Students at The Learning Center! Charter School showed their entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy during “Mini Mall,” a hugely popular event on the school’s campus made possible through a program called Middle REAL.
Offered to 5th through 8th graders, Middle REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning) provides curricula, training and resources to help rural students grow through hands-on entrepreneurship education and small business creation. Additionally, the school also has a “Mini REAL” program that serves kindergarten through fourth grades.
Both the Middle REAL and Mini REAL programs are a component of the North Carolina REAL program, designed to prepare students to be active, self-sufficient and productive citizens to contribute to their communities’ social and economic development.
The two programs work together to hold two annual Mini Malls, an event that has students writing business plans, conducting marketing surveys, and developing effective advertising in order to create a successful marketplace for their product or service.
Middle school students first develop their business plans, create a name, decide if it will be a sole ownership or partnership, and describe their business, including prices. These students then visit the kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms to complete a market survey. “Business owners” bring sample products from their businesses and prices and survey the younger grades to find out the level of interest in their business. Once the market surveys are complete, they begin planning for the Mini-Mall. During the Mini Mall event, the lower grades shop and upper grades operate their own businesses.
The Middle and Mini REAL programs teach community problem solving, community environmental design (involving the design and construction of a miniature “green” community), internet safety and community wellness with a focus on good health and nutrition.
Businesses at this Mini Mall included pie in a teacher’s face, dance party, custom wood burned key chains, mini pizzas, cupcakes, chocolate creations, trading cards, various games and contests, art, hair design and many more. It was an impressive site to see!