Children are the entrepreneurs and business people of the future and cultivating their imaginative capabilities is vital
At the heart of entrepreneurship is a rich imagination and imaginative play, whether its cowboys, aliens, mums and dads or doctors and nurses, comes naturally to children. However, recently threatened by the popularity and addictive nature of iPads and games consoles as pastimes, schools are stepping up to ensure that childhood remains a haven of creative and blue-sky thinking.
White House Prep School in London is particularly hot on this topic. They recently launched weekly enterprise lessons, designed to encourage children to think outside of the box while using all the skills they learn in their other subjects. Tasks have included planning and budgeting for a class trip, making board games for their peers to play or designing their own theme parks. Getting to grips with budgeting, marketing, pitching and working together, amongst a host of other skills, while having a lot of fun, has proved very successful and is now a firm (and popular) part of the curriculum.
Indeed the making of a successful entrepreneur is not only having the idea but then being willing and able to stick with it all the way through to its realisation. Headmaster Tony Lewis says, ‘responsibility is the ability to respond appropriately and something we want for all our children. It demands perception and critical thinking, also independence of mind with informed decision making.’ White House Prep believes that teaching enterprise is a process that does not involve conventional academic or theoretical exercises but by problem-solving in real-life contexts. In this way the children learn more organically.
The various enterprises (which differ from class to class) will then by celebrated on Enterprise Day, a pupil-led fun fair with a host of activities in which the children take a leading role both in the planning and the delivery. This year it will raise money for the school charity, Medical Detection Dogs.
Other schools developing an entrepreneurial streak in their pupils is Abingdon Preparatory School in Oxfordshire. Their year seven pupils embraced a national Dragon’s Den-style competition run by the Peter Jones Foundation. All teams received a £400 loan to develop their ideas. One of the business plans that was submitted to the competition was to sell ‘Culbs’, potted bulbs in recycled containers. Others included ‘The Green Room’, which created fun green screen images; ‘Billy’s Bones’ selling homemade dog biscuits; and Iced Delights who were a group of budding fruit smoothies providers. The funding enabled the children to actually trade for two weeks, teaching them how to manage supply and demand and work together. They planned a sales week (after school and break times) and also had stalls at School’s Christmas Bazaar ( with all profits going to Thames Valley Air Ambulance).
The scope of their ideas is proof that schools’ enterprising efforts will pay for in the long-term. Recently The UK Domain, an educational resource that helps small businesses and individuals to achieve more online, launched an innovation project in primary schools, asking them ‘If you could invent one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?’ An illustrator brought their ideas to life and the results are ingenious and eccentric in equal measure.
It’s fascinating to see the creative and often thoughtful way that children see the world. We wanted to give the founders of tomorrow a platform to show us what they think of the world today.Helen Tomes, Director of Marketing at The UK Domain
Harry described the Gun Sucker Inner as an invention that ‘sucks up all the guns in the world and destroys them in its dynamic body. The wheels at the bottom allow for speedy transportation to where it’s most needed.’ Interestingly, its not far off something that actually exists: Humanium Metal by IM is a new material made of recycled metal from gun destruction programs which are then made available for commercial production. All products made with Humanium Metal by IM create new sources of funding for victims and projects aiming to rebuild conflict-torn societies.
Next up was 9-year-old Daisy who invented Olly the Ocean Organiser to ‘scour the ocean for rubbish and catches it in a giant net. Its handy propellers allow for precise transportation while its many eyes watch out for fish to avoid harming them in the process.’
Again, there is a real-life parallel. Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands. The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.
Finally, Lily invented Cody the Carer, which is very similar to Aido, which already exists: a company on a mission to accelerate quality of life improvement for humans with affordable, and easy-to-use Robotics and Automation products.
Let them Dream
Albert Einstein once said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.’ If schools such as White House Prep and Abingdon Prep continue to give children the time, space and frameworks to free their minds from constraining theory or difficult data and then make their dreams a reality, the future will be a brighter place.