A highlight of the kindergarten experience at University School of Milwaukee is the annual economics unit, in which students create a business. In previous years, the businesses have ranged from an outdoor arcade to a pizza restaurant, candy shop, and an ice cream factory. This year’s businesses were just as creative: a dinosaur national park, a cinema, and an art gallery.
Prior to developing their business, students research existing businesses to generate ideas. They also learn about key economic terms, including needs, wants, good, services, saving, and spending. Each class creates a list of potential businesses, and then the kindergarten teachers—Andrea Burlew ’93, Stephanie Peterson, Michelle Troskey, and assistant teachers—Jessica Iverson and Patti Keller—coordinate student votes in their classrooms on which ones to pursue.
The businesses take multiple weeks to develop. Students create a name and logo, choose which signs are needed to display in their business, and decide how to advertise their products. Lists of products are brainstormed and narrowed down in order to start creating the products to be sold. Production begins in each classroom so there is enough inventory. Students also decide if the class will be wearing uniforms and, if so, what the uniforms should look like.
When the businesses are ready to launch, the students invite other classes, faculty and staff, and families to come and enjoy the fruits of their labor. “The students relish the opportunity to create their own businesses and share what they learned with the USM community,” said Burlew.