scout N. baked sugar cookies in the shapes of trees, which she sold to students. Her proceeds are going to an Amazon Rainforest land trust.

"I learned that you have to be careful on what you spend your money on," says Scout. "Making sugar cookies is easy when you have the ingredients. But making a lot of sugar cookies on just $15 is more difficult and requires a lot more planning."

Students also learned how to use Excel to track costs and profits for bookkeeping. The students were encouraged to create products using fair trade ingredients or local stores when possible. According to Maria, one student was surprised when his dad charged him ten cents for a sheet of colored paper.

Says Maria: "When students have to create this product themselves, they realize all the resources that go into creating the things we consume, and they learn to be mindful of where those resources come from."