Students mind their business by learning it; School store opens mind to cash, sales, and service

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Third graders at Greenwood Elementary are learning the value of a buck.

It’s worth exactly one banana-shaped pencil gripper, one Detroit Lions pencil, and one rainbow-colored eraser.

The 23 children in Roxanne Ward’s class have spent this school year running a school supplies business and have turned the extra change of their schoolmates into almost $1,400.

“They take it seriously,” the Washington Local schoolteacher said. “They’ve learned a lot.”

Every morning between 8:40 and 9, students man the two tables and hawk their wares to 30 or 40 other students itching to spend their lunch money. The students stick to a soft sell – these pencils sell themselves, they might say – and operate a cash register (donated by Food Town) to keep tabs on their income.

On this day, kids start trickling in just after the 8:40 bell, sifting through pencils and pens, checking out the merchandise, much of it sports-related.

“All I have left to get is the Miami Dolphins,” said student Andrew Ford, who has collected pencils featuring every other NFL team. “Do you have the Knicks?” another student asks the shopkeepers.

Profits from the store have been used to buy a CD player for the classroom and classwide fast-food lunches. Next on the wish list: a bird feeder.

There have been problems, to be sure. There was the matter of ordering Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos pencils before the Super Bowl. Expecting a Packer victory, Mrs. Ward ordered almost three times as many Green Bay trinkets as their Bronco equivalents.

Of course, after the Broncos’ win, sales went in another direction.

There have been less than successful marketing decisions. The patriotic pencil cases went unpurchased for weeks. And certain sports teams will always curry more favor among eight year olds than others. Among the football helmet erasers sit plenty of representatives of the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, and Atlanta Falcons, none of whom will be winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.

And register minder Austin Willis, 9, said that he thinks there’s one item begging to be sold.

“We should sell those pens with eyeball erasers,” he offers. “They’d be 75 cents.”

Mrs. Ward uses the store in her curriculum, adding up receipts in math and using the dead presi dents on dollar bills in history.

Mom Karen Hubans said that she thinks it’s a great idea.

“It’s great experience for them,” said Ms. Hubans, whose daughter Megan was manning the register. “They learn math and learn about money and selling. These boys love their sports teams and buy all the pencils.

“They don’t use them. They just collect them.”