George Haines is a 36-year-old former gym teacher at St. Philip and James school in Long Island. A few years ago, Haines started a technology course to teach PreK-8th grade students all about entrepreneurship.”Being a gym teacher isn’t really that different now than it was in 1980. But technology changes so fast. It’s even different between now and April,” says Haines.
The technology class isn’t an elective. All students take it, but the curriculum is different for each age group. Younger children are taught computer basics and play games, many of which have been created by startups.
Older students can participate in ‘microinternships’ and spend one day with a NYC startup. Field trips include hanging out at incubator New Work City, interning at TechStars, and visiting Yodle. Founders come in and speak to the students, either in person or via Skype. The class has also spoken at New York’s 140 Conference.
For another project, students are given a one dollar “loan” and must find a way to make a profit. Solutions range from Groupon-like concepts to selling individual Silly Bandz and impressive Popsicle stick structures.
The school is a one-hour train ride from Manhattan and Haines, who has been interested in entrepreneurship since childhood, says it’d be a waste not to show his kids the vibrant tech scene. The principal and parents and are also very supportive of the initiative. For the most part, Haines says the students love it.
“So much of [tech entrepreneurship] happens in New York; to think that we’d sit at our desks and just write is crazy,” he says.
“[The New York startup scene] wants to help, work with kids, and share what they know. Kids don’t realise this is what’s going on next door. Until Technology Class, the only thing that was keeping these two groups of people from meeting was me,” says Haines.
“Let’s get the kids where the action is.”
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