Recent articles about teenage internet entrepreneurs left me wondering at what age children could grasp the idea of a business plan. Were my eight- and nine-year-old pupils too young to understand entrepreneurship?
The question became increasingly relevant when my school received funding for a two-year Comenius project (bit.ly ComeniusInfo) with the ambitious title "Europe's Got Talent: how to succeed in the world of work". Was this a chance to explore business ideas for younger students?
At an initial meeting with teachers from partner schools in Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Turkey, we all agreed to talk to our nearest universities to see if they ran outreach programmes that could help us to bring the project title to life. My school approached University College London (UCL), which told us about an initiative it had set up called Citrus Saturday. Developed by UCL Advances, the university's centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction, the project's aim was to teach enterprise skills to young people by providing schools and youth clubs with the resources to set up stalls selling lemonade.
When I phoned Jack Wratten, who manages Citrus Saturday, and told him the age of my students, he said that they would be his youngest ever entrepreneurs. But he was enthusiastic about giving it a go. He insisted that we follow the rules of the initiative: the stalls had to be outside school boundaries and the children would get to keep the profits. Jack provided preparatory videos and workbooks so that my students could devise a business plan and marketing strategies.
I set aside a couple of maths lessons, in which we worked out the cost of one drink, scaled it up by 100, thought of an appropriate price for the lemonade, predicted our revenue and calculated the expected profits. The children collaborated in four mixed-ability groups, putting each others' talents to the best use.
Each group thought of a twist on the beverage: old-fashioned lemonade, pink lemonade, strawberry lemonade, and ginger and mint lemonade. And we included some literacy work on persuasive texts by preparing posters and typing up flyers. Many of the children did extra work at home, coming up with musical jingles, banners and other innovative ideas for grabbing customers' attention.
When the day dawned, there was a huge buzz of excitement. One mother told me that her son had hardly slept. We set off for the UCL campus, where Jack and some Citrus Saturday volunteers helped us to set up shop in four different places. The children squeezed and mixed, sang and cajoled. After a couple of hours, our stalls had made more than pound;400.
Some stalls fared considerably better than others; back at school, we discussed the reasons for this, such as footfall, marketing and pricing. We counted and shared out the profits, with some children taking home more than pound;20.
Students, parents and teaching staff have hardly stopped talking about the experience. I can honestly say that I have never seen the children as excited as they were when adding, subtracting and counting real money as the UK's youngest ever Citrus Saturday entrepreneurs.
Sara Hawley is international coordinator at Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School in London. Find out more about Citrus Saturday at www.citrussaturday.org
Top 10 money resources for primary children
1 Wealth of words
These differentiated worksheets offer examples of real-life word problems to help children get to grips with money.
2 Tuck in
Making use of a popular tuck shop theme, these worksheets introduce a range of money recognition and handling skills. bit.lyTuckInSheets
3 Double your money
Try this fast-paced board game to familiarise students with money and get them to practise their addition and doubling skills.
4 Playing with pennies
Cover simple addition and money recognition with this printable workbook, developed for students with special educational needs.
5 Hold the purse strings
These ready-to-use worksheets will help students to build two crucial cash-handling skills: adding up money and working out which coins make a given total.
6 Big bucks bingo
In this fun activity, children count the pennies and listen carefully to complete their bingo mats.
7 Making money
Explain what money is and how it is used with the help of this colourful presentation.
8 Currency conversion
Challenge more able students in this pounds-to-euros activity that introduces conversion
graphs and currency.
9 Made many ways
How many ways can you make 50p? Get students to work out the answer and try their hand at the other engaging money-handling puzzles in this pack.
10 Adding it up
This paired activity gets children thinking about money, value and how to make purchases.