Entrepreneurship provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in an iterative learning process with real world connections and learning experiences. Unfortunately, existing systems and traditional school accounting have inhibited students from running enterprises from the classroom. We had some ideas about how to change that.
Too many students have often lacked the opportunity for authentic learning that connects them to the world beyond the classroom. Entrepreneurship provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in an iterative learning process with real world connections and learning experiences. Unfortunately, existing systems and traditional school accounting have inhibited students from running enterprises from the classroom. We had some ideas about how to change that.
Our best guess:
The EdCoprs story began in 2013 when Co-Founders Elyse Burden and John Cahalin set out to tackle the challenge above. The goal was to put funding into the hands of teachers to practice entrepreneurship in the classroom. Simple, right? In March 2014, Elyse and John published a press release announcing $250k in funding available to any teacher that would integrate entrepreneurship into the classroom… surprisingly, there were no takers. This led them down a year long rabbit hole of endless ideas (mostly bad ones), phone calls, websites… until finally, they found someone just crazy enough to try it out.
Enter Matt Martin, chemistry teacher at High Tech High Media Arts. In semesters past, Matt had done a soap-making project with his students. What if we could help Matt take this soap project and transform it into a soap business? The EdCorps pilot began in January 2015 with Elyse and John in Matt’s classroom everyday — teaching, learning, ideating. And from that, the Wicked Soap Company was born. A website was built (by Elyse and John), business cards were printed (by Elyse and John), lessons were taught (by Elyse and John)… how the heck do we run this program with more than one teacher? How do we help teachers build websites, manage the accounting, and involve students in the process? Our best guess, a classroom-friendly e-commerce website builder. Months of development later, the EdCorps Dashboard was built.
RWS kicked off the 2015-2016 school year with a new dashboard and 10 teachers eager to get started. As word spread, so did interest. Before there was time to take a breath, 45 teachers had signed up, received funding, and joined in on the EdCorps journey. With only 10 teachers, the team knew what was going on in classrooms everyday. Success stories, selling events… how do we continue to foster meaningful relationships with educators as the cohort grows? Again, we had to take a guess.
The 2016-2017 school year launched with over 200 educators and a community-based approach. We helped connect teachers within the same region, traveled all across the country to start community conversations, and hosted too many happy hours to even count! We added community specific channels within our Slack network and encouraged teachers to collaborate with other EdCorps Founders that were right in their backyard. So, did it work? Sure. But teachers continued to ask for more support and guidance.
Again, we had to make a guess. As a team of non-educators, we’ve always stated with pride that we do not have a set curriculum — our program can work in all different types of classrooms! And while that is true, we did see a need for more tools and resources for our educators. We spent the spring and summer of 2017 reflecting. We were inspired by Seth Godin’s book What to Do When It’s Your Turn: (and It’s Always Your Turn) and Steve Jobs’ quote “Real artists ship.” Wait what? “Real artists ship.” Something about that stuck (well, really John was stuck on it and had to convince the rest of the team). We quickly began to adopt the words “ship” and “shipping” into our everyday vocabulary (and no, we were not referring to our next order from Amazon). This theme became core to our work and soon we realized this also needed to be at the core of the tools and resources that we provide.
So what exactly is “Shipping?” Shipping is getting your work, ideas, and talents out into the world so they can breathe and evolve. At RWS, we focus on students shipping their work, because we know that when they do, it can lead to more creative confidence and real world learning experiences.
Here you will find the Ship It Book and Shipping Cards.
We partnered with some of the smartest people we know to release the Ship It Book! The book is full of stories, activities, and some of our best tips for empowering young people to lean into the entrepreneurial process.
The Shipping Cards are ideas for pushing your students beyond the classroom at every stage of the process. These cards can be used stoke creativity and build momentum. We know that the sooner your students begin connecting with folks outside of the classroom, the more ‘real’ the experience feels. Use these cards for guidance, ideas, and to reignite excitement when you’re in a rut.
Update (March 2018):
RWS currently supports over 250 EdCorps in 31 states. We partnered with local and national organizations to continue our work and strengthen our community. Our team has grown, and now every teacher has a designated account manager who acts as a coach, cheerleader, and tech guru.
What’s next? Great Question! As a small organization (yes, we are a staff of only SEVEN people), scaling is of course a challenge. How can we continue to support our current educators and also welcome new educators into our community?