Annie King and Linsay Alexander, 1st grade teachers
What happens when you combine children’s love for animals, fascination with buying and selling, and treats? Authentic, project-based learning – this week in the form of a social entrepreneurship venture making and selling dog biscuits to raise money for a local animal shelter.
As we approached ways to make our math money unit a more practical, authentic learning opportunity, we revived an idea from Annie’s first year at AC. What is the most realistic way of obtaining and counting change? Selling a product!
If you’ve seen our classroom, with our resident rabbit, bearded dragon and array of bird feeders, it is evident that our children love animals. Several of our students have a passion for pet dogs, so we decided to make dog biscuits to sell. We spent our Monday morning in the Rainbow Room café baking biscuits (see recipe below). The baking process alone is rich in authentic learning, with students engaged in hands-on counting, simple fractions, units of measure, proportions, temperature, time, texture, shapes, material reuse, germs and cleanliness; in addition to digestion and allergy issues (since many dogs, like many people, do not tolerate wheat).
Once the baking was complete, students focused on marketing, which included making posters to advertise around AC and handouts to take home. This process involves writing, spelling, drawing, penmanship, spatial relations, and design. Sales teams interacted with customers on Tuesday and Wednesday morning from 8:00 to 8:20 a.m.: greeting guests, making eye contact, explaining the process and purpose of their project, practicing persuasion, answering questions, and expressing gratitude.
Out of the kindness and generosity of our students, when discussing where proceeds should be donated, they decided “To help poor animals who don’t have a family,” as one child stated. Students used their computers to research three local animal shelters, advancing their skills in internet searching, typing, reading, listening, and fact-finding. They each submitted a ballot, so, as one student explains, “If Lollypop Farm gets nine votes and the other shelters get seven votes, then we would give the money to Lollypop Farm, because it got the most votes.”
Students weighed the total change earned and made estimates based on their knowledge of coin values thus far in our money unit. Earlier in the week, we worked with a group of students proficient in counting mixed coins, coaching them on how to count large amounts of coins. They, in turn, taught their classmates how to count our sum of money received on Tuesday and Wednesday. When students are involved in helping to teach their peers, everyone wins.
In the end, we raised $181.87, and first graders decided to split the donations between Lollypop Farm, Verona Street Shelter, and Animal Service League. In turn, students developed a variety of foundational skills that will stick with them, as they utilized a variety of their senses to make learning more tangible. Throughout the process, first graders didn’t just learn about baking and business; they experienced what it was to be a baker, marketer, salesperson, accountant, and social entrepreneur.
After totaling the change and voting on which shelters to donate to, we asked our first graders what they enjoyed most about this venture, with Callahan summing it up best: “Everything – I loved everything about this project!”
Recipe: Cleo’s Dog Biscuits
Preheat oven to 350.
In large bowl, whisk together eggs and pumpkin to smooth. Stir in dry milk, sea salt, and dried parsley (if using, optional). Add brown rice flour gradually, combining with spatula or hands to form a stiff, dry dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface (can use the brown rice flour) and if dough is still rough, briefly knead and press to combine.
Roll dough between 1/4 – 1/2″ – depending on your dog’s chew preferences, ask first – and use biscuit or other shape cutter to punch shapes, gathering and re-rolling scraps as you go. Place shapes on cookie sheet, no greasing or paper necessary. If desired, press fork pattern on biscuits before baking, a quick up-and-down movement with fork, lightly pressing down halfway through dough. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn biscuits over, then bake additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely on rack before feeding to dog.
Makes up to 75 small (1″) biscuits or 50 medium biscuits
* Brown rice flour gives the biscuits crunch and promotes better dog digestion. Many dogs have touchy stomachs or allergies, and do not, like many people we know, tolerate wheat.
Ann KingAfter pursing her passion for teaching, Ann became a long-term substitute at Allendale Columbia before beginning to teach first grade full-time at AC. Prior to beginning her teaching career, Ann was in the financial industry as an Assistant Vice President, Financial Analyst, and Corporate Trainer at two different regional banks. Ann earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Penn State College and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Roberts Wesleyan College.
Linsay AlexanderLinsay is an educator with a Master of Science for Teachers degree in Art Education from Rochester Institute of Technology and has nearly 10 years experience in the field. She has taught in both large classrooms and small studio settings and has successfully created arts curricula for students in both public and private schools. As a member of the Rainbow Room team, Linsay works with both Pre-Primary and Lower School students at AC. Linsay has also filled in admirably as a long-term sub in first grade this year.
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Entrepreneurship, First Grade, Highlights, Lower School, LS Birches, The Birches