Saturday April 19, 2014

Class teaches real-world lessons with a lot of fun


String Theory is (left to right standing): Kathleen Utanes, Bailey Pelchat, Madison Mosiondz, Andrew Linsley, Garett McCallum, Kyle Auramenko, Ben Nussbaumer, Chase Gilchuk, Andrea Landstad, and (kneeling) Ande Fraske-Bornyk and Nikera Toma. Not pictured: Brianna Blazeiko.

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Some subjects simply do not lend themselves to hands-on learning. String theory, for example, the hypothesis some theoretical physicists hope some day will describe the fundamental structure of the universe, is about as esoteric as it gets.

On the other hand, if you're an Entrepreneurship 30 student at Yorkton Regional High School and String Theory is the name of the business you developed, it's hands-on learning all the way.

The business

The first order of business, of course, is having something to sell.

"We started out with brainstorming and weighed the pros and cons and we decided on our product," explained Andrea Landstad, String Theory president.

That product was string lights, an idea that came from Garett McCallum, vice president of human resources, who found it on his ETSY app.

"They all really liked the idea," McCallum said.

Product selected, jobs needed to be assigned. Valerie Gendreau, the entrepreneurship teacher, provided the 12 students with a list of jobs.

"We all picked our top two favourite jobs and wrote down why we would be good at that particular job," explained Ande Fraske-Bornyk, vice president of technology. "Then we were assigned our positions by Mrs. Gendreau after going through them. For people who wanted the same job, everyone silently voted who they thought would be best for it."

The group went to work, buying the materials they would need and building the product. They quickly found out, however, that further research and development was needed.

"We started out with glue and cornstarch, but we found it had left a residue behind that started to flake off as the time went on," said Brianna Blazeiko, vice president of production. "We decided to try something different and we tried sugar water. We used two cups of sugar to one cup of boiling water. We mix it together and dip our string in it and wrap it around the balloon and we find it sticks more, doesn't leave a residue behind and it hardens a lot faster."

That problem solved, they mapped out a production and marketing strategy based on two upcoming holidays, Halloween and Christmas. They chose Halloween colours for the first round of production targeting the Harvest Showdown October 30 to November 2 as the venue to sell the lamps.

Full production began at the beginning of October with a production goal of 60 units. They came up a bit short completing 51 lamps by the time the Harvest Showdown rolled around.

They sold 26 of the 51 units at the show, which wound up being quite a profitable venture according to Andrew Linsley, vice president of finance.

"It was slow-starting, but we made a lot of money because we also had a raffle with it," he said. "We ended up making a profit of just over $600.

After the Showdown, String Theory fired up the second phase of production using Christmas colours. Last week sales went well at parent-teacher interviews and they will have one more opportunity to sell at the upcoming YRHS Christmas Concert on December 11. After that, the only thing left to do will be the accounting.

"At the end we will see how much we've made in total and then we have to factor in all of our expenses, so everything we bought to make the product and all that," Linsley said.

In addition to the business skills they acquired, they also learned the importance of giving back to the community.

"We're going to give 10 per cent to Brayden Ottenbreit's Close Cuts for Cancer and the rest we will divide evenly among us plus our teacher Mrs. Gendreau," Linsley explained.

The Learning

The class is not just about hard business skills, however, the kids took away some other important lessons, as well.

"I learned how to work with people that we didn't particularly get along with before, we didn't talk to before and just made better friendships," said Chase Gilchuk, assistant vice president of production.

"We learned to respect people more and what their opinions are and how they open up and you learn how to respond to people in postive ways," added Madison Mosiondz, assistant to the president.

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The perks

Perhaps the best thing, however, wasn't about the business, or learning, or making money.

"This is easily my favourite class I've ever taken here," enthused Ben Nussbaumer, assistant vice president of marketing and sales. "I didn't know what this class was going to be about, I thought it was going to be book work and that kind of stuff. This is easily one of the funnest classes in the Regional, the learning experience that you get, the hands-on, and just learning to work with people. It's fun."

The inspiration

The kids are quick to point out another reason the class is so much fun.

"[Mrs. Gendreau] is awesome," said Bailey Pelchat, vice president of marketing and sales. "We all love her and she's definitely one of the best teachers. She just puts so much heart into it and she really enjoys what she does and we all get so excited just because of her."

She also goes above and beyond according to Nussbaumer.

"She puts in a lot of time for us, after school too," he said. "She came in on the weekend a couple of weekends and let us in to make our product. She makes it fun."

The future

Despite all of that, the course hasn't really inspired any of them to be entrepreneurs, at least not yet. Pelchat said she is open to anything and Blazeiko is inclined in that direction, but has no current plans beyond more education.

"This entrepreneurship class is actually the reason I came to the Regional," Blazeiko said. "Sacred Heart no longer carried it and I plan to go to Calgary for some business classes next year and I really wanted to have the opportunity to learn what it was all about and to get into that business field and get my foot into the door."

Landstad and Linsley also plan to study business. Others in the group, such as Nussbaumer and McCallum are going the trades route in electrical and carpentry respectively. Gilchuk is getting straight to work in an apprentice program for industrial concreting.

Regardless of what the rest of them ultimately decide to pursue, Nickera Toma, assistant vice president of sales and marketing, believes taking Entrepreneurship 30 will serve them well in the future.

"I think this class kind of taught us all how to commit to a business because it's very risky, it could go either way," she said. "You learn real-world skills because these can be transferable to anything you want to do. You also learn to make something out of absolutely nothing because we started with nothing at all and now we're a business."

Final word?

"It's pretty cool," Toma said.



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