E4D®, the affectionate acronym for North Iowa Area Community College’s (NIACC) Entrepreneur for a Day™ educational program presented to elementary students, marks one of the key steps for the next generation of entrepreneurs and for encouraging lifelong learners. Coordinated by the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (NIACC JPEC) in Mason City, IA, E4D® uses unique and exciting curriculum to educate fifth graders on entrepreneurism.
"As a nationally recognized leader in entrepreneurship education, the NIACC JPEC has created an unparalleled opportunity in the E4D® program for children in North Iowa as well as the entire state,” Dr. Deb Derr, NIACC president, said.
Creating a Link
Last May NIACC’s E4D® completed its third year of working with students in the nine-county NIACC region. E4D®, a brainchild developed by the NIACC JPEC, was inspired after visiting Springfield Technical Community College, in Springfield, MA, and observing their Entrepreneur for a Day program. E4D® is also based on the concepts from Play-Doh Economics from the Council of Economic Education. The program was spurred by research that revealed 25 percent of kindergarten students have entrepreneurship characteristics as compared to three percent of high school students (Lobler, 2006). It became apparent that a program designed for elementary students was critical.
According to Kantor, Saboe, and Walsh (2002) seven out of 10 high school students are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, yet 86 percent believe they have little or no knowledge of what it takes. These students have an interest, but no one works to stimulate and encourage them. The students who want to learn more will eventually decide they no longer want to become entrepreneurs, which becomes a loss for their community.
Schools need to foster children’s interests when they are very young. When these interests are not nurtured they will be lost. Both the student and the community will suffer.
One reason why rural communities are declining in population is due to the migration of youth to larger areas as they search for opportunities. Young adults are leaving their small towns because they do not believe the opportunities are there. They do not believe they have the skills to create new jobs for others in their community so they leave to find opportunities.
"We see this program as a game changer for many of these young students,” Tim Putnam, NIACC JPEC associate director, said. "Most of these students have never had any exposure to what it is like to be your own boss or start a business. This program allows them to get hands-on experience on being an entrepreneur and knowing they have another career option to consider.
Concern about the development of future entrepreneurs in the North Iowa region was a moving force behind the creation of the E4D® program. Many entrepreneurial programs and academies are available for the high school and college students, but research indicates that a link is needed between elementary and high school.
With a desire to create a cultural transformation, it was determined that fifth grade would be an opportune time to plant the seeds of entrepreneurism. Fifth graders are a social group by nature as they are beginning to come into their own. However, they are not preconditioned and are still open to new ideas and innovation.
NIACC JPEC designed a two-session format that provides flexibility so teachers can incorporate the program into their curriculum with ease. During the program, participants experience business planning, financial literacy, marketing concepts, work place concepts, social responsibility and team-building skills. The first session begins with a visit to the classroom by a trained facilitator. The facilitator introduces terms and concepts of entrepreneurship.
The second session includes a day-long field trip to NIACC. This visit focuses on a group exercise where students experience the full range of entrepreneurial activities. Students choose a product, borrow money from a bank, purchase resources to make the product, manufacture the product, then sell the product and determine if they made a profit. The visit concludes with a tour of NIACC, which offers students a sense of campus life and validates college. Many of these students may be the first generation in their families to attend college, and the campus presence enables the students to make a post secondary connection.
Fourteen school districts and over 1,200 fifth-grade students in North Iowa participated in the E4D® program this past school year. E4D® has been well-received by elementary teachers and administrators. It is considered a valuable component in the teaching curriculum.
"Teachers value this program because they share in the ownership,” Kelley Crane, E4D® coordinator at NIACC, said. "We invite participating instructors to a summer workshop where we ask for input regarding the curriculum. Each year we have added rigor to the program, which has kept it fresh.” The program also matches up with state education standards and requirements, and many schools cite E4D® as their only career-building curriculum.
Riceville Community Schools has participated in the E4D® program for two years. Ellen Grady-Mans, a veteran elementary teacher, has experienced the positive impact E4D® provides students, families and communities. "Having someone other than teachers and parents lead the program validates what their parents and teachers say. After participating in the program, students become more aware of local entrepreneurs, and this may influence their families to support these individuals and businesses and help keep their communities alive,” said Grady-Mans.
Clear Lake Elementary Schools have participated in the E4D® program since 2008. Clear Lake teacher Mary Trezona believes the program is an investment in the future. "I feel that introducing fifth graders to the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship and how to start a business plants seeds of knowledge at an early age that may help their future endeavors blossom into successful businesses,” Trezona said.
What began as a brainchild at the NIACC JPEC is now a flexible, effective program that can be interjected into classrooms across the entire state. E4D® can help provide the seeds for the next crop of entrepreneurs in Iowa.
"We couldn’t be more pleased that the E4D® program is gaining wings and is being considered by more communities and counties across the state,” Jamie T. Zanios, NIACC vice president of JPEC and Institutional Advancement, said. "We have had interest from outside the state as well, which can help secure the future of the program in tight economic times. Most importantly, young people are being given the opportunity to dream and learn how they can turn a passion into a career or business. Regardless of whether they all become entrepreneurs or not, they will be better employees and citizens as a result of this endeavor.”
If you are interested in learning more about E4D®, contact Crane at 641-422-4234 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.niacc.edu/pappajohn/e4d.html.
Saboe, L., Kantor, J., & Walsh, J. (2002). Cultivating Entrepreneurship. Educational Leadership, 59, 80-82.
Lobler, H. (2006, February). Learning entrepreneurship from a constructivist perspective. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 18(1), 19-38. Retrieved October 4, 2007, from HillSearch.