The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at Alton Middle School, thanks to math teacher Mickey Peretti and the Illinois House Store, a small business operated by her 6th grade students.
In addition to school supplies, Illinois House also sells edible items, sponsors raffles and offers seasonal items around specific holidays and events like Earth Day, or their Jamaican Days celebration in January. This year, the hot new item is the Illinois House t-shirt.
When Peretti agreed to take over the fledgling "student store" project last year, she did it with a few conditions.
"I knew the time commitment would be significant, so I didn’t want it to be a play project with my kids. I wanted it to run like a true business, and also be woven into my curriculum in a meaningful way."
So that’s what she did, and that’s how it runs, right down to their small business sole proprietor checking account.
The store is typically open before classes in the morning, and then a few afternoons a week, during a flexible period. Students rotate in their store duties, from tending the cash box and monitoring the store, to outreach marketing around the building when the store is open for business. In the classroom, students have learned to balance the books with debits and credits, manage the finances of the store and conduct basic analysis to their sales data.
"My kids determine most of the pricing. They have excellent instincts for what things will sell for." The students also decide as a group how best to allocate their profits.
In its first year, Illinois House Store was able to offset half of the cost of one of their school field trips, host an end of the year Ice Cream party, donate to various charitable organizations and help sponsor an Outdoor Education Day.
In other words, the store has been a wild success.
"I’m very proud of what the students have accomplished. Beyond the money skills they’ve learned, the kids have really taken great pride of ownership in the store."
Peretti elaborated on the positive social aspects that running a store have had on her students.
"We have a large student population here. Running the store has given many of my kids a confidence boost. Their social circles have widened because they get to know students with which they might not otherwise cross paths."
So what’s in store for Year Two?
"We are hoping for another successful year. We have our sights set on a field trip to see A Christmas Carol at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. Making that more affordable for students will likely be one of our goals."