Just in time for National Entrepreneurship Week, which takes place Feb. 17 to 24, 2018, a new resource is available to elementary school teachers throughout New Mexico who want a fun and free way to introduce concepts of entrepreneurship and teamwork into their classrooms.
Innoventure Jr. – part of the Innoventure suite of K-12 entrepreneurship education programs created by Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University – offers free online activity books, reusable workbooks and animated videos in English and Spanish that introduce elementary students to ideas like brainstorming, collaboration, problem-solving and goal-setting.
A new project curriculum is now available for elementary school teachers to download free for classroom use. The hour-long classroom activity was designed as part of an expansion to provide Innoventure Jr. materials to more students throughout the state, and is funded by a generous grant from the Colorado-based Daniels Fund.
“As we developed this hands-on activity, we visited more than a dozen classrooms in Las Cruces to try it out,” said Innoventure Director Amanda Bradford, who assumed her role in December following the departure of longtime director Marie Borchert. “It was truly amazing to see the children collaborate so effectively, and some of the ideas they came up with were inspiring. They’re already innovating and problem-solving on a very high level.”
Connie Barrio, a second-grade teacher at Mesilla Park Elementary School in Las Cruces, said she liked that students used many different skills as they progressed through the activity.
“They’re using their reading, their writing – critical thinking, all of it,” she said. “I heard one of my students say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur,’ so he’s already using a great new vocabulary word. The kids really enjoyed it and they’re still talking about it.”
The hour-long activity builds on short animated videos available on the Innoventure NMSU YouTube channel, where students learn what it means to be an entrepreneur. They work in teams to create a business idea that helps address an everyday problem. Since the activity is student-driven, it’s appropriate for kindergarteners to fifth-graders alike.
Innoventure program specialist Lydia Hammond said Innoventure Jr. grew significantly over the past few years, providing backpacks with reusable workbooks to rural schools around the state and working with NMSU’s Media Productions office to create a series of animated videos.
“Teachers have told us that while they love having flexibility in how they can incorporate Innoventure Jr. materials in their classrooms, they were also looking for more structure related to hands-on activities,” Hammond said. “This new classroom activity is designed with that feedback in mind.”
While not every child will grow up to be an entrepreneur, Innoventure Jr. helps develop skills that are applicable to any social, educational or workplace setting.
“We’ve heard repeatedly from New Mexico employers that the core workplace competencies they look for, like critical thinking, decision-making, communication and analysis, are not at the level they should be for many applicants,” said Arrowhead Center Director Kathy Hansen. “That’s a gap that we are addressing at the earliest stages of a child’s education, setting the stage for children to continue to develop these skills throughout their academic careers.”
A classroom setting is just one place that’s a good fit for the new Innoventure Jr activity.
“It is also perfect for after-school programs, scout troops, clubs and even families to use,” Bradford said. “Teachers, group leaders or parents can use it as a template to come up with additional hands-on activities. We’re currently producing new, age-appropriate learning modules for financial literacy and ethics, so this library of free materials will continue to grow.”
An introduction to using the entire suite of Innoventure Jr. materials, a teachers’ guide, the series of animated videos and a sampling of workbook activities are available as free downloads at ambradfo or call 575-646-7148 to request materials, ask questions or schedule a classroom visit from the Innoventure team.
Teachers who complete the one-hour activity with their students should also contact Bradford to receive sets of Innoventure stickers and pencils featuring characters from the videos, along with a certificate of completion for their class.
“We want to hear from schools that are using this new activity as well as all of our Innoventure Jr. materials,” Bradford said. “Tracking how many students we’re reaching with this content is essential to our program’s continued success and growth.”
The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.
To learn more about Arrowhead’s programs, visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu.
Innoventure Jr. National Entrepreneurship Week Capstone Contest
Students all over New Mexico have a chance to see their ideas in the palm of their hands with Innoventure Jr. The Innoventure Jr. National Entrepreneurship Week Capstone Contest is open to fourth- and fifth-grade students who have completed the new Innoventure Jr. classroom project. Teams can turn their product design into a small paper or cardboard model following the guidelines available at ambradfo.