On a hot day in late April, 31 fifth graders spread out across the city to begin an entrepreneurial venture: selling lemonade. Students arrived early to set-up tables, make fresh lemonade, create signs to attract customers, and ready their lemonade stands to begin selling their product. I was lucky to travel to each stand to taste their unique lemonade recipes and see them in action.
Preparation for this day began weeks earlier as our students began working with their student mentors from Georgetown University’s McDonough’s School of Business to participate in a nationwide youth event called Lemonade Day. Lemonade Day was built as an experiential learning experience that encourages students’ entrepreneurial spirit as they build and design their own lemonade business. During each mentoring session, our fifth grade classrooms were abuzz with the sounds of students pitching ideas to one another and developing a unified vision and plan for their final test–running a successful lemonade stand.
When the Lower School was approached by Georgetown University to partner on this project last year, we immediately saw the benefits. Our students would be putting into action the “GDS Student Will…” skills that GDS values and works to develop: collaborating with others, taking risks and tolerating failure, innovating and creating, and thinking critically and tackling complex problems. When operating a business, the best laid plans can be turned on their head when real-life issues arise.
As a final step before Lemonade Day, students presented to GDS community members to receive investment money. Each group presented their vision, their business plans, price points and marketing ideas to a panel. Our panel was impressed by their thoughtfulness and passion for this project. Students created very imaginative proposals that included creative images, group names, innovative pricing, and for one group, a jingle. Watching their presentations was a joy for all involved and we were incredibly impressed by their thoughtfulness and preparation.
When I visited our students at their lemonade stands, they reflected on some of the curve balls that were thrown their way that day: park police asking a group to move their stand because of its’ location; too many customers at once; not enough customer interest; running out of popular lemonade flavors; competing lemonade stands; drawing customers to their lemonade stands; and deciding how to flexibly adjust their action plan for the day. With each challenge, students worked together to meet the needs of their business and customers.
All told, our students generated almost $2,000 in revenue, all of which will be donated to the GDS Annual Fund. This project was a wonderful culminating activity for our fifth graders and I look forward to our continued participation.