Somewhere between the state capital of Lansing and the University of Michigan's home in Ann Arbor lies the village of Stockbridge, Michigan, a small farming community where Mo Baird spends her days inspiring the budding entrepreneurs in her economics class.
Baird, who teaches everything from investing to entrepreneurship, believes in tying learned concepts to actual student experiences, which is why her students frequently find themselves in the midst of entrepreneurial class projects.
Whether they are transforming seed cups donated by a local florist into candy-filled containers to sell at lunch or holding a bake sale, these 11 and 12-year-olds are turning learning into earning. Furthermore, everything these students earn is given back to their community.
"It’s been a really wonderful experience for the students to learn not only the economic concepts, but the value of volunteering as well."
In the case of the candy-holder fundraiser, Baird's students used the money they made to visit and volunteer at a local nursing home. As part of the process, they had to first determine their financial goal – the cost of hiring a bus driver and paying for the trip. Then they had to come to a consensus as to what product they would sell, and how, with the cost of materials, they would meet their goal.
Baird brings members of the business community into her classroom to reinforce learning and assist in the entrepreneurial process. For the retirement home trip, a local banker spoke to the class about how to determine cost and project their budget. She is a firm believer in teaching financial concepts to kids while they are young.
"If you don't start early enough, you don't really catch them. Most kids have already developed their spending habits by the time they're in elementary school. By middle school, we still have a chance to turn many of them around. I am always in awe at the number of students who come back to me remarking about the importance of having learned about money at a young age."
Baird, who has been teaching economics and entrepreneurship in Stockbridge for the past 15 years, has taken her lessons to heart and has become an entrepreneur herself. Three years ago, she became the co-owner of a Curves health and fitness franchise.
"With the heath club, I can now help folks stay healthy financially and physically, as well."