Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX pre-service teachers becoming entrepreneurs to help teach entrepreneurs 

March 3rd, 2021
Pictured are Dr. Greg Hadley and students in his B.Ed. Secondary Business Education class

A group of StFX pre-service teachers are learning to become entrepreneurs to help educate future entrepreneurs. 

Students in Dr. Greg Hadley’s B.Ed. Secondary Business Education class have all been tasked with conducting a business venture assignment so that they will be well prepared to help teach high school students to do the same. 

“This is an important simulation as completing a venture has become an expectation in many high school business education courses,” Dr. Hadley says. 

“Many assignments in our B.Ed. program are designed to prepare students for classroom teaching. In this case, 'the venture' is a curriculum outcome for Entrepreneurship 12, a popular business course in Nova Scotia. Supporting high school students as they plan and launch a venture is generally a good deal of work for the classroom teacher. It was with that in mind that this assignment was born,” he says. 

“The goal is to prepare our future business education teachers with the knowledge and experience to take a high school class through the business venture process in a meaningful and educative way. It is a piece of experiential learning with direct, practical benefit for our pre-service teachers.” 

The assignment asks students to create their own venture in a process that closely mirrors what classroom teachers do. Students, working in groups, generate ideas, refine them, and mobilize them into an actual venture, he says. 

The assignment, offered for the past three years, is the centerpiece of the business pedagogy class and is popular with students. Over the years, students have launched food service ventures, planned extra-curricular events, worked with the campus newspaper, and created social enterprises. This year, his class is working through four separate venture projects. One group has created a social enterprise that sells cards featuring the artwork of Nova Scotia artists from different cultural affiliations, while another group is selling customized trading cards. One group is selling hot chocolate 'bombs' that make hot chocolate preparation easy, while another is planning an extra-curricular event for students. 

The greeting card company CardsFourCause, he says, is a nice example of how students have pivoted to complete this task given the restrictions of COVID 19. The students have also introduced an e-commerce element, something new for the assignment. 

ENTERPRENEURIAL SKILLS IN ACTION

In this case, the students, Jenny Melong of Pictou County, NS, Adrian Covey, who grew up in Prospect Bay and now lives in River John, NS, and Tracey MacNeil of Mabou Harbour, Cape Breton, launched a social entrepreneurial venture project in which they’ve partnered with Nova Scotian artists from diverse cultural groups to feature their artwork on professionally printed greeting cards. Profits are donated to organizations that support social justice, the environment, fine arts, and culture. 

The students say the learning experience has been terrific. 

“As pre-service teachers, we have found tremendous value in the business venture simulation experience. Not only has it provided an opportunity for educational learning and growth related to entrepreneurship, but it has also created a platform for social integration, outreach, and communication with and amongst our B.Ed. colleagues. It has been extremely beneficial and rewarding to share knowledge and ask questions along the way with other pre-service teachers,” say the three students, all in their first year of the education program. 

“The experience of taking an idea from the ideation phase through to mobilization has allowed us to access and strengthen the entrepreneurial KSAs (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) required of an entrepreneur. When we think about our readiness as a professional educator, we are now more confident in our ability to teach well, using active, experiential learning as the basis of our teaching.”

The three students say they originally planned to implement the venture as a small scale, profit-oriented venture, but with their focus on social justice in their Sociology of Education course, they thought it would be a nice opportunity to raise funds and awareness for related causes. 

“As such, we decided to implement a social entrepreneurial, non-profit venture that paired art with advocacy. We partnered with artists from diverse cultural groups across Nova Scotia including Acadian, African Nova Scotia, Indigenous and Scottish Gaelic. We empowered the artist to define a group or organization to which they would like the profits from the sale of their cards donated, which ended up including causes linked to youth empowerment, social justice, the environment, arts and culture. To increase our reach, we decided to implement our venture using an e-commerce platform and social media marketing. To date, we have sold over 300 cards and our website has been visited by over 500 users across Canada, the U.S. and even a few in the U.K and Kenya!”

Creating the venture was at first a daunting endeavour, they say, but with guidance of Dr. Hadley and excellent group communication and collaboration, they were able to break the process down into segments and assign tasks and accountabilities through Microsoft Teams. The group was able to stay on track and get the venture up and going in a short time, with sales skyrocketing within the first few days. “While our campaign will soon be coming to an end, in the future, we will be exploring ways to keep “CardsFourCause” alive as a part of the B.Ed. program’s Secondary Business Education course.”  

The students say there are several takeaways from this activity. 

“We have learned there are many uniquely talented artists in minority cultures in Nova Scotia. One of the artists we partnered with for our venture is an inspiring, self-taught, 11-year-old African Nova Scotian sketch artist from Antigonish named Sylas Smiley. Sylas has taught us how important youth are in the community, and what an incredible contribution to the future they make. We have also experienced, first-hand, the vital role technology plays in today’s business environment; particularly the internet, making it possible to sell over 300 unique cultural greeting cards in only 10 days.”

They were surprised by the overwhelming amount of support they received. “We were extremely humbled to have one of our cards used as the thank you card for the StFX Department of Sociology Dr. Agnes Calliste African Heritage Lecture. Community support was also very humbling, with over $400 in local sponsorship secured to support costs associated with the venture.”

Student entrepreneurship provides unspeakable value, they say.

“We recently had a youth entrepreneur, a Grade 10 student from Pictou County, deliver a presentation to our class. She was more than enlightening; she was heartwarming, inspiring and hopeful. She made one comment that continues to resonate with us; relating to the idea that incredibly young children become excited, energetic, motivated, in the face of fun, hands-on, interactive types of activities. Her statement caused us to reflect on how relevant and valuable it is to foster student entrepreneurship, in any educational manner possible. Students of all ages deserve to be educated about entrepreneurship.”

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