Charlie: Developing Business Models with Fourth Graders

I signed up to be a writing coach to fourth graders at a school in Washington Heights one morning over winter break. They had just read a book about a boy who got his town to invest in his kite-making business, so the students’ assignment was to come up with a product or service and go through all the steps of making a business model that would convince hypothetical investors they had a legitimate idea. The worksheets they had asked them to imagine everything from the name of their company, to their advertising, to actually estimating start-up costs and their profit per unit. It was exhausting, not because they were fourth graders, but because starting a business is a lot of work! I was impressed by the children’s perseverance. I was also struck by how open the students were to sharing their ideas with us volunteers (who were all women! woooo! women are the future!), even though they had never met any of us. All I had to do was walk up to one of them and ask them about their product and they were ready to talk about it and take my suggestions. I also enjoyed watching the event’s organizer, Milly, in action. She had not met the students before, but learned most of their names by the end of the two hours. Children say surprising things sometimes, and she did such a good job of validating their answers even if they did not move the class along. Working with kids is a skill, and it was a joy to watch someone so good at it!

The organization I worked with is called Behind the Book. (


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